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“Friday Group”

For a number of years I have been involved in a group that meet regularly on a Friday morning.

The group was set up by a friend who felt prompted by God to set up a little group to meet at her house on a regular basis to enable support and to develop friendship between those with young babies in our church.

The original group consisted of six mums and their babies. Over the years the group has grown, members have moved on and new ones joined. We’ve watched bumps grow into babies turn into toddlers and observe them develop as children. The group opened up beyond Mums to include Dads and Grandparents.

Various people have taken on the role of opening up their homes and hosting over the years to enable our group to maintain that homely feel.

When I was invited to join the original group, none of us had any idea that it would flourish all these years or the impact it would have on us individually. For me personally the group enabled me to have social interaction at a time when I struggled to be in bigger and noisier environments due to my rapidly declining hearing. For a another friend it enabled her to just come and be a Mum and not as an organiser running the group.

Within the group there is no pressure to attend regularly, and all are supportive of one another that extends outside of the times that we meet.

It is a group where we can come, just sit and have a brew with a slice of cake with no expectations upon us to talk if we just want to sit. Equally there is no judgement if we need to offload or seek advice. There is recognition that caring for a baby or child can be exhausting and challenging especially when surviving on little sleep. Quite often you will find a small baby being passed around being given attention by others to enable an exhausted mother to have a hot drink and the chance to relax.

I recall on one occasion when an exhausted mother came with her newborn whereby the baby had a major poop explosion. The group sprung into action to help the mother clean herself and her baby up, providing wipes, nappy and change of clothing as the mother in her exhausted state had forgotten to bring a bag with all the essentials. No judgement was made, as we’ve all been there at some point.

It’s not just the adults that have benefited from this group. Our children have too. It has enabled them to develop their social skills and build up relationships with others outside of their immediate family.

In today’s society it is easy to feel isolated as a parent particularly as very few have a network of family close by to offer advice and support. This group has enabled so many to find a support network and to build long lasting friendships. We definitely need more “Friday Groups” in today’s society as it would make such a difference to many people.

My time at the group is coming to an end as my youngest prepares to start school. It will seem strange not to attend the group anymore although I suspect I may not be able to resist sneaking in for the odd slice of cake and baby cuddles!

I am so thankful for my friend plucking up the courage to invite five other strangers and their babies into her home, and so proud of how that vision has developed over the years.

I can honestly say that it has been a real privilege to be part of “Friday Group” for so long and to share in the lives of so many lovely people and their families.

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“Rise Up”

I have a dear friend who sadly was subjected to a number of years abuse by a man. She was not the first either.

This was a man that she once loved. A man who should have loved, cherish, respected and protected her. He did none of those things. Instead he abused her both emotionally and physically. He took away her self esteem and made her think it was all her fault.

Over time she was supported by a feisty bunch of women to find the courage to leave him to start a new life.

It was not easy for her to escape or to go where he could not find her and their children because he was so determined not to let her go to the extent he stalked her and made threats.

She took the brave step of informing the police and seeking support from local services. The police found other women who he has abused previously and built a case against him.

At times she was in despair that she would ever break free from him or her past. She doubted herself so many times as to whether she had made the right decision for her little family as life wasn’t easy moving from shelter to shelter.

He tried to intimidate her into withdrawing her statement but she stayed strong. The case went to court.

My friend has faced abuse from others during this time who attempted to play down what he has done or blamed her.

Her feisty group of women never lost faith and encouraged her to keep going, even when all seemed lost.

Today that man has been sentenced for what he did to my friend and all those other women. Justice was served today as he has been sent to prison for a very long time. Today marks a new chapter in my friend’s life, one where she can live her life in freedom, not having to look over her shoulder in fear or worry that he will hunt her down to abuse her once again. She will be able to bring her children up safe from harm.

My friend I am so incredibly proud of you for finding that courage to rise up and seek a better life for your children and yourself away from him. It’s not been easy and there are bound to be days ahead where you still struggle, but know this you are a warrior and you will rise every time.

“Breathe…”

We’ve just returned from a very special place where we go as a family to unwind and breathe.

We leave behind the stress and drudgery of life and swap it for carefree moments where we can relax totally as a family together.

Our special place is in a beautiful location where you can see mountains and the stars shine bright at nights. You hear the calls of nature around you and feel so alive. It is here that we breathe in time with nature.

It is here that we meet with old friends and forge new friendships in the middle of a field. We play, eat and drink together laughing until our sides ache late into the night.

Every time we come to our special place we explore and go on adventures always discovering some place new on our travels.

We particularly love going to a gorgeous sandy beach where you drive through a forest to reach it. As we pass through the forest we always hope that we may be fortunate enough to catch a sighting of red squirrels which reside here.

Our special place is like a treasure trove in time as there is a wonderful museum on site of classic cars and military vehicles on display.

For each one of us this place holds so many memories and we always return home feeling relaxed having had the space to breathe and enjoy life without any of life pressures.

http://angleseytransportmuseum.co.uk/

https://m.facebook.com/Anglesey-AWOL-glamping-holidays-372684753196141/?locale2=en_GB

“Adjusting to life without Harry Cat”

It’s been a week and two days since we lost our gorgeous grumpy Harry cat.

Slowly we are all adjusting to the Harry shape hole in our lives but every now and again his loss hits us hard like a kick in the stomach.

It’s funny really you don’t expect a pet to have that much impact on your lives but it isn’t until they have gone that you realise how much they make up a part of your family.

I miss him stalking me around the house wanting to be involved in whatever I was doing, even if at times he was a pest trying to break into the bathroom whilst I was using the facilities or attempting to trip me up in the kitchen whilst making meals.

I miss him shouting at the kids to go to bed, waiting outside their bedrooms whilst we finished reading stories and then running down the stairs chirping happily knowing he would get a cuddle from me once I sat down on the sofa.

I miss him shouting at me for food and then gobbling it down fast as though he has never eaten before.

I miss watching him wandering around the garden sniffing at the plants and finding a nice sunny spot to have a snooze. I miss laughing at him running like a loon with a “what the heck?!” expression on his face back into the house if there was so much as a gust of a wind or a noise he was unsure of.

I miss him playing “Top Cat” with Molly cat where they attempted to outdo each other in getting the best position to sit on me. He would usually win by jamming himself high up on my chest not caring that I couldn’t see past him. He wasn’t adverse to sitting on top of Molly cat or biting her bottom to make her move either!

I miss his grumpy face when not amused by the antics of our family or friends as he had a cracking grumpy face.

I miss his playful and inquisitive nature never being able to resist playing with toys that moved or taking great pleasure in pushing things off the side just because he could.

I miss him demanding to be cuddled even when it was not convenient, such as when busy trying to do work on the laptop. He would scramble up onto the table and purposeful sit on my notes or blocking my view of the laptop before purring with pleasure when I removed him and placed on my lap.

I miss seeing him stretch out on the radiator happily embracing the heat. I miss seeing him snuggled up with Molly cat or asleep side by side in the Ikea storage unit we have that they claimed as their sleeping quarters at night.

I miss seeing his big ears throwing a shadow against the curtains when the car lights caught him in the window. All of us giggling and saying in unison “Bat cat waiting for us!” and then watching him dash from the window round to the door to greet us.

I’m not the only one missing him. The children go and place flowers and gifts on his grave looking deep in thought before making statements such as “Harry’s dead. We don’t have a boy cat anymore that makes me sad.” or “Harry an angel cat now. He’s probably being grumpy and hissing at the angels.” My eldest is finding it hard not having him snuggle up to her whilst she reads in bed or watches teen drivel on her I-pad.

It’s not just us humans that are missing Harry cat. Molly cat is too. She’s been quieter and wanting more reassurance strokes and cuddles. She’s not eaten as much and has thrown up through anxiety a number of times.

Harry cat may have been small but he had such a big personality and presence in our lives that it is going to take some time for us to adjust for he left pretty big paw prints over all our hearts.

“Harry Cat”

The first time I met Harry he was a tiny little kitten with massive ears. I instantly fell in love with him.

He snuggled inside my top and went to sleep as we made the journey home from Manchester train station. From that moment I became “his human” the one whom he attached himself the most to and the one who he would seek to do his biding.

He has beautiful curly fur that felt like suede when you touch it. Many an hour was spent just stroking him and he loved it.

Molly Cat was not very keen on him initially but he soon won her over and would insist on snuggling up to her whether she wanted to or not! Many a time we would find them curled up together and yet at other times he would clearly annoy her to the extent that she would box his ears to make him behave.

He was a very inquisitive cat and loved to be where the action was, even if it meant he had to be in the same place as those pesky kids!

He adored me and would follow me around wherever I went. As he got older he would demand to be cuddled and would complain loudly until I gave in.

He would give affection on his terms. Woe betide if anyone outside of the immediate family attempted to pick him up as he would hiss and growl angrily. Yet at other times he was happy to plonk himself on a guest’s lap and let them pay him attention. In particular he loved sitting on any lady wearing a skirt or dress as it was like a ready made hammock for him!

He has a strong dislike of the vets and would voice this fiercely growling and hissing to the extent that one Vet proclaimed that he sounded like an old steam engine!

Over the years he mellowed in allowing the kids to give him attention and sought them out for cuddles or tickles under his chin and behind his ears. Although he still managed to do a cracking grumpy face and huff loudly whenever they did something that did not amuse him like putting silly hats on him!

He adored sour cream and onion Pringles and would attempt to snatch them off you if you had any. He turned his nose up at imitation brands.

He loved to sit in the window of our lounge sunbathing and would chirp excitedly when he spotted us returning home or if he saw a bird outside.

He was such a character and will leave a massive Harry shape hole in our lives.

“Great Aunty Jean”

Everyone has that relative. The one that spoils you rotten, has a great sense of humour and you were always guarantee to have fun in their company.

Mine was my Great Aunty Jean. She was a breath of fresh air with a twinkle in her eyes and an infective laugh.

She would take us out and spoil us rotten with mountains of sweet treats, McDonalds and trips out.

She would laugh at our antics and roll her eyes at my siblings and I if we started bickering.

If we ever complained we were bored she would say, “Bored? Only boring people are bored! I’m never bored. Go and have fun!”

She told fabulous stories and as a child it was hard to tell if she was telling the truth or pulling our legs.

She has false teeth and would with some egging on by us children slide them in and out of her mouth. We found it hilarious whilst our grown up relatives would roll their eyes at us all cackling away with mirth.

Despite her age she always seemed much younger than she was. She always took pleasure in folk mistaking her for our mother and not our Great Aunt even if we would look confused at how someone could possibly make that mistake.

She could be nosy at times and I recall one time one of my relatives had put a note inside a small cupboard in their new house knowing that my Aunty Jean wouldn’t be able to resist peeking in. The note said “Nosy Parker!” She thought it was hilarious when she found it.

She was a big animal lover especially of cats and this rubbed off on me. Her cat was her pride and joy.

She always had time for us and cared deeply for us.

As we got older, move away from home, started our own families we saw less of her over the years but whenever we did meet up that love she has for us all was still as strong as the twinkle in her eye.

And now she has gone. My lovely Great Aunty Jean has gone leaving behind a hole in our hearts but so many wonderful memories. She was a Great Aunty indeed.

“Frustration”

Frustrated. That’s how I feel right now. Others around me are feeling frustrated too but mine is heighten further as we are stuck on a train going nowhere fast. They can hear the announcements but all I heard is garbled words. I have literally no idea what is being said thanks to my hearing.

“Oh but you have a cochlear implant?! That restores hearing doesn’t it?! Ooh it’ll be just the same as a hearing person right?!” No. Quite simply no. A cochlear implant improves the sound quality but it’s still not on a par with someone with normal hearing.

People take hearing for granted. They jack up the volume on their headphones, mobiles, tv and other gadgets and when told they run risk of damaging their ears roll their eyes and say “Won’t happen to me!”

The irony is that I’m the one often telling my own family to turn the noise down as it’s too loud and I’m the deafest person in our house. That’s got to be saying something if a deaf person saying it’s too loud surely?!

You take it for granted that you can go out in a group of people and hear every single word. You walk along the road chatting and I’m there desperately trying to pick out and piece the words together to make sense of what is being said so that I can feel part of the conversation too. Imagine doing that sat in a loud meeting room, pub or anywhere where there is more than two of you in a room day after day.

Imagine being me trying to listen to information, processing what is said and understanding what to do whilst still listening to next bit of conversation. Now throw in having to write that info down whilst trying to lipread at the same time in a noisy room. I don’t just mean people talking, I’m talking about background noise like photocopiers, coffee machine, telephones ringing and so on.

Maybe then you’ll understand my frustration, why I’m so exhausted at the end of every interaction and why it’s a struggle for me to follow conversations and not feel like I’m stood on the edge every single day.

“0ld Spice”

“Old Spice…” the mere mention of the word jolted me from my daydream and I instantly thought of my Dad whilst out with colleagues from work for lunch.

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard about or seen “Old Spice” and it’s difficult to recall the exact smell now. Yet I suspect if I smelt it as it was back in the 80’s I would instantly recognise the smell for it was my Dad’s aftershave of choice.

I recall the bottle of aftershave on the dresser placed next to his comb and brushes that he used to use to groom his beard. He has a cracking beard and could probably give hipsters beardies of today a run for their money in the beard stake!

I recall snuggling up to him and resting my face against his beard and thinking it was so prickly whilst finding the familiar scent of “Old Spice” aftershave so comforting at the same time.

I wonder if my Dad would still be wearing “Old Spice” if he were here now, or whether he would have been persuaded to switch to another product?

“Old Spice” there’s nothing extraordinary about it, but for me it reminds me of my Dad who is much loved and missed. As the years go by it is harder to remember stuff about my Dad, or to remember how he sounded but little triggers like these help to keep the memory of my Dad alive.

“Ten Years…”

Ten years ago what was left of my hearing in my left ear was removed and replaced with a cochlear implant.

Ten years ago I was lying in a hospital bed wondering if the operation has worked whilst my head throbbed in pain.

Ten years ago I entered a world of silence for three weeks until they switched the implant on. We waited with bated breath and suddenly garbled sound rushed in sending my brain into overdrive trying to figure out what was being said.

Ten years on I hear sound. Some sounds are familiar, others new and some still to be discovered.

An amazing ten years of hearing with a cochlear implant. That’s something worth celebrating right?!

“Decrease in sound…”

For a wee while I’ve been having some issues with my cochlear implant.

Batteries were barely making it to 2 days and the sound quality appeared to have dropped which made it harder to hear in busy settings.

Initally I thought maybe the change in brand of batteries given out was the issue, or that I had got a bad batch. My local audiology clinic informed me that they hasn’t had any other complaints and it must be my implant.

So I contacted the implant team at Manchester who sent me some parts to swap over on the outer bit of my processor. This still didn’t resolve the issue despite me tweaking and replacing various parts.

The sound was definitely getting worst and I must admit that there was a small niggle in the back of my mind that maybe there was something wrong with the internal processor as it’s been in my head for 10 years this August (amazing huh?!). The final straw for me earlier this week was struggling to hear a colleague sat across from me, as all I could think whilst she was speaking was, “She sound so muffled! There’s something not right here.” So I got in touch with the Implant Team at Manchester and arranged to go in to be seen.

So off I went taking the girl child with me on the train. Got a taxi from the station to the hospital. Was very glad that the girl child was with me as really struggled to hear what people said when they were giving us directions to the audiology department.

Was seen by a lovely member of the audiology team who took apart my processor, replaced various bits on it but it still sounded muffled. And then I decided to query the question that I had originally asked my local clinic. Was it possible that the change in brand of batteries would make a different? I then got out 2 packets of batteries that I had on me to show her. One was an old packet of batteries which I had forgotten about and found in my bag earlier and the other was a new packet which I had pop in there as per routine when going out. She took one look at the new packet and said “These aren’t cochlear implant batteries. These are hearing aids batteries.” The mystery was solved! 

She gave me the correct batteries to put in and honestly it was like coming out of water, I could hear clearly again and the sound was SO LOUD after these past few months of subdued hearing. 

The moral of the story? Trust your gut instincts and read the small print!!

To be fair to my local clinic, the boxes and the packets do look very similar. My Manchester Audiologist did say that those giving out the batteries (usually a receptionist) may not realise the differences in the power between hearing aid and cochlear implant batteries.

So now I have a letter to wave at them issued by Manchester, and I will definitely be checking all newly issued boxes in future when picking up batteries.