Sunday Night Optimism 

You know those awful ten things posts? Yeah, I’m going to do one of those. 

I was being a bit of a grumpybum earlier, so decided to a list of reasons to be happy.

*accessibility warning – there are some fast rolling image gifs at the end of this post*

1. This guy. We’ve been together nearly 13 years & married for 11 of those this year. Aside from snoring like a dying gruffalo, he’s pretty amazing.

2. Mrs Gypsytree visited this summer. We didn’t get to see each other as much as we’d like as their summer started a month before ours does, but we got a lovely evening in where we celebrated them finally owning a real proper house in Norn Iron. I still miss her being a few minutes up the road, but they’re ever so happy & that’s good. 

3. I’m superhuman. Wheelchair racing has transformed being in a chair from a loss of mobility to a doorway to new friends, supportive but very real competition, and a sport that I can participate in for the first time since forever without crippling pain. Don’t get me wrong, it hurts, in fact on the first corner of this particular race my hip popped so badly that it came all the way out & I pushed 800m with a fully dislocated hip & a subluxed shoulder. At the end I was gasping for breath & Mr Geek had to haul me out of the chair and push everything back in & feed me morphine.

BUT, I competed in my first race with my friends, showed people we’re enabled, & we all came away with fist bumps and massive smiles.

This is the face of someone who is going to FINISH this race.

4. We’re getting somewhere with the joined up thinking. I’m now officially seeing the neurology team at UCLH and not only are they looking into the POTS symptoms, they’re being joined up and looking at the other weird nerve issues with the lack of feeling & strange reflexes in my feet, and looking at ways to manage the EDS. It means more time & lengthier stays here, but it’s progress and very positive. They even encouraged my chair racing as a positive way to keep the autonomic car crash that is my body as functional as possible 😆

5. Half way there! The scary seven are still enjoying lashings of ginger beer together. Despite now living 600 miles apart, the minute they get together they’re back to being the same tribe that they’ve always been. This year we couldn’t physically make it up to “our tree” so settled for a bench instead. They didn’t seem to mind, although this once again confirms that it is impossible to get a photo of all of them making a near sensible face!

6. My life doesn’t have to be restricted to reality. My hands may not grip pens or paint brushes anymore, but on a good day I can hold a controller and paint virtually. The VIVE has allowed me to return to using a virtual paintbrush & now sit quietly in a vast dark room and paint in 3D. The best bit is I can choose from any size brush and whilst the virtual brush size changes, the controller remains the size of a crutch grip & is as light as a tv remote control. I’ve learnt how high I can lift my arms now without dislocating (Although I still get engrossed and utterly forget, then re-enact the scene from Horton hears a who where the mayor runs from the dentist). Weirdly, I can self-propel in VR & it feels like normal.

7. My friends are just as daft as me. When it comes to showing cancer where it can shove itself, we certainly did. The volume of physio tape it took to hold three women with connective tissue disorders together must’ve made KT rub it’s hands together, but nothing beats seeing your proper mega serious marathon runner friend skipping beside you in a tutu. To top it off, Lizzie on the far right, won the whole flipping race as the 1st finisher in just over 17 minutes. There’s a reason she uses the hashtag #RoadToRio in her posts. And when (not if) she brings home a medal one of these days, I’ll still be chasing her like a slightly defective whippet after a rabbit!

This was one of my happiest days from 2016.

8. Yeah, ok, it had to be in there somewhere. I’m not out there kicking arse every day. Quite a lot of days I’m in here wondering how I’m going to make it those 5 meters to the loo without ending up on the floor in a heap. So to keep me amused, I have Pokèmon Go! There are a few teething issues with servers and the fact that the developers rather forgot that people with physical disabilities may have rather an issue with walking that 10k needed to hatch an egg, or get out there & explore for PokeStops… I’m sticking with it for now in case they add some more accessible features. Until then, here’s the bastard that chewed up 11 of my pokeballs & still got away!

9. Friends. But more importantly, friends who understand why I cancel plans at short notice, double book myself because my brain is shot to pieces, who still invite me to things even though I’ve declined the last four hundred times because I’m too tired. And who get that me being too tired means I’m probably actually in too much pain to be near people. Some of them are fellow Spoonies, others are just empathic enough to see through the “I’m okay!”.

They’re good people. 

10. And very much not least are Beanpole & TinyPants. They are wise beyond their years and not given nearly enough credit for the caring that they do. I have the best time with these tiny little ladies even if I do have to pretend I’m actually a grown up who’s in charge on occasions. There aren’t many 10 year olds that just stop acting up or having fun because they can see that mummy is in more pain than usual. They carry stuff, they give up trips out to snuggle in bed with the TV, they get on with their homework so I can nap. I may regret being so impressed with them once they turn into unresponsive grunting teenagers!

For now, I’m pretty thankful & optimistic for a good week. I hope yours goes well too. Xxx

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100 Days of Happiness #1 – I’m still @Happsters

This is a rather mammoth task, but if in doubt begin. Each blog post from this point will include a tiny bit of happiness.

Today is easy. In fact I have 2.

1. One of my pupils stopped me in the corridor and said “Miss, the wheelchair really suits you. I’m not being rude. I mean you’re rocking it and making it look cool.”

10 points to Gryfindor and integration. I only wish she realised what that awkward teenage comment did to boost my self esteem.

Also, when can I do this to my chair? No, seriously. Make this happen Mr Geek.

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2. I spent the evening with an old friend who I’ve not spent a proper evening with in nearly 15 years. We were childhood friends (met aged 7) and misspent our teenage years together. Despite the fact we’re now mid 30s, it was like we just picked up where we’d left off. It better not be another 15 years before we do that again!

Day 1 – nailed it.

While The Sun Still Shines

It’s been a weird one today. It’s the final few days of the summer holidays and we’ve all got nearly September gitters. So, today was the final day spent in the open air with my friend (the wonderful Mrs GypsyTree and our tribe of kids before the kids go back to school and I go back to work and we go back to snatching a few hours together on the occasional weekend we’re both free. But for today, the sun was shining and we abandoned our homes for the top of a hill from where we can see all of our town and out to sea.

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We’ve said before that we don’t need to live in each others pockets to be close, and over the years we have sporadically lived in close proximity with patches of time where we are only contactable online. Despite this, we still parent each others children like we see them every day, and my girls see them as siblings rather than friends. The grown ups are given the title ‘Aunty & Uncle’ not just a respect thing, but because they are family in all but blood.

This summer has had it’s Enid Blyton moments.

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Although, in the background what you don’t see in these pictures is me and Mrs Gypsy huffing and puffing our way up the hill with picnic bags strapped to us venting our stresses at each other and eventually seeing what an amazing childhood we are giving the small scruffy wildlings in our care. We’re not meant to be the ones rolling down the hill. We’re there to provide the lashings of ginger beer (or shandy / water in their case), and we’ve done an admirable job of providing sustenance for tree climbing and hill rolling this year!

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We follow these tiny scruffians around with our cameras in the hope that we can capture just enough of this summer outside bliss for them to look back on and for us to hold on to (via rosé tinted glasses). All the time laughing at ourselves to remain sane. For the record, my walk is normal and I could teach an alien to walk very well!

These offspring of ours have spent most of this summer covered in dirt and either up a tree or rolling in long grass. I’ve never seen them so unkempt, or happy.

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Then there’s the tiny one. She’s nearly one. Wheasy is getting a real sense of humour and making her mum laugh. (You can see why I take lots of my parenting cues from this woman)

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And then Wheasy shows everyone who’s actually the boss here….

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This summer has been a blast. I’m mentally and physically recovered from the last term and ready for the new job and all the possibilities that come with it.

I also know that I’ve rejoined my family, immediate and extended. I’m sad that I won’t see Bam’s gorgeous smile, feel Spud charge in for a cuddle, chat with Boo about her knees, watch Bear idolize BeanPole or bore Wheasy to sleep for the next seven weeks, but half term looms and with it comes birthday parties and Halloween!

For now, thanks for making my summer guys. Don’t forget to shout BOGIES!! Xxx

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A Breath of Fresh (Seaweedy) Air

We don’t often appreciate quite how lucky we are. LSH and I not only had the good fortune to arrive to parents in the UK where poverty is not a given (although there are areas of deprivation that make me want to just cry, but that’s another post), but also in a region where we have beautiful rolling countryside to the north and beaches to the south, and all within 10 -15 minutes drive away.

We’ve grown up knowing nothing else (and avoiding big cities like London as they feel oppressive to us softie southerners. Anything north of London is like talk of north of the wall in Game of Thrones). Now, we are passing this privilege onto our daughters who are also growing up strong on the chalk.

Today was a beach day. It’s not sunny, it’s not overly warm, it’s just a bog standard British mild summer day (around 20C, bit cloudy, chilly breeze). But nevertheless, on went the wet suits, and off we trundle to get a bodyboard having agreed with the girls that they are competent enough now in the waves to give it a go without helicopter supervision.

As you can see, they opted for the most feminine of designs!

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I sat with my friend whilst our collective kids raced down to the sea as if it was Hawaii, rather than the English Channel and we chatted while our kids screamed with the happiness only kids can get during a summer holiday when days are long and filled with friends, waves and heaps of stinky seaweed.

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We were the epitome of good parents as we greeted their shivering selves with towels and warm socks and in turn, they regarded us as producers of food, warm drinks and the very occasional diplomatic intervention.

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It doesn’t matter to them that we were actually sitting on our bums drinking tea and coffee and nattering like a pair of old fishwives (which, for the record was really enjoyable!), or that the weather was mediocre, what the kids saw was freedom, picnics, their mums joining in with the cartwheels (I didn’t knacker my back either. Although someone needs some new jeans!). This is the bit I want the kids to look back and remember instead of the early mornings where they’re just not doing things fast enough, me staggering in late from work just after they get in from bed, or me being just too tired to hold a conversation about the latest puffle.

I also hope I don’t remember too vividly the sheer volume of green sludgey ick I had to comb out of BeanPole’s hair. I ended up using a nit comb – no lice, but oodles of weird vegetation. I’ll take that over lice though!

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So thank you Mrs Inky for being as equally weird as me and pointing out the big important things in life like cartwheeling on the beach, and stopping to enjoy life rather than just getting everything done.

Oh, and I will find someone who wants a penis cake.

Mud Mud Glorious Mud!

So, just as something totally different, we went to Mar Menor today to the mud sea. What is it? Well, it’s a lagoon next to the sea one side being a huge sea like expanse which is only 7 metres deep at its deepest point (mostly waist high near the shore) and the other side is much saltier and smaller lagoon which is host to some very specific bacteria that makes the water immensely warm and produce this muddy sludge which is reported to be very good for your skin.

How does it work? Well you rock up to the beach and use one of the many piers to head out and proceed to rub what looks (and smells) like the nasty black stuff at the bottom of tropical aquariums all over your body until you look like this:

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Then you lounge around looking like a miner in a bikini until its dry and you wallow back in the stinky hot waters to clean it all off!

What you are left with is very soft skin and an eldest daughter who is in charge of the camera as the whole process is far too embarrassing for her to indulge in (oh I’m going to have so much fun as she gets older being the massively embarrassing mum!).

The best thing is the Spanish haven’t cashed in on this brilliant experience and the area is freely open to all!

Oh The Cleverness of You!

“Can I borrow your iPad?”, comes the familiar request from the short people in my life. It’s a work tool. I use it for research, as an interactive teaching tool and for writing hundreds of inane blogs about random things.

I also have an app called Paper which I use to demonstrate the joys of wireframe designing software interfaces (oh yes, I’m just that exciting). But this morning, TinyPants decided to hijack the app and create her own masterpiece to send home to Nana & Grumpy who she’s missing while we are off on our travels.

I know by 7 I should be cooing over her written words and her mastering some form of instrument, but her drawings never fail to make me happy. Just like listening to Beanpole reading aloud in her expressive tones.

So here is today’s breakfast masterpiece. Another of the many reasons for reassessing my life priorities – there is no job satisfaction or prestige that could match the pride in her face when I set this as our current screensaver.

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Sharpening the Axe

It’s been a week since my last (and very emotional) day at the school. And it’s taken me quite some time to recover.

We’ve been in Valencia now for just under a week and I’m just reaching the point of letting go. Last night was a pivotal point in my mental state as I donned my swimsuit, put on music and walked into the pool and fell (purposefully) into the deep water where I floated with a real sense of peace. Today I noticed other things too:

For the first time in over three years I’ve read (and finished) a book for pleasure. Not for book club, or on a recommendation, or for reference. It was utter pap that was reviewed by Heat and I loved every page.

I can sit quietly for more than 10 minutes without panic rising in me like lava. I’ve finally stopped fidgeting all the time.

I’m singing around the house and couldn’t care less who hears me. I also threw all caution to the wind today and bought an itsy bikini and actually wore it (It’ll look better once I’ve toned up, but that won’t happen in a week!).

I can hold more than a glass of wine without feeling wobbley. In fact, I can drink several glasses of fizz and feel perfectly in control!

I have colour in my face without any make-up. And not just a tan, but colour which has taken away the bags from under my eyes.

I’m eating like a normal person – over the last few days I have weaned myself off of the comforting carbs that have helped me balloon over the past few years. I’m not calorie counting, but eating fresh vegetables, either raw or grilled with few starchy additions. And I’ve had very few moments where I’ve been racked with hunger (or had massive mood swings) despite the drastically reduced calories.

I’ve made the right decision. For me, for my family, and for my health.

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