Mothers create more than just a physical child. When a mother gives birth, she gifts the world with another piece of love that will fill the hearts of others as much as her own. She will nurture a fully functioning being that will in turn nurture other living beings. She births the professional that may go on to save your life and the lives of many others. Clearing the path for her child to freely explore the world to become the person that they really want to be, shows that a mother is happy to be led by their teacher.
The beauty of a mother is that on the surface no two will ever appear the same. The helicopter mother who wants to protect their child is no more of a mother than the permissive mother who allows their child to learn from their mistakes. The perfectionist mother is no happier than the go with the flow mother who gets it done in the end. High achieving mothers may have different goals that the mediating mother has, but both achieve in their own way. There is no perfect way to mother, there is just your way.
Whether babies are human or of the furry kind, adopted or metaphorical, they will always remain a baby in the eyes of a mother. That empty nest syndrome that drains the hearts of mothers worldwide is the universal mother language of a living loss that takes time to adjust to. Where once she wished for peace and quiet, she now craves the chaos that once was in the home they built together. As the curl from the first haircut lays safe in the draw, their grandchild sits in the hairdressing seat awaiting the same to happen to their own curls.
The one thing, that we all have in common is that we would not be here had it not been for our mothers. However, you celebrate this Mother’s Day may it be full of love, appreciation and forever memories. Happy Mother’s Day to all the miracle makers that have created us as there would be no world without them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, our much-awaited Christmas present for 2020 is going to be a new baby in the family. What a perfect way to end a less than perfect year.
My second grandchild is due on 23rd December which is something the whole family is excited for. How do I think Munch will react? Well if his relationship with Arna-Rae (my first born granddaughter) is anything to go by, I think they will be best friends.
Munch came into our lives when Arna-Rae was just nine months old and they hit it off straight away. He went to sniff her when they first met and the fact that she had some crumbs on her tights meant that this was going to be a match made in heaven. A new playmate and a food dropper all rolled into one was Munch’s idea of heaven. She was as gentle with him as he was with her as they played alongside one another stealing each other’s toys.
Arna-Rae started taking her sweet first steps as Munch walked alongside her and when out and about, she would hold onto his Guide Dog harness whilst out on their adventures. He was there for some of her firsts and is still there alongside her as she grows into the beautiful little girl that she has become. As she tries to dodge his sloppy morning kisses, she cradles his head so sweetly in her loving arms that have held him a multitude of times.
She says Mam (shortened version of Mamgu which is Welsh for grandmother) and Munch and not just Mam as she knows we come as a pair. She has only really known me with Munch as my Guide Dog and never on my own so to her, we are one. His happy helicopter tail rotates with delight as she comes crashing through the door as he knows his food dropping playmate has arrived for some fun. They know and love each other deeply.
When Arna-Rae’s brother or sister arrives and grows with the family, the only problems that I can see occurring are as follows-
Who will be the first to snuggle up to him?
Who will have the most fun toys to play with?
Who will be most generous with food?
Who can throw the ball the furthest?
Who will be most likely to go on mischievous adventures with him?
Who will be most likely to find his stinky anal exhales funny and not run away from him?
Who will be most likely to run the fastest with him whilst out on free runs?
Who will take up less room on the couch with him as he stretches out?
Who will give the best belly rubs and nose kisses?
Who will love him even when he is being a monster?
The truth is they will both be there each of these times as he will be there for them. The beauty of animals is that they are only capable of unconditional love. One may give him the most food or throw the ball the furthest, but he will love them both equally as will I.
The last four years as a grandmother has been the best. Getting to witness Arna-Rae grow form a tiny 4lb 12oz newborn into a beautiful, loving, kind four year old who has a wonderful sense of self has been magical and I am so excited to see what her enchanting sibling will also bring into life. This Christmas will certainly be a perfect ending to a less than perfect year.
Fifteen weeks on and we were back in the shop like nothing had happened. To us, not much had changed. Blurs (or people, as the sighted like to call them), sauntered around on their own missions to get out of this supposedly germ infested place as we were guided by our friend’s voice to watch out for people and objects. Having been blessed to have friends, family and online shopping services do our shopping for us over the last fifteen weeks, we had not stepped foot into a shop, so I was unsure what to expect. Munch had not been in full work mode for a while, only slipping on his harness for short walks around our home area. I was a little apprehensive of how he would feel going back into full work mode, but he amazed me on how eager he was to get back.
Practically yanking me into the place that he once resisted going, I guessed this shopping trip would be easier than I had thought. The history of Munch and shopping has not always been a positive one but clearly this break has made him re -evaluate his acceptance of the place that fills his belly with love from all the edible goodies all around. As we swiftly passed the clothes section that he has never been a fan of, his prancing pace quickened, avoiding the two-legged race with perfection. A quick sniff out of his favourite vegan cheese that he is rather partial too and we were well on the way to the second aisle. All the fears I had of not being able to see to social distance was gone as my harness wearing hero worked in partnership with my vocal coaching friend as they helped avoid upsetting anyone by walking into them. Munch was back on top form.
I swallowed the guilt of the questioning thoughts that I had been having of Munch becoming deskilled with his time off from proper work as he proved me wrong. With ever prancing paws he placed on the shiny supermarket floor, he was obviously on a mission. As we glided through the scent of celery, cotton fresh candles and freshly baked products from the bakery that alerted my olfactory gland to where we were in the supermarket, I knew that Munch had this all in hand (or his yeti like paws more like). The calling of the third aisle became too much for Munch as he quickened his Olympian worthy pace as we rounded the corner resembling a pair of pivoting ice skaters. It was only when the stench of dried meaty canine bliss and cat nip covered treats intruded my nostrils that I realized what Munch’s hurry had been all along. He had finally come home to the aisle where his heart was. The pet food aisle.
His longing to return to this sense filled sanctuary was plain for all to see. His excited panting echoed along the tins and boxes that lined the shelves of his favourite thirty plus foot space EVER. The smell of new tennis balls wafting from their net packaging alerted me that we had reached his favourite toy section. For some strange reason, he took his time to put his best paw forward in this part of the shop and was in no hurry to leave. It was only after a pack of treats and new toy later, that I knew he would be ready to sashay through the rest of the shop. We remained here for some time for him to savour the moment and reconnect to what his food driven soul had been missing. His return to normality had begun.
If there is one thing that Munch has taught me during our time together is that appreciating the simple things in life is all that matters. Following this helicopter tailed happy chappie throughout the rest of shop I realized that witnessing his happiness and the happiness in others is what life is all about. The simplicity of the effects of a smell, the feeling of returning to contentment and focussing on the basics in life is all that is needed to return to happiness. I knew that when his sloppy kisses covered my face when he leapt into the car after the shopping trip, he was thanking me for taking him back into bliss. The return to happiness is sometimes simpler than we think.
Peter Mayhew (the actor who played cute Chewbacca in the Star Wars films) who sadly passed away on April 30th aged 74 will be missed by millions. The 7ft 3in larger than life character had brought Chewbacca to life since 1977 until recent years. Most were transfixed on Chewbacca and many did not know that Peter had Marfan Syndrome.
This, the most common connective tissue disorder, still is relatively unknown to the general population. It can affect the heart, eyes, lungs, blood vessels, joints, bones, ligaments, skin and any connective tissue in the body. Some with Marfan’s go on to live a life unaffected whereas others have a multitude of complications throughout life. The Skeletal system in those with Marfan Syndrome is usually affected in one way or another and this is one of the signs that is usually picked up by medical staff.
Throughout history there have been many people in the public eye that have had Marfan Syndrome. From presidents to musicians, sports personalities to actors, each one has found their own place in history and usually for the right reasons. Composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninov and violinist Niccolo Paganini were both believed to have Marfan Syndrome which meant that their supply long fingers could be used to their advantage to create such beautiful masterpieces. The actor Vincent Schiavelli (from ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest’) was a member of the National Marfan Foundation that supports people with the syndrome, before his death from a collapsed lung. Abraham Lincoln was never officially diagnosed but many believed that he also had the condition.
Isaiah Austin the American Professional Basketball player uses his height to his advantage in the game and after a small break in his career post diagnosis, he was cleared to play again. 6’5” Flo Flyman, the American Professional Volleyball player was at her peak when she sadly passed away during a game due to complications from Marfan Syndrome that she was unaware that she had. Many professionals in the sporting field go undiagnosed which can have a devastating affect due to the implications of cardiac involvement.
With life expectancy of someone diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome increased over the last few decades due to medical monitoring and advances in medicine, they are now in line with the general population. The key though however is early diagnoses and early monitoring which is still not happening as much as it should. With correct medical care, individuals with Marfan Syndrome can live out their lives doing exactly what they were born to do and bring joy to the masses.
R.I.P. Peter Mayhew and all the other talented souls with Marfan Syndrome that have left their larger than life footprints on this world. You inspire the rest of us Marf’s to keep following our dreams.
The scariest time in my life was when I could see. Well, I say see but maybe I mean see more. OK, so maybe the right term is that I could see something in a little bit of focus. Thinking about it, focus is such a strong word to use here. Sorry am I confusing you? Let me start at the beginning.
There I was sitting in the ophthalmologist’s office nine months after having a cataract operation that did more harm than good but c’est la vie. “The thing is, although it is quite fun walking around like I am looking through a distorted version of Funhouse mirrors, I cannot carry on like this. The lack of depth perception is causing me more injuries than before and looking at out of proportion objects is pretty scary if I am honest” I joked with the blurry stretched man in front of me. He abruptly
answered “we need to give it more time”. “Nine months is enough time, I want it removed” I answered matching his tone.
This stubborn standoff had been going on since I had my cataract operation 9 months earlier and it was long overdue to be resolved. Since this alien object had been placed in my eye, nothing but tantrums and melt-downs had happened in the ocular area with post-operative inflammation and Edema on the retina being the main instigators of the uprising in my eye. I was now requesting an eviction notice to these angry duo as I could no longer deal with their nonsense. So here I was pleading with this nine-foot-tall, egg timer shaped blur in front of me in the hospital room who sat on the rugby ball shaped fuzzy chair. Daily entry into the Funhouse of mirrors really needed to be a thing of the past.
My mule like pig-headedness paid off and I was back in the operating theatre removing the mischievous lens that they had implanted, and I was left lens free and back to being able to live my normal double vision, fuzzy life that I always felt safe in. It seemed that everyone around me felt sorry for me that I was becoming “broken” again after the operation was not able to help me, but I felt a different way about it. I had never felt broken before due to my sight loss, it was just normal. Medical staff and everyone around me seemed to be tempting me into the world of the sighted to “fix” the way that I had been since birth.
When I entered the semi sighted world for that brief amount of time however, life was far from rosy.
I went from seeing birds as gargantuan shape shifters instead of mythical creature that I had never seen, to not being able to reach out to an object in front of me due to the immense difference in depth perceptions in both eyes. Vague faces became things that I could kind of make out but didn’t always match my version of them that I had been carrying around in my head for years. I noticed myself judging things in other people that I had no right to judge, as I began using my eyes alone to absorb my environment and ignored my other senses. I knew that this was not the world that the fully sighted saw as everything was out of proportion and seemed to be the wobbly bridge between the sighted and sight loss world. I was so relieved when I got off this wobbly bridge and returned to the sight loss world with less sight but more confidence.
Seeing the beauty in life cannot be seen through the eyes alone but they can be a magical tool in appreciating the world around us. My time in the Funhouse of mirrors taught me many things and I am glad I had a chance to play around in it for a while. There is always a light-hearted view available in uncertain times of transition if you search hard enough.
I don’t believe we can ever have a fully bad year but do know that bad things can happen in a year which can leave us celebrating its departure as we step into a new year. Even in times of crisis in life, there are momentary glimpses of hope and beauty that exist through the cracks in the crisis. These evolutionary prompts that make us change direction in life, can feel like torture for the soul, but without them how could we ever grow from normal to extraordinary? A challenging year shows you everything that you are capable of overcoming.
Great years in your life help you push forward, and you become a force to be reckoned with. In such years of gold dust where dreams become a reality and the universe gifts you a Midas path to walk upon, you claim what is rightfully yours upon the way. Old barriers become new opportunities and time becomes an illusion as you achieve things at record speed in miraculous ways. It is a year like this that we have just leaped out of and know that 2019 will be an even better year.
As the seconds of the New year clock tick, we will still be the same. Munch will be as majestic as ever and I will be permissive of him as ever. Our authenticity will be as stagnant as ever as we go through life happy in our skin. As Munch carries his wise sage spirit into 2019 in his unconventional guide dog body, I will follow him in my body made for comfort not speed. We may attempt to look more ‘society approved’ if we ever lose who we truly are although I don’t think this will happen.
Our love of life will be the theme that runs through the year, like it has in every other that we have lived. Along the way, we will see hope where others may see despair and know that everything always works out in the end. As Munch sniffs out, new adventures that he can follow, I will be led by my furry partner in crime and trust that all adventures lead to new discoveries with twists and turns along the way. Doing the same old thing day in day out has never been our idea of bliss so we are not about to start doing it now. The new adventures from our forever bond will be worth every step along the way.
Being led out of the invisible world to the visible one by attention seeking Munch, will allow our horizons to be broadened. From living with a hidden disability to being plonked in the limelight, life will never be the same again. Munch my Guru is a leader that I know walks his walk and just oozes serenity in a sometimes-chaotic world. If I can give even a fraction of the unconditional love to others as Munch gives, we will be able to see the beauty in everyone that we meet in the coming year.
New Years resolutions are not for us. Natural life changes are. If we can stick with the core of the way of being that has got us through 2018, I know that this coming year will be even more amazing as we fit into the natural evolution of our lives. We wish you all the 2019 that you really want to live and know that the you that people know and love is more than good enough. Much love and keep evolving.