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Friday, 26 September 2014

Choosing Happiness

"Life is so damn short.
For fuck sake, do what makes you happy."

Okay, this post may sound somewhat hypocritical considering my earlier posts on my foray back into education. I talked about how I've always been a bit of a quitter. I never truly felt like I had a direction or end goal, so I didn't see the point in putting the effort in. Once things got hard or well... when I just couldn't be bothered anymore, I'd hightail it out of there. I've never been a person who see's things through no matter what, and that is something I want to change about myself.

My own lack of ambition and perseverance aside, this post is about my sister's decision to quit her child care course after doing it for a year and having nine more months to go. This was met with quite mixed reactions from my parents. My mum was a little more understanding, but kind of kept flitting between being okay with it and not being so sure. My dad acknowledged he couldn't really do anything to stop her quitting, but thought she should stick at it regardless of how unhappy doing the course made her and whether or not she would eventually go into child care.

I should say here that she isn't dropping out to do nothing. She has a part time Teleperformance job, which she enjoys. She works three evenings during the week from 6pm to 11:30pm and one long shift at the weekend. She'd only started her job a little while before she got off for the summer, and never really had to juggle school and it for long. I think juggling a full time course, part time work and then all the stuff she does for me as one of my primary carers would have been a whole lot easier if she was actually enjoying the course. But she wasn't. She was waking up every day shattered and dreading going to class or placement. My dad said that's normal. He said work isn't to be enjoyed, but endured.

Considering I've never had a job, it doesn't exactly put me in the best position to have an opinion. And my family would be the first to point that out. However my dad doesn't fully believe in depression, and my mum has been known to say when we're at our lowest that we need to 'get things into perspective'. I understand what it's like living on a knife edge, and I know more than anyone how Eva has struggled with... for lack of a better word, mental health stuff in the past. And while it might be normal to dislike going to school or going to work, I'd rather not put the pressure on her to stick at something that makes her so unhappy if she truly knows it isn't what she wants to do with her future.

Eva isn't like me. She isn't directionless. She tried child care and found it wasn't for her. She's nineteen. She doesn't have to have everything figured out right now. It's okay to to see how things go. She wants to get extra hours at her job to help save for us moving out, and hopes to take an animal management course next year. She had thought about doing that this year instead, but over the summer she was convinced to go back to child care. I guess she should have stuck with her gut instinct, and that's why I think she needs to do what's right for her and not let the opinions of others make her second guess herself.

When I started out writing this post I had looked for a quote that said quitting is okay, but I couldn't find one. They were all about how bad it is to quit and how you'll never be a winner if you give up. I hate that. I hate that there's this stigma attached to quitting. It's like it's a dirty word or something to be ashamed of. Like it makes you weak. Once a quitter, always a quitter.

Life is too short to spend time doing things that make us unhappy if we can avoid it. There are so many things we can't control that affect our happiness, it's important to take advantage of the ones we can. And as they say, it's never to late to be what you might have been. My older sister did musical theatre at university when she was nineteen and we always thought she'd end up on the West End. And she could have, but she realised it wasn't her calling. By a fluke she ended up realising what she really loved doing was nursing. She still ended up living in London, but has just went back to university at twenty eight years old to become a nurse. She's living proof you don't have to have things figured out right away, and now she couldn't be happier. Eva will find her path too, and I don't think it's wrong of her to try and find happiness while she does so. Whatever she ends up doing in life, I know she'll be great. I'll always be on her side and believe in her. She's my baby sis after all.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Memory Walk

"A good deed is not just a duty, but above all, a privilege."
Shari Arison

On Saturday (20/09/14) my family and I completed the Memory Walk for the Alzheimer's Society at Stormont, Belfast. If you would like to read my pre'walk blog post about why I decided to take part, you can find that here (link). The tl;dr version is we were doing it in support of my granny who is living with Alzheimer's.

Earlier in the week we had received our sponsor packs with our sponsor forms, t-shirts, information and our I'm walking for tags. I got all my donations through my JustGiving page, and I also decided not to use my I'm walking for tag. I was worried because my granny doesn't always know she has Alzheimer's, if she saw the photos and that we were walking for her, it might upset her. The rest of my family followed suit.

The t-shirt I got in my pack.

It was an early start as it had said the walk began at 10am. I dunno if I've mentioned this before, but my family aren't really morning people. We find it hard to get out the door on time at most times of day, but mornings are particularly bad. However, for some reason we outdone ourselves on Saturday and we had ourselves and our dogs ready in a timely fashion. We actually arrived early!

At first we thought we had missed the start of the walk because the place was so empty.

Fortunately we hadn't missed the walk. Unfortunately it was so empty because although it opened at 10am, the actual walk didn't start until 11:30am. Now, usually waiting around for an hour and a half and soaking up all the atmosphere would have been great fun. However we had completely underestimated how our five month old chihuahua puppies would react to all the people, noise and worst of all... other dogs. Berty was bad at first, but eventually mostly calmed down. I mean he started off by peeing on my sister when he got overwhelmed by some kids. He hates kids. They even scared Edwin though, and he loves people. Edwin was a nightmare the whole time we were waiting for the walk to start. He didn't settle at all and continuously barked at every dog he came across. We were so desperate we even bought him a bun to keep him quiet. He rarely gets human food, but we were desperate! As annoying as it was, it just came down to the fact he was completely out of his comfort zone and couldn't handle it. I got really annoyed when I seen some girl call him and Berty little rats. He's just a puppy. Most people were very nice though and a lot of people thought they were adorable.

Some photos of the wait for the walk to start.

As the crowds gathered it was great seeing all the different people doing the walk. I particularly loved seeing all the different dogs, even if they made Edwin the most annoying dog ever! To be fair, he wasn't the only dog barking. I have to say though, it was mostly little dogs living up to their reputation. Even our big Labrador - Baby - wasn't phased by any of it. 

Two of my favourite dogs of the day.
Apart from my own... obvs.

Although we decided to do the walk to support my granny on my dad's side, my granda on my mum's side who we lost to cancer around ten years ago also had dementia. So my mum decided to fill out a tag on the Memory Tree for him.

After the longest hour and a half ever the walk was about to begin, so we all began gathering around the starting line.

And then we set off! This is when Edwin really came into his own. He enjoyed the walk so much and loved following all the people. I started off carrying him because I was worried he might get stood on as it was dense to start with until the people split in to two groups, one doing the 10km and one doing the 2km. We were doing the 2km as the ten wasn't wheelchair accessible. He wasn't happy being carried and wanted down asap to walk.

It got a bit warm and we had to stop to take Edwin's jumper off.
Look how cute he is!

My favourite bit of the walk was through a wooded area. Up until then it had been on a concrete path, but in the wooded area it was rougher terrain. For a walker it wasn't too hard, but bumping along in a wheelchair it was a little more uncomfortable. Then there was slight hilly bits and it was lucky I've gotten into the habit of wearing my seat belt or I'd have slipped from my chair. For some reason the small discomfort this part of the walk gave me made me feel a little better about all the generous donations people had given to sponsor me even though it was only 2km.

We got to the finish line just over half an hour or so after we set off. Although it wasn't long for us, Edwin and Berty were pooped by the end. Berty even panted for the first time! I have to say we got lovely weather for the day and it was quite warm. After we finished we were given a medal each.

Edwin and Berty wearing mine and Eva's medals and Baby wearing my dad's.

We didn't stick around long after the walk finished. It would have been fun to, but we figured it was probably best to get the dogs home. We didn't want a repeat of the morning fiasco with Edwin. After we dropped Edwin, Berty and Baby home, we went and treated ourselves to lunch at Subway and a bit of shopping. We then went to my granny's house to see her and show everyone our medals. We told her about us doing the walk and she said 'Oh, for Alzheimer's? That's for me. Did you think of me when you were doing it?' So it was one of the days she knew she had Alzheimer's and she seemed happy we had done it for her.

Selfie at my granny's. 

That was pretty much the day of the walk. We're talking about doing something again next year, if not for Alzheimer's for something else. It's been a long time since I've done something for Muscular Dystrophy. I always feel a little weird doing things for my own charity, for some reason. Either way, if we do a walk hopefully we'll get the boys a little more used to other dogs, people and noise by then. It was a really great day and I'd really recommend taking part. It's such a worthy cause and almost everyone is touched by Alzheimer's or some form of dementia. If you're interested in taking part in a memory walk you can find information on the nearest one to you here (link).

I mean... who wouldn't want one of these bad boys?

Monday, 22 September 2014

Bloo's Reviews | Chasing Wishes

"Horrible things always happen to good people in fairy tales. Witches blind kind princes and cast them into the desert to wander, stepdaughters live in abject poverty, ridiculed and treated badly by all... fairy tales are painful, even nasty stories right up until the ending when everything works out after all."
Chasing Wishes

*Review contains spoilers.

Title: Chasing Wishes
Author: Nadia Simonenko
Rated: 18+ (adult content)

Today's review is on Chasing Wishes by Nadia Simonenko. I had read some good reviews on this book and Nadia Simonenko before I read it, but lets just say this won't be as glowing a review as those. What I will say though my opinion on the book may be somewhat coloured by personal preference rather than actual flaws. 

Chasing wishes is the story of Nina/Irene and Isaac/Terrence. As teenagers they meet when Nina transfers to a rich private school where as a poor Hispanic girl from the wrong side of the tracks, she is welcomed by nobody apart from Isaac. Isaac comes along as sort of a knight in shining armour when Nina is shunned and bullied by those at the school. Isaac has no belief in the class divide like his peers or even his family. Nina, who is let down by everyone, including the one person she should be able to rely on - her mother - finds it difficult to trust him at first but they soon become close friends and develop feelings for each other. However the night after they share a kiss on his rooftop, Nina is taken from her mother who is a drug addict and prostitute and put into care. She is forced to change her name so her mother's dealers can't find her and she never sees Isaac again. 

Fast forward nine years and Nina is now Irene. After a chance meeting with Terrence and his personal assistant Marcus, she is offered the job as Terrence's personal assistant as she has one skill Marcus doesn't have. When she first meets Terrence she's instantly attracted and is taken aback by how much he reminds her of Isaac. Yeah, you can probably see where this is going. The thing is Terrence can't, because he's blind. (See what I did there?) And the skill that Irene has that Marcus hasn't is the ability to describe the world in such a colourful and vivid way that it gives Terrence some small semblance of being able to see. 

I have a preference for books that feature disability in some way, but this was the first I had read that featured a blind person. Personally I thought the premise was okay and the story started off sweet. It was by no means original and there was no real surprises, but if you like a story that does what it says on the tin then you'd probably like this book. If you like suspense, mystery and twists then... not so much. Over all I thought it could have been executed better, and although it was obvious Terrence was indeed Isaac, I wish the book had kept you guessing a little longer. 

Another problem I had with the book was the writing style. I'm not a big fan of first person at the best of times, but I particularly didn't like it in this book. I found it at times a bit like reading a manual and lacking in personality. If I'm reading first person I want it to feel like an intimate diary entry, not a step by step account. I also prefer it to be in the past tense rather than the present. Like, "I walked to the fridge," rather than, "I walk to the fridge." If that makes sense. Again that's just personal preference more than anything. I just found her style a little cold. 

What I did like though was the fact it went back and forth between both character's points of view, and also different points in time. Irene had a lot of flashbacks to when she and Isaac first met and such. However, again I didn't feel this was executed as well as it could have been and at times made the story feel slow and repetitive. Maybe if I had liked the writing style a little more, I would have found these parts more enjoyable. Eventually I just wanted to get to the end. I actually skipped a couple of the flashbacks because I didn't feel they really helped move the story along at all or were important.

I think I probably could have seen passed all the flaws mentioned above if the book didn't end with one of my biggest pet hates when it comes to disabled representation. Isaac/Terrence is rich and has a team of scientists that work for him inventing medical stuff. We learn that he has a side project and being the completely predictable story that it is, you know exactly what he's working on. He's working on a cure for his blindness. At the end of the book he has retinal replacement implantation surgery and although it's touch and go for a while, eventually he gets his sight back. 

I'm sorry, but I hate that. I hate that we're constantly portrayed as always striving to fix ourselves and never completely happy as we are. I also dislike it because it's not very often we are represented or have characters we can relate to, so it's highly annoying when a disabled character does come along and then is miraculously cured one way or another. It just feels like a bit of a cop out. So out of all the problems I had with this book, this is my biggest one. And again, it's totally personal preference. Someone else might find that a heart warming and perfect happy ending.

Are there any stories you would change the ending to if you could?

Friday, 19 September 2014

A Good Cause

"Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us."
Oscar Wilde

What if one day you went to read that diary and some pages were missing, or in the wrong order? And every day after that more words and pages slowly began to disappear. At first it's easy to piece things together, but eventually the gaps become larger and you find it harder to make sense of the time line. People start trying to fill the blanks for you, but you have no recollection or proof they're not lying to you. You might not even remember who those people are either. They tell you they're your friend, husband, wife, child.. but for you it's like your first time meeting them. You might forget someone's death and when you're told it's like hearing it for the first time all over again, and you have to go through the grieving process all over again. And that won't just happen once, it can happen multiple times, because that memory is no longer there. It's slipped away like so many others. 

That is the life my granny and many others with Alzheimer's are living. My granny isn't at the point where she doesn't recognise any of us, but over the last couple of years her memory has been fading. A couple of weeks ago was the first time she didn't recognise me. Granted it was only for a few minutes. She asked who I was and said she didn't know me a few times when I came into her house, but it eventually clicked into place and she was fine. It makes sense as she seems to think she's about 66 (she's actually 85) and I wouldn't have been born then. The closest she'd been to this with me before was the time she forgot for a split second that I couldn't walk anymore. Again it makes sense because I could walk up until the age of ten. Alzheimer's is a cruel disease. It strips away a person little by little and surrounds them in a fog of confusion. I imagine it can be a very scary and frustrating way to live. 

My granny and granda in March this year.

I don't want to go too into the ins and outs of how my granny's Alzheimer's affects her because it's very personal, but a couple of months ago she fell and broke her hip and spent weeks in hospital. This would be very hard on someone at the best of times, but you can imagine just how much of a toll it would take on a person living with this disease. Routine can be very important when coping with Alzheimer's and being in an unfamiliar place and around unfamiliar people can be so much more confusing and in turn, scary. The only bright side in it all was the fact she didn't actually remember why she was in there. She had no recollection of her fall and I think it says a lot about just how good painkillers can be that she had to ask what had happened!

The night my granny went into hospital, we all felt so helpless. We were sitting at home and wanted to do something for her, but there was nothing we could do. That's when my mum read online that the Alzheimer's Society were holding a Memory Walk at Stormont in the near future. She suggested we sign up and do it in support of my granny and others living with the disease. and those we know who have passed from it. It might not benefit my granny right then and there, but it felt good knowing the money we'd raise would help fund support and vital research. 

A couple of months has passed since then and tomorrow (20/09/14) is the day of the walk. I had put my donation target at £50 as I didn't want to be too ambitious and to be honest, I don't know that many people. But I have been so touched and amazed by the generosity of the few people I do know and ended up surpassing my goal exceedingly. I was disappointed to find out I could only do a 2km walk as the 10km wasn't wheelchair accessible, and worried people would think it was a bit of a joke since I'm doing it in an electric wheelchair also. But everyone has been so supportive and kind. 

I've raised almost £210 through my JustGiving page, which is far beyond what I ever could have imagined. I really couldn't thank everyone enough. I wish I could do more to deserve it, but I know it is going to such a worthwhile cause and that is what is truly important. Not what I do, but where it's going.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Bloo's Reviews | New Make Up

"To me, beauty and make up and colour is like the finishing touch on everything."
 Marc Jacobs

For this week's Bloo's Review I thought I would tell you about some new additions to my make up bag. I doubt make up reviews will happen often on my blog as I'm very much of the mind 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. Meaning my make up bag is pretty much always the same. However this week I had to purchase new foundation as I'd run out and I also added these three nail varnishes to my online order so I could get free postage. I'd rather pay the extra £3 for pretty colours for my nails rather than postage.

First off we have the little nail varnishes by MUA. I was pleasantly surprised by these. As I was just trying to make up the extra £3 needed for postage, I had bought basically the cheapest nail varnishes I could find that came in colours I would actually wear. I've always been quite proud of my nails. My sister used to say my nice and strong nails (and long hair) were the only good gene I got! However they're slightly wasted on me as I never take the time to do them. I file them into a nice shape every now and then, but that's about the extent of the care I take. I find a lot of the nail varnishes I've used in the past take too long to dry and I end up smudging it, and to be honest I just don't have the patience. And thus I didn't hold out much hope for these little guys at just £1 a pop! 

First up we have Moody Mink. This was my favourite out of the three of them. I wanted a nice understated purple colour and this just fit the bill. I found it gave good coverage and a nice finish after just two layers and dried the best out of the three of them. I even wore it to the Ice Hockey game I went to see on Saturday night and none of it's chipped off yet! I think that's a personal best.

Second up is Mud Pie. It's a slightly different shade than I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be a little bit more of a neutral colour, rather than this rich brown. Even so, I like it all the same. I got good coverage and a nice finish after just two layers, but it didn't dry as fast or as well as the Moody Mink. Even so, this was my second favourite out of the three. 

And third we have Bold Blue. I had high hopes for this one as blue is my favourite colour. Based on colour it would have been my second favourite out of the three, but other factors let it down. It was a little bit more watery than the other colours and would pool at the sides of my nails, making it difficult to get good coverage. After three to four layers I got good coverage but then it took forever to dry and I ended up smudging it.

Overall I am happy with them and would purchase more of them in the future as there's some other lovely colours. I would say though that they did feel like they might go gloopy and dry out pretty fast after a few uses, particularly if left open for too long. I could feel it happen a bit as I used them and had to make sure the brush was well loaded. But for £1 you can't really complain. I've had much the same issues with much more expensive nail varnishes. 

Now on to the actual reason I was ordering make up in the first place, foundation. I've been using GOSH X-Ceptional Wear Foundation (£7.99 at Superdrug) for a couple of years now and it's the best and most affordable I've found for pale skin like mine. I usually get Porcelain, but it's been out of stock for a while now and I finally gave in and got the next shade up which is Natural.

When I first got it and tried it on my hand I was a little worried it was too much darker. I really prefer pale foundation and don't like looking tanned or well... orange. You can see the lighter porcelain on the left and the natural on the right. 

I actually ordered a new porcelain foundation after this arrived, but a different brand as I thought the GOSH natural was going to be too dark for me to wear. However I was forced to use it on Saturday night when I was going to an Ice Hockey match and was pleasantly surprised. I didn't look orange like I thought I would, but it did give me slightly more colour. I probably wouldn't order it again, but it is wearable. I wish I had taken a picture of me wearing it with my make up done, but I didn't have time. 

All in all I was pretty happy with all my purchases. The purple nail varnish definitely came out on top and I can't wait to treat myself to more colours. Hopefully they'll be more like the quality of the purple than of the blue. I'm hoping the other foundation I've bought will be lighter and then I will probably give the GOSH natural to my sister. 

Are there any make up products you've been pleasantly surprised by? 

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