Loving Yourself Like A Five-Year Old

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What does my Five-year old granddaughter love about herself?

“I love my hands as they help give things to people. They can also do sign language to people who cannot hear.

I love my eyes as they can help see things for people who cannot see, just like you Mam.

I love my ears as they can listen out to help people who are deaf.

I love my mouth as I can talk to people who need to chat”.

I have always known that she was a beautiful soul, but I never realized just how bright her light within was constantly alight until I asked her this simple question. This glimpse into the mind of an innocent five-year-old who has yet to query her worth in life, took me to a place that I wish we could all live. These ideas have not been forced into her mind in any way, they have just emerged from her authentic perception of what it is really like to live in a world  with others with needs that are sometimes greater than her own.

She was just nine months old when Munch my adorable Guide Dog came to live with us so she cannot remember a time where Munch was not a permanent fixture by my left-hand side on days out. She has always been my eyes. When I drop something, she picks it up without being asked.  She holds things close to my face so that I can get a better view of the blurry object and she mastered using my white cane as soon as she could walk, just because she felt like it. To her sight loss is no big thing, it just is part of her grandmother’s life.

Munch to her is not a Guide Dog, he is just family.  I was told once by her teacher when I picked her up from school, that they had asked that morning what the name of my dog was. She looked puzzled at them and asked what dog ? With Munch weighing six stone and his head measuring thirty-three inches from the floor clad in a bright yellow and white harness, she thought they were talking about some other dog.  She told them he was not a dog; he was just Munch.

When children grow up with disabilities and other differences around them, they can only see normality. They accept the whole of a person as they are and know no different. Children who grow up alongside difference see an expanded version of the limited world other’s live in. They learn that for every problem there are a multitude of different solutions and they learn to love unconditionally and never with condition. They are the teachers that speak with the wisdom that we never thought we would here.

When a five-year old talks of including those in society that are often left feeling excluded, they will never be alone. It is this type of child who accepts without effort or limit and sees beyond barriers that need never exist. Kindness can only come from a place that it organically exists if it is to be omnipresent in every situation in life. When we are choosing to be kind in life, we are choosing to live an enriched path that will never see us alone.

What do I love most about my granddaughter? Her pure existence and everything that it entails.

Marfan Syndrome Awareness Month

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It’s that time of year again, when our hidden condition gets talked about. February is Marfan Syndrome awareness month which means that people are eager to talk about a syndrome that not even all health professions are clued up about, although this is improving slowly. Each person with Marfan Syndrome is affected differently, ranging from mild to severe and every form inbetween. Diagnosing such a complex syndrome is not the easiest for health professions but since I was diagnosed at 4 , this is just my version of what living with it is like.

Life is never boring with Marfan Syndrome around. I mean, expecting the unexpected in regards to health kind of keeps you on your toes and prevents you from taking life for granted. Being a connective tissue disorder means that most parts of your body are prone to playing up, although it is an unlucky lottery to which ones actually do. In general, Marfan Syndrome can affect the heart, eyes, lungs, skeleton and blood vessels but can affect any of the body’s connective tissue. From affected gums and overcrowded teeth to gastrointestinal issues and persistent fatigue, there is no size fits all diagnosis that applies to all. Personally speaking, Marfan Sydrome only affects my sight (registered blind with only partial sight from birth,) weakness in the lungs and skeletal system the most (scoliosis, multiple dislocations, joint pain, breaks and ligament and soft tissue damage). It could be far worse.

Growing up, I looked the odd one out, being the tallest in the class and being really slim with extra thick glasses. Today, you would find it hard to tell I have Marfan Sydrome being only 5’7″ (pretty short for a Marfan’s person), having a body that is built more for comfort than speed (my thin days are looooong gone) and I no longer wear glasses but my white cane and Munch my attention seeking Guide Dog may give others a hint about my sight. In my family where we have several members with Marfan Syndrome, the odd ones out are the ones without Marfan’s.

For me and many with Marfan’s, pain is a normality and I only acknowledge the pain when I am pain free. Joints often hurt, scoliosis sucks and random injuries like to make an appearance but that is just life. I opt for yoga over pain killers to help relieve pain and laughter over sadness of living with something that can be more than slightly annoying. I often forget I can’t see until I bump into something (a talent of mine) and always remember to thank my body for doing such an amazing job of keeping me alive. Yes living with Marfan’s can be tough but it can also be quite beautiful.

If I had lived elsewhere in the world, I may not have been able to have my 5 operations that I have had due to complications from Marfan Syndrome. If I had not understood the importance of health checks from such a young age, I would never have appreciated the beauty of life. If I had been born with perfect vision, I would never have experienced the perfection in life that runs deeper than surface value and would never have been matched with Munch. If I had grown up thinking that I needed to look like everyone else then I would never have developed an unconditional love for all. If I could go back and chose to be born without Marfan Sydrome, would I? Definately not.

Marfan Syndrome is a life long condition with life long lessons. Knowing the symptoms can help to save a life. Unfortunately, many do not find out that they have it until it is too late. Fatal aortic dissections may be the first and last indicator that someone has Marfan Syndrome. Those of us who are diagnosed with it are blessed to have the medical care to help monitor our health and have medical interventions to help us live out life to the fullest and for that I am eternally grateful.

“Can You Spare Some Snow Please” Appeal

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I think this snowperson is stuck, just like the other ones were. Where are it’s legs? Not even a nudge from my six stone Svelte hairy body is moving this solid cloud, let alone the little organic stream of piddle that I shared on it’s derriere could encourage this one to move or play with me. What is wrong with this picture?

This is not the first one I have seen on my walk today but the third and is possibly the most stubborn. At least the first one that I jumped on moved some of it’s body as a part of the belly scattered all around me. My grumpy spoil sport Dog Walker told me to stop as someone had put hard work into making this snowperson. He actually expected me to listen, pffft. The second snowperson’s head was more than willing to come with me for a play as it bounced onto the floor after I jumped on it, but the body dug it’s heels in (or lack of) to the ground and remained put. I thought it would be third time lucky with this one but apparently not. What am I doing wrong?

Funnily enough, these snowpeople hardly come out to play in the Welsh town we live in. Over the last 4 years of me being here, this is only the second time they have come to visit. Strangely enough, they only come out when the snow comes. It must just be a Welsh thing, they are funny like that! My maid was telling me that in different parts of the world they have lots of snow often. Why did my Maid have to live in an area with a snow drought? If we could use the abundance of rain we get to create an equivalent, I would be one happy dog but sadly that’s not going to happen.

I can see lots of snow on the mountains a few miles away and despite trying my hardest to lead the maid in that direction whilst I am on harness in Guide Dog mode, she is not cooperating. I know she can’t see the snow and we are not aloud to do any unnecessary travel to places due to the Covid restrictions but surely this is essential to my play time but apparently not.

If you have any spare snow in your area, would you post some to me please? Even if it will take a couple of weeks to get here, I am a patient dog and am willing to wait. I promise to build a little village of snow people where I play with them, give up my carrots for their noses, promise not to chew their stick like arms or bury their hats. Well maybe not 100% promise but I will try my best….sometimes. I will never leave them alone and will smother them with kisses and only wrestle with them if they start it first. Thanks in advance. I will eagerly await your parcels of snow to drop through my letterbox. Love and cold snowy kisses, Munch

Lessons Learnt From Counselling Young People During A Pandemic

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What has it been like counselling young people during a Pandemic? Pretty s**t to be honest.

The young people themselves have been inspirational to say the least but hearing the impact this pandemic has had on their lives has been soul destroying. If you think we have it hard as adults, you can almost guarantee that there are some aspect of life adaptations that have been twice as hard for young people. Securely formed relationships, experiences of critical thinking , resilience building skills and a lifetime of coping strategies in our toolboxes of life gives us the ability to think outside the box of the global pandemic that we find ourselves in yet, we are still struggling. These character-building qualities that we have gone through as adults are areas that have yet to be gifted upon the young which makes their life that much more difficult.

Adding to that, many have laid blame at the feet of young people through the narrative in the media that they are ‘super spreaders and a breeding ground for the virus’, has not helped protect the mental health of young people at all. From listening to young people speak for the last ten months about how they have felt about being seen like this by many, they are whole heartedly doing everything that can to avoid being the super spreaders that they are called. They want to avoid contact with their vulnerable relatives and do whatever they can to keep their loved ones safe, but this is one thing we rarely hear of in the media where the blame game is very much alive.

Babies born during or just before Lockdown are growing up in a world that is strange to say the least and has the potential to have  a negative impact on their development in many ways. Being born into a family with highly anxious parents is less than ideal but is a reality for many babies. Parents losing jobs, financial insecurity, concerns of health risks and deteriorating mental health will undoubtedly have an adverse effect on children’s development through no fault of anyone involved. Early year settings have seen an increase in delayed early development milestone such as toilet training and feeding skills such as use of cutlery, due to many childcare facility provisions being restricted and families being overwhelmed with life demands leaving them less time to dedicate to these nurturing skills. Again, nobody is to blame, it is a biproduct of where we all are collectively.

Families that are living in fear and doing their best to protect their loved ones from getting ill or passing anything on, are in turn isolating themselves from the support networks that were once part of their children’s everyday life. As the child’s world gets  smaller and smaller with schools closing and family gatherings a distant memory, the only place that they can begin to heal is at home unless of course home is not a safe space. With domestic abuse incidents ever increasing and welfare checks from closed schools being ever more difficult, children need support now more than ever.

Being in lockdown has not only held negativity but it has  also brought about its bonuses. From learning new skills to working from home in our pyjamas, if we look hard enough, we can find as many positives as negatives. Working with young people is no different and school related issues have become less of an issue for some as young people are forced to work from home. For children suffering issues such as bullying, and social anxiety for example have reported an increase in happiness due to school closures. Children with disabilities who find school unbearable at the best of times, are happier in their own secure surroundings where they are understood and accepted for who they are.

How can we help to enhance the lives of the children and young people in our lives? It may be easier than you think? Spending hundreds of hours listening to what young people really want during a pandemic has taught me a lot about the value of simplicity and acceptance. Treating a young person with equality should not be just an ideal that is hard to put into everyday practice as we navigate  our way through parenting a teen, but is a basic human right for them just as it is for us. Intergenerational voices work best when in harmony so what can  we do to help? Here are a few tips that can help both you and the young person in your life live a happier life.

1.Allow them the right amount of space

Too much nor too little will work, but somewhere in between is ideal. When a young person who retreats into the safety of their less than hygienic bedroom, they are doing so because they need too. It is nothing personal, but they need space . Laying in their beds for most of the day is just part of the evolving teenage brain so why try and change the inevitable. Us lounging on the sofa after  either a hard day at work or a boring day of doing nothing tires us out as it does to them too.

It is also as important to connect to prevent feelings of isolations creeping in so scheduling in suitable time for family activities  that you all agree on is important. Rediscover the fun you used to have when the children were younger and get the Play Dough out. Choose something that reminds you all of happier times and decide as a family what the right amount of space works for everyone.

2. Relax the routines.

The brain loves a bit of pattern and predictability but being a slave to tightly scheduled days can be as detrimental as having no routine at all.  Routines work best when no changes ever happen in life but if there is one thing that we have all learnt during the pandemic is that change in life is inevitable. Children brought up with an extremely strict daily routine can have their worlds turned upside down when they are forced into a situation they have never been in before. Anxieties, uncertainty, lower adaptive skills, and impaired decision-making skills can all result when things are the opposite of having nothing but structure in a day.

We know that the world of play needs unstructured play along with structured play to allow the imagination to grow and life is no different than that. Questioning whether the family routine suits you alone, as opposed to the needs of the whole family can help. Exposing children and young people to change and decision making is helping them build cooperative skills for the relationship now and in the future.

3. Sleeping patterns are individual.

A new-born baby can sleep an average of 17 hours a day, a 5-year-old up to 10  hours a day and 8-year-old  7 hours a day. When it comes to teenagers just scrap all that. As the teenage brain parties on until 4am and sleeps in until noon at the earliest, we need to make exceptions. They are not purposely annoying you when you can hear them up and about in their bedroom , they are just doing what the brain is meant to do. Asking a 14-year-old to be sleeping by 9pm is like asking you to stay awake until 4am. Unrealistic and never going to happen.

Sleep for most people has changed during the pandemic and many of us have been invited back into the world of the teenage brain as thoughts and worries keep us awake at night. Try and help them develop a good sleep hygiene plan that helps them sleep for a length of time that suits them, not necessarily you. If it does not work, be patient as this stage in their life will not last forever. Giving them a hard time about not being able to sleep will not help but understanding will. If they need a mid afternoon nap so be it.

4. Listen to what they are not saying

If you see a change in your young person, ask them about it and really listen to what they have to say, if they do not want to talk to you, make sure they are talking to someone. Do not be offended if you are not the one that they want to confide in, see it as a compliment. It is so hard to talk openly about emotional issues with those closest to us as we do not want to hurt them. Whether it is a family bereavement or an issue with identity, they sometimes need to speak to someone who is that one step removed from them to be able to open freely without feeling judged or hurting a loved one.

If you notice a change in behaviour such as severe withdraw  or being stuck in one emotion (anger, sadness etc) start the conversation. Offer them unconditional love and support and if that fails, research with them to identify a place that they can talk whether it be with another family member or with a counsellor or online charity. Reassuring them that you are there when they need to talk is all that is needed sometimes to help them feel safe to open up

5. Show gratitude more than regret.

You are the best teacher that they will ever meet so use it wisely. If you are always complaining about everything that is wrong in life, they will see a life full of disappointment. If talk about a life full of fear, then you are teaching your child that the world is an unsafe place. You cannot expect your child to find the happiness in life if you have never showed them where to look. When your child catches you smiling at your playful kitten, they will learn to love cats. When you show them that they are loved no matter what, they will learn to love the flaws in others. as much as their strengths.

Explore together situations in life that bring both good and bad reactions.  Be grateful that they got the motivation to sign into half their online lessons and not focus on the missed ones. Be thankful that you have had more time together as a family at home and not on an expensive holiday. Thank them for helping in what they do and not highlight everything they do not do around the house. They are doing their best so acknowledge this.

Life will not be like this forever, but it is like this for now so let us learn to embrace more and judge less. The mask you are wearing that shows the  world  that you are holding everything together , could be the same mask that your child is wearing too so unsubscribe to the masquerade in life and choose a different way to connect with your mini me in life.

Walking In Blind

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That’s what we do each year. Walk into the New Year not knowing what will happen.

Will we change a little of ourselves in an intentional way, or will change occur naturally as we evolve in our own unique lifetime ? Will we create into reality what was once a dream, or will we stick to the safety of the known and do what we have always done?  Will this year finally be the year that we stick to the ‘New Year, New Me’ motto that universally fizzles out by the start of Sping,  or will we just learn to present our true selves to the world that will love us in any way we are?

Does this year promise to hold more magic than any other year has for us, or will we believe that magic only exists in fairytales? Does our success this year depend on our Midas touch from our build up  good Karma, or will the Tainted Touch of others halt us in our tracks? Does the thought of plans make you feel secure, or do you like  that life is fluid and changes happen?

In 2020, we walked in blindly believing that our way of life was controlled by us. We believed that our family life was unchangeable, our jobs were ours, the education system was working and our futures would never have to be put on hold. That year would be like any other with only a few minor tweaks. Not many could have predicted the extent of how 2020 would  leave footprints in history in the way that it did.

We stopped, we paused, we grieved, we raged, we rebelled, we cried, we laughed, we shared, we regrouped, we changed, we gave, we took,  we started, we were stopped, and then we repeated. This was not the first year any of us had experienced these emotions but maybe it was the first year we had experienced them collectively. 2020 gave us the gift of unity in adversity.

The beauty of being led blindly into the unknown is that change has no option but to appear. Each new step we make on the path of  discovery, creates opportunities to grow into someone you never imagined you could become. Stepping into the new, is as exciting or dreadful as you make it so choose your intentions carefully.

Whatever 2021 brings you, Munch and I wish you happiness, health, unconditional love and abundance in every way possible as you walk  blindly into the new.

Wishing You A Different Christmas

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Nothing feels the same anymore for anyone. Wishes for a normal Christmas may not be granted in memorable 2020, but many new wishes may well come true.

For us, I am expecting less footsteps to walk through the door as mixing with loved ones is discouraged by those in power. The chaos of the usual Christmas cheer that comes with a large family, may be quieter than any other year. Recycling bags full of wrapping paper may be overfilled on another living room floor from our gifts that get opened elsewhere. The shelves in the fridge may groan with less food as family members eat in their own homes over the festive  period. Christmas Eve may lose its magical powers when no cookies or milk are left out here for Santa, but I am sure he will not starve. These changes may not be ideal, but they also need not be devastating.

We will soon mix again with the army of family that we are  blessed to be born into and seek out a rare spare chair in a room full of people. Four different conversations between loved ones will at some point fill each of the four corners of the room as people catch up with each other. The desire for giving presents may be replaced by the gratitude of the pure presence of loved ones alone. Food will once again taste better when sneakily shared from a friend’s plate when social distancing is a thing of the past. Santa’s best fan’s will at some point leave him goodies in front of equally excited friends and family  just before the little footsteps make their way to bed. The new normal button will be pressed again after this seemingly long pause.

With a new baby Grandson bringing hope and joy back into the family, Christmas is far from spoilt this year. It may be different, but different can be a refreshing place to be in as change is sometimes as good as a rest. As with most, 2020 has made me stop and re-evaluate life from a different  perspective. We can either choose to battle the unfairness, pain, and hurt of this year or we can choose to celebrate what we have been left with. Either way, we are going to create more of what we feel and think about. Admitting to ourselves that our version of life is just one way of seeing things and acknowledging that  there are more positive ways of seeing things can sometimes be the most bitter pill to swallow in life. We are not always right; we are sometimes wrong.

For the first year ever, my four children will not all be here on Christmas Morning. My eldest may be with her partner and  my two beautiful Grandchildren whilst my other daughter will be doing her midwifery duties of  helping to deliver babies on Christmas Day. The house will still be full of my two son’s mischief and beauty as they play with Munch and Angus the cat, so half of Christmas will remain the same. It may be a different Christmas, but it does not mean it will be a less special one for everyone in different ways.

However, your new version of Christmas goes, I hope you find peace and beauty in places that you may have forgotten existed after living in this year of change. New traditions need to start somewhere.

The Deception Of Looks

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I know what you are thinking. It is a Yeti croissant but no, you would be wrong!

That is the thing with assuming with our eyes, we never really get it right no matter how hard we try. We can never utterly understand what our eyes are tricking us into believing, as we only really see one perspective of an object that fits in with our world belief. Being led around by my hairy soul mate Munch lets people think that he is working for me, whereas anyone who knows him will know that I really work for him. Leading me to a place we need to go, results in a treat or two being eagerly hoovered up and me giving him at least a ten-minute worshipping ritual, telling him how he is the best living being ever in the world. We have found our power balance in our relationship and let us just say it is far from equal. Anyone with a Labradoodle knows that the power always lays with them and never with us.

The deception of looks alone has led us to many a faux pas in our four years together. From being mistaken as  Munch’s trainer as I “didn’t look blind enough to have a Guide Dog” (???) to being asked where my collection bucket was for the imaginary  fundraising collection someone though I  was doing as a fully sighted person with a Guide Dog,  assumptions can be wrong. Assuming Munch’s innocent face is incapable of being one of the world’s most notorious ball thief, is also another misconception. Maybe now is not the time to go into his known alias of “Good Boy” that everyone calls him when really, one of my friends knows him as the Pasty Thief that gently and lovingly alighted a pasty from her three year old daughters hand just as it was about to be transported to her mouth. A swift pasty replacement later and all was forgiven but the name has still stuck.

For me, one of the most infuriating misconceptions in the world today is when people criticize the “youth of today” from the narrative of the media alone without enough experience to make up their own minds about judging a whole section of society. Admittedly, I am slightly biased having worked with children and young people for the last twenty-six years on and off, but at least I have a privileged insight into their world. Working in schools with a Guide Dog brings with it many comments being directly and indirectly aimed at me. Some are hilarious, some are tactful, whilst others are said filter free but I for one love variety, so all are welcomed. There are times however that are heart melting such as the one  that happened last week.

Asking Munch to “find the steps” for us to lead us to our room, he quickened the pace before stopping at the end of the steps for my foot to find our starting point. Having the fuzzy triple visioned blurry light colour ahead of us seemingly reaching up to the heavens (which the sighted call stairs), we began climbing. I was aware of two pairs of footsteps ahead of me going in the same direction and held back a little for us not to get in their way. Mid climb, one pair of light footsteps stopped and began coming back down. Just as we were about to move to the side to let the lively feet and attached body to pass us, they stopped just in front of us. A sweet-sounding teenage boy seemed to lean towards us and ask, “Excuse me, do you need any help at all?”

It took me a while to wonder why he  would ask if I needed help? I began to wonder if I was walking in the wrong direction into a forbidden part of the school  or if something horrible had attached to me on our way up the stairs when I remembered I couldn’t see and had a Guide Dog with me. I know it sounds weird but if you have never been able to see clearly from birth and everything is always a blur, you know no different and it is never really an issue. This is my world where I forget I cannot see as I have never know any different. It is when I am totally oblivious to the fact that it is a disability, there is always a gentle reminder that appears to remind me that it is. When I walk with Munch by my left hand side, I totally forget he is a Guide Dog as I chatter away to him asking him to turn left or right or find doors and objects whilst praising him as we go. The problem when you have sight loss living in a sighted world is that you sometimes forget that people can see.

When my brain finally caught up with what the sweet boy meant, my heart melted. He must have seen someone with an obvious disability (even though I was too away with the fairies to remember I had one myself) and took time out of his day to ask if there was anyway he could help. He did it so discreetly, lowering his  tone not to draw attention which in itself showed what kind hearted soul he really was. I thanked him a lot for stopping to ask  but said we were fine. As he went on his way he told me to take care which I wished him back as my smile widened. There are more Earth Angels around us than we realized. This seemingly small interaction between a teenager from the Sighted world and a grandmother from the Sight Loss world spoke volumes about the world we live it.

To him, his kindness was a natural part of his being  . To me, his kindness was a gift that will get him so far in life that I hope his Karmic bank overflows. He saw me with a disability where I may have needed a bit of assistance. Whereas I saw myself as fully able bodied . We were both 100 % right  in that situation in our own ways. I hope that he always has someone around to help him if he ever needs it.

4 Year Partnershipversary.

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There are certain dates of our life events that will forever stick in our minds. We will always remember what we were doing, who we were with, what we were wearing or a certain heightened sense that lays dormant in our memory when a key moment in time happened. For me, when I have just finished playing peek-a-boo (which I don’t do enough of) wearing a dress covered in yoghurt and Wotsit crisp crumbs curtesy of my gorgeous granddaughter, in the house full of my noisy family chattering away loudly, I remember the time the phone rang. Here was the change that I had been dreading and eagerly awaiting in equal measures. Guide Dogs had matched a suitable dog for me and wanted to arrange to meet up. Seventeen months of waiting was over. My “unusual” guide dog was ready to change my life forever.

I still remember that uneasy feeling in my stomach after putting the phone down. We had arranged to meet sweet Minster a few days later but I was unsure if I was ready to let the world know that I had a sight problem. When you keep the severity of your disability hidden away from loved ones for so long, the reaction from others is always a fear. What if they do not believe you? Worse still, what if they pity you? What if I did not connect with the dog? What if the dog did not like me? All these fears were just imagined problems that never cropped up anywhere in life, only in my head. The truth was, life was going to change forever, but in the most positively magical way possible.

When Minster (or Munch as he has become affectionately known as) came bounding through the door on November 17th, 2016, he had decided that this partnership was going to work. He would be the boss from day 1 (apart for in Angus the cat’s world, where Angus remains King) and our training together would go fine. He would make himself at home on whichever soft furniture took his fancy (shhh, don’t tell his trainers), he would command affection by the Royal wave of his paw, create hilarious drama at every opportunity and project his adorable personality to loved ones and strangers alike. He was here to stay and be the neon sign to the hidden disability that I had kept to myself for 38 years. Subtlety has never been his strong point, but authenticity has.

This 100mph couch-potato is the gift that keeps on giving. Giving me immense independence to carry on working and living a full life, seems just a tiny part of this gift. The partnership we have developed has allowed us to go places I would never have gone alone. He enabled me to win Bronze for Wales in VI Bowls, which was only possible after he gave me the confidence to admit that I had a VI in the first place. His extroverted charm enabled us to meet people who I never would have met without this secret weapon to everyone’s soul. He helped me write an award-winning book that would never have been written had my disability remained hidden. To sum up what mind-blowing ways Guide Dogs help their owners (or their maids like in our relationship), is not an easy task but what I would say is this. They are portals into lives that we never would have lived without them.

4 years on and Munch still bounds though life in his puppy like ways, causing mischief and mayhem wherever he goes. Whilst on harness however, he is the perfect poster boy for Guide Dogs, taking his work life serious as he sashays with pride in harness. He has prevented my previous frequent falls and injuries, stayed by my side in hospital after surgery and healed many a broken heart in work and not once has he stopped being a natural born healer. The beauty in his sweet nature is that his loyalty belongs to whoever needs it at that moment in time. It seems that his Guide Dog duties are just one of his life purposes as he glides through life being of services whatever way he can. He is the best teacher that anyone can be blessed to live with in everyday life.

So, thank you Munch for deciding that our partnership would work from day one. You have given so much to me, family, friends, our clients, and strangers alike by never being anything but unconditional love. We still have a few years left of a working partnership and I promise when you do retire you will be even more spoilt than you are today. The doggy kisses and love that you dish out freely will return to you in abundance as your Karmic bank account grows day by day. I promise to up my daily worshipping rituals to you each day and keep telling the world about the superpowers of you and your hero Guide Dog colleagues. Thank you for the eternal gift of being you.

Christmas Has Come Early

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Our Christmas celebration for 2020 has begun on 26th October.

My gorgeous Grandson Corey-Taylor was born at 5.32pm on 26.10.20, a shocking 9 weeks early. Waiting until the 23rd December didn’t suit him, so he decided to arrive in his perfect 3lbs 4oz cute body via C-Section after his beautiful mother Rasheena developed preeclampsia. Thankfully, his tiny cry alerted all in Theatre that he was fine and ready to put his stamp on the world.

Both mother and baby are doing amazing. Despite being on oxygen for the first 24 hours to prevent lung collapse, he has needed no help at all. Obviously he has needed to keep them on their toes in SCBU, so he has pulled out his feeding tube on occasion but apart from that, there have been no problems. He is one tough little cookie who is getting stronger each day.

Being born during a Pandemic and National Lockdown in Wales, may not have been the ideal time for us to welcome this handsome soul into the world but it will all turn out fine. Having clothes shops and supermarkets banned from selling clothes and certain baby equipment, has made shopping for a premature baby less than ideal but online shops have been a blessing. With his big sister nor family members not being able to visit him in SCBU due to covid restrictions, it has been tough but Facetime and pictures have come to the rescue. These inconveniences are only today’s hiccups and will not really matter as he strengthens day by day.

Corey’s arrival has overwhelmed me with love and happiness and hope for the rest of the year. I cannot wait until the end of 2020 so that he will be strong enough to be home with the family. 2020 has not been ideal for anyone, but it is times like this that important things are put into perspective. This perfect precious little soul has come at exactly the right time for everyone.

Babies born during this year may not see their extended family but I hope they can feel their presence. They may not get to see facemask covered smiles, but I hope they can feel the happiness that they bring. Cwtches (or cuddles to the non-Welsh) may not be felt in person by these special babies but I hope they can feel the love wrapped all around them. These special babies are here to remind us what is really essential in life. Thank you babies of 2020, you are pure love.

P.s. Corey-Taylor. Munch, your big sister Arna-Rae and myself have all been planning on lots of adventures and mischief we can get up to in the future so keep getting stronger each day so the fun times can begin ❤

The Power Of Pausing

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Reaching out to someone or something is second nature to Munch even when he is asleep.

Give him a broken heart and he will give you the glue to fix it back together. Show him your hatred and he will show you what it is like to experience love again. Let your sadness seep out and he will perform his magic for you to absorb pure joy again. Animals have a way of reminding us that we are all in this world together and nobody is ever truly alone.

When wounded souls pass through our counselling room, Munch acts like a prompt to remind them about life outside of their own world. Connecting and grounding them to the present moment as he sits by their feet and gives them his paw, he puts pause to their pain and love and acceptance back into their soul. What a simple act to do.

To be there for another need not take a lot. We do not need degrees, money, witnesses or masses of time to make a difference in our own special way to a life. When two souls pause themselves long enough to notice life outside themselves, they begin to play a different role in life which leaves the “me” and enters tte “we”.

“We” are stronger as a collective than a lonely “me” can ever be. People need people, animals and hope to live a life outside of ourselves and experience other possibilities. Reaching out to others who reach back out to us is where healing really begins to happen. Do you do enough of that in life?

Are you the first to help or do you wait to be helped first? Do you help set up connections or do you shy away from others in case you get hurt again? Does your pause button get paused enough in life to look outside yourself, or does your life play button play non stop just to torture you? Do you normalise your own problems in life as just being hiccups in humanity, or do you personalise everything in life? How much “we” do you really see?

Life is better when we reach out to others and realized that we are never truly alone. It is far more healthy to chose to connect to another, than to retreat into a world that accepts no visitors. We are the author in our own book of life that either contains us as the sole character, or a mass of colourful characters that have yet to be met. There are many hairy paws that are eagerly awaiting to meet you so pause yourself long enough to reach out to meet and greet your new best friends.