11 things that make me feel like a non-typical bride

I’ve joined a couple of wedding groups to maybe get some inspiration and chat to other brides. I thought I might find it hard to fit in – because I’m not an ultra-girlie extravert – and I do find some of the conversations a bit hard to relate to, but I’ve picked up some tips as well – the best of which so far was about wedding insurance. I didn’t even know that was a thing. Fortunately I got ours before the whole coronavirus thing as I imagine it may have gone up now.

Anyway, in one of the groups there was a discussion about what people will be doing with their phones on the day. Everyone said they would be turning it off and leaving it in the hotel room/giving it to a bridesmaid/leaving it at home etc.

I get it – you don’t want to be like one of those people who spends the whole evening on their phone whenever you meet up with them – but some of these things just seemed a bit extreme to me.

So I piped up and said I’d have mine with me. I wouldn’t be looking at it all the time, but it would be on, apart from during the ceremony. I’m quite good at ignoring it when I’m busy, but I at least like to have it.

Also, as a blind person, in a big group of people, I can’t just look around and find people – so if I can message them, it’s a massive help. Not in a bridezilla “come here right now!” kind of way, but if I want to speak to someone and don’t know where they are, the phone is my friend! My maid of honour won’t know most of the people there, and I don’t know what they all look like to describe them to her.

I don’t go out of my way to rebel or to be the odd one out. I think in some ways I just say the thing that some other people are thinking, but they don’t want to be the first to say it. Because as soon as I made my comment about having the phone with me, a whole bunch of others said that they would bee keeping theirs with them too. True, mostly for selfie-taking-related reasons, but they were out there – the phone-keepers! It just took one person to put another point of view.

So that got me thinking – I am a bit different in a few other ways. I don’t actually care about that – I’ve always been a bit of a head-strong “I’ll do it my way” kind of girl – but it did make me smile, so I thought I’d list out some of the other ways as well.

I think a wedding is a real chance for a couple to give their own vibe to the day – to make it special and personal. We’ve got lots of ideas about how we’re going to do that and, especially if you are organising it yourselves, you don’t have to feel constrained by things that don’t fit with your idea of how the day should be.

Usually I do like rules and structure. Rules help us to manage expectations and know what’s coming up. But I guess if a rule doesn’t make sense to me, and I’m not obliged to follow it, I usually won’t!

So here are a few more things:

  1. I only follow the traditions that I like. These do not include not allowing the groom to see me on my wedding day. However, I’m happy to start new ones too, like the bride doing a speech.
  2. I’m not making my own confetti, because I don’t see the point of it! It makes such a mess and someone has to clear it up. It gets everywhere and some of it is bad for wildlife. Time and money saved!
  3. I’m organising my own hen do. Maybe I’m a control freak. But also it’s because I like organising, I want it to be fun for everyone, including me, and I know that most of the people there won’t know each other. Also I don’t want to dump all that responsibility on any of my friends, especially when I know I will enjoy sorting it out.
  4. I’m not buying into the whole craziness with gifts – a bunch of gifts when you ask someone to be your bridesmaid, more gifts for all your hens, gifts the night before your wedding, and then gifts on the day. Ok the last one is fine, because I want to show people who have helped us that we appreciate them, but what’s with the whole proposal box for other members of your wedding party thing? Fine if you want to do it, but it all feels a bit commercial and social media driven to me.
  5. I’m not getting wasted on my hen night – because I don’t drink. Yay for no hang-over the next day!
  6. I’m not going to pick my dress based on whether anyone cries, or not buy a dress I really like because I didn’t get emotional. It’s like a pressure to feel the right thing, but really it’s about what you like and feel happy with. I tend to be a bit more practical, but that’s ok.
  7. I don’t get excited about wedding stationery. I guess I’m just not the ideal target audience! But that’s the cool thing about weddings – you can put the time and money into the things that you do really care about.
  8. I don’t ask people I don’t know whether everyone else is doing a thing if I want to do it, or whether anyone else is not doing a thing because I really don’t want to do it. I’m not judging people who do, because it sounds like they just want a bit of reassurance. But what I read between the lines when people do that is “I reeeally want to/don’t want to – is that ok?
  9. I don’t want a beach honeymoon – because we don’t like beach holidays! We’re still going to have fun though!
  10. There will be no salted caramel – anywhere! Not because of my allergies – although there will be no allergens either –we just think salted caramel is a thing that shouldn’t be a thing!
  11. And maybe the most safety-conscious – I won’t be lobbing my bouquet. Because let’s face it, blind bride hurling her bouquet into the crowd is bound to end in tears, or a split lip – but seriously. I’m going to time and trouble deciding on flowers that I like – I want to take better care of them and keep them!

That’s a lot of “I won’t”s! There are a lot of things that we ARE doing to make our big day special and personalised, but I can’t really share those with you yet. I don’t want my blog readers to know more than the people at my wedding. So anyone interested in the details and more wedding content will need to wait till the big day is over next year!

For those of you who are married, are there any traditions that you ignored, or new ones that you made?

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Same storm – different ships

It occurs to me that even when all the norms are thrown out of the window, it doesn’t take long for a sense of pressure to build up about what is “normal” behaviour, or what people should be doing or feeling in these new and different times.

That’s a bit crazy, isn’t it?

In some ways, this is the perfect chance to take a look at our lives, listen to our bodies, and do what works best for us within the boundaries of what’s allowed at the moment.

I first noticed it with socialising. Many people are really struggling with the lack of contact with others. I understand that. But I felt a real sense of social overload in the first couple of weeks – partly because I wanted to be at all the parties, but also because unlike a lot of people right now, I’m fortunate enough to still be able to work – so after a day with lots of online calls, more online calls weren’t what I really needed.

Not that I don’t want to keep up with my friends – I still book some in and have some that I really need to organise, but not every night. Because it was only in my crazy 20s that I went out every night and still made it into work the next day, running on coffee and not much else.

Then there’s the whole – learn-a-new-thing phenomenon, but I’m already doing a part-time degree on top of working full time, so I don’t tick that box either. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that people are gaining new skills, especially if they have a lot of time at the moment. It’s way better than being bored. But if you don’t have the time or capacity to learn something new – if you’re exhausted at the end of the day after running your business or home-schooling your children – that’s ok too! Don’t feel bad about it.

Then there are the creative projects – I’m not doing those either. I can create things with words, but I’m not making, painting, or restoring anything! I did make some banana muffins last night and we’re still doing our monthly spice boxes where we try new recipes. Maybe that counts?

I did have a bit of a moment in the sales last week –my guilty pleasure – but I can’t join in any of the “I’ve eaten/drunk too much” conversations either. I don’t drink alcohol, and I guess I’m used to being at home where the same food is available all the time because I work from home. I’m not going to lie just so I can take part in the conversation, but I’m not going to be the one who joins in to say it’s not a problem for me either, because that just sets you apart even more. So I stay quiet.

I’m not trying to make myself out to be some kind of saint – I have a nicely-stocked chocolate drawer! What I’m saying is that I’ve noticed new pressures springing up around the new normal. Pressures to say you fit in or mirror the experiences others are having. And some people just don’t – which is ok.

I’ve never cared that much about peer pressure. We were having this conversation the other day about school. I care what people think – especially if I know I’ve been unfair or unreasonable in some way – but I don’t care enough to change who I am or what I want just so that I can fit in with what’s currently popular. Of course there are people whose opinions I really do care about, but it’s more based on reasoning that I can follow, rather than “you have to do x to be cool/part of our club”. Especially if I don’t think that x is very cool or interesting!

I’m not knocking any of the really cool stuff that is going on right now, but I am saying it shouldn’t feel like a competition or extra pressure if you’re already struggling to stay afloat.

This is a very long way of getting to my point, which is I hope people don’t feel even more stress by the new norms that are emerging, if those norms don’t reflect who you are or what you like doing with your time.

It’s ok if you aren’t a domestic goddess.

It’s ok if you don’t need as much social contact as some of your friends.

It’s ok if you can’t whip up a restaurant-style meal or if your chocolate cake flops in the middle!

It’s ok if you can’t join in with friends who are complaining about how absolutely awful the lockdown is because you’re just happy to be healthy and making the best of each day.

Of course, if you’re not ok and you’re not going from one fun activity to the next, it’s ok to say that too.

It’s ok if you just need a rest. Adapting to new things can be tiring. We sometimes give being busy much more prestige than it deserves and it feels as though some people have switched a crazily busy social life for a crazily busy home life with no time to just be still and recharge.

It’s ok if you need someone to talk to.

It’s also ok if your experience of the lockdown is different from many of the people around you.

There’s a post doing the rounds on social media about how this is the same storm, but we all have different ships. The experience is not going to be the same, because we are not on the same ship. We can help each other out and support each other for sure, but nobody ever really knows what it’s like on another person’s ship in this storm.

Oh, and if you don’t start doing all the things you haven’t been able to as soon as you are allowed to – even if everyone else you know is doing them – that’s ok too. Especially if you have health concerns that they don’t have!

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My guest post – accessibility problems that make me abandon my virtual shopping trolley

You may remember a couple of weeks ago I published an interview with Gemma from the Wheelescapades blog. This month I’ve also written a post for Gemma, which she published today. It’s about accessibility problems that make me abandon my virtual shopping trolley
all those little things that turn an enjoyable experience into a frustrating or disappointing one. I talk about these things because I want to raise awareness of them – to do my bit to make the online world a more accessible place, and to help people see the often small changes that they can make in order for this to happen.

So, if this sounds interesting, hop on over to Gemma’s blog and have a read. Why not check out some of her other articles while you’re there?

Mystery pamper packages from Heidi at the Body Shop at Home

I’ve said for ages the Body Shop is missing a trick by not offering a beauty box subscription. They still aren’t, but Heidi, my friend and a consultant at the Body Shop at home, does now offer mystery pamper packages. They have the added bonus that they’re not entirely a mystery because she asks you a few questions first to make sure that you get things that you like.

This post is not sponsored and I paid for my pamper package. I think it’s a cool idea, so I wanted to show you what was in mine, and to let people in the UK know about them. Especially at the moment, when we’re being asked to stay at home, they can be a nice treat for yourself, or to tell someone else that you were thinking of them.

It could be a complete surprise, but Heidi also likes to get an idea of what you like, what type of skin you have, whether you have any favourite ranges or things that you particularly want to avoid.

What was in my box?

I got my box before the lockdown, so Heidi packaged it up herself. At the moment, all packages are coming directly from the warehouse to keep everyone safe, but essentially they still work in the same way – Heidi puts your products together and the package is worth more than you pay for it.

Mine included a sachet of hot chocolate too, but that was gone by the time we got round to taking the photo!

Mango perfume

I’ve mentioned the mango eau de toilette before on the blog – in fact, Heidi reads my blog and saw that I had run out! This usually retails for £9, so there’s almost half the £20 I paid for the box covered by the first product! The mango range is my favourite range from the Body Shop, so I was really happy to get something mango-scented in there. It’s fresh and fruity – sometimes I use it as a perfume and other times as a body mist. But either way the mango scent follows you around for the rest of the day!

Egyptian milk and honey bath powder

This is the most expensive item in the box and it’s from the Spa of the world range. You put some of the Egyptian milk and honey bath powder to milk in your bath, swish it around, and the powder dissolves into the water. It contains honey and three oil extracts to make your skin feel smooth and help you relax.

Bath time and pamper time are important for me, so it was good to get a body care treat in my box. Oh, and it also comes with a cute little wooden trowel to scoop the powder into your bath!

Coffee face mask

I’m excited whenever I see the C word – coffee! Like mango, it’s one of my favourite things! I usually go for the sheet masks, but I was intrigued when the Body Shop brought out a coffee mask, and happy that Heidi put a travel size one in my pamper package.

It’s an exfoliating mask with natural coffee bean particles. Good for use in the morning to wake you up, and it smells amazing too! It’s enriched with coffee and Community Trade sesame seed oil from Nicaragua, Community Trade cocoa butter and shea butter from Ghana, and organic Community Trade cane sugar from Paraguay.

Vitamin E lip care

This vitamin E lip care with SPF15 is a good handbag essential to keep your lips from getting chapped and sore. This one is particularly good if you don’t like flavoured lip care. It does contain coconut, but you don’t really taste it.

Final thoughts

So, this is a way to get a surprise, or also to try out something that you’ve had your eye on for a while. If you want to find out more, check out Heidi’s Facebook group. I was really happy with mine and highly recommend them! There was bath care, fragrance, and two face products, with a product from four different ranges, and the value was a lot more than the £20 that I paid.

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Help Miller’s Ark to stay afloat!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you will know that I love animals. There are plenty of posts in my “animals” category!

Last year I told you about our visit to Miller’s Ark, where we could get close to the animals and have some donkey hugs. That was in September. We then went back in November, and also in January this year to see the tiny lambs, one of whom was only ten minutes old when we arrived.

Each time I fed sheep and goats, got down in the hay with donkeys, patted piglets, and went to seek out my friend Dudley, the golden retriever.

The current situation has stopped all that. No more trips to the farm on open days, because the farm is closed. We went on the adult-only days, but there were other events for the whole family too, as well as private events, animal therapy events, and educational events. All of them postponed now because of the social distancing measures.

This is of course necessary, but the events are the way in which the farm made money.

Now, animals still need to b fed, vet bills still need to be paid, and there are all the other jobs around a working farm that need to be done to keep the animals warm, clean, and safe.

On a normal visit, we’d buy our entry tickets, pick up a cup of food for the sheep and goats, and usually have lunch in the barn as well. Plenty of other people were doing the same, and that is a lot of lost revenue.

I care about the animals, and I also care about having farms like this to visit once all of the restrictions are lifted. That’s why, when I read about the sponsor an animal scheme, I was happy to sign up.

You can sponsor a range of animals, from goats to cats, donkeys to golden retrievers! I’ve put the price list below – the smaller figure is for one month and the figure in brackets is for three. If you want to sponsor one or more of the animals, contact Miller’s Ark via their contact page and they will send you their bank details for the bank transfer.

  • Sponsor a goat £5 (£12)
  • Sponsor a donkey £10 (£25)
  • Sponsor a farm cat £5 (£12)
  • Sponsor a pig £5 (£12)
  • Sponsor a duck £2 (£5)
  • Sponsor a turkey £2 (£5)
  • Sponsor a sheep £5 (£12)
  • Sponsor our bull £10 (£25)
  • Sponsor Dudley the dog £5 (£12)
  • Sponsor Napoleon (Great Dane) £5 (£12)

Sponsors are also entered into a raffle to win vouchers that can be used on the farm.

I don’t promote things that I haven’t done myself. I’m supporting the farm and I would encourage other animal-lovers to help as well, especially if you’re in the Hampshire area and can visit when this is all over.

There is also a GoFundMe page if you’d prefer to support the farm in this way. Miller’s Ark is a charity and donations on the GoFundMe page are eligible for gift aid as well.

You can keep up with what’s going on at the farm by following the social media accounts (see contact page, which I’ve linked above), and there is also an email newsletter that you can sign up for.

This is a tough time for charities right now, so whether or not you’d like to help the animals at the ark, please think about any charities that you normally support and see if there is anything you can do to help them.

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Pamper products in March

I’ve got a slightly smaller collection of stuff to talk about this month – mainly because I’m not repeating staple products that I’ve already talked about, but I think that during this time of uncertainty, it’s nice to do things for our well-being. For me, that’s been long baths where I can relax and get a break from interacting with people – because as much as I like people, I recharge best by getting some time out alone. If anything, as I’m still working full-time from home, and every group that I’ve ever been involved with is now meeting online, I’ve felt a bit of socialising fatigue, which I know sounds odd in a time of social isolation. It seems selfish writing that when there are people who are really isolated and craving some human interaction, but I’ve also learned that people having a different problem doesn’t make your own problem any les valid.

So bathtime is good. My skincare regime is good – there’s something comfortingly predictable about all the steps that always come in the same order and are doing something good for my skin.

Here are a few things that I discovered in March:


I only discovered this brand at the end of last year when I got a travel size of the almond cherry shampoo. After that I got the shampoo and the conditioner because I was so impressed. The conditioner was finished first, but they both lasted a decent amount of time. They are not cheap, but some of the more expensive products are less watery, so you end up using less. This conditioner is especially good for long hair like mine. It contains naturally derived cherry blossom extract, almond oil and shea butter. It leaves my hair soft, less tangly, and smelling amazing!

Body shop

Of course there are products from the Body Shop in here!

The first is a big jar of the Drops of youth ® Bouncy sleeping mask. This has a slightly strange consistency – it’s like a gel, but it settles down into more of a cream once it’s been on for a few minutes. It’s an overnight mask, but I usually put it on a little while before I go to bed so that it doesn’t stick to the pillow. It’s great for giving thirsty dry skin a drink overnight, and it promises skin that looks plumper, fresher, and renewed. It smells good too, though I couldn’t tell you wat it smells of! I can’t speak for anyone else, but an unlikely benefit I’ve found is that sometimes I get red blotches on my forehead, and using face oils or this mask helps to reduce those as well.

This isn’t a cheap mask, but the jar lasts a long time. Luckily for me, my friend Salomi bought me one last year, so I already have another one to use.

We often hear about the body butters, but the Body Shop does some really nice lotions as well. I keep coming back to the almond milk and honey body lotion because it’s really gentle and soothing. It comes in a tube, so you can get every last bit out! You can smell the honey more than the almond milk, and although it’s not as thick as the butters, it does keep your skin hydrated for a long time.

Still on the subject of body lotions, there are a couple of whipped lotions too, which are light in texture, but which are still great moisturisers – particularly nice in the summer months, when you want something a bit lighter. The mango whipped lotion is part of the mango range, so of course one of my favourites! It contains mango seed oil from India and smells like real mangos.

Molton Brown

In February I talked about my Indian cress hair set that my Mum got me for Christmas, and in March I finished up the conditioner. Again, not a cheap set, but it lasted ages, particularly the conditioner. I’m not usually a floral scent kind of girl, but this jasmin and honeysuckle is fresh and not overly floral. My hair smelled great for ages and more importantly, it felt soft, nourished, and smooth. These products are cruelty-free and even the packaging lets you know you’re in for a treat!

I think sometimes we can spend a lot on things like make-up and then be horrified when a hair or skincare product is a bit more pricy – but I would actually rather invest more in the things that will be put on my hair and skin first.

Retro Rich

I hadn’t actually heard of this brand before. I follow Sussex Sandra on YouTube and she finds some interesting new boxes, particularly more inclusive ones, because many of the mainstream boxes often leave her with things that she can’t use because they don’t take into consideration the full range of skin tones that their members have. We should be doing better than this.

Anyway, Sandra reviewed a haircare beauty box, primarily aimed at people with curly or coily hair – so not me with my type 1 straight hair – but the products sounded so good and inclusive that I wanted to give it a go. I use some of them differently, but they looked like interesting, good quality products and I decided to give the box a go.

The February box focussed on the brand Retro Rich, and that’s how I discovered the Queen of the Nile hair mask – probably my favourite item in the box. Some of the other products are things that I wash out whereas people with different types of hair can leave them in, but super long hair needs moisturising down to the tips, and this mask is something that anyone can use to give their hair a pamper. You just use it like any other hair mask – leave it on for 10 minutes or pop it under a shower cap (I’ve done both). It smells lovely and my hair felt amazing afterwards.

The box comes out every two months and you can find out more about the Odyssey box here.


It was the first time that I tried a shower oil from Rituals. I wasn’t actually sure whether I’d like it, but having used it, I actually liked it more than the foam, which seems to be their more well-known shower product. This ritual of Sakura oil contains cherry blossom extract, and rice milk, known for its purifying properties. I love this scent anyway, and the oil isn’t greasy – it’s easy to wash off and doesn’t leave a mess in your bath or shower!


I’ve tried the pomegranate body lotion before, so I also picked up one of the Pomegranate shower gels. This brand is probably best known for its skin food, which isn’t something I tend to use, but the pomegranate range is worth exploring as well!

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Interview with Gemma from the Wheelescapades blog

We’re doing something different this week. I’ve got the first in a series of interviews with you from some of my blogger friends. I wanted to introduce you to them and their blogs, and I also wanted to get some conversations going about disability and accessibility, bringing in some different perspectives.

I’ve been following Gemma’s blog for a while. I can’t remember how I initially found her – I think it was a blogging group, but I enjoy reading her blog – not just because she enjoys cheese as much as I do, but because her blog makes me smile, and it also makes me think. I hadn’t considered some of the access issues that wheelchair users face on a day-to-day basis. Ok, I guess we can all think of how the lack of step-free access is a dealbreaker if you want to go somewhere, but Gemma has also got me thinking about things like the height of product displayss, and how the type of table at a restaurant can affect how accessible it is to use. (As a guide dog owner, I wasn’t a fan of those ones with the big round base either, but I’d never considered the problems they cause if you want to wheel right up to it).

Having said that, although many of our experiences and accessibility frustrations are different, there’s a lot that we have in common. Just wanting to be able to do the same things as our friends without having to plan everything in advance, or the frustration of jumping through extra hoops to get the same results. The assumtions that our friends are our carers, and the fact that we would love to see a world where we didn’t need to talk about accessibility and inclusion as much because they were built in to the design, not an afterthought.

So anyway, that’s enough from me – here are Gemma’s answers to my questions. Be sure to check her blog out as well.

1. What is the name of your blog and how did you come to decide on that name?

Wheelescapades is the name of my blog, one word. Although too many people like to refer to it as Wheel Escapades. It took me long enough to combine the two words (as you can see how creative it is. Ha!), so I do get frustrated.

The origin is fairly straightforward. Wheel – I’m a wheelchair user. Escapades – a type of adventure. Basically my life.

2. Why did you start writing a blog?

I’d considered blogging for quite a while before I plucked up the courage and took the plunge. I’ve never written anything in my life, that wasn’t essays in education and one line stories as a kid. Though I did want to be a journalist as a teen.

Friends had often joked that I should write about the dramas of my life, our social life. Dramas that mainly happened because of my wheels. Getting stuck in lifts, turning up at restaurants to find I’ve been seated up a step. ‘Oh it’s ok, we’ll help you up, lift your wheelchair’. No you won’t.

People assume my friends are carers, that they’re doing a good deed. They think that I cannot reply myself when asked if I enjoyed my meal. They ask the person with me ‘would you like a bag with that?’. I’ve got my own.

I wanted to raise awareness of disability and accessibility. That we are all just people with the same needs and dreams. I wanted to do this as a human, with a life and a personality. I wanted to make people think but laugh. I hope I do that.

3. If you could change one law to improve life for people with disabilities, what would it be?

I don’t even know where to start.

The Equality Act 2010 states that venues should ‘make reasonable adjustments’ to enable equal access for all. This is a start, but not enough. Who decides what reasonable is?

I long for a world I can access without thinking, without planning. I aim for spontaneity.

What would be great is if all venues and events had to state their accessibility online. I mean the finer details. No step. Step height. Door width. Lift. Lift size. Does it actually work. Accessible bathroom. Size. Facilities. Table height. Steps inside. Corridor width. Length.

This may seem trivial or picky, but this information would make a huge difference to the planning of my day. Because planning is a huge part of being disabled.

4. A friend is coming over for a relaxing evening. What will you be doing/eating/drinking/watching?

I’m not much of an evening person. More of a daytime socialiser. This will be a mid afternoon chill involving tea and cake.

I’m a Netflix binger, so whatever the latest drama season is will be our entertainment.

5. What’s something that you’ve learned since becoming a blogger?

I’ve learned that there are good people out there. Social media can be such an intimidating and judgemental place. The blogging community though, I’ve met some great people with so much support, motivation and kindness.

I’ve also learned I can have my say. Sometimes people find it interesting or useful, sometimes people can relate, sometimes they don’t.

I’ve learned I have a need to write.

6. If you could do any job for a day, what would it be and why?

This is a question that comes up in converse throughout life. I’ve always answered along the lines of Artist, Designer, Journalist. Something creative. Those are real jobs I’d love to do.

Recently I’ve thought a bit more about this, outside of my box a little. I’ve decided I’d choose to be an astronaut. Not only would going to space be pretty cool, but I’d like to know what it feels like to move my limbs freely. To be weightless.

I cannot lift my arms at all without support, so the idea of maybe scratching my head would be awesome.

7. What’s one thing you would like people to know about your disability, or people who have the same access needs as you?

I want people to be aware of Spinal Muscular Atrophy. I want them to know it’s not all about the wheels, but also it’s not the end of the world.

SMA means that I’m a wheelchair user, but it’s not the wheels I struggle with. It’s the weakness, the limited movement, the breathing difficulties.

Oh and people’s assumptions.

8. When was the last time you tried something new, and what was it?

I’ve not been very adventurous of late. But who knew chilli cheese hot cross buns could be a thing? An amazing thing that you all must try.

It’s not super recent, but last year I tried audiobooks for the first time ever. A whole new world of reading.

9. What does accessibility mean to you?

In obviously, daily life terms, it means ramps, wide doors, level pavements, working lifts, spacious rooms, hoists,

But really it means having equal access. Not being an afterthought. Not having to find a side entrance, traipse through a kitchen to get to a restaurant table. It means having a bathroom I can fit in that isn’t used as a storage cupboard.

In basic terms it means the ability to forget I’m disabled for a while.

10. What activities make you lose track of time?

Anything creative.

I studied Art, Craft and Textiles at university to Masters Degree. I used to sew with my Nan and make stuff with old boxes. I’ve always enjoyed making something from nothing. Turning balls of wool into stuffed animals. Skeins of thread into cushion covers.

11. What’s one blog post (written by you) that you would like people to read?

I most enjoy writing my ‘If We Were Having Coffee’ posts as I get to have a little chat and rant about what’s going on in my life, disability related and not. Readers can get to know me a little better and chat back about what’s going on with them.

The one I think should be read though, is one of my most recent. I wrote this piece for Disabled Access Day. I feel access is misunderstood and thought to be either as simple as putting in a ramp, or so unachievable that it’s mind boggling.

12. Can you think of one or two bloggers that you think my readers should check out in addition to your blog?

Two of my greatest blogging pals.

Lorna at Gin & Lemonade. A fellow wheelchair user that often writes just what I’m thinking, but better than I think it.

And Caz at Invisibly me, whose posts are informative with a sprinkling of fun.

Places to find me

Wheelescapades Blog

Thanks Gemma for answering my questions – it’s been great to find out a bit more about you.

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Walk a mile in their shoes – or stay a day in their self-isolation house

I think it was a joke. I’m not sure. Maybe there’s a picture that would make it clear if it was a joke, but I can only read the text.

Anyway – I’ve seen it a couple of times now – a post to people without kids asking them how life is in lockdown without kids. How wonderful it is. All the things you have time to do.

I get it – I have no idea what it’s like to entertain or home-school children who are scared or full of energy or sad because they can’t see their mates/go to their favourite places. The constant noise and interruptions or fighting with siblings.

I know I sometimes overthink things or take them too literally, but it got me thinking.

We don’t fit so easily into groups like that. Those with children and those without. Those who are medically vulnerable and those who aren’t. Those who are self-employed, employed, or unemployed. Those who are quite happy to take a break from people and those who hate the lack of contact with others.

All of these things together, and many more, go to make up our own individual set of circumstances. You may think someone has it easy, but you don’t know what else they’re dealing with.

I might be tempted to feel envious of my employed mates right now, but as a business owner, I got to make the decisions about what’s safe. I went into voluntary isolation at least a week before it was mandatory, and I’m not stuck working in conditions that I don’t think are safe, as some people that I know are.

Going back to the children thing – I chose not to have children, but I didn’t choose some of the other things.

I have a physical disability that means I shop online for food because this means I can do it independently. I do it every week – and I have done for the last 20 years or so. It worked fine for me up until now – now everyone wants to shop online and it’s hard to get a slot. I’m ok, but I know some blind people who are really struggling to get the basics because the one accessible way of getting food that they always use has suddenly become problematic. I’ve had offers of help from a couple of local people if we need anything, but not everyone has a network like that.

I have a medical condition that means it’s better if we self-isolate. My prescription wasn’t affected, but I also need items from the chemist and they weren’t there when we tried to get them during the last weeks. I’m ok now, but it took trips to four or five different chemists till I had what I needed.

I know someone who has died and a couple more who have been quite seriously ill, at least one of whom had the virus. So I’ve experienced all the emotions that go along with that – sadness, worry, fear for people I care about . On the other hand, I know plenty of people who still don’t know anyone who caught the virus.

My business is online, but I’ve had a number of cancellations for training since the lockdowns started across the world, which is inevitable, but still tough.

So no, I don’t have children, but life’s not one big party right now! There are good days and hard days – just like for everyone else. I’ve laughed about funny things, cried about sad things, and got frustrated by the people who still aren’t taking it seriously.

I see other people too in my group of friends and customers.

Some are scared because they have vulnerable relatives who live far away in other countries, whom they can’t help to get the basic essentials.

Some have family members working on the front line in the NHS, and they’re concerned about supplies to keep their loved ones safe.

Some have had to shut down their businesses temporarily and find new ways to generate income – or not.

Some are far more at risk or they are living with people who may not survive a severe case of the virus.

Some of those people who are more at risk need help from others to carry out personal care tasks. Those tasks are necessary, but each new person they let into their home could be bringing the virus with them. I haven’t experienced this, but I heard someone talking about it recently.

S and I living and working together 24/7 isn’t hard, but I know there are some people stuck in the house with those who are hurting them – physically, psychologically or emotionally. I have no idea how hard that is.

Others are completely alone, with no contact to anyone. I used to live alone and loved it, but it’s a different story if you get ill and have to do everything yourself.

I have to remind myself that generally I adapt well to this kind of more isolated life, (though in some ways I’ve had more contact to people than ever through all the wonderful opportunities we now have with technology). But I know I would be moaning if I were stuck in a room of 100 people for the foreseeable future and couldn’t get away to have some peace and quiet.

I need to have more patience with people who are complaining about being bored. I don’t relate to boredom – there are never enough hours in the day for all the things I want to do – but I suppose it’s a real struggle for those who do.

We all have our own struggles. As parents, as self-employed people, as at-risk people, as people who love to be outdoors. As extroverts who crave lots of face-to-face social contact – I don’t relate, but apparently it’s a thing! As basic human beings who are doing their best in what is a really difficult time. We need to be kind.

I think there’s a danger to look at other groups of people – those without kids – those with a guaranteed income – those who appear to be fit and healthy. But we don’t really know what’s going on for them, what’s making them sad, or keeping them up at night. We probably have different problems, but I think we’re all going through something right now.

Some will be open about it. Others will hide away and look fine on the outside – I’m really good at that when I’m not ok. I’m not asking for help in this post, but it’s often not the people who shout the loudest who need our help the most.

I think we need to be a bit careful because you never know what someone else is dealing with. You may think their life looks easy, but you don’t really know what struggles they have.

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Sometimes you need to stop and walk away

I started writing this a couple of weeks ago, before social isolation and the country was on lock-down, meaning that many of us had more time on our hands at home. But I’m still going to post it, because things will go back to normal and then these things will become relevant again.

Sometimes you need to stop and evaluate what’s really working for you.

Not being willing to give up is often a good character trait. It helps you to keep going when others have thrown in the towel. It gives you the resilience to push through on tough days. It helps you to see things through, even when there are no quick wins.

But it’s not always a good thing. Sometimes it helps you to keep going when the smarter thing would be to walk away or cut your losses.

I have this character trait. A lot of the time it helps me. That bloody-mindedness that keeps me going despite setbacks, struggles, many of which have to do with finding solutions to living in a world that is often inaccessible, and often not built for me to succeed. All the little things – I talked more about them in my I am tired – the disability truth that we don’t like to talk about post.

But it’s not all disability-related. I have done it in failing relationships too. Keeping on till the bitter end, when most smart people would have walked away. I convince myself I can turn a failing situation round, or live with the thing that’s a massive inconvenience, or just be the stronger person. Coupled with my unwillingness to ask for help and tell anyone when things are falling apart, it can be a big surprise to my friends. Like the time when one of my closest friends found out just what a mess I’d got into with a guy that should have been sacked weeks before. It’s hard to turn around and walk away when you’ve put a lot of yourself into something or someone – emotionally, financially, or just in terms of your time and effort trying to make things work.

It’s the same with jobs. Sometimes I’ve stubbornly stayed in a job that was making me miserable because I didn’t want to admit it wasn’t working out. I’m not the kind of person who just quits without a new job to go to or a plan B, but sometimes I think looking back, it would have been smarter if I’d begun the job search sooner.

I’m talking about this now because ever so often I realise I’ve overcommitted myself, and in true Kirsty style, I’m too stubborn to admit it until I’ve really had enough.

It doesn’t show itself in not getting things finished. I’m a finisher, so if I set out to do something, then do it I will, but often without thinking about the cost. Not necessarily financial cost, but cost in terms of my own time, energy levels, or resources.

I have lots of ideas. I’m involved in a lot of cool stuff, in my businesses, social life, studies and hobbies. But sometimes it’s good to step back and think about what’s really adding value.

Today was one of those days. I pulled the plug on some activities I’ve been doing because they’ve been taking up time, but not adding value.

It’s hard to do that. It’s not nice to leave a job unfinished. I take commitments seriously, so if I sign up for a course or plan to do something over a number of weeks, I like to see it through. But if that thing is driving me mad and not giving the promised results, sometimes the best thing is to cut your losses and focus on the good stuff. Or at least focus on having some quality time for relaxing.

Things aren’t always what they seem. Programmes don’t deliver what they offer, or they might just not be the right thing for you. Sometimes it’s just a case of priorities changing and something that was massively important to you at one point slides down your priority list till it’s hanging on somewhere at the bottom. Sometimes life just happens and you have new responsibilities, more hours at work, or unexpected demands on your time.

There comes a point where it’s good to take stock and look at how we’re spending our time. Because even for those of us who don’t like to admit we can’t do something, there are only 24 hours in the day, and we only get one chance to spend each day. So if you have overcommitted, signed up for something that isn’t working out for you, or taken on a bit too much, it’s sometimes the stronger person that faces up to that and walks away.

It’s best not to make these decisions when you’re feeling emotional though, or you run the risk of letting negative feelings cloud your decisions. In my case that’s wanting to cancel everything, not just the thing that was causing the problem. That’s not a good way to be. I try not to make any big decisions when I’m angry/sad or just feeling some other kind of negative emotion.

But what I have learned is that a sustained period of being constantly too busy isn’t good, and sometimes it also takes us away from the things that really matter or make us happy.

Of course it makes a difference if suddenly quitting something will let others down, lead to some kind of financial loss or additional problems for you to solve, but I think it’s still worth having the conversation with yourself once in a while!

Do you ever feel like this? Let me know in the comments.

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Things that I’ve learned during my 8 years of working from home full time

Many people are finding themselves working from home at the moment. As a result, my feed is full of tips about how to work from home. The only problem is that some of them have clearly been written by someone who has never worked a day from home in their life, and others seem a bit generic – like a cut and paste job of random tips from the internet. So because of this, I wasn’t going to write anything on the subject – but then I thought “no! You’ve been working from home for eight years now! Maybe some of the things that you’ve learned will help others too!”

My business has always been an online business, so I chose to work at home. When I was still working in my Communications Manager role, I was occasionally able to get agreement for some time at home. I didn’t like the 3 hour commute. I didn’t like our big open-plan office with 100 people in each room. I was already convinced of the benefits. Still, I know this was a choice, whereas for many people who are now working from home as a response to current events, it is not their choice at all and some parts of the job may be a lot harder. Still, maybe some of these tips will help you.

I’ve intentionally made it about what I do, not because I think I have all the answers, but I can only tell you what works for me. You may hate some of these ideas and that’s ok. Sharing my experiences felt better than me writing one of those “10 things that you must do” posts – because I value our differences too much for that.

1. I have a set place to work

I know this will be harder for some people. I’ve worked from a desk crammed in the corner of my bedroom before and it really wasn’t great to be working and sleeping in the same place.It’s nice to have that physical separation between where you work and where you relax.

If I get an idea at the weekend, I might still curl up to write a blog on the sofa or do a bit of website maintenance, but most of the time, work goes on at my desk. Everything I need is there. The room where I work is mostly used as my office.

Apart from having better posture when I’m sitting at my desk properly, it helps me to get into the right mindset for work.

This might not be so easy if there’s a bunch of people in your home trying to work, study, or children who want somewhere to play – but it will be easier for you if you can find a dedicated place to work, rather than having stuff strewn all over the house. It may also be a way to limit distractions.

2. I look the same as I would if I were going to the office

I’ve seen all kinds of things this week about what people are planning to wear (or hnot wear) now that they are working from home. Of course it depends on what you do and how much customer contact you have, but I try to look pretty much the same as I would if I were going into the office, especially on days when I’ll be on video.

I don’t wear a formal suit or anything like that. If you have a very early meeting with me, you probably won’t see a full face of make-up either. But neither do I wear my gym clothes or slob around in my pyjamas when I’m meeting with customers.

It’s for two reasons really – impressions count, and if customers don’t think you can be bothered to make an effort to look your best for them, they may not see you as very professional. Secondly, it makes me feel good to have a shower, put on fresh clothes, spray some perfume, put on my make-up, and face the day feeling clean and fresh.

Everyone has their own personal style and that’s one of the good things about working from home – you can choose what to wear.I just get a bit concerned about the way some people see working from home as just dossing around. If you start to let self-care and personal hygiene go, it can be a slippery slope in other areas too.

3. I manage expectations

This covers all kinds of things.

Firstly, other people’s expectations. Being at home is not the same as being available all the time. I might schedule in an extended lunch with my mum or a shopping trip on a Tuesday in december to finish off my Christmas shopping because I know it’ll be better than trying to do the same thing on a Saturday. But I’m not available for people to pop in when they feel like it – I hate that anyway – or drop everything to have a chat. I have a schedule, and it has meetings in it, as well as other things that need to get done. I just happen to be doing these things from my own home rather than an office.

It means managing customer expectations too. If I see an email out of hours, I may answer it – but there isn’t the expectation that I will because people know I work Monday to Friday from around 9 till 6 – unless something has been booked in an out-of-hours slot. I don’t put up with people getting stroppy with me because I didn’t answer their email on a Sunday morning, even though they followed it up with a tweet and a Skype message. It’s not how I work!

It also means manageing my own expectations of myself and what I can realistically achieve. I’m a bit better at this now that I have a partner. When I lived on my own, I could often be found at my laptop way into the small hours. In some ways that was ok, because this is when I get a lot of my best creative work done, but everything does need to have a balance and tomorrow is always another day.

If you don’t usually work from home or you find yourself with additional caring responsibilities, part of the managing expectations aspect might just be looking at what you can realistically do right now and being honest with yourself and others so that you or they don’t expect too much.

4. I don’t work in bed

I think I did once – to cancel all my appointments because I had food poisoning. I do all kinds of other things in bed – reading, watching videos, shopping, researching – but apart from the problem of the overheating laptop, I feel it’s not good for me to have work follow me into the one place where I should feel rested and get away from all of life’s questions and problems.

5. I don’t reduce my prices because my services are online

I’ve seen this in a few of the education groups. I know it’s hard for some people who are now in the process of transforming all of their offerings into online offerings. Some things are substancially different, and if you’re not offering access to materials or a venue with definit benefits of being there, I can understand that the pricing structure is different. If you add in travel time, this obviously will reduce the price slightly. But if you’re offering the same teaching, with the same materials, and the same level of expertise from you, there’s no reason why it should be cheaper just because the training happens to be online. You’re doing the customer a favour by saving them travel time, travel expenses, parking fees, and letting them participate from wherever they happen to be. You’re still adding the same value, so there’s no need to apply a hefty online discount. It undervalues what you offer, and annoys people who were already working in the online space!

6. I schedule fitness time into my diary

This is harder, particularly if you’re doing the kind of self-isolation where you don’t leave the house at all, but it’s really important to get up, walk around, and if you can, get some kind of physical exercise during the day.
I started doing it because I no longer needed to do a 45 minute walk each way – home to the train station, then train station to the office, and then the whole thing in reverse. I knew I’d been getting unintentional exercise from this and I’d have to replace it with something.

I have some fitness equipment at home – a crosstrainer and a bike, but it could be anything. There are loads of YouTube videos out there with workouts that don’t need you to have any equipment.

7. I don’t allow myself to become isolated

This was the mistake I made when I first set up my business. I took the dog out every day, but I realised I hadn’t seen any of my friends in about three months because I’d been so busy working all the time. I realised it was neither sustainable nor healthy.

We have so many ways to keep in touch with others online – whether it’s other people doing the same kind of thing as you, other people in your team at work, or other people running small businesses.

Even if we can’t go out to meet friends and relatives right now, we have Skype, Facetime, Whatsapp, Facebook or whatever you want to use. Staying at home is important right now, but it doesn’t mean you have to cut yourself off from others who will listen, make you smile, or just give you a different perspective! It’s also a chance to check in with people who might be on their own.

8. I have figured out the best environment for me to get work done

For me it’s somewhere quiet – very quiet – as in not with music playing! Some people work absolutely fine like that. My fiancé is one of them. I am not!

It’s somewhere with access to plenty of coffee.

It’s somewhere with fresh air to clean my head, but it’s not too cold, like some of the places I’ve worked in.

It’s somewhere I won’t be distracted.

9. I look after my basic needs

This means not working through lunch. I don’t take a long lunch break unless I have something specific to do, but I do go and sit somewhere else
for a bit and I don’t eat at my desk. If my fiancé’s working from home, we try to have lunch together. If not, I listen to a podcast or something.

I try to drink enough water. I find putting a big glass of water on my desk helps. If it’s there, I’ll probably drink it. If it isn’t, I’ll probably forget and just make more coffee.

I put a bowl of fruit on the table near my desk, so I have easy access to healthy snacks.

10. I have a comfortable chair

I wrote about chairs in more detail in my is your chair right for you? post, but if you’re going to spend a large part of the day sitting on it, try to find a chair where you will be comfortable. I know if you don’t know how long you’ll be working from home, it might not be top of your list of new investments, but at least consider your options and try to pick the most comfortable one.

11. I make a point of shutting off before bedtime

There’s nothing worse than seeing an email that makes you reeeeeally angry or stressed out just before you’re going to try to get to sleep!

I don’t always manage this. I sometimes check my emails in bed or when I’m winding down for the day. But I do try not to think about work for the last couple of hours in the day. Work life balance can be harder if you have a work email address that you also use for other things, work contacts on your social media account, or easy access to emails on your phone. But sometimes your brain just needs a break so you can have time to unwind.

12. If I really don’t feel well, I stop working!

I’m possibly a hypocrite with this one, but I do try. I have pushed through when, if I’d had to drag myself into the office, I would have decided against it. I’ve gone to meetings when I could barely keep my head up, because after all, I couldn’t infect anyone on a video call. But we don’t do our best work when we’re ill, and it can take twice as long to recover if we push ourselves too hard. I’m guilty of this too, but this year I’ve been trying to do a lot better because I realised last year that if something happens to your health, everything else has to take a back seat for a while.

So, especially in the time of coronavirus, please be kind to yourselves, and don’t push yourself too hard if you really don’t feel up to it.

What other tips would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments!

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