Baring & Sharing

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“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean.  But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop”.

                                                                   – Mother Teresa

With Purple Day just around the corner on March 26th, it is time to reflect on all that has been since last year’s Purple Day.  It seems to have come around very quickly when I think back to last year and how I was in the infant stages with Finding Freedom with Epilepsy.  At that point it had only been up and running for a month. But with March 26th imminent, it’s time to get my thinking cap on for what I will be doing in the run up to that date.  I have ideas brewing, but at the moment I am at the research stage.  After which, I will be able to collate it all.

I was approached recently via Twitter by a woman from the Netherlands asking whether I would be willing to share my story – an exciting opportunity for me!  She requested the various experiences that I have had from my diagnosis through to the present. Having worked hard on writing the article it is finally ready and uploaded on to the website, so clink on the link below and have a read!

http://simplythinking.wix.com/letstalk#!freya-34-usa/c1zwf

How To Look Good Naked

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As with each blog post, I wait for the subject matter to find me and let the idea manifests itself. The idea will crescendo until I can’t ignore it any longer and have to begin writing.  This week’s subject matter was not something that I was going to write about as I didn’t feel it was suitable.  However, the urge has become stronger and stronger and I am therefore given no choice but to put it down on ‘paper’ if only to bring peace to my mind.

Being a fan of Netflix, I opt to watch that over television simply as it is more fulfilling than the watching-it-because-it’s-on-television syndrome, which I am at times guilty of.  However, recently I had the good fortune to stumble across Hulu.  I haven’t used it for years and I remember never being overly impressed with it.  Things have changed.  I decided to have a sneaky peek and as I scrolled down I was overjoyed to find a genre which was British.  As I held my finger down on the remote to view the approximate four hundred and fifty shows, I was jumping up and down with joy!  So, to cut a long story short I found a show that I loved to watch back in England and the familiarity brought back some forgotten memories.  Watching it now has given me an insight that had never occurred before because I, like so many other women was a perfect candidate to take heed of the content.

Seven words.  Gok Wan.  How to Look Good Naked.

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He’s someone that you would imagine would get on with everyone.  He’s someone that you’d want to spend a night out with, swilling a few cocktails and laughing profusely.  He has a conscious, but a far greater unconscious way of knowing exactly what to say to build confidence in a way like no other.  Women LOVE him and yes, I’d very much like him as my best friend.

What does he do? He works with women who have low self-esteem and hate ( yes I said hate) their bodies.  There was one episode where a woman had not looked in a full length mirror for fifteen years.  How did we get to the stage of being so ashamed of our natural form that we end up taking such extreme measures to avoid any acceptance and pride of our bodies no matter what shape or size?  How is it we can think, ‘How could anybody possibly love me when I look like this?’

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Females rarely get to see what another ‘real’ woman looks like but this show provides plenty of reality.  With five natural women ready in their undies sized from small to large he asks where the subject believes she fits in the line-up. It amazed me how every single woman on every single episode has such a distorted view of herself.  I can almost guarantee every woman would overestimate their size, it’s just tragic.  The models and celebrities that are prevalent in the media are the only comparable source we have which of course is the most damaging because that’s not your average shape. Having read a number of interviews with him he states in one:

“I think the media and the fashion industry make a huge impact – women are exposed to over 3,000 images a week of models airbrushed to within an inch of their lives.”

That is tremendous number – no wonder females have issues!

As I watched I, like many others have no real comparison of my own body than to that of models.  It’s also not helpful when you observe women in public because lumps and bumps can be surreptitiously hidden.  To be able to see all the different shapes and sizes has made me re-evaluate how I view myself.  The show has been a real comfort because I realize what I have is what everyone else has and I’m beginning to wonder what all the fuss about ‘this part’ or ‘that part’ actually was.  For someone who hasn’t had an overly healthy relationship with food particularly in my teens, naturally it went hand in hand with a very negative perception of my body.

I was surprised at the opinions of the men who were interviewed and asked to give their thoughts on the most attractive part of the subject’s figure.  They don’t co-inside with what women tend to like about themselves.  I became aware not only of how damaging a lack of confidence of self-image can be on a relationship but how you feel about yourself is not what others see.  It’s a simple concept yet so difficult to digest.

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.”

- Steve Maraboli

A Snowy New York Paradise

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Once again I find myself on my travels to the East coast.  As I sit on the plane, I look out to see the majestic jagged snowed capped mountain tops. With my flight at 7:40 a.m., there’s plenty of time for me to watch the sunrise.  It is a practice that Mother Nature completes daily that constantly leaves me in awe.  I had a rare opportunity to witness the darkness that enveloped the city as it embraced the early morning stillness, gradually transforming into beauty from the dregs of the night.  The artist begins to paint a stunning backdrop from a palette of orange, yellow, peach, pink with hints of purple. Strong strokes blend the colors together to make a watercolor background so breathtaking, that all who are fortunate enough to see it are silenced by its beauty.

The uneven ground mirrors squares of a patchwork quilt revealing an assortment of earthy tones.  In contrast, the rugged white capped mountains maintain an appearance of white horses that race each other to the shore.

As we swiftly move on, flying toward our destination, miniscule towns sparkle in the sunlight resembling the size of what the imagination would conceive to be an ant village with four or five white wind turbines lining the outside.  It reminds me of the small colorful wind mills I had as a child that I would hold far out in the wind watching it as it whipped though the blades giving them no choice but to follow the wind and spin.

Slipping into a layer of cloud my picturesque view disappears out of sight and I am brought back to the reality of not quite knowing what to expect when I get to New York.  The sky below is thick and swollen with snow presenting itself in the shape of swirls, tightly packed together and preying on the ground below as the inhabitants await the onslaught.

With a weather forecast of the worst blizzard for a decade, I hope that I manage to make it from the airport to my hotel.  My flight is one of a handful that wasn’t cancelled so I have two feet of snow to look forward to!

With a train booked for tomorrow to travel to see my sister after a period of two and half years apart, there has been speculation of no visibility whatsoever. I wonder/anticipate another night booked into my hotel until the city flutters its snowy eyelashes making room for people to make their way to where they need to be.  I can’t help but feel a little excited, although that’s perhaps with a dash of ignorance; after all, I didn’t even bring my wellingtons – certainly not my finest moment.  However, with boots, a pair of which are waterproof and another that are warm and furry, I know my feet will remain snuggy and warm even if the boots are ruined in the process.  But they are immaterial and easily replaced.

Excitement beholds as I get closer to seeing a part of my family that has been omitted geographically from my life.  To be present for my nephew’s birthday, the first birthday out of both my niece and nephew that I have spent with them (and my niece is ten!), will be so special for me.  It brings home the importance of family and just how treasured it is, particularly as coming together doesn’t happen often.

And with that, I now leave you as I must alight from the plane and see what snowy fate awaits me!

Writing this, it sees me checking in the following morning from the plane journey I took yesterday.  You will be pleased to know that all was well on arrival.  Three inches of snow was received downtown although further out some places received thirty.  The sanitation department worked tirelessly to shift as much snow as possible and I woke to find it wasn’t anywhere near as terrible as was predicted.

My train to Montreal was cancelled and rebooked for the next day leaving me with a day to play in NYC.  I’ve wandered over to Times Square already and it’s unbelievable just how much of a ghost town it is.  I could hop, skip and jump from one sidewalk to another without having to wait for a walk sign because there were so few cars.  I’ve passed through New York many, many times before and that has always been an impossibility.

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With so many silver linings I intend to venture out again and seek more of them and who knows where that will take me.  One thing I do know; however, is that the world is my snowy oyster.

 

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“A big seizure just kind of grabs the inside of your skull and squeezes. It feels as if it’s twisting and turning your brain all up and down and inside out. Have you ever heard a washing machine suddenly flip into that bang-bang-bang sound when it gets out of balance, or a chain saw when the chain breaks and gets caught up in the gears, or an animal like a cat, screeching in pain? Those are what seizures felt like when I was little.”

― Terry Trueman

 

The Unknown Danger Of A Cyclist

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Have you ever noticed that if a particular word, object or observation is brought up in conversation you begin to see/hear it absolutely everywhere? This happens to me A LOT!

Having developed a heightened interest in photosensitive epilepsy, I began to look at probable triggers that occur in everyday life.  It all began with a warning that a fellow epilepsy sufferer had written about.  It was in regards to a movie she had seen and there had been no warning prior to entering the theatre to inform people of the intense flashing lights and flickering within it.

Those with photosensitive epilepsy will have their own individual triggers and to varying degrees but having read this piece explaining the content of the film flicked an internal switch for me.  I have become more conscious of aspects in daily life that could be potential triggers. Here are a few that have really stood out for me.

So, cycling.  I’m all for cycling.  It’s eco-friendly, reduces your carbon footprint and serves as a method of exercise.  The public bicycle stations for people to use have begun to pop up, and now litter the city.  It’s a super scheme to implement and to encourage use.  As a cyclist you need to make sure that your bike is safe with all the right ‘gear’ and lights are a vital part of that.  However, here in the US, the lights I have seen attached to the front flash and I don’t really understand why!  I don’t remember ever seeing a bicycle light that flashed in England and to be honest I’m not really sure of its purpose.  Is it more effective than a light that has continuity?  I err on the side of thinking perhaps not.

When I see them coming towards me it always reminds me that it’s an awfully strong activation for seizures and one that’s preventable.  If anyone happens to know why flashing lights are preferable do let me know as I would love to understand and have this question laid to rest!

An additional related matter is that I have found so many cyclists here in Seattle don’t cycle on the road. Not tarring all of you two wheeled wonders with the same brush of course, but there are lanes which have been created offering greater safety but simply aren’t getting used. In light of that, with speedy cyclists on the sidewalks plus their flashing lights you could have a recipe for disaster brewing.

Not having such an issue with flashing lights depending on the speed and intensity myself they appear in the majority of movies, video games and television shows.  There are notices on the back of the video game boxes and for those who follow my Facebook page you will have seen the link I posted regarding the connection between video games and seizures (‘The Royals in New York, as Viewed from the UK’ dated 9th December 2014).  It covers television footage of the Royals and the photography by the paparazzi.  If you missed it you’ll find the link below and there are a number of very interesting seizure related articles alongside it.  You’ll find included the research undertaken to discover which video games have been deemed safe to play and which ones haven’t, plus they explain how they have tried and tested them to prove their outcome.

https://videogameseizures.wordpress.com/

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Not too long ago I was on a long train journey to see a friend on a beautiful autumn day.  It was chilly but with blue skies and bright sunshine. As I was looking out of the window taking in the scenery, we traveled through a long line of trees that were fast losing their leaves of reds, browns and yellows.  With the speed of the train, the sun and gaps between the trees gave the effect of a flick book only much more intense.  Even I had to look away as it continued for quite some time and as I said, this component doesn’t tend to affect me.  That’s Mother Nature, so how do you contend with that?

My two examples are simply a drop in the water when it comes to triggers, and that just validates how essential it is to consider this issue within society.  I know that eliminating all these possible triggers is both impractical and unworkable; however, there are definitely improvements that could be made in order to lessen the probability of seizures through these means.  The need to raise greater awareness remains in order to bring the change for those that suffer and to take into consideration the difficulties that could be rectified so simply.

‘We need to have complete certainty that things will work out, not because we are righteous or wise, but because of the time, effort, prayers, and the tools we are using.  From the awareness we are given about some bigger picture or mission, we have to have complete focus on what to do to get to that place.’

- Yehuda Berg

The Journey To A Great Love

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I was warned of his love of football.  I just hadn’t anticipated its enormity.

That was three years ago.

As the reality hit when we moved in together, I discovered Sundays were a write-off.  The whole day was football with no give.  Relieved, having spoken to a friendly stranger in an elevator she confirmed she lived the same life and I felt grateful I wasn’t the only one. I also discovered there was a name to connect us women together.  I had become a ‘football widow’.

I had been subjected to the 2012 Super bowl, (ironically that was when my beau and I first got together) and aside from the entertainment at half time I couldn’t understand what the hype was about.  The game kept stopping and starting which quite frankly made it exceedingly boring and it was just a bunch of men, colossally built, tripping over daisies and then jumping on each other to give an outstanding group hug.  Oh how wrong I was!

On arrival in Seattle it was a short time before the Super bowl.  The Seahawks are Seattle’s team and the atmosphere at the Super bowl was like nothing I had ever seen before.  The streets were a blur of navy, green and white, faces painted, flags, excitement, crowds all supporting their team, it was so wonderfully patriotic.  Employees wear Seahawks shirts every Friday and the buses have ‘Go Seahawks, Go!’ flashing every few seconds in between their destinations.  There was and remains a crane which has the Seahawks emblem lit up.  It shows a real sense of community.

To be there when the team won the Super bowl was quite an experience.

As the games began this season my beau was determined to get me to like football so he created a new beginners fantasy football league. As a ‘team manager’ I had to pick players from different teams for every position in order to create my own team.  I would play different people in our league each week and the points my players generated through their games would be added up to dictate my win or loss.

Dragged kicking and screaming I reluctantly succumbed to the barrage of “You’ll love it”, “Once you start playing you’ll really get in to it” and, “You’ll learn so much about the game” – but I don’t want to learn so much about the game!  The league began by putting in $20 each and overall winner takes all.

It all sounded like such a hassle.

However, I decided if I was going to do this, against my will I might add, I must do it properly.  I read football for dummies, beginner’s football and I looked on the NFL website to at least get a brief outline of how it works, positions, teams, players etc.

As the weeks went by a silent addiction grew which completely took me by surprise. I am not and have never been a sports fan, so this was pretty much a miracle.

With Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy from the Green Bay Packers on my fantasy team, each week they did me proud earning me more points.  Leaning more and more towards them and their team, that’s when my avid love for the Green Bay Packers was born.

As the fantasy league wound down (much to my dismay) after weeks of tension, shouting at the TV and getting increasingly competitive, week 16 drew near to conclude the season.  Having been very cocky at the start telling everyone I would win I really should have touched every bit of wood I could find; however, I walked away with $80 – I’d won! Not bad for a beginner.

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The weekend just gone saw the Championship game between the Seahawks and Green Bay Packers.  With a city full of Seahawks fans it wasn’t going to be easy for me to outwardly show my support as much as I wanted.  I proudly wore my Packers hat a Christmas gift, on the way there but walked into one bar to be greeted with a significant amount of booing.  I’m not a fair weather fan so I held my head high.

To cut a long story short the Seahawks won and naturally it’s left a bitter taste in my mouth.  You can’t really have anything but respect for all the teams as they’re all playing hard.  The way the last quarter panned out for the Packers, Vic Ketchman a writer for the Packers put it beautifully, ‘It was as if a switch had been flicked’.  I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Walking out to cheers of jubilation, the lump in my throat grew until the tears fell, I was absolutely heartbroken.  Who knew that I could love a team so much? It was this moment that I realized just how devoted a fan I am of the Green Bay Packers.

‘Go! You Packers! Go!’

GB

 

The Power of Guilt

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A couple of days ago I read a beautifully written blog post by a writer whose content was very thought provoking and easy to relate to.  Ironically, he covered a similar area on a topic that I had intended to write about.  However, the original idea sprouted new buds and here it has flowered.  So friends, read on…

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Last weekend with the stresses of my beau’s work it was time for a few days of peace and quiet.  We decided to remove ourselves far from the everyday chaos and responsibilities.  I say ‘us’ but there is always an inward guilt saying ‘us’.  I don’t and have never had a high powered job.  I don’t believe you can undertake a job of that magnitude unless you love it despite the difficulties that are interspersed.  The latter is a web to be untangled at another time AND in another blog post!

On moving to Seattle I had to decide what I would dedicate my time to.  As you know my hands are tied with regards visa status so it’s been my opportunity to contribute to the community in some way.  With writing the blog and marketing my ‘product’ I’ve had to be proactive.  After all I’m sure we all know nothing ever just falls into our lap you have to get up, get out there and make yourself known.  Because of this, you have to be prepared for rejection as well as having the ability to get up and figure out other means in hope of success.

Having worked in the marketing sector whilst in England, I know how at times it can feel like you’re bashing your head against a brick wall.  I have been fortunate here.  I’ve developed my writing which I wouldn’t have done if I didn’t love it.  I created a photographic project which was exhibited at an art gallery as a fundraiser and have been involved in a short film alongside fostering plans and schemes for the future.  This is where the advocacy has taken me.

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With that as only part of my life I have other everyday tasks to fulfill and they are the monotonous ones that everyone has to knuckle down and get on with.  My perception of it removes the ‘monotony’ associated with those tasks and over the years I have grown to thoroughly enjoy doing them.  Cleaning; I crank my music up, sing (terribly!), and boogie on down.  I then take great satisfaction that the taps in my bathroom are shiny.  That’s always been one of my ‘things’ and that’s why bathrooms are my favorite to clean.  Cooking is yet another way to be creative.  Normally I just fly by the seat of my pants, throw things in and hope for the best but that aside, with one of my playlists or friends to accompanying me, my therapy session begins.

I do a lot of research covering a variety of topics too.  Now I’m sewing away on my machine I’m scouring books to create crafty items that could be sellable in the future.  I’m also investigating the hows and ifs of beginning a small business and all that that would involve.  Despite the fact I’m not in a ‘regular’ job what I am doing is important, fulfilling and time consuming. This is where the guilt comes in.  I wonder if saying ‘I need a break’ is a statement that is appropriate for me to make.

When I reread my words describing the elements of which my life is comprised, along with the addition of dealing with the epilepsy in its current unpredictable state I do have the right to say yes, I do deserve a break. It gives my body a chance to recharge from what my days contain and the stress that it continues to be under.  It is the wise owl, (Prudence in fact) who sits on my shoulder to regularly remind me of this.

The greatest injustice you can do is to compare yourself with others.  If you want a quick way to lose some of your self-worth and self-confidence that is exactly what you do.  By comparing yourself with others your vision becomes distorted and you lose sight of the amount of accomplishments you hold in your life.

This has always been my downfall.  Another valid point to add is that appearances can be deceptive.  By looking at somebody else’s life and taking it at face value, you will find more often than not what you see isn’t what is real.  Many of us are professionals at changing personas so that what we project isn’t what we or our lives really are.

So remember, the two greatest attributes you can possess are being true to yourself and being kind to others as you never know what battles people are fighting.