Monthly Archives: August 2016

Gifts and things 

If you know me (and actually, many of you now do!), you will know that I’m not a jewellery person. I wear the same jewellery all the time and only swap it on rare occasions. I never take off my wedding band and I only take off my other jewellery for swimming. On my right hand is a silver ring with a black stone. It was the last gift mum gave to me in person on the eve of Laura’s wedding. I had worn a ring for years that she had worn from age 15. It was a silver ring with a hematite stone that ‘clicked’ as it was a bit loose. I loved turning that ring around on my finger and ‘clicking’ the stone. 

A couple of months before she died I arrived at work one day and went to ‘click’ the stone (I am aware this sounds a bit odd haha!) and it was gone, just the silver remained. I was really upset. Anyway, the night before Laura’s wedding mum and Laura gave me a box with this ring in it and I’ve worn in ever since. 


The second thing I always wear is a silver necklace. It is my most treasured gift ever and the only gift I’ve cried at receiving. It was given to me by Laura on the eve of my own wedding and on mum’s birthday two years ago. I remember opening the box and seeing the word “mum”. On closer inspection I read the words “love mum X”. In her handwriting! Can you imagine the amazement I had to receive such a gift the day before I got married without her there?! Laura had thought so hard, had hunted a birthday card with the perfect words written in her handwriting and got it printed into silver. She also got me a beautiful vintage locket bracelet with her photo in that I wore around my wrist all day so she was ‘there’. What wonderful and thoughtful gifts!  

The last gift I gave to mum was meant to be her Christmas present. On arriving at the hospital, being told she only had days, I sent Daniel back to the car to retrieve it – a star to name. The last conversation I had with her was about what to name this star. Though she didn’t really talk, she was adamant it wouldn’t be called Lesley. We went with MaddisonLJ. Somewhere, visible from the Southern Hemisphere, shines MaddisonLJ. 

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The reason

Today marks one year since this project was started, since the first Random Act of Kindness, since Love Join Me was born.

The 21st August was not just a random date to us, it was an important and significant date. It was her birthday. Not only that but today, 21st August 2016, she would have been 60 years old.  One whole year ago we started this project with one thing in mind – doing 60 acts of kindness for her 60th birthday – our twitter handle @lovejoinme60 represented this. We did it. 60 Random Acts of Kindness in her memory (the full list of them all is here).

This project started as something very personal to us; it has been about ways we could spread her kindness as a personal tribute to the wonderfully kind person that she was (see excerpt from our introduction below).

… 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.

There are very few people who know our identities. In this blog we talked a lot over the year about our Little Love Join Mes – our children.  Only one is really old enough to know something about what we’re doing, he knows we are doing kind things for people. Our husbands, although knowing of the project and being there for our second RAK Balls for Dogs, have been kept pretty much in the dark throughout the last year. It was something that was important to us – the attention is unwanted, we don’t want praise, we don’t want people to be proud of us. We, as with many others out there, have been struggling with the concept of true altruism but we’ve tried; because it’s about her not us, about what she did in her all too short a life and what she meant. Here is an excerpt from our post entitled Is there such a thing as a truly selfless good deed?, in which we’ve attempted to explain the reasons behind our anonymity and our conflicted feelings when carrying out our RAKs.

We are not doing this for us, for us to feel good. We are doing it because we want to help people and make others feel good. It’s not about saying “wow! Look what we did!”, it’s about saying “wow! Look what she did, look what she inspired”.

Look how her kindness is carrying on in selfless deeds in her honour and in her name: Love Join Me.  She did all this, not us.

LJM1 8th June 2016

We did it  in her name.  Her. The overused personal pronoun in this blog. Her, the original Love Join Me. LJM. Lesley Jean Maddison. Our mum.

If you’ve been following us for a while you may have deduced information about who she was and what she meant to us.  Just 20 days before her death, she appeared on BBC Radio Tees talking about her illness and encouraging others to get themselves checked. This speaks volumes about what her concerns were about being terminally ill with cancer. Her words speak for themselves.  The full recording can be found here.

I think to a degree your family suffers more than you because they just feel so useless […] I’ve got a lovely husband […] and it’s harder for him because he wants to take it away and he can’t […] I’ve got twin daughters, they’re 26, one gets married this Saturday, so things like that keep you going but then you’re sort of ‘I’m their mum, I’ve got to be around’. Even though they’re grown women you still feel that it’s your duty to be there for them and it’s things like that that I find difficult to cope with.

Lesley Maddison – 3rd December 2009 BBC Tees

Today is the day we want to make this bigger. Today is the day we want Love Join Me to spread further than it has already. We have followers in Canada, America and Australia as well as the United Kingdom and today is the day we ask something of you. All of you. Whether it’s the first time you’ve read our blog or you’ve followed from the start, we would like you to do one simple act. An act of kindness to someone else. In her name.

Love Join Me
Lesley Jean Maddison

21/08/1956-23/12/2009

Her last dance, just after her eldest daughter’s first dance. Man I feel like a woman! 

 

Hair today, gone…

Today! 

It was always our aim that our 60th Random Act of Kindness would be this one: LJM1 donating her hair to the Little Princess Trust where they make real-hair wigs for children sufferering from hair loss. Today was the day! 

Right at the start of this project, LJM1 decided that she would grow her hair for donation. Added to her already long hair, there was a lot of growth in the last 12 months! Last week we set up a justgiving page for sponsorship with all money going to the trust. We had a measly target of £30 as we honestly didn’t believe people would sponsor LJM1 just to have her hair chopped off! 

That target was smashed in minutes! In 24 hours nearly £250 had been raised. Today, that total is over £425! We’re astonished and it keeps going up. 

Today was the day LJM1 was booked in for the chop. Arriving at the salon, the hairdresser asked what was wanted. “Can you please braid it and then cut off the braids?” was not what she was expecting to hear! LJM1 had been a little nervous but that soon changed to excitement once sitting in the chair. Soon, it was all plaited and the first three were chopped off! LJM2 actually cut off the last plait: a most satisfying moment.

Now, LJM1 has very short chin-length hair (no pictures of our faces today though!) and a cold neck! It looks amazing and she is so chuffed with it! 

Furthermore, she has had almost 16 inches/200 grams of hair cut off. 


We hope that this will make a Little Princess (or Little Prince) smile. When she lost her hair she was given an amazing synthetic wig on the NHS. It really helped her look and feel like her old self.  The Little Princess Trust will combine LJM1’s hair with others of a similar colour and type. Up to five different donations go into making a wig. Twelve inches is needed for a long wig as up to four inches is lost in the knotting process. LJM1 has donated almost 16 inches! 


Finally a note from LJM1 to her hair’s recipient:

To whomever receives my hair, I am sure that you will be better at styling it than I have ever been! Let’s face it, that won’t be hard! My styles consist of ‘Let it flop’ and ‘oh, a hair bobble on my wrist, handy!’

However, here are a couple of tips: 

1. it’s not great with humidity, so I apologise if you end up looking a bit like Monica in that Barbados Friends episode. 

2. I’ve only got two grey hairs, which I’m sure they’ll have removed for you. 

3. Umberto Gianni Curl Friends works well if you want to embrace the curl and tame the frizz. 

4. Be thankful that you’re in an age of straighteners – growing up without GHDs with hair like your new hair meant I was very much surrounded by frizz.

5. Don’t use a crimper. Ever. Even if they come back in ‘fashion’. Not cool! 

In all seriousness, it’s yours. Take it! I’m glad that I had it to give away. I hope that your own hair returns one day but until then, embrace the frizz in humidity, the thickness, the curls and the wave (depending on how long your wig ends up!). Enjoy.

I’ve enjoyed growing it for you! 

Peace Blanket for RAK 59

It was a while ago when we contacted Justice First after seeing a tweet of theirs asking for fabric donations for their Peace Blanket project. As we are both crafty people we have accumulated a vast amount of fabric over the years. So, we decided to donate our unused fabric to Justice First, a Stockton-on-Tees based charity who help those seeking refugee status in the Tees Valley. 

As Charlotte from the charity explained to us, the Peace Blanket will be made up of individual squares, made by the refugee community on Teesside, and supporters of the project. The squares will say what ‘peace’ means to that person. When complete it will be displayed in various places across Teesside. 


Supporting refugees is something that we feel strongly about and we hope that we are able to support Justice First at their workshops once they have enough fabric to begin. 


Our fabric is all ready to go and will be posted first thing Monday!

Holding on

I still have her text messages on my phone. I got my first iPhone 2 months before her death so despite having 2 newer iPhones since, I have kept her message thread. It’s not that I’m not letting go it’s that I’m holding on and that’s different. 

The texts aren’t even that interesting, just an exchange of information about parcel deliveries, birthday gifts and what to have for meals when visiting. I read them occasionally because it allows me to ‘hear’ her voice. I’ve often thought of texting her but her number has probably been reissued now so that would be weird!

Her final text to me was a week before she died. She was in hospital by this point. In it she told me she was a lot better, but instantly when I read it I knew she was not – there were too many mistakes in her text. 

I’m thinking of ditching the iPhone on my next upgrade so will let the message thread go then. Until then, that red “delete” button just seems too mean! 

A ripple of coffee rak

Today I experienced a true ripple of kindness. All along we wanted this project to ripple out and spread kindness and today I witnessed that first hand. I’ve often passed Motore Cafe on my way into town and until now haven’t bought a coffee there despite wanting to every time I pass (I’m always pushing a double buggy so it makes it difficult!). The coffee always smells delicious and the cakes and biscuits always look so tasty too! What I love about this place is that it’s a small local business that prides itself on quality. We’ve done quite a few coffee-based RAKs but these have  involved big chain coffee shops. This time I wanted to support a local business. 


Today it was really early when I set off into town with my little Love Join Mes – too early even for the shops to be open – and I approached Motore Cafe intending to purchase 3 of his most popular coffees for the next three orders. As I was getting my purse out a man ordered his coffee. He was clearly a regular customer and I liked that so I told him I would like to pay for his coffee along with my order. I briefly explained the project to them; it was the most detail I’ve gone into when talking about it in person. A wonderful thing happened: the ripple! The man whose coffee I paid for also Paid it Forward. What’s more, I was also on the receiving end too – I was given a delicious cookie with my order. 

There was another man, Shaun, who had joined in the conversation. He was heading for breakfast in town so he didn’t want a coffee but I talked to him for a good 5 minutes as our journeys followed the same path. He mentioned how expensive it must be doing this so I explained how yes, some of our RAKs have cost us but many more have not and how because I rarely buy things for myself I choose to spend small amounts doing kind things instead. 

I hope the ripple continues! It was such a lovely experience. 

I won’t walk past in future – pushing the buggy with my coffee in hand wasn’t too bad after all. The coffee was great and I would highly recommend it – Motore cafe, Howard Street, Sheffield. 

Milk 


Browsing the internet one day I came across a story about a baby who had received donor breastmilk while in special care. I wasn’t aware such a practice existed so I researched further. Now, here I am, a few weeks down the line expressing my own breast milk into bottles and storing them in my freezer ready to be collected in a few weeks. 

I’ve always had a pretty good milk supply (my record is 10 ounces expressed in 20 minutes) so I knew it was something I would be able to do. 

There are a few rules to follow – hygiene of course being extremely important – but basically I sterilise my equipment (I use a manual hand pump), express milk, put the expressed milk in a bottle, write my name & date on it, pop it in a bag & store it in my freezer. I also keep a record of my freezer temperature on a daily basis. 

When the time comes to collect, a volunteer courier will come from Chester to my house, collect my milk and take it back to Chester.  When the courier picks up my first batch of milk I will get a form to have a blood screening test from my doctor to make sure I’m free of infectious diseases. 

When the milk is received it is pasteurised and tested for its macronutrient content (its composition of fat, carbohydrate, total solids and calories per 100ml). It is then refrozen and issued to hospitals. 

This is probably one of the most time-consuming RAKs for me as it is something I really have to do every day to ensure I can keep providing enough milk (the body’s production of milk works on a supply and demand basis). It’s not a chore though – bizarrely I enjoy watching it collect in the little bottle knowing it will help a sick or premature baby in the future. Also, I see it as a way of giving something back to the NHS. I’m looking forward to my first batch being collected and processed.

http://www.northwesthmb.org.uk 

A long-thought of RAK for dementia

A lot of our Random Acts of Kindness were thought of when we first had the idea of doing this project. This 56th RAK was one such idea that came to us right at the start. 

People whom we are close to have been significantly affected by the loss of a loved one to dementia and  Alzheimer’s Disease.  Right through from diagnosis to death, this is a dreadful disease, robbing the person of their memory and robbing their family of the loved one that they know. The grief starts long before the death even happens. 

Having been through the loss of a parent who was diagnosed with a terminal illness, we have some experience of grief. But she was her until she died. She knew us. Alzheimer’s takes that away; it takes the person away from the body long before they die. 

Her father, for whom we did this RAK back in November, suffered from dementia as a result of a stroke before his death and it was dreadful to see him not knowing who people were. In some ways we were grateful that, for him, his suffering was for a short period of time. We can only imagine the impact that Alzheimer’s must have had on our close family members. 

Not only that, the nurses and carers who work with dementia sufferers every day are incredible. We imagine it to be a difficult job indeed. After all, once the residents are in a care centre for dementia there’s not exactly going to be a good outcome and the nurses and carers must deal with this time and time again.  They give up their Christmases, their nights and weekends, all for the caring of others, others who can no doubt be difficult at times. 

Over the last couple of days I have witnessed such care and compassion first hand. Whilst sat in A&E with little LJM2 (she has a probably but not definitely fractured leg!) I saw an elderly woman arrive with a carer. The woman obviously suffered from a form of dementia. The carers (I saw her again the next day at the fracture clinic with a different carer) were fantastic with her, despite being accused of hurting her, dressing her in someone else’s clothes and effectively kidnapping her. If it wasn’t so sad, it would have been amusing. The carers’ patience was amazing. I wish I had such resolve with my children’s repeated questions and their irrationality! 

Today, we put together the package for this RAK, dedicated to dementia sufferers and their nurses and carers. We sent some reusable pictures designed for dementia sufferers to be able to paint with water, along with some paint brushes. In the end I posted the package as, although I was meant to take it in person, one of the nurses who works there (and the reason we chose this RAK and this place) was working and we wanted to make sure we weren’t seen! 

Nervousness

The LoveJoinMes are nervous. Nervous because we know that it won’t be long until more people are reading this blog. Only this time, it’ll be people we actually know. We have over 400 Twitter followers now and some blog subscribers too. But these new people will be people we KNOW.  

When we set out on our Random Act of Kindness journey we always knew that this would be the eventuality. The fact that it’s going to happen soon is pretty scary. Some of our inner most grief-raw thoughts have poured into these pages. 

I spent some time reading over the blog this evening and taking in just what we’ve done these past 12 months. It’s quite a lot to take in! But, until the reveal, we have a few more RAKs to complete to keep us busy.