Friday, 15 August 2014

My healing place.

This year I have somehow managed to get into my garden again after many years of half baked attempts.  It all began because we had to have our fences replaced after they blew down in the Boxing Day storms last year.  I have spent so many hours just sitting and watching the birds, bees and butterflies over the last few months and thought I might share a little of it all with you.  If you would like to see what it was looking like back in May just after the fence was done you can see some pictures by clicking here
 I chose to fill my raised veg beds with very cheap and very cheerful geraniums this year to give them and me a rest!

This is the first year I have done pots for a long time, spurred on by having inherited many from my dear sister and mums gardens.

 Climbing Rose - High Hopes

 Shrub rose - Grace

 Shrub Rose - Valentine

 Shrub rose - Winchester Cathedral

 My lavender is so happy, it is sending out new flowers!

 That should keep the bees happy.

 This fuchsia is about 8 years old and has never looked better!

 I must pick some more rhubarb, I have already frozen several pounds.

I'm now starting to think about Autumn colour as it will be a total joy to keep some colour going.  Take care,  Jane x

Monday, 4 August 2014

The Spoon Theory and me.

I first got to hear about the spoon theory 5 years ago, in fact I did a little blog about it here.  The video shows a lady who suffers from Lupus (another autoimmune condition very similar to rheumatoid arthritis).  I do not suffer from the nausea and temperature problems that she discusses but do most of the other things.  If you have time to watch the video then it will really help put the following paragraphs into context.

After a recent very serious and prolonged flare up of my rheumatoid arthritis I have decided to see how many spoons I generally have on a 'normal' day, so here goes......
  1. Wake up in my own time, go to the loo, get dressed = 1 spoon
  2. Go down stairs = 1 spoon
  3. make breakfast and cup of tea = 1 spoon
  4. brush teeth and hair, wash face = 1 spoon
  5. catch up on paperwork/emails = 1 spoon
  6. make and eat lunch = 1 spoon
  7. go for a swim, shower and get dressed = 3 spoons
  8. make tea for the family = 2 spoons
  9. go upstairs and get into bed = 1 spoon 
So there you go my basic day also has about 12 spoons in it.  At the moment the only way I can do other activities is by swapping it with another, for example, when my husband is home, he will make my breakfast, lunch and often tea - that gives me a whole 4 spoons to use on other activities.  Here are some of the other things that I like to do:

  1. Drive to church, stay sitting in an upright chair and drive home= 3 spoons.
  2. Sit and crochet for a couple of hours (only possible when hands are not to sore) = 1 spoon.
  3. Water my garden = 1 spoon
  4. Walk my dog = 2 spoons
  5. drive to a friends for a coffee = 2 spoons
  6. go shopping for an hour = 3 spoons
  7. drive to the beach for a few hours with a sea swim = 4 spoons.
  8. have a friend round for coffee = 1 spoon
  9. do some sewing with my machine = 2 spoons
So to do any of these at the moment, I have to not do some of things in that first list of 9 activities.  And I'm afraid it doesn't end there, life is messy and so there are other things that come in and demand spoons from me........
  1. An unexpected emotional telephone conversation = 2 spoons.
  2. Tackling the ironing mountain = 3 spoons.
  3.  An extra car journey to take something to school for one of the children if they have forgotten something = 1 spoon.
  4. Parents evenings at school = 3 spoons.
  5. doctor/hospital appointments for me or the children = 2 spoons
  6. A trip to the shops for something for tea = 1 spoon
  7. Taking/ fetching the children from after school activities = 1 spoon for each journey.
  8. Bumping into a friend whist out and standing chatting for 10 minutes = 1 spoon.
  9. Getting petrol for the car = 1 spoon
Now the thing about that third list is that any of these always have to take priority over the second list, and problems really occur when I have got to do all the things in the first list and then some of things in the third list.  This will inevitably mean that I end up borrowing spoons from other days which means it is highly likely that I will end up extra fatigued, which makes me vulnerable to become ill or have another flare up.

On top of having to think about all these lists all the time, in order to be able to get done the things that need to get done in a day (and sometimes the things I WANT to do in a day), I also have to acknowledge that there is a spoon thief out there.  My thief comes in the guise of fatigue,illness and flare ups.  Like a thief, I never really know when they are going to strike.  Sometimes as I mentioned before I leave a window open by doing too much, which allows the thief easy access to my spoons.  So what do I do when the thief strikes?

If my husband is at work it means not doing some of the things in list one, so I might not get dressed or go downstairs, this is okay as long as one of my children is happy to bring me a cup of tea and maybe a bit of breakfast.  Phone calls and emails have to wait.  The children may have to make their own tea if dad is at work.  The one activity that I will try all out to do is my swimming as the benefit to my joints of moving them in water is proven to be positive.  However I have to be content not to even swim if I'm bad and just move in the water, have a quick shower and not dry my hair.

On the whole I seem to get through my days okay.  I am however human and I do sometimes feel sorry for myself.  This happened to me yesterday when I went to church and heard all about the holiday club that had been on for children - just 3 years ago this was part of my job.  Now even just getting to the service was an effort.  I know that I shouldn't look back and compare then to now, but sometimes you just can't help it, it just suddenly slaps you in the face.  I nearly didn't go to church because I knew it might make me sad, but then I feel bad and selfish for not supporting the great work that is going on.

In a world where everyone seems to be defined by who they are and what they do for a living it can be very difficult to continually have to make an excuse for not fitting into that definition.  Not that I think the definition is correct, but going against the grain is difficult at the best of times!!!

So there you go, you now know a little more about what goes on in my head.  It's a good job God blessed me with a reasonably organised nature otherwise I don't know how I would manage!

Take care for now,    Jane x.

Monday, 9 June 2014

What a difference a week makes.

I can't quite believe that I was writing such a happy up beat post this time last week!  After writing that the following day I woke up with very sore joints,  this happens some times with my rheumatoid arthritis, but often wears off over the day.  However Weds it was still just as bad, so was Thursday and Friday - grrrrrr.  It is so easy to be pulled down by pain.  I suddenly become aware of all the things I cannot do, rather than thinking about the things I can do.

It took me until yesterday to put a plea out for prayers from my friends for healing and today I think God has answered in a gentle way.  The first thing is I managed to have a telephone conversation with my GP and so now have some stronger pain killers - which are already working better than my other ones!  The second thing was that because I had to go to the chemist to pick up my prescription, I had to use the car, which spurred me on to drive just a little further to the gym and go for a swim.  I had to use the indoor pool because it is the only one with gentle steps down into the water rather than a ladder.  However it really was bliss.  I guess I was more floating than swimming.  When I am floating my arms feel so supported and weightless, I so wish I could bottle that feeling it is just bliss.  It reminds me of years ago using a floatation tank, where you get into a coffin like piece of equipment that has salty water in it and you lie in the darkness.  They were all the rage back then, I wonder if they still exist.  Anyway the pool is definitely as good a place as any to capture that beautiful floating feeling.

The bonus of getting to the gym means I could shower as well, at home I have to go upstairs to do this, so when everything is as painful as it is now, I can only shower either first thing in the morning or last thing before bed.  The gym is great as I am able to stay all on the ground floor all the way from my car.  So though I cannot say there has been a lot of physical healing take place since the prayers of yesterday, I do know that God is here with me and am very grateful for the moments of relief, medication and water have given me.

Have a good week xxxxxxxxxxxx

Monday, 2 June 2014

Finding Joy on the Journey

A week last Sunday my husband and I had the pleasure of leading our all together service at church.  We could choose anything we liked as the subject!  I had originally intended to rehash something I had done when I was working for the church as a youth and children's pastor.  I never got round to doing it as my father died the night before, it was still used but someone else did it for me.  Then I had been given the title Admiring the View and had to come up with an interactive slot for newly confirmed Christians at our local Cathedral.  It's funny how God works though, as when I looked back on my computer the only thing I could find (I thought I had all sorts of stuff) was a power point which now looked very dated.

Admiring the View had ended up being all about remembering to stop on our Christian/life's journey and look around us and see the good stuff that God is always up to around us.

I set about writing some notes, looking through google at posts about similar topics and eventually I heard God loud and clear and the title had to be Finding Joy on the Journey.

The verse I was drawn to was this one

Philippians 4 4 - 11

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learnt or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practise. And the God of peace will be with you.

I felt able to speak about this because it was something I had first hand experience of and just felt God prompting me to tell others about my experience.  The last 5 1/2 years of my life could be described as a journey through grief.  Not only did I lose my younger sister at the age of 36 after a brief  3 week illness,  I then suddenly and unexpectedly lost my dad from a heart attack and then found my mum after she had taken an overdose and had already fallen into a state of unconsciousness, though she didn't die for another 30 hours.

As well as this my health deteriorated after a knee operation left me in a worse state than I had been prior to it.  I had to give up my job.  I became a full time carer of my niece who was 12 when she joined our family and then after two years had to hand over full time care for her to the health service, where she remains to this day, though I still have daily contact with her.

These are just all the surface issues that you could see, there was a whole lot more emotional stuff that was going on.  So life hasn't been easy.  There have been many comments made to me over the years about getting on with the good stuff that has still been left in my life, but somehow this has just made me feel discounted.  However this one bit of scripture from the Bible has been the thing that has shown me how to appreciate and find JOY on this journey.

It is so easy to only focus on negative stuff when it is surrounding you.  I truly believe that one of the things that excites Satan most is when he can see us drowning in a whirlpool of negativity.  

The whatever's in the verses start to point us towards the joy - we just have to choose to go and look for it.  I find also find it helpful to think about what this verse doesn't say:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is UNTRUE, whatever is IGNOBLE, whatever is WRONG , whatever is DIRTY, whatever is UNLOVED, whatever is UGLY – if anything is negative or not praiseworthy – DON'T think about such things. 

My own experience has led me to praise God for the small joys in life - the first cup of tea in the morning, - the sound of my children getting on, - my dog always so happy to see me.  And when you Praise and rejoice with God - then the peace is there for your taking. 

Choose Joy!  God Bless,  Jane x.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Ten minutes of writing.

My blogging friend Katharine over at 10 minute writer set a challenge on her facebook page to see how many words one could write in 10 minutes!  So this is my attempt at writing something that is not copied and that makes some sort of sense.  Sense to me anyway.  There are so many topics that come into my head during the day which I would like to blog about but then the time comes for me to sit down and the energy level to consider typing dips.  Why is this, could it be that Candy Crush is finally killing off the brain cells and wickedly keeping me from the key board?  Or could it be that since getting my tablet it is far easier to just surf around and not type anything?  I don't like typing on my tablet - it is just not the same as having a keyboard.  This means to write I have to make the extra effort of getting my laptop out and booting it up.  Oh the problems of the modern world!!!!  And most of the worlds population do not have enough to eat!!

So now my brain is starting to dry up.  What else can I type, I could tell you about the wonderful transformation that is taking shape in our garden.  Since moving into our home 14 years ago we have always been making do in the garden.  Trying to make the most of what was left us, which I have to say was very little.  Then this winter we had a series of storms which finally pulled down the fences.  We have had the two that we are responsible for re done and this week managed to get them painted.  The other one which we are not responsible for was also damaged in the storms but our neighbours decided to just use some old battered second hand panels to replace the ones that were severely damaged.  So this morning I set to with my daughter some fern panelling, a hammer and some nails and we have now screened off the horrid panels and it looks wonderful.  Maybe when I have finished my 10 minutes I will go take a photo so that you can see just how wonderful it is looking.  We also got the builders who did our fence to take up and relay to of the patio areas.  Making them both totally weed free and hopefully that will last.  So now there is just the area around the house that still needs relaying but we will have to wait for funds to appear before we can get that done.  In the meantime at least we will not have so much to weed!

So we are almost at my favourite part of gardening - that is the tidying up of the beds, maybe some new plants and definitely some pots that need filling with beautiful flowers.  I so hope the weather this summer is conducive to me being able to sit out and enjoy the garden this year.  Maybe we will even get in a few more BBQ's, we have already been lucky enough to have one.  That turned into a great bonfire  as we had the barby in the fire pit and then filled it with wood afterwards and had a great roaring fire.  Well this is it my 10 minutes is almost over.  Now I shall have to cut and paste this into a word document to find out just how many words I have managed to type in 10 minutes.  Laters xxxxxxxxxxxx

ps. just so you know the answer is 595 - not to shabby I have to say!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Why New Zealand

So many people asked me before going away to New Zealand why we were going there and to be honest it felt quite strange saying that we were all going to stay with someone I had never met before!  I seem to be making a bit of a habit of this.  First I went and met a fellow blogger Katharine over in Boston MA, we had known each other on-line for quite some years before I went and met her.  We were friends before we met but this visit cemented our friendship which continues to thrive! In fact my husband is going to meet up with her in November this year, but that is a whole other story!

Next we (not on my own this time) went and met another blogger that Katharine introduced us to, Susanne over near San Diego, CA. It really is so nice to be able to finally hear the voice that you read and share conversations with!

So back to the why New Zealand story.  First we have to roll the clock back several decades to when my husband was a teenager, he and a friend Howard decided to go inter-railing together around Europe.  I suppose in it's day it was the equivalent to taking a gap year, only this was done during the summer holidays and was a very cheap way of visiting lots of places!  They lost contact and then thanks to the joys of facebook they were reunited a few years ago.  At some point the two boys had a conversation that led me and Howard's wife Lyn into becoming facebook friends and playing scrabble daily with each other.

Lyn and I started to chat more and more as we played.  I discovered they had both been mental health nurses and Lyn had spent a lot of time doing adolescent mental health.  This is obviously a subject very close to my heart with my kinship caring saga with my niece, and on more than one occasion Lyn helped me to work out what my next steps were.

Then last year Howard came over to the UK on a visit to his family.  My husband Brian went up to his home town and met up with him for an evening and it seems they just picked up where they had left off all those years ago.  Howard made some comment about us going out to visit them - that may have been his biggest mistake.  I wonder how many times people say that not really meaning it???????

So, the rest is history, we decided to go for it.  The photo at the top shows Howard and Lyn on the far left with their daughter and then their son is over on the far right.  Next to their son on the far right are two more friends Paula and her daughter Bethany who came over from Australia to visit us.  Paula also knew Brian and Howard back in the teenage days when they were in a drama group together.  So there were many more years to catch up on there!  We have been fortunate to spend quite a bit of time with Paula and her ever growing family over the years and it was a very hard decision to go to New Zealand and not Australia on this visit, however, NZ it was to be and we were just thrilled that Paula brought Bethany over.

The photo below is of Lyn and I (we are wine tasting which must be why I am a bit blurred!), it was so lovely to give her a hug and to be able to thank her for being the pillar of support that she has been to me.  I couldn't believe that they had been living in NZ for about 15 years and had never visited a vineyard to do some FREE wine tasting.  So pleased we have sorted that out for them and jolly hope they go on to visit lots more - we only managed to do two.

Another friendship that I was also able to rekindle on this visit was with my lovely friend Sara.  We used to go to church together when we were both studying in West London.  I vividly remember her wedding to the lovely Brett (a kiwi) at the Salvation Army head quarters in central London.  It was only about 6 months after that wedding when we were about to get married that they moved over to New Zealand.  Since then we have kept touch every Christmas, we have spoken when Sara has been over in the UK but had not seen each other in the flesh for far too long.

Meeting her, Brett and their lovely children was just so good after all this time.  We have both been through tough times that neither of us had particularly shared with each other so there was an awful lot to catch up on.  But catch up we did and when I got Paula and Sara together it was lovely to go back over how we met, how Brett and Sara met and all the early days stuff over again.  Another wonderful spin off from this is the deep and meaningful emails we are now exchanging as we continue conversations about church and family.

So that is basically why we went to NZ.  I confess to hardly knowing anything about the country before going, except that a few friends had been and loved it.  My amazing husband spent so much time before we went doing all the research to decide where we would visit.  And he came up trumps with a brilliant itinerary!
It really is a most fascinating country and I would definitely like to get back and cover more, we were only able to do a very small bite.  I wonder how often people choose a holiday by the people they want to see rather than the country they want to visit!?!

The photo below is of my daughter Annie and Paula's daughter Bethany, I so pray that their friendship continues over the miles and that they get to share lots and lots of memories into the future.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Moving On.

It has taken me far too long to get back to my blog!  But I wanted to update you all on some exciting times.

I last posted about my mums inquest and the great mess the community mental health team had made, causing a huge delay and much upset.  Well the inquest took place the day before we went off on holiday and I am pleased to say that it was all concluded.  I felt very listened to by the coroner who questioned the mental health team very well to get a clear picture of what had happened with their input.  The psychiatric nurse that was looking after my mum is no longer working for the trust (although still had to attend the inquest) and it was good to hear the coroner say to the manager and consultant that he hoped they had learnt some valuable lessons.  I may still go on to ask for a formal apology from the NHS trust at some point but for the moment I am letting it go.

The following day we jetted off to New Zealand for what turned out to be a most Blessed time.  I just wanted to tell you today though about two incidents which have totally helped me to move on from all the happenings of the last 5 1/2 years.  The first was a visit to some beautiful gardens called Little Paradise gardens and lodge.  It turned out to be one of the places we went to because we saw it by chance and though on first and second passing of it we were too tired to go, there was that niggle that stayed with both my husband and I, that we needed to go! So off we went, and it really was like tasting a little bit of paradise.  If you click on the link above you can see much of it's beauty. 

We chatted with the owner/gardener and it was funny to hear him saying that it was not looking it's best (they are just going into Autumn) as to us it looked beautiful.  He was not only the gardener but the sculptor as well and the picture at the top if of a life size is one of his.  So why was this sculpture of the many the one that touched something deep deep down inside me?  To understand I need to tell you about the counselling session that I had before I went away.  My counsellor asked me to imagine my 12 year old self sitting in the empty chair in the room and asked me what I would like to do/say to her.  Now I have often thought about what I might say/write to myself, knowing what I know now.  However I have never considered what I would do...........  I was very taken aback and there was quite a long period of silence before my tears started to fall.  It turns out what I would really like to be able to do to that 12 year old self is to pick her up, hug her and tell her how much she is loved.  Which brings me onto the photo.......

It struck me immediately, the identical clothing just confirmed it, this was me swinging, loving and enjoying my younger self - WOW!

I am sure this does not sound as profound as it feels for me but I wanted to get it written down.  I know there will be times when I forget about that moment and those feelings and I want to have a written reminder to go back to.

The next thing I want to tell you about is maybe a little more frightening!  I'll let the photo's tell the story.


192 metres + free falling +11 seconds of sheer exhilaration = JOY!!!!!!!

and if you want to know how much noise I made about it here you go

So I have left the past behind and am moving on, it feels great.  I am under no illusions, I know I will still have bad days but for now I feel like I can conquer the world!

God Bless,  Jane x.