Love Join Me

When you lose someone you love you spend time thinking about who they were as a person: thoughtful, kind, selfless perhaps.  That’s what she was.  Love Join Me continues with that modus operandi: to pass on kindness and love to others. Like the light of a star shines bright for millennia after its death, kindness can persist through the selfless acts that we undertake in memory of her.

Love Join Me is born.  The timing is significant, as will be revealed in due course.  Perhaps you have found this blog because you have been on the receiving end of one of our Random Acts of Kindness.  If so, please tweet us @lovejoinme60 or comment if you see your RAK in a post here.  But, most importantly, pass on the kindness (and the hashtag! #lovejoinme #ljm)

Love! Join Me.

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Grandma Ruth

The 27th of December marked another loss for our family when sadly our Grandma Ruth died following complications after an acute stroke on the 21st December. She was 87.

I visited her a lot in her last few days. The first few times she shrugged off my hand but that last time (that I didn’t know was the last time) she squeezed my hand, opened her eyes a sliver and made a noise to me. I really felt like we connected in that moment. If she could have spoken words, I’m not sure what she would have said but I believe that she knew it was me, that she knew I was there and that matters to me more than anything. As I left her that day she looked better than she had the previous few days. Later that night I rushed to be by her side but I was a few minutes too late. I’m so pleased I saw her that day and that we had that connection. I’ll treasure it forever.

When she squeezed my hand I took a photo. I’m not sure why; it almost seems like an odd thing to do. But maybe somewhere I knew that I wouldn’t see her alive again.

Grandma was renowned for her baking. It reached far and wide. Our friends, work colleagues and neighbours all loved it when we came back from visiting her with loads of cakes. I even took a ginger cake back to France with me one time! She always baked, ever since I can remember. She was always baking for other people. It was her way of expressing love, gratitude and friendship. She made my wedding cake and Stanley’s Thanksgiving cake and I was so proud to say that both occasions were all the more special and personal because of this.

I have her recipes (even the ginger cake, though it’ll take a bit of working out) and one day we plan to do a Grandma Ruth Bake-Off in her honour. I doubt we will be able to recreate her masterpieces to her standards though! She will live on through us and the love of baking (and cake!) that she instilled in all of us. I am also lucky enough to say that I have her entire name, Ruth Maddison, encased in mine as my two middle names. I’ll try and do her proud with the baking!

Rest in Peace Grandma. You were a funny one but we all loved you regardless.

10 23rds of December

The 23rd December rolls round again. I’ve often wondered if I’ll ever forget how many years it’s been but then I don’t think I ever will. For one thing, it’s so intertwined with my wedding anniversary that if I forget one, I’ll forget the other, which is quite unlikely. It feels the same as it always does at this time of year: hard. If anything, it feels harder this time around because I’ve navigated through one of the hardest years of my life (well, after 2010 & 2011 I guess. Actually, that doesn’t feel true. I can’t think of a year that hasn’t been hard in some way. This one just seems to have been one of the more difficult ones I’ve had to endure). We are soon into our tenth year without her now. The tenth 23rd of December.

I had such high hopes and exciting plans for 2018 and so in some ways I will be glad to see the back of the year and start a fresh one. But I remember all too well the positivity I felt at the end of January and the subsequent decline from about March onwards as life dealt us some nasty blows. I feel like I can’t even say my mum’s old adage of “nobody died!” to get me through because, to me, in one way they did.

Every time I grieve another loss, it brings back my other grief to the surface, re-opens my invisible wound and pokes around it a bit more for good measure. It can make understanding my own thoughts and feelings all the more difficult, with me often wondering who or what the tears I’m crying are for exactly. All of this and a whole host of health problems and investigations has made for a difficult year indeed.

It wasn’t all bad. I have some great memories from this year. I did RED January, went to Iceland, London, camping, Berlin, got a 10k PB, joined a running club, made some good friends, did a show, got offered a job, made and ate a lot of cake, did the 42 mile Lyke Wake Walk with my dad (and said ‘never again’ but have already said I will!), and a load more besides.

I also got a new nephew (Little LoveJoinMe 5, baby LJM, finally a little ginger one to add to our collection!). And best of all (newest nephew aside) is that RAK #48 was achieved and Grandad got his well-deserved Queen’s Honour. He still remains my hero. My grandma is unwell at the moment and has been for much of this year. He remains by her side, faithful as ever. Who knows what the new year will hold for them both. But I know that Grandad is strong and stubborn and loyal. He will be with her no matter what.

One resolution I made to myself last year was to stand up for myself and put my family first. In 2018 I did just that. I spoke my mind and vowed not to put up with others’ crap. The latter two have become my life aims now! It is hard as, at times, people see this as unkindness despite the fact I’m always kind first and foremost. But that doesn’t mean that I have to be a passive and permissive bystander in my own life.

January 2019 is filling me with a sense of foreboding because I’ve yet again committed myself to Running Every Day as well as being in panto and working. Last year was tough. I was running at 5am or 11.30pm some days and through ice and snow. I know that by the end of the month I will be glad I did it, not least because it will help my mental health as it unexpectedly did last year. It meant I started 2018 positively and in a good frame of mind, and I need that this coming year too.

Twenty Nineteen doesn’t hold any expectations for me. It has to be better than this year. I don’t want to set goals. I would just like to end the year in one piece (physically and mentally) and have some lovely memories to look back on. That’ll do me. Oh, and a sub 1 hour 10k would be nice!

And so to today. Today I’ve done my daughter’s hair in princess plaits like she used to do mine and I’ve put on some Calvin Klein Eurphoria as it reminds me of her. We are off for a walk up to the decorated tree that the others did last week as they couldn’t do it today. I know I’ll be fine. She gave me everything I’ve ever needed to live a good life. I just wish she was here to see it all.

Happy Christmas mum x

The Secret is Out!

We always said about one of our 60 Random Acts of Kindness that we couldn’t actually tell you what it was! Well, now we finally can! Almost two years after we first blogged about it.

Our amazing, wonderful Grandad Tom has been given a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Honours for Services to the Community of Great Ayton, North Yorkshire.

Tom Maddison BEM

Here he is on his 86th birthday last Saturday.

Until 30 minutes ago I had no idea that our nomination was a success. Grandad hadn’t said a word (he will have been sworn to secrecy!) and I don’t think he will have even been told who nominated him! In fact, I’m sure he’s asleep right now and doesn’t know it’s public knowledge!

Our blog post for this RAK can be read here: An Honourable Person. Our clues in there are now obvious. The picture? Taken from this image:

It was our 48th RAK in our project and I can honestly say it was the longest one in terms of preparation. The nomination form itself was lengthy and took the help of many people to support it including the Reverand Paul Peverell of Christ Church, Julie McCluckie (the Clerk to Great Ayton’s Parish Council), June Imeson OBE (A local Great Ayton VIP and former councillor), and the late Margaret Tait, one of the residents of the village whom he helped daily who sadly died aged 90 just a few weeks ago. It is the Cabinet Office’s rules that only the nominee(s) and those who have written supporting statements are to know about it, so up until now we have all been sworn to the utmost secrecy!

From sending off the nomination in late July 2016 until now, the only communication that I have had from the Cabinet Office was an acknowledgment of receipt and in April 2018 I received a slip asking for confirmation of grandad’s details. Despite the latter giving me reason to hope (after all, nearly two years had gone by!), it said on it that it wasn’t confirmation that an award had been granted. The last few weeks my sister, my dad and I have had so many chats trying to analyse grandad’s mood, looking for any signs that he had received an important letter. But he gave NOTHING away!

When I have shared the kind words of his supporters for the nomination with Grandad I will share them with you all too. They are humbling and we couldn’t be prouder of him. He is who we should all aspire to be yet he does not see himself as anything special. He really is. And it must be true because the Prime Minister and Queen think so too!

I’m off to try and go back to sleep! I’ll save more squealing for the morning when I finally get to speak to our wonderful Grandad. Tom Maddison BEM!

Just 4

My littlest one was four in January. I say ‘littlest’ but in real terms (of centiles and sibling/cousin comparison) she’s the biggest. Size 12 feet when she was just 3! Anyway, she’s not long turned four.

A few weeks ago I mentioned cutting her hair thinking it’s more than time for a trim. For perspective, the last trim she had was last June when I lobbed off an inch or so with the kitchen scissors when she was in the bath amidst a relatively minor but still bork-inducing nit-infested panic. This time, Lucy asked to have her hair cut like her brother’s. She has said this before and the feminist in me is all ‘hell yea you’d rock a boy cut’ and ‘oh God that’d be so much easier than trying to rake a brush through your hair every day*’.

I showed her some pictures and she decided she wanted it short and that she wanted to donate the hair like her Auntie Louise did in January. She knows I did mine too but doesn’t remember. I drew the line at shaving her head though, despite the fact she would suit it I bet. So we sorted a mobile hair dresser and every day following I reminded her that she was going to get it cut just to make sure that she was sure. She did say that I should get my hair ‘cut long’ at one point so I wondered if she realised the permanence of the whole thing.

We talked about donating her hair like Louise and I did and she thought that it would be brilliant to give it to someone who doesn’t have any hair (and suggested auntie Louise could have it now she’s bald!). I was asked about sponsorship. To be honest, I’d not thought much about it at this point as we were just going to donate her hair. When I explained to Lucy that people wanted to sponsor her she thought it was a great idea, not least because she thought that she would be the recipient of all that money! However, once I explained how it worked she was cool with it!

Today was the day and she’s been asking what time Donna was coming all day. However, once she did arrive Lucy was in the middle of building an intricate train track with her brother and didn’t want to be disturbed (typical!). However, my persuasion tactics of a digestive biscuit and bloody Elsia and Annia videos on YouTube (seriously, avoid!) worked their magic and she had the hair chopped!

The next bit was trickier as she wouldn’t stay still! But she totally rocks her new ‘do. She’s been so laid back about the whole thing and went straight back to her train track when finished!

She’s totally wonderfully brilliant and I’m so proud of her. I wish I had her style and nonchalance!

My beautiful Lucy.

*a couple of times a week at best

What do you want to be good at?

I watched a video the other day where a young boy was saying something along the lines of:

If you let yourself get angry, you become really good at it. In fact you will find it easier and easier to get angry. If you let yourself get worried, you will become really good at it and you will find it easier and easier to get worried.

Then he asked:

What do you want to be good at?

Ultimately, what he was saying was ‘practice makes perfect’ and if you practise negative feelings, you live them more and more. It’s hard to get off that road sometimes, especially when others are dragging you down their path, but you must.

It’s ok to say ‘no’ or ‘enough is enough’. Just this week I’ve supported someone who’s done just that and I quoted the video above. I reminded them that you can listen to someone else’s negativity but you don’t have to accept it. Being kind to yourself is still being kind in the same way that showing someone that you won’t be a pushover, isn’t being unkind.

So, what do you want to be good at?

And don’t forget:

Dishing out the blue balloons! Happy RAK Day!

Louise told me this morning that it was Random Acts of Kindness Day today, something that had completely slipped me by this year. To be honest, I somehow managed to forget about it again until this evening in Asda whilst at the checkout. Quickly, I picked up a random gift card and added it to my shopping. I love doing this RAK because it really is random. Noone was coming to follow me to my checkout (probably because I had a fair bit of shopping!) but I loved the randomness of the people eyeing up the checkout and the fact that my RAK was based on who decided to follow me. No matter what kind of day this person has had, this RAK will have made it better. If their day had been terrible, average or even brilliant, it will have risen them.

Quite often when I have difficult days or moments (and I’ve certainly had a few of those this week) I have the urge to do RAKs to counteract the negativity I’ve felt or have faced, so doing this has brightened my day too, which is a welcome side effect this week!

The one piece of advice from mum that I remember and recite the most is “Rise above it” (I talked about this here). I hope, in doing this RAK today, I’ve helped someone Rise Above whatever has been troubling them recently. Doing it has certainly helped me to be my inner giraffe.

That’s me: the giraffe. Sometimes, like this week, I dip below the clouds but I try to Rise Above and, in going about my life, I try to spend time with other giraffes and dish out as many blue balloons as I can along the way.

Brave

Growing up I was always the “brave” one. The one who was made to go downstairs first when we were meant to be asleep and were sneaking down. Having said that, Louise has done some far braver things than I have over the years! Including today: Braving the Shave!

Lots of people said I was “brave” for cutting off 17 inches of hair in August 2016. Well, today Louise not only cut off her plaits (actually, I did two plaits and eight school kids paid money to do the rest!), she also had her head shaved to a number 3! She certainly Braved the Shave!

The school audience gave masses of whoops, cheers and applause and have donated a lot of money! She still doesn’t have a final total but it will definitely be over £500 for Macmillan and 10 plaits for the Little Princess Trust! Amazing! Still, she and I both know that the bravest of people aren’t the ones who cut their hair and donate it, the bravest ones are those who need that hair, those who shave their hair off before it falls out and those who have to watch their children lose their hair.

I was really proud of my sister today. She has turned into a celebrity in her school with everyone wanting to stroke her newly balded head! I think she totally ROCKS her new style like many women before her. To donate: https://bravetheshave.macmillan.org.uk/shavers/louise-woffindin

Advent Random Acts of Kindness

As well as the Reverse Advent Calendar, we are also doing a random act of kindness a day throughout December.

I hadn’t really thought much about what we will do each day so yesterday the RAKs just happened themselves (which is really how it should be, if kindness is the path you choose to take in life – and it is a choice you can make, and a choice many don’t).

Yesterday we had a disagregated training day and so it allowed me to help out at my son’s school Christmas fayre in the afternoon, whilst my husband took him and his best friend around the stalls. When my son came running along to me on the cake and sweet stall with all his winnings from the tombola, teddy bear raffle and his homemade Christmas decorations, he chose a cupcake for himself and also chose a little Freddo chocolate for his sister who was still at her nursery. He also offered his marshmallow Santa’s Rolo hat to me as well as saying that a massive bar of Galaxy he won on the tombola was for mummy, daddy and his sister to share. Okay, so he has a milk allergy and can’t eat them himself, but as a five year old he could have kicked off and got upset that he couldn’t have what he won. Instead, he didn’t bat an eyelid at winning something so awesome for his family to enjoy (and it’s Galaxy chocolate so I totally will – post detox completion of course!).

Later, I went to pick up our daughter from nursery. On the way home she likes to tell me about her day (which is novel because her brother never has). She told me how her friend at nursery had said to another girl “I don’t like you”. She told me how, in response to this, she had said to the other girl,

“Don’t worry, xxxxxx, because I LOVE you”

and later, to the girl who wasn’t being kind,

“That wasn’t a very kind thing to say to xxxxxx”.

I’m really pleased that, at three, my daughter is not only trying to make sad people better but she’s also standing up for kindness and isn’t afraid to stand up and say if something isn’t right.

I am aware that she’s only 3 and this story may or may not be entirely as it seems, and there are, of course, many times where she is most definitely a typical ego-centric preschooler (in fact, she told me I wasn’t her best friend any more the other day because I wanted her to settle down for bed!). But, I can see her mind working and her empathy growing, showing us little hints into her growing-up personality, which is more selfless.

So those were the children’s 1st of December Random Acts of Kindness. Let’s see what the rest of December will bring!