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. 

Woolly Sheep 

Meet LouBaalia*! Louby for short. 

She’s our donation to Yarndale 2016’s community project. All the sheep will be displayed at Yarndale in Skipton on the weekend of 25-26th September. The sheep with then be sold to raise money for Martin House Children’s Hospice. Any unsold sheep will be taken to one of the Martin House Charity Shops. 
A small gesture for RAK number 55 but one that is filled with love for those who use the services of Martin House. 
*Purple yarn is Stylecraft Special DK Lobelia

Flowers for Strangers


Friends are not the only recipients of flowers today! Strangers have received flowers too. 

Each stranger was left a flower and an envelope explaining the RAK on their car. Well, one recipient had a soft-top car with the roof down so his was left on his driver’s seat. I watched him and another return to their cars, rather puzzled as to where the flowers had come from! 

I found this RAK quite difficult. I hated the thought of fiddling with people’s wipers in a public place and I definitely didn’t want to be spotted by the car’s owner. As I approached one car I noticed someone sitting in it so quickly made a sharp exit! In the end, I found a quieter car park and slotted the flower stem under the wipers without lifting them, hoping that the envelopes taped to the stem will weigh them down a bit! 

If you were the recipient of a flower today I hope it brightened your day! Pay it forward when an opportunity arises. We’d like that. 

Flowers for Friends

 
Freesias were her favourite flowers. She loved how scented they were. 

This Random Act of Kindness was for her two oldest friends who knew her the longest. We spent many holidays together growing up, had meals and played games at each other’s houses. There are many very happy memories that were created as a result of these friendships, friendships which will always be there somewhere even though she is no longer here. 


This was a nerve-wracking RAK because, although it’s anonymous, I am pretty sure that they will work it out easily. Plus, one friend was most definitely in when I left the flowers on the doorstep and ran away. At the other house, it looked like no-one was home but, because of all the windows facing the paths to the house, I left the flowers by the back gate. 


A boy of about 7 watched as I ran around with flowers and ran back to my car without them. I did have the thought of asking him to deliver them for me but thought that I should probably do it myself. 

It’s quite a windy day. I hope the flowers are found soon before they blow away! I know she would have liked this RAK. Time passes but her memory lives on and her old friends will know that their friendship is never forgotten. 

Seeking Refuge

 

In recent years, I have become familiar with the effects that Domestic Violence and Abuse can have on women and children.  It is an often surprising statistic that one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Let me just repeat that: ONE IN FOUR! That means that you probably know someone who has suffered it, whether you know of it or not.  Since the start of this project I always knew that I wanted to help this cause in some way given that it has severely affected family members but, until now, I have been unsure of how I could make a difference specifically for this project .

Someone offered me kindness yesterday: they offered their hand in friendship to me and my biggest little one at a time when he and I feel very much on the outside and not sure what to expect with him starting school next month. It saddened me, though did not surprise me given the statistics, that she had experienced Domestic Violence and abuse.  Her words were familiar to me in that another person who is very close to me has experienced similar. Whilst in many ways the violence is over, the abuse in different ways does not always end. Whilst the violence has ended, the after effects of it on the affected person and their children are immeasurable and have a permanent and changing effect on them as people.

So, this morning, I began to think of how I could help in some way. Neither of these incredibly strong and brave women needed to use directly the services of the charity Refuge but, thankfully, they have accessed support elsewhere. Having said that, many women and children do have to go to refuges.  I cannot imagine how difficult that must be for them.  Today I purchased an Emergency Pack on Refuge’s Website. The pack contains toiletries, clothing, food and children’s clothing & nappies (if needed) as well as providing emotional support and assessments with the specially trained staff.

This is a quote from the website as to how such things have helped someone:

“I have been welcomed with open arms. The refuge has been my home and it has changed my world. I have changed my outlook on life and being here has made me look at things positively. I can’t explain how grateful I am.” Lucy*, refuge resident (name changed).

I hope that, in some small way, our parcel will help someone who is fleeing from abuse. Having seen the effects first hand, it is so important that people have support and help and are offered, above all else, kindness and the ability to see that they have a future that is much better than the life that they are leaving behind.

Woman unpacking an Emergency parcel

If I could turn back time

*HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD SPOILER ALERT*


If I could find a way..

The 1989 Cher song. She had it on an album somewhere and the song reminds me of my early childhood years (perhaps how my children may be reminded of their early childhood through our ritual ‘Friday’ kitchen dance to Coldplay’s Sky Full of Stars).  I thought of the Cher song after having finished reading the latest Harry Potter book, in which Time Tuners are a prominent feature. Would I turn back time and change things if I could? But what effect might that have on my current world? Me trying to get her to get the breast lump re-checked earlier, or insisting she had chemo the first time: would it have changed things? 

My thoughts reminded me of the film About Time (2013 with Bill Nighy) in which a man’s time travelling has massive implications on the future despite his relatively small interferences in the past. The men in the family all have the ability to time travel. His father is dying of terminal cancer but cannot go back to change it but he does have advice for his son: to live each day twice, the second time appreciating the day in a different way to the first. However, when his third child is born, he is no longer able to go into the past as it would mean his third child would not be the same child when he returns. As such, he decides that he should live each day forward as if it were the second time; the time for appreciating the beauty and subtle things that are missed the first time, the rushed time as we go from day to day. Perhaps that’s what we should all do? Seize the day, live for the moment. I am sure that she would want us to. She wouldn’t want us to time travel even if it were possible. But, how nice it would be to see her just one more time!