Friday, 5 December 2014

news *TW*

Possible triggers regarding mental health distress - please be aware.

***I edited this post after hearing that the family of the individual I mention are asking for media privacy.  I have taken out the limited information that I included on her, but have made the decision to repost this, and hope that it is read and recognised as my personal reaction and desire to promote openness over the issues relating to mental health. ***

Hot tears chased one another down my cheeks as I tried to keep my breathing even, not wanting to draw the attention of the kids.  If they noticed my red eyes and running nose I'd have to explain the reason for my distress, and I didn't know if I could.  Along with many others, my heart was aching for a woman I'd never met, and the pain she must have been experiencing.  My chest felt dull, empty, and I wanted to howl - to protest against the universe about how this was not fair - a woman who had just become a mother, a baby who had just begun her life - gone.

On twitter I found I wasn't the only one who had been shaken by the news that the baby's body had been found.  If we were brutally honest with ourselves we knew that if she'd been left on someone's doorstep then she would have been found already and returned to safety; and if she'd been tucked into a bush then the temperatures overnight would have been too cold for her to survive.  I think for me the news that the baby had been found brought not only grief for her death, but also added another layer of pain for her mother - that she had reached that level of desperation and disconnection.

A huge assumption needs to be acknowledged here.  I am assuming that the mum's mental health deteriorated before she left the hospital with her baby girl.  That may not be accurate, but I'm writing with that in my mind as the likely course of events.  Something else I'd like to point out is the dangers of confusion and missed complexity when relying on social media.  With no body language cues or tones of voice we're forced to rely on emoticons and our own understanding of language, and this can easily go wrong.  A group of us on twitter realised this and the importance of 'think before you tweet' - hopefully mainstream media will be responsible when reporting the circumstances - in fact the Samaritans have an established media protocol, focused on reducing risk to vulnerable readers, respecting privacy and recognising the complexities involved.

As utterly devastating as this must be for all those who knew and loved her I find my focus is not on their grief but on the mum herself.  Not because I don't feel for them - my most sincere condolences go to all those who knew her.  I think my mind is drawn to her distress because, along with many others, I identify with some of her pain - that recognition of her anguish resonates deep within me and brings up memories of times I struggled to connect with the world around me and found myself bereft of hope and unable to look forwards.

Even now writing this I'm in tears, and so I'm purposefully making the choice to tend to my own needs and leave it there for now.  I hope to be able to share with you my experience of post natal depression, as well as the stories of others and the importance of fighting the taboo and stigma relating to mental health and pregnancy and birth.  If you'd like to join in, please get in touch - you can email me, make contact through twitter (@abstractLucas) or leave me a message in the comments box.  

If you need support or want to talk please consider getting in touch with the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (from within the uk) or click here .

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Accessible ice skating? Really?

Some family activities are tricky when one of you uses a wheelchair, and it's easy to grumble when things don't go very well, but I wanted to share a really positive experience we had today - ice skating.  Not one of the most obviously inclusive activities, admittedly...

We're spoilt for choice in Bristol at this time of year - we get temporary outside skating rinks at Cribbs Causeway, another at a nearby garden centre, and a third in Millennium Square run by @Bristol.  Everyone in Bristol knows the big shiny ball - an easy reference point for the kids!

Cerebra (in conjunction with the children's hospital) organised a family session, and we were lucky enough to be drawn from the hat, so down we went.  Staff were great, and not the slightest bit phased by umpteen kids in wheelchairs on the ice, or the couple of meltdowns that are inevitable with that kind of situation.

Noah feel over a couple of times and was helped back to his feet by staff who managed to not make him feel self conscious about it at all - pretty impressive since he now seems to have reached that point in life where you want to be exactly the same as everyone else and falling over on the ice is so embarrassing you're pretty sure you wished you'd knocked yourself out just so you don't have to deal with seeing anyone notice that you fell.  

Petal, still at the 'look at me I'm invincible' stage of pre-puberty, has pretty good balance and kept calling out updates as to how many times she'd circled round and not yet fallen over - at least partly to rub salt in Noah's wounds I'm sure! 

Smiler decided that just because he was in his wheelchair on the ice shouldn't mean he didn't get a turn with the penguins (think sliding walking frame for skaters otherwise reluctant to let go of the side), and since there were plenty it seemed reasonable...  The look on his face says it all!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

I am the soft starshine at night

It happened.  This weekend.

Pam died.

She had been in my life since I was born.

She was ninety, still living in the house she shared with her husband, my Uncle Cyril, until he died last year.

She had no children - living at a time when women had to make defined choices about careers and families, she chose to be a school teacher, then a headmistress at an elite girls boarding school, not marrying until she was thirty, almost unheard of back then.

Post mortem today, to determine whether she fell down the stairs then had a stroke or the other way around.  As she didn't press her alarm, it's likely she was unconscious and "didn't know anything about it".

Goodbye Pam.

She loved this, I know it brought her comfort after Cyril died.

Do not stand at my grave and weep, 
I am not there, I do not sleep. 
I am in a thousand winds that blow, 
I am the softly falling snow. 
I am the gentle showers of rain, 
I am the fields of ripening grain. 
I am in the morning hush, 
I am in the graceful rush 
Of beautiful birds in circling flight, 
I am the starshine of the night. 
I am in the flowers that bloom, 
I am in a quiet room. 
I am in the birds that sing, 
I am in each lovely thing
Do not stand at my grave and cry, 
I am not there. I do not die.

(Sourced here)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

How To Bake :: stilton & grape flatbread

The first recipe Mr Manley chose to try from our review copy of the How To Bake book - Stilton & grape flatbreads.  Straightforward ingredients, clear instructions, fingers crossed...

I'm always a bit wary of the 'leave until the dough doubles in size' bit, mainly because I've never before had dough that actually did double in size, but whaddya know - it did this time! 

Although the pics are in the wrong order (I'm trusting you to be able to overlook that) please note the fancy/not fancy dough cutter/scraper with the blue handle - an inspired birthday gift from Petal for Mr Manley this past Spring, from Lakeland - only £4.99.  According to the afore mentioned Mr Manley it makes it possible to work with impossibly wet dough, so a bargain then!

Each piece of dough is crammed full of what seems like a huge amount of cheese and - as per the slightly alarmingly specific instructions - four halves of grapes.  Although this initially appeared to be ridiculously faffy, once we were flattening out the pudgy little parcels it became obvious why they needed to be less than full size single grapes - they catch as you roll, and tear the dough.  

Then into a frying pan where they puff up and brown off - they came out looking fab actually, and my worries about melted Stilton all over the place fortunately didn't come to anything!  

The flatbreads were very filling - probably something to do with all that cheese - so we had leftovers.  Although the instructions said to serve warm, we defied Mr Hollywood by tucking into them the next day cold, and they were lovely, thank you very much. 

Likely to become a regular addition to our picnics, these got two thumbs up from the kids - a promising start to our exploration of How To Bake!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

{ I was sent a copy of How To Bake to review by Suppose, but all thoughts and opinions are my very own.  Or Mr Manley's.  Or the kids.  Promise }

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

a radio for Smiler

Choosing a gift for someone with a learning disability can be complicated.  Smiler has never been any different in this regard - his developmental stage has never been the same as his chronological age, so birthday present shopping has always been - well, to be completely honest, it's always felt like a bit of a kick in the teeth.  The ever present 'not suitable for a child under 36 months' was a bugger for (literally) years, because of course the reason it's not suitable is because it had small parts they might try and swallow.  So what about when you're shopping for a ten year old who will still happily stick everything in their mouth, just in case it might taste good?  Clothes and books have been a steady fall back - Smiler doesn't play with toys as such, so they've always been a waste of money, but he loves us to read him stories - Charlie and Lola; Rastamouse; Boo; Winnie the Witch; anything and everything by Julia Donaldson.  But this birthday we had a brainwave - a radio!

A strangely age appropriate gift for Smiler's thirteenth birthday, on the surface at least, but oh my word, you wouldn't think it would be so hard to find a radio that did what you need it to.  We didn't think we were being that picky, but it turned out finding a radio for Smiler's birthday was so so much easier said than done...

Just a radio

Smiler adores Heart - a somehow abnormally normal passion bearing in mind his challenges, but he sings along with odd words of songs, and joins in with a couple of slogans from the regular adverts.  He recognises the names of the presenters and has a particular fondness for Ed, Troy and Paulina from the breakfast show, and when Spidey-man phones in to talk to them - well, he loves it.  So the radio needn't be DAB or anything fancy, no mp3s, no GPS, no downloadable doodahs, no flashing lights, no curtain attachments - just the ability to access Heart!

Tough love

It needs to be tough enough to take being handled in what we knew was likely to be a not-quite-as-carefully-as-we-would-have-wished kinda way.  Not indestructible (is there such a thing as an indestructible radio?) but not going to die the first (or twenty-first) time it was dropped or handled a bit roughly.