“A purrfect life…“

We got Molly cat when she was a tiny little kitten. She was abandoned under a bush rather the worse for wear.

Our friends rescued her and in turn gifted us with our beautiful girl. We were incredibly blessed to have Molly as our cat. She was so loving with an incredibly loud purr.

Losing her in September after almost 19 years was incredibly painful. It’s hard to explain to those who don’t know how much a beloved pet can leave their paw prints on your heart.

“Goodbye Mog” is a beautiful but heart rending story about a beloved cat who died, written by Judith Kerr. In the story in time the family go on to adopt another little kitten.

So today we found space in our heart to welcome little Penny who was found living with her Grandma, Mum and sister at the bottom of someone’s garden.

Penny doesn’t know it yet, but she will have a purrfect life with us, just as Molly did.

Molly Cat

She arrived into our lives as a small feisty feral kitten but mellowed into a beautiful big old cat.

She loved nothing more than to have a tiny dab of butter to lick, and was delighted when she was able to score tidbits such as ham and chicken.

In her older years she would demand food loudly and position herself in the kitchen to be the first in line to eat!

As a young cat she had a male admirer in the shape of Dinky, one of our neighbours’ cat who thought she was simply the best thing since sliced bread. She was aloof but allowed him to come and sit near her in companionship.

She was not ameowed when Harry cat joined our family but he soon won her over. You would frequently find them snuggled up happily together.

Then the children started arriving. She adored our eldest and would follow her around, snuggle up and get worried when when she was upset. This love continues until the end where she would choose to go and chill out in our eldest’s room purring like mad when being stroked by her.

She took a bit more adjustment to the next two arrivals but soon adapted.

She was a gentle cat and tolerated a lot of “love” from the children including them dressing her up in silly hats etc.

However if they annoyed her she wasn’t averse to giving them a warning growl before smacking them if they didn’t toe the line.

If anyone was sad or ill, she would often go and sit by them purring loudly to provide comfort.

Dodger cat joined our family and she was most definitely not impressed with him. He adored her and she hated him equally. Over time she mellowed and would on the rare occasion let him come and sit near her but never to snuggle despite his best attempts to persuade her otherwise.

She has faced a number of illness over the years but battled through them stoically. She loved taking her medicine much to our amusement and was always good at the vet bar the one time she swiped one for prodding her a wee bit too hard.

She loved most of all to eat and sleep. As she got older she had a set routine for her day and would complain if we failed to comply in carrying out her demands.

Many a day has been spent just stroking her whilst she purrs, lifting her up and down onto chairs and beds on the days her arthritis was bad along with meeting her demands for food.

For a feral kitten she has had an amazing long life full of love. What more could a cat have asked for?

Molly cat on her 1st and last day with us.

“Deaf in a Masked World”

Communication has never been the easier for someone like me – a deaf person. Now in the current COVID 19 climate it has been made much harder due to the use of masks.

Don’t get me wrong the masks are very important in the fight against reducing infection but it’s the design of them which causes issues for folk like me.

Go into your typical supermarket, there’s lots of different noises from the beeping of till scanners, rustling of bags being packed, trolleys squeaking their way around the store, people having conversation, babies crying, clatter of items as people put them into their trolleys, tannoy announcements and so on.

You get to the till and in amongst all this noise you try to catch what the operator says. Not always easy if they don’t look at you, mumble or it’s difficult to make out their speech due to unfamiliar accent or facial hair.

You don’t always hear all the words so you piece together what you think you have heard, and hope it’s right so they don’t then look at you like you’re an idiot if you give them an answer that doesn’t tally with what they have asked.

Now add in a mask, their voice is muffled. The louder they speak the more it is distorted. You pick up from the eyes and frown that they are getting frustrated and that sense of anxiety rises inside you, so you just nod and hand over your card/money hoping that’s what they are asking for.

Or maybe you are stacking the shelves when a customer comes up behind you to ask you something. You don’t hear them. They then manage to get your attention. You struggle to make out what they are saying. They become more frustrated gesturing wildly in the vain hope you might be able to figure out what they are saying. Sometimes they walk off muttering about the assistant that must be deaf as s/he is so stupid because they struggled to help you. Leaving you stood there feeling deflated and frustrated fighting back the tears.

Attend a medical appointment or go to have a COVID 19 swab test, feel totally overwhelmed by the difficulties in hearing and understanding what is being asked of you, or what they are advising.

This is what life is like for the average deaf person. Masks that cover up faces make it so much harder to be a deaf person in a hearing world.

Whilst masks are considered to be essential it is important that folk consider how they can communicate with those who need to see their faces so that they don’t leave them feeling more isolated than ever.

So what can you do?

Buy masks/face covering that are clear to enable others to see your mouth/face for easier communication.

Speak clearly and slowly giving the deaf person time to process what you are saying.

If you are able to write down information then do so.

If there is enough space, remove your mask temporarily to communicate with the person who need you to do this.

Most importantly of all treat the deaf person with respect and understanding just like you would like to be treated yourself should you ever need support.

Unmasking the world…

Aunty Betty

Today our beloved Aunty Betty went home to Heaven.

She was a lady full of determination, a passion for life and loved her family deeply.

She was at her most happiest when spending time with the youngest members of the family telling stories, playing games with them or just simply enjoying watching them playing.

The joy in her face when meeting the latest additions to the family was always lovely to witness.

When Ian and his siblings were younger she used to make up stories about a boy called Jonathan Jim who was a goody goody by all account. She was not amused when they decided to kill him off!

She was also a great talker who would talk for hours on end. Often used to repeat stories or got crossed with her nephews and nieces if they didn’t recall who she was talking about. It usually transpired that said person has long since died before they were born!

To look at her you would have never known that this was a lady who had travelled the world and has so amazing stories to share about her life such as when training to be a Midwife living in the community under the watchful eye of the Matron who was a stickler for rules.

She cared deeply for people and ended her working life late as a warden for elderly people. It used to amuse us greatly that this elderly Aunt of ours would talk about all the old people not realising that most of us saw her as elderly too. It especially tickled us that she would go on holidays abroad telling us that she was acting as an escort for the elderly.

She adored animals and in her later life enjoyed coming to our house as our cats would happily curl up purring on her lap whilst she stroked them gently. They weren’t always best pleased when she ejected them to go home!

She used to drive us nuts by deciding to go to the loo at the last minute just as we were about to sit down to eat, or standing in the doorway talking totally unaware that she was blocking access to anyone else wanting to enter or leave the room.

She was a teetotaller so it caused great amusement amongst the family one year when she accidentally drank a small glass of wine declaring it as the best apple juice she has ever tasted. I don’t think any of us dared to tell her the truth.

She had a strong faith and this was steady-fast to the end. She loved God with all of her heart and took time to pray and share her faith with others.

Today she has gone home to be with her Heavenly Father. She is free of all her aches and pains. In that we rejoice, but we hope she isn’t blocking the door talking to her beloved Heavenly Father or there’ll be a long line of impatient people behind her waiting to join the Heavenly Party.

Aunty Betty

“Adjust… pause…action!”

It’s a couple of weeks since I upgraded to my latest cochlear implant processor.

It’s taken a little while to adjust controlling the various settings by using my iPhone rather than pressing various buttons on my processor. There is a brief pause in sound as I switch from one setting to another which annoys me slightly particularly when needing to answer a telephone call as have to wait for it to kick in before I can speak to the caller.

It also seem to randomly reset itself to a noise reducing programme whenever I have used the loop. Not sure if the audiologist set it to do this or if it one of those random kinks in the programme settings. This inevitability means I have to faff about changing the settings again whenever I switch the loop off.

Some sounds are still TOO LOUD such as paper rustling. I need to get a sensitivity programme setting put on as the audiologist didn’t add this. I have found out that they can do this from talking to other CI Users online.

Onto the positive stuff… the sound quality is on the whole much sharper and clearer which makes it easier to follow conversations.

I discovered by accident that if I have Bluetooth on, I can listen to a video, play music or have a telephone conversation on my iPhone, via an internal loop which kicks in automatically. It is fab, the sound quality is really clear. It is like having internal headphones as no one else can hear what is being said or played when this internal loop kicks in. The first time this happened I was grinning so much in delight, that the sprogs were looking at me like I had lost the plot!

I have three programmes currently on my processor. Programme 1 is the main one I use. Programme 2 reduces some of the background noise so that what is in front of me is louder. Programme 3 is Forward Focus which cuts out background noise dramatically to a whisper and amplifies the voice of the person whom I am facing. I tested this out today at our church picnic as was struggling to hear above the LOUD music that was being played despite turning the volume right down on my processor. It was impressive how well this worked in supporting me to hear the conversation of those I was talking too, but at the same time a little weird that I couldn’t hear what was going on around me.

I have been using programme two when in the car on my own to listen to the radio as it’s good practice for me to listen to a range of voices. So it’s been a pleasure to actually be able to follow more of what’s been said on the radio rather than guessed what’s been said. This only really works for me if there’s one speaker without background noise or music.

I have solved the annoying wrap around ear hook issue by using the smaller ear hook (not a wrap around one) which came with the aqua kit. Feeling smug that it has stayed put despite the audiologist stating that it wouldn’t stay on for extended periods.

Haven’t yet had the courage to test the aqua kit out as slightly scared that I might not fit it altogether correctly and end up destroying my processor accidentally! I will pluck up the courage at some point I am sure.

I have been really tired the last couple of weeks and suffering from headaches. It took me a few days to twig that it was linked to getting used to my new processor. Hopefully as I get used to it I won’t feel so wiped out by the end of the day to the extent that I am switching my implant off in the evenings just to have some quiet time.

What’s been lovely is how my workplace has been really supportive in meeting my needs and providing training in deaf awareness to those that I work with so that they are more aware of the issues I face and what they can do to support me. My work colleagues are a lovely bunch and pretty on the ball anyway recognising when I need to have five minutes away from it all, providing a brew or some snacks to re-energise me or making sure that I am included in conversations. It might not seem a big deal to the average person but for someone like me it makes such a difference knowing that I am supported to be part of the team, rather than on the fringe desperately trying to make sense of it all.

So it’s been an interesting couple of weeks adjusting to my new processor and there are a couple of little kinks to sort out but overall I’m impressed with it. Technology moves so very fast that it’s hard to imagine what the next upgrade will involved but for now I shall enjoy the advancements made in the last few years to get me to where I am now.

Nuclear 7 Upgrade

After 5 and a bit years I have been upgraded to the newer implant (the outer but not the bit that’s inside my head). It’s a bit like upgrading your mobile to a newer model.

The sound quality is meant to be sharper but will take a little while for me to adjust to it. At the moment it sounds slightly echoey and some sounds are a bit too LOUD such as rustling paper.

The aid that I wear on the outside of my head is smaller and lighter. They have provided an ear hook which I’m not too entirely keen on as feel like I’m wearing a mic! But guess I will get used to it as apparently if I just use an ear hook like my previous one it is more likely to fall off.

I have also been provided with an aqua kit which means for the first time ever I can go swimming with my aid on rather than swimming in a world of silence. Slightly nervous about testing it out as have to make sure I fit all the parts on correctly to ensure it is watertight. A bit daunting when aware that my aid is worth over £5000 so not a lot of room for error!

The coolest thing about my new implant is that I can control it using my mobile phone. I can adjust the volume and programmes easily according to the environment I’m in. At tea tonight I turned it way down as the family were being a tad too noisy for my liking!

I also like the fact if someone calls me now on my mobile the loop setting automatically kicks in if I have the Bluetooth setting switched on my mobile. This will hopefully help me a great deal as one of my biggest anxieties is around making voice calls when I am on my own as can struggle to hear these.

So it will take a little while for my brain to adapt to the changes that the new implant brings so be patient with me if I’m not quite on the ball when we next talk.

World Downs Syndrome Day

Today is World Downs Syndrome Day.

The day where folk wear odd socks,

And sprout facts about Downs Syndrome.

But what is it really about?

It’s about saying that although those with Downs Syndrome may have an extra gene,

They are still the same as you or me.

We all have our quirks.

We all face different challenges in our lives.

We all experience joy and sadness.

We all have different levels of abilities.

What this day is about,

Is to remind you that despite the label that society has put on those with Downs Syndrome,

They should be given the same opportunities as you or I might get in life.

But most of all they deserve to be treated with respect from others just as you or I would expect to be.

“Anxiety”

Anxiety,

That old chestnut.

The one that fills you with dread,

Jolting you awake from your restless slumber.

Leaving you unable to sleep.

You feel totally exhausted because you have to battle to get through the day without becoming an emotional wreck,

When all you want to do is run and hide until you feel in control again,

Because your brain is running at hyper speed overanalysing and installing fear into every decision even if it isn’t one that will make a jot of difference in the long run.

Some days it just hovers at the edge.

Other days it totally overwhelms you,

And you just don’t know where to turn,

Or what to do,

Because you’re so afraid of it all falling apart,

Even if you know that logically it won’t do,

But it’s hard to reason with anxiety,

When it is in full panic mode.

It can be so hard for others to understand your anxiety,

Or how it can impacts on you,

Because it is not visible like a injury.

We’re so used to “just getting on with it”,

That it can be hard to take a step back and admit that we’re struggling to cope.

What can you do to help?

You can listen without judgement,

And allow us to offload,

Even if none of it makes sense to you.

You can hold us tight because we need that physical comfort to reassure us.

You can be there,

Reminding us that no matter how much we are struggling,

That you are there and you care.

“Every penny counts…”

It can be hard to know how to give when you are aware that every penny counts.

So when challenged by church to help raise money to build a new centre that will benefit all in the community. I was uncertain how much I could give, when I had so little to offer in comparison to others.

Then an ideal opportunity presented itself to me, where I could give wholeheartedly with a cheerful heart.

I didn’t know how much we would make, but as my friend Jane said, “Every little counts. We might only raise enough for a packet of screws and a hammer but it all counts!”

So Jane and I took part in a tabletop sale selling toys, baby items, books and clothes having decided that any money we made would goes towards St Thomas’ “Heart of the City” building project.

We raised enough to buy several packets of screws, two hammers, some bricks, a large pot of paint, tea bags and biscuits!

https://www.st.tees.org.uk/Groups/301099/Building_Project.aspx

“Flumps’ Tree”

Some years ago we experienced the loss of our much wanted baby whilst I was pregnant.

It was a difficult and painful time in our lives, dealing not only with our loss but that of our eldest child who had been giddy with excitement that they were to become a big sibling.

In our grief we planted a fruit tree in our garden to remember “Flumps” by. It was tiny when we first got it and for a few years it only produced a tiny amount of fruit and these could be eaten whole in a couple of mouthfuls.

Sometimes you’ll see one of us at the bottom of the garden having a quiet moment to reflect stood or sat by “Flumps’ Tree”.

Occasionally you’ll find the odd handmade craft or picture made by one of our children dangling from the branches. These always make me smile.

Today as I went out to collect the fallen fruit on this stormy gusty day I stopped and looked at “Flumps’ Tree” standing strong in the storm bearing plenty of fruit of various sizes. It made me think of how far we have come as a family through the storms to enjoy the fruit of life.

Life isn’t easy and there are many twists and turns, but as long as we stand firm holding on through the storms of life, we’ll make it out through to the other side and have moments where we can enjoy the sweetness and joy of life too.