Monday Meditation: Family Matters

 7B409BAD-D2AA-4704-857F-413F20F7CC1FA very quick post today to explain and apologise.

We are currently in the throes of trying to move my mum into sheltered accommodation just around the corner from us. It is taking up all our time and energy. Mum is finding it all overwhelming, she doesn’t want to move but knows she has to if we’re to be able to take care of her needs. It is causing her a lot of stress.

She is calling us every day several times a day with the same concerns and not retaining any reassurances I give her. She can’t keep hold of the relevant dates when things are happening.

She is insisting on sorting out all her belongings immediately – even though we haven’t even seen the property she’s been offered yet – and spending sleepless nights trying to decide which furniture to take etc. when she doesn’t know the size of the rooms.

In the 10 days or so since she found out she’d been offered a home, she has injured her back, her kitchen light went and we had  on Good Friday, and then on Easter Monday, she found a key in a drawer, tried it in the back door and got it stuck, so we had to pay a locksmith £70 to spray WD40 on it to free it! She then twisted her knee.

She keeps promising me she won’t do any more, but then phones me up to ask if so-and-so in the family would like such-and-such that she’s just found in a cupboard or wardrobe! Later, she will forget that she has given something to someone and worry she can’t find it.

As I write, my husband has gone to pick her up and also meet two estate agents who are coming to value her current home. He will then bring her here, and we will take her to look at the new home on Friday. It is very nerve-racking. The authorities will also be approving her at the same time and if they don’t think she can live independently, they will rescind the offer and then I don’t know what we will do.

So, I apologise for not being able to read everyone’s posts or comment as frequently as I’d like. There may be a hiatus in my own posts as well, at this point I don’t have any more scheduled. I am exhausted and worried about how all this is going to play out. Even if we manage the whole move, our lives will no longer be our own. Mum will have more security and hopefully be able to live independently for longer, and she will see more of the family. But we will be on call 24/7 and I’m not sure we’re up to the task.

It’s a huge emotional, as well as physical, responsibility. I worry that it will all be too much for her to cope with, leaving everything and everybody she knows at almost 88 years old, and if she is dreadfully unhappy in the new place, that will be on me, as I’m the one who has instigated it all.

By the time you read this, she will have seen her new home. It will be much smaller than her present home. She is not a joiner, and is worried ‘they’ will try and tell her what to do or make her join in activities or classes or ventures she doesn’t want to do. She likes to keep herself to herself.

I am normally a postitive person, but the weight of this is extremely heavy. What if she hates it and doesn’t want to move… What if she moves and hates it…

I know, I know, what if it all goes well and she is happy here…

Positive thoughts would be welcome 🙏🏻

Update: Mum saw the bungalow and felt better about the move, we even chose paint colours for all the rooms. Then last night (Saturday), she had a TIA (mini stroke) and has since been in hospital.  We are hoping she will be discharged tomorrow (Monday). The Earth is spinning just a little too fast at the moment.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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Going Vegan: Keep Calm & Lead by Example + Tips

F8D68843-623C-4F1E-A097-C4C02293352CI was vegetarian for 40 years for all the usual reasons: ethics, sustainability, health, and thought that was enough. I gave up milk a long time ago, for health reasons. I still ate cheese and eggs. A couple of times, when I became a raw foodie and when my son lived in a tree (don’t ask), I almost became vegan, but couldn’t sustain it. I didn’t have the support and there wasn’t as much by way of articles, products or recipe ideas all those years ago. I finally became vegan accidentally after doing a 14 day juice challenge.

I realised after 3 months I hadn’t wanted to eat cheese or eggs, and I was a real cheese addict. Now I was vegan. And if I could do it for 3 months, I could do so permanently. But I was scared of committing myself and actually saying, I am vegan.

D09AC6B8-9C45-40EB-A436-2382AE979ECEI started following vegan accounts and began reading about the cruelty of egg production and dairy farming. There is so much information available now on social media, via blogs, in the press and documentaries. All I had back then was a library book and a cookery book to turn me on to becoming vegetarian. I had no idea then that male chicks are surplus to requirements in the egg industry or male calves to the dairy industry. I thought that if I bought organic, free range eggs, that was ok.

After several months, I took the plunge and in great trepidation began writing vegan recipes and informational posts on my blog. I fully expected to lose a lot of followers. It didn’t happen. In fact, quite the opposite happened, I gained a whole host of new ones!

The current wave of interest in sustainable living is being driven and adopted by young people in droves, because they now have access to educational tools, support, recipes and like-minded groups.

1AF63E27-2F18-436B-B556-CFD924E73DFFFive friends and family have  become vegan, are transitioning or making gradual changes, from observing my experience, seeing how healthy I am and that it is possible to be vegan, enjoy food and not waste away!

I have never tried to persuade anyone to be vegan. I only engage in the issues if it comes up organically and I know they are in a receptive mood. People need time to process and to work out how it will affect their lifestyle and family obligations. Being aggressive or judgemental is counter-productive. Being calm, understanding and the healthiest you can be is more likely to have people follow your example.

Education is the key, and support and encouragement. It was relatively easy for me as I was used to a vegetable- based diet and already bought cruelty-free toiletries and cosmetics. It can be very difficult for people unused to cooking from scratch, relying on processed convenience foods, on a tight budget (see link for Jack Monroe’s site below) or who don’t have family support.

F7CBF554-7687-422C-AC60-94ABF557C5FABecoming vegan also doesn’t necessarily mean you become healthy. It is quite possible to be vegan living on predominantly processed foods and be quite unhealthy! Food manufacturers and retailers are producing increasing amounts of fake meat products and convenience meals to cater for those who like meat-based meals. These products – not all, but some – can often read like a chemical experiment.

FF65FC84-2504-4B4B-9074-49D2637251A9It’s important to learn about nutrition, to know what constitutes protein and good complex carbohydrates, where to get good plant-based sources of calcium, iron, B12, D3, and so on, so that you have a balanced diet – and so that you have all the facts to hand when you inevitably get asked the questions! Because people who rarely allow a fresh fruit or vegetable to pass their lips will suddenly become concerned experts on your nutritional input. You don’t need a diploma, just Google it!

D47273E0-A5FF-452A-8FF8-C6AD4639A4AEYou can take baby steps by swapping to cruelty-free household products, toiletries and cosmetics. You can reduce your dependency on plastic packaging and this will often automatically mean you include more fresh food in your shopping as well as helping reduce the plastic waste that is filling our oceans, seas and water supplies.

IMG_8582Adding more fresh vegetables and fruit will reduce your intake of sugary and fatty foods which will help reduce inflammation and pain, provide more energy and fewer slumps, and make you more alert. Your skin will be amazing! Skin loves fresh food, especially avocados.

Why not try Meatfree Mondays? Plantbased rice, pasta or quinoa dishes like curries, for example, or pizza (there are some great vegan cheeses*), are often acceptable to families not yet on board with giving up meat. We sometimes give meat-eating guests Quorn or Linda McCartney pies without telling them and they are often uncomfortable and somewhat puzzled, believing they are eating meat, and very surprised when we reveal the truth.

imageBeing vegan is not all brown rice and lentils! Just look at any of the many vegan Instagram accounts and you will find colourful, appetising meals, snacks, treats, desserts, smoothie bowls and cakes for all occasions.

There are many websites, Instagram accounts, blogs and so on where you can find facts, recipes and support to help you make small changes that can eventually lead to bigger ones. Do you know, for example. you can substitute a chia ‘egg’ or flaxseed ‘egg’ for a hen’s egg in cooking? Just soak 1 Tbsp of seeds with 3 Tbsps of seeds to form a gel. Or use mashed banana. I have several informative posts here on the blog and I’ll include some links at the end.

All the recipes on this blog are vegan and gluten-free, just look in the Menu or among Top Posts and Pages, there are also posts on how to make Nut & Seed Milks & Smoothie Recipes

We Are Veganuary have a best-selling hardback book ‘How to Go Vegan’ and The Guardian’s Jack Monroe has a great blog with budget vegan recipes called Cooking on a Bootstrap.

 3C80CBB1-C6B6-4695-B227-0738ECAD1C08Over 165,000 people signed up this year to try being vegan for a month. If you were one of them, well done! You have helped save hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, hundreds of kilograms of grain and dozens of animals, not to mention the reduction in greenhouse gases, just in a month!

img_6589If you missed it but would like to give it a go, Veganuary is open all year, providing support whenever you’re ready – see link below.

I hope you found this post helpful.

Remember, there is no failing. You do what you can. Everyone is on their own journey, we are all at different points on our journey, don’t be put off because you think it’s all or nothing and you wear leather shoes. Baby steps.

***

The Vegan Society  Lots of info, nutritional advice, supplement advice, articles

The Green People Company for award-winning vegan skincare, toiletries, cosmetics

*Bute Island Foods for Dairy-free Cheese – available in Waitrose, Holland & Barrett, online & other retailers – and recipes

 Veganuary for Recipe Book, Support, Information & to sign up to try being vegan for a month

Environmental Benefits of Adopting a Vegan/Vegetarian Diet

Vivolife – a great resource, Josh does supportive, informative videos, newsletters, blogposts as well as selling good quality organic, vegan protein powders.

Where to Get Nutritional Advice for Young Vegans and Newbies 

Where Do I Get My Protein on a Vegan Diet?

Where Do I Get My Calcium On A Vegan Diet?

Where Do I Get Iron on a Vegan Diet?

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: The End? Absolutely Not!

CA6CD8E5-4285-419D-B9C2-01DAECA3E688I lost a dear friend last week, she had just turned 103 and I have been thinking about The End a lot.* Until relatively recently, we used to share a daily short walk, which inevitably reached its halfway point at the cemetery where her husband’s memorial stone stands and my dad’s tree lives. She, too, has now left her physical form, but whenever I go on that walk, I shall be thinking of her when I visit her husband and my dad’s tree. I am continuing our walks, I will visit her, too, when she joins her husband, and have a chat. I will tell her about the latest exploits of my grandsons, about whom she always inquired. There is no ending yet.

Her house is being sorted, her clothes given away, but her possessions will have a new life with others and so too will the house. It will be renovated and look spanking new again, ready to enter its new era. And it will contain all the memories created there by her and her family, who have occupied it for over half a century. There is no ending here.

I visited Barbara on her birthday a few days before she died. She was half-sitting in bed. She hadn’t seen me for quite a while as she had a fall on the stairs in the autumn and then developed a chest infection. Her sight had deteriorated and I was wearing a different coat, with a black scarf around my neck. She hardly knew me. I helped her open the card I had written for her, in which I had mentioned my grandsons in case I didn’t get to talk to her that day. Things began to come clearer at the mention of the boys’ names and now she knew who I was. I sat with her while her daughter had a break to make some calls. She looked tiny and frail. She was not happy. I asked her what the ETA was on her being up and about again. She grimaced and looked towards her daughter and her carer, whispering that they wouldn’t let her attempt to walk up and down the hall with her walker. She said, ‘You don’t get better lying in bed!’

She was right of course. She had such spirit, such determination. Her daughter told me after her mum had slipped away in her sleep that she knew her mum had somehow got herself out of bed a few nights before and she had found her in the hall by the radiator because she was cold. She had got there without her walker.

Three days before Barbara died, this heron came to visit on her roof.

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A few years ago, in her 90s, Barbara broke her hip. The authorities wanted her to stay in hospital and then go to a care home. She was having none of it. She insisted they send her home. We all feared the worst, that she would never manage and would injure herself or catch an infection. We should have known better. Up to that point, she was still weeding her own garden, going to the shops, to church and to the hairdresser, she was a member of the Townswomen’s Guild and held a coffee morning every Thursday. There was to be no ending because of a pesky broken hip!

Every winter she developed a chest infection and we all shook our heads and thought she was unlikely to survive the winter. Barbara had other ideas.

5A2D5BF6-5273-4FC7-9254-99C3D1D17ADFThe day before she left us, I had decided to make some cards. Barbara and I had established a tradition of sending each other notecards when one or other of us – often both – were confined to barracks – in my case when my back had given up the ghost. I had run out of cards with the one I sent just before Christmas. This time I chose a picture that was an image of a garden, as she loved hers. I had no idea I would be sending it as a sympathy card next day. I happened to take the photo to write about the smoothie I was having at the time. I had no idea it would be featuring in her eulogy. I finished the card, and sent it on its way to convey my thoughts and some memories to her family. No ending here either. Barbara’s daughter has found all the cards I sent to her mum and is going to let me have them. I will be able to relive the memories I shared with her, of my family as they grew, and smile at her own quips in response.

I am sad for her daughters and son, I am sad that I will no longer look over at her windows when I get up to check her curtains are open, or see her with her carer slowly taking her afternoon stroll, stopping to chat to the schoolchildren as they hurtled past. But I know she was not happy at being confined to bed. She was rapidly losing her strength (she wasn’t eating), and was adamant she didn’t want to go into the local Cottage Care Home. She was relieved to have her daughter back staying with her, from her home on the Continent, and she was ready to go.

But there is no End here. So many people looked out for her. She was loved by all her neighbours, a few of whom had known her for several decades, us included. Her death has brought us all together, we are all talking about her as we pass in the street. Some of us are used to seeing each other in passing and saying ‘good morning’ or commenting on the weather, but haven’t really got to know each other. Barbara has brought this small community even closer by our common bond of friendship with this tiny, frail-looking woman who was as strong as steel and insisted we all – young and not so young – call her by her first name.

The rain has stopped and the wind has dropped, I’m off to put on my coat and boots. I will wave to Barbara’s daughter and if I have the chance, I’ll invite her over for a cup of tea and a change of scenery. She looks so tired. Having only exchanged a few remarks when she has thanked me for writing to her mum, we are getting to know each other a bit more. There is no ending here.

Au revoir, Barbara. You continue to be an inspiration and I am grateful you came into my life. Thank you for all the walks and the memories.

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Inspired by a post called Conversation With The End by Cathi at Over The Hill On The Yellow Brick Road

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: A January Day in the English Countryside

Originally published in January 2017, now updated.

A few pics from our impromptu afternoon out when we were in need of fresh air and space after being cooped up for some time. It was a grey but fine day with no icy winds to sting our faces and make our eyes water, unlike the storms currently battering the UK a whole year later. We did the same walk this week and when I compare the views, it is noticeable how much greener, calmer and more fertile-looking the land was last year. This year there is a lot of mud and debris from all the winds and rain. I’ll be posting the latest photographs in a companion piece later.

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Lots of crab apples!

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A gnarly old tree, one of many!

Does anyone know what plant these grey pods belong to?

 

They look like they are from a climbing plant, they were growing next to some lovely yellow winter jasmine overhanging a garden wall and had a few small pink flowers like blossom on their branches. They look like grey broad beans! (A year later, there were hardly any pods, and what there were looked black and shrivelled from the frost).

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An English country lane. We saw a fat grey squirrel leap from the bare twigs of a tree on the right hand side of the road into the large pine tree opposite, very athletic! Such a contrast between the lush green conifers on the left and the bare-twigged hawthorns on the right. We were accompanied by a robin we saw a few times down this lane, but he was a little camera-shy, he kept flying off before I could take his photo.

Some farm animals on a smallholding, the grey goose did not like our presence one little bit!

 

This poor goat was looking at us and bleating the whole time, both when we passed the first time and again an hour later. Then we realised it was in exactly the same position. It was clearly quite distressed and we realised it was tethered so tightly it could neither turn around, lie down or move in anyway from this position. I can’t stop thinking about how disstressed it was and how much stress there must be on its joints etc. having to remain in that position. There was no-one around to do anything about it.

When we retraced our steps exactly 12 months later, there was no sign of any of the animals, the land looked abandoned; they could have been in the out-buildings, but we heard no sound.

27536816_unknownMore crab apples! This time in a small woodland.

(None at all 12 months later).

 A lonely glove. This one’s for the Tom Hanks’ collection! Did you know he collects photos of discarded/lost gloves?

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: A Much-Needed Day Off

I find coming up with a suitably interesting title the most difficult part of writing a blogpost and today’s is no exception because I’m actually writing it on Sunday and it’s about *my* Sunday, which I’ve grabbed hold of with both hands and declared My Day Off!

imageI am sitting at my dining table, drinking my Morning Glory juice* and with Agnes Obel playing gently in the background. It is 10.30 in the morning and I have the house to myself. For an hour, I have just been sitting, doing nothing. Watching the carefree clouds careering across a balmy blue sky, the trees bending in the wind. My husband is on an extended bike-ride with the club (Storm Brian is about to hit with full force in about an hour, but nothing gets in the way of a planned bike ride!) Apart from Agnes’ dulcet tones and gentle piano, I can hear a pin drop and I love it. Recent weeks have been filled with activity, phonecalls and visits, this peace is so welcome and I am going to make the most of it.

Some of you will know that I’ve been spending a lot of time taking over my 87 year old mum’s affairs and every day of the last 3 weeks has been spent doing things on her behalf: sorting out her files (years of them), talking to energy, phone and water companies – I was especially pleased with myself for getting £160 off her energy bill by switching to a diferent tariff; registering Power of Attorney with her bank, which required two visits of two hours each on very cold windy days to a branch half an hour’s drive away. Most of my time, however, has been spent finding sheltered accommodation nearby and persuading the authorities to put her on their waiting list, providing relevant documentation, making many phonecalls and bringing her to our house to look at the housing scheme, a major feat as she has always refused to discuss moving anywhere. Her intention has always been to remain in her bungalow 2 hours’ drive away until she no longer has breath in her body.

I have made Skype calls to my brothers to keep them up to date and yesterday my sister-in-law paid a visit on her way back from cleaning and clearing Mum’s house in preparation for her eventual move. We spent time bringing each other up to date and we took her to see the houses, which, reassuringly, she thought were perfect for Mum. Both my brothers and my other sister-in-law are on board with my plans and that is such a relief.

After decades of receiving care for my own health problems** I am gradually becoming a caregiver for my mum, and I can already feel myself slipping slowly away in the process. Every waking – and often sleeping – moment is taken up thinking about her needs and wondering if I’m doing the right thing, if we’re going to get her moved in time, while she’s still able to have some independence and mobility – her greatest fear is being placed in a care home.

29935696_UnknownBut for now, I can breathe again, for a little while. I can be me again, for a little while. I can play relaxing music that only I enjoy. Later, if I feel so inclined, I can play loud, raucous music that I can sing along to at the top of my voice.  I can write, uninterrupted by requests to find keys, wallet, phone, sort out a social media issue (husband) and so far the phone hasn’t rung – Mum can ring up to 5 times a day if she is stressed, asking the same questions. I can do some painting. I can go for a walk.  I can make an indulgent raw chocolate smoothie (recipe next week). I don’t have to shout to be heard (Mum is very deaf). I don’t have to repeat myself over and over. I don’t have to use my voice at all.

For now, the sun is shining. It gives me energy. It gives me hope. It gives me warmth.

I am grateful to still have my mum. She helped us so much when the children were young and I had serious health problems. I am trying to repay all that time she gave up when we needed it. My dad died 31 years ago and left a huge hole in my life, she is alone with no family around her and all her friends gone. But I am also grateful to have this time to be myself. I know others who are further along in their elder care journey and I know how exhausting it will be once she’s here. My husband especially will be kept busy. So, for now we are making the most of our available free time. Because we will need to keep ourselves fit and healthy so that we can make her life easier and ensure that she has a longer, healthier and happier life here than she would isolated and bored where she is. Because that’s what we’ve promised her. And I always keep my promises.

*7 Juice Recipes

**Invisible Disabilities Week – My Story

**Monday Meditation: Osteopathy, Rest & Recuperation in Nature

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Invisible Disabilities Week – My Story

IMG_4186I just learned today that it is Invisible Disabilities Week. As someone who has spent her whole adult life with an invisible disability, I thought I would share this ‘short’  anecdote on what it is like to look strong and healthy but struggle with a pain and disability that is not obvious to the casual observer. I know I promised short, but this wasn’t planned and you know me, this could go on a bit, for which I apologise in advance – but there are some nice photos too (and yes, that is a packet of crisps in front of me!)

Many moons ago, in a county far, far away, I had a prolapsed disc that refused to heal. I was in my early twenties with a toddler son, had spent a couple of months in bed on the advice of my doctor but could not get moving. I did, however, read the complete Thomas Hardy oeuvre and while doing so, discovered my son was teaching himself to read when he looked at a paragraph containing lots of t’s, p’s and s’s and announced, ‘Look, Mummy, that’s like Top of the Pops!’ (A popular BBC chart programme).

 I had three weeks in hospital on traction where even hospital staff would leave my meals by the side of my bed while I lay flat on my back unable to reach, because I was young and they were preoccupied with the older patients. Eventually, I was sent home with a steel reinforced surgical corset and instructions not to spend a lot of time sitting. A few weeks later, I had my check-up appointment at the hospital. There had been no improvement. Despite the ‘no sitting’ command, I was kept waiting – and sitting – for two hours for a five minute chat that ended with ‘come back in a few weeks’.

Afterwards, I had to wait in reception for a sitting ambulance to take me home. Unfortunately, it was almost lunchtime but there was one ambulance leaving before the lunch-break and I inwardly heaved a sigh of relief. I was in excruciating pain, all the while knowing that things were going to get worse not better for my trip to the doctor (a constant theme in my life) and all this sitting was doing me more harm than good.

A driver came over. He had one seat left. He looked at the elderly lady next to me with a stick. She had told me she had been to the audio clinic to have her hearing checked. He looked at me. Young, smiling, long shiny hair. He chose the elderly lady.

I wanted to cry. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the next hour, possibly longer, before another ambulance left. Not only was I in pain, but despite the corset, I didn’t have enough strength to sit upright, I kept tilting.

I eventually made it home about 3 p.m., having left home at 8.30 a.m. Up until that point, I hadn’t sat for more than half an hour at a time in several months. The pain was so severe I almost passed out before I could get upstairs to bed. My poor excited son had to make do with the briefest of hugs before the painkillers took hold and knocked me out.

That was a long time ago. During the interim decades, things have improved and got worse and improved in a monotonous recycled pattern including surgery, torturous treatments and therapies, car accidents and so on. My overall health is much improved since I changed my diet and lifestyle, gave up prescription drugs that never helped and always made things worse, and took my health into my own hands. However, despite seasonal improvements during warm weather, I have never regained my strength and full mobility.

IMG_4182And yet… just yesterday, my elderly mum was lauding my efforts to look after her during her stay at the weekend, saying ‘It’s lovely to have my daughter back, back to normal!’ A smile and a talent for acting work wonders in reassuring others, but they also help make a disability invisible and raise expectations.

29935072_UnknownOn Saturday, we took Mum out to see the barges on the canal. She had a lovely time, sitting in the sun eating ice-cream – where unexpectedly, an owl and a hawk where among the patrons! – happy that the three of us were able to have a rare outing together. I usually stay at home.

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29935168_UnknownShe went home next morning and I spent the rest of the day sorting out all her files (with the help of a green smoothie of course).

This morning, I couldn’t get out of bed. My whole body felt like I had been kicked by a mule, my back was on fire, I had no strength, I was exhausted despite twelve hours in bed. I couldn’t get dressed. When I did get up, about 11.30 a.m., I sat with a heated pad on my back while my husband brought me herbal anti-inflammatory drops and an anti-inflammatory ginger and turmeric juice.

Two hours later, I am dressed and writing this post. I will soon be making phonecalls on my mother’s behalf. I will call her to see if she is ok after the journey home. I won’t of course tell her how I’m feeling.

As someone recently said to me, we have no idea what is going on in other people’s lives. If someone is rude, irritable, in a bad mood, unwilling to contribute help to some event you’re organising or collect your kids from school etc. please bear in mind they may be suffering a devastating migraine attack or a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis; they may have an undiagnosed brain tumour, they may have insufferable chronic pain, MS, ME, or any number of invisible conditions. If they are behaving ‘inappropriately’, they may have Asperger’s, anxiety, dementia, having a panic attack, depression or on the verge of going into a diabetic coma.

And most of all, just because someone with a disability or chronic illness can do something one day, doesn’t mean at all that they can do it repeatedly, or even ever again. My mum thinks that everything I do when she is here is what I do every day. She has no appreciation of the superhuman effort I make when she – or anyone else – is here, to make her stay comfortable, to give her something to tell her friends about, some nice memories. But once she has left, I am back in bed, desperate for rest and relief.

Please note: This was written on the spur of the moment as a plea on behalf of others, not for sympathy. I am used to the ups and downs of my life and make the most of it. I am a positive person who laughs a lot and I enjoy seeing Mum doing things she wouldn’t otherwise get to do and I know it means a lot to her that I join in. 

Ps It did get a bit long, didn’t it? Oops…

Feeling Overwhelmed: World Mental Health Day

Monday Meditation: Osteopathy, Rest & Recuperation in Nature

Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine – Paint a Rock & Give a Smile to Someone Who Needs It!

The Mood Booster: Raw Chocolate Mulberry, Banana & Walnut Smoothie

Copyright: Chris McGowan

British Humour At Its Best In The Face of Blind Ignorance

This is a health and wellness blog and I rarely venture into current affairs except to express compassion for the victims of terror attacks or homelessness etc.  However, I have to comment on this tweet posted by an American man to justify Americans carrying guns: he actually tweeted that England has a terror attack every hour! As some wag replied: We don’t even get a bus every hour! Now, instead of being trolled or inundated with expressions of outrage, the replies to his statement are actually hilarious and get funnier as the thread goes on. As well as feeling proud of my fellow Brits, I get a smug satisfaction in knowing that this guy’s feed will be clogged to the gunnels with these replies. Please read if you can, it will  make your day and make you proud to be one of the many who  don’t share his viewpoint.

My justification for posting this is that it will make you feel better knowing that there are people in the world with a sense of humour and humanity, and laughter is good for you.

Update:

The man in question has since deleted his tweet but here are a few screenshots of some of the replies to give you a flavour, the tea and terrier ones went on for quite some time.  Having later looked at his own feed, I wouldn’t recommend it, it’s really disgusting and not worth the negative energy.

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Vegas Victims Have No Right To Healthcare

I have no words to express my confusion at why people in the US who are victims of another’s violent act cannot automatically receive the treatment they need, but are reduced to begging via fundraising websites. As someone said thoughts and prayers are free, what these people need is a right to healthcare.

Source: Vegas Victims Have No Right To Healthcare

Taking a Break to Rest My Broken Body + Tips to Cope with Chronic Pain

IMG_9015As many of you know, I recently injured my back again being much too optimistic about how far I could walk. This is an ongoing problem I have had all my adult life since lifting an overloaded case of albums (as in LPs), along with subsequent whiplash injuries, surgery and medieval torture!

Periodically, I need to have osteopathy and rest up for some time. I’ve been struggling this last few weeks, so I am taking some time off to have some treatment and give my body a break. It’s been a physically demanding few months with all the house refurbishment and family birthdays, not to mention 7 weeks of watching sweaty men in lycra, cycling Les Tours de France, Spain and Britain! I need to take better care of myself.

Pain Awareness Month – a personal reflection on Chronic Pain (but don’t worry, this isn’t a moanfest and I suggest tips to help cope!)

This is Pain Awareness Month and boy, have I been aware of pain 😉 Chronic pain is a widespread but often invisible disorder, it interferes with every part of your life and affects those around you as well as those in pain. It affects mood, mobility, the ability to work or create, family relations – I have missed so many important family events, often having to let people down at the last minute – and you can lose friends very quickly.

img_6480It is difficult for people, especially the medical profession and often some family members, to understand why one day, or even hour, you can do something, but the next day it is completely impossible; why – even though you’re smiling – you are still in deep, often agonising pain. In this photo, I had had no sleep for a couple of nights due to deep persistent pain, but I was up on Christmas morning ready to join in the family gift-swap.

You are often damned if you do and damned if you don’t: over the years, I have been regularly taken to task for not trying hard enough, then berated for trying too hard and making things worse! It can be impossible to find the right balance.

I have had to spend long periods of time in bed – I’m talking months and even years at a time – unable to look after my children, but I have had people say to me: ‘you’re in the right place’, when it’s cold or wet, or ‘I wish I could lie in bed all day and not have to go to work!’ Don’t say it!

Natural Therapies

Doctors can only offer me prescriptions for pills that don’t work and make things worse with their side effects. So I choose natural therapies like craniosacral osteopathy for realignment (a gentle form, not the bone-crunching type!), music and aromatherapy oils for relaxation and meditation, herbal remedies for inflammation, homeopathic gel for bruised muscles, audiobooks for stimulation, heat pads for spasms and poor circulation, Rescue Remedy for shock and stress – and my diet helps. It includes copious amounts of raw chocolate! And laughter really is the best medicine.

(Raw cacao is a mood booster and anti-inflammatory and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise;-) It contains 40 times more antioxidants than blueberries, is a rich source of magnesium which is heart-healthy, helps relax muscles and prevent depression; it contains more calcium than cow’s milk, iron, zinc, B vitamins, omega oils and protein. And it tastes amazing).*

Gratitude

The regular giving of thanks helps prevent and reduce the onset of depression when dealing with chronic pain. Starting a gratitude journal when severely depressed saved my life. Knowing you have to write something down at the end of the day makes you look for the positive and helps to change your mindset. Nowadays, I don’t need to write it out but I express my appreciation every day, even for the little things, especially for the little things. And even when at my worst physically, I still try to perform random acts of kindness.

Thinking of others, looking outwards instead of always looking inwards at my pain, helps me cope. It is partly why I began this blog, to pass on what I have learned and researched in the realm of diet, health and wellbeing, in the hope that someone reading it might be helped just a little bit to improve their lifestyle, their health and their outlook and enjoy a happier, healthier life.

Juicing for Health

IMG_8106Juicing and adopting a vegan diet eased my aches and pains by reducing inflammation, removing extra weight from my joints, resetting my hormones, calming and relaxing me, providing energy and a positive outlook – you can read about my first juice fast and the positive effects on my health here: Juicing: How to Begin or Do As I Say, Not As I Did!

Keep Calm, Plants Have Protein!

Altering my diet has improved so many health issues: since changing to a plant-based diet I no longer use an inhaler or have asthma attacks; losing the extra weight reduced the pressure in my spine, improved my mobility, brought my cholesterol levels to normal and improved my digestion. Pain causes tension, which impedes digestion. In addition, years of pain medication has damaged my stomach lining. Dietary changes also helped cure a sudden-onset itchy scaly rash that almost drove me mad. (see How I Juiced My Skin Clear).

(There are several posts in the menu about the nutritional and environmental benefits of adopting a vegan diet).**

IMG_3797Looking and feeling better does have its drawbacks however! People sometimes think that because I look healthy, smile, study, make cards and write a health and wellness blog, everything is hunky dory in the pain department. Sometimes it is hard not to feel a bit of a fraud when I see myself through other people’s eyes. The more I do the more I am expected to do, my health improvements tend to be taken somewhat for granted. I, however, appreciate every little thing I can do, but I do have a tendency to get over-confident and my body will soon let me know how it feels about that!

I’ll be signing off on Tuesday, 12th September but I have scheduled some posts for while I’m away to keep you on the straight and narrow, so don’t be off bingeing on doughnuts and chips just because I have my back turned!

A Bientôt!

See also Brigid’s excellent and positive post on coping with Fibromyalgia & Chronic Illness, also using natural methods.

*My favourite raw chocolate is from the award-winning The Raw Chocolate Company It’s vegan, gluten-free, organic and Fairtrade.

**Some posts about changing to a plantbased diet:

Veganuary

Veganuary – results

Where Do I Get My Protein on a Vegan Diet?

Where Do I Get My Calcium On A Vegan Diet?

Environmental Benefits of Adopting a Vegan/Vegetarian Diet

Where Do I Get Iron on a Vegan Diet?

Plant Powered New Year

Please Note: these are my personal thoughts based on experience and research. Please see a doctor before reducing or stopping medication or beginning a juice-cleanse for the first time.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

BackPacks with School Supplies for Impoverished Children via Mary’s Meals

29401648_UnknownThis backpack filled with school supplies is all ready to be collected by our Abel & Cole driver and sent on to Mary’s Meals who will transport and distribute all the donations to impoverished schoolchildren in Malawi.

Mary’s Meals was started by two Scottish brothers during the Bosnian conflict when they collected food supplies for those affected. The initiative evolved into a non-profit charity that helps provide nourishing meals for children in areas of conflict, disaster zones and poverty.

Kitchens are built and equipped near schools using local resources where possible, while school staff and parents make and serve one nourishing meal a day to the children. This in turn enables them to attend school and receive an education while also being guaranteed one hot meal a day.

They are currently helping one and a quarter million children worldwide.

It costs £13.50 to feed a child one meal a day for a year.

Many children in this country support this charity, raising funds and awareness. One young blogger, Martha at Never Seconds , has taken the charity to heart after writing reviews of her school meals and has been recognised by Jamie Oliver amd others , receiving awards for her efforts in campaigning for healthy school meals for all children.

The backpacks don’t have to be new, they can be redundant or discarded, outgrown, and you can fill them with spare supplies. I have so many coloured pencils from generations of children who have drawn and coloured in our house that I am sending some along with some notebooks, drawing paper, erasers and a ruler.

Skirts, polo shirts, shorts, sandals and flip flops, a bar of soap, toothbrush and toothpaste and a small ball can be sent too, but not toys or sweets. 

It takes hardly any effort or money but means so much to the children who receive them. 

Copyright: Chris McGowan