Thursday, 23 October 2014

Ten things I've learned since drinking less

I've been feeling rather conflicted as of late about my relationship with alcohol. It's never been a healthy one, however after 9 months of sobriety (minus the *very* occasional small glass of wine with dinner) I have had a breakthrough.  Here’s what I’ve learned - to even my own surprise - since January about my sober self.
1. I don't need to finish the bottle or have another glass or get completely obliterated.
I used to drink alcohol like I needed it to live. That one glass would turn into a bottle, I'd spend £40-60 a week on booze and it still wasn't enough. I'm not sure if I was attempting to block things out or if I was desperately trying to hold on to some sort of independence from my everyday life. Whichever it was I now realise that I didn't, and still don't, need alcohol to work through things when I start finding it tough. Additionally, I don't want to drink more than one or two glasses and in all honesty I hate any feeling beyond getting a little bit merry.
2. People do actually like me as a person.
I have spent much of my adult life thinking I needed to drink to fit in and be liked by others. I also spent (and occasionally I still do) too much of my time worrying that people really disliked me, that I was boring, arrogant, nasty, obnoxious and generally, a person others can't bear to be around. It's true though, I am horrible....
.....when I've been drinking. When I drink I start to think that the world owes me something. I get very vindictive and stumble around feeling like the big victim - "poor me, why doesn't anyone like me". 
Now that alcohol is out of the equation I've noticed that people can stand to interact with me without pitying glances to my husband. I can have a normal conversation and people are interested in what I am saying. I'm even forming friendships with other human beings and have - ironically - a busier social life than ever!
3. It wasn't fun for all the family and was never going to be.
In fact, it wasn't even fun for me any more. My husband took the brunt of my bad attitude and would dread going out with me to social events to the point that we stopped going out together at all. I couldn't function well enough the next day to interact with my son and my parents have been increasingly worried about my drinking habits for years. 
I never, ever want my children to grow up with memories of Mum being passed out in her own vomit, of having to help Dad undress me and put me to bed or, even worse, being at the end of my vicious tongue (thankfully it's never got to that point with my own). I want their memories of me to be happy and free from embarrassment and I never, ever want them to think that alcohol equals normality.
4. I'm healthier than I've ever been
My body and my health was a complete mess and I only realise it now that I feel healthier. I am far more active than I used to be, I eat better and my weight has regulated, I exercise more, am physically and mentally stronger, my skin, hair and hails look healthier, I am hydrated and I have colour in my cheeks. I'm still pale, but I have a healthy glow that wasn't there before. I even sleep better at night, despite being woken up by a newborn/toddler/my husbands snoring.
5. My memory and intelligence has improved

My short term memory has never ran at 100% and my long term memory used to mull over negative events instead of reminiscing about the positive, so when I drank every night it would impact negatively on both. In the last 9 months there has been a noticeable difference, especially in my long term memory and my ability to take in information and hold on to it (hence my storming to the end of the Access to HE course with all the grades I needed to get into Uni and more). 
6. I can manage my emotions more effectively

The first thing that went with the binge drinking was the unwarranted bitterness I felt to the rest of the world. Then my anger faded, my patience grew and finally my self confidence has prevailed. I realise that a lot of the negative emotions I felt - including embarrassment and self pity - were a direct result of bad things that would happen when I was drunk. My self destructive side has taken a back seat and I am an all round better person for it.

7. Imperfection is perfectly normal

It is OK! I don't have to be brilliant at everything and loved by everyone. Ironically, I am an all round more popular person and more capable of achievement.

8. We are financially better off

£40 to £60 a week is a lot of money. That's £240 every 4 weeks and £720 every quarter of a year. So in total I was spending an average of £2880 a year. That's a family holiday and another (more practical) car with left over change right there (the car would be second hand of course).

9. I have hobbies and interests

It's that frustrating question asked on application forms. What are your hobbies and interests? It stumped me every, single, time. When they asked "What are you outside of this potential career? What do you do that makes you, you?" The only thing I could think of was drinking alcohol. 

Now though, I have free time to fill that I used to spend drunk. I read more, I write, I create. I even have time to embark on my dream career now, something I couldn't afford the time for or finance adequately. 

10. I am finally finding myself

Hobbies, interests and friendships all contribute to the type of person you are. I used to be a bitter, miserable and rather lonely person that hid under a fa├žade of confidence. Now, my confidence is true and my dreams are achievable because I have the time, the positivity and the support of my friends and family.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The legend of The Black Shuck

In therapy I have found my art (sounds rather cheesy I know). My new hobby has taken over my life. Not completely, family will ALWAYS come before it. However I have found myself addicted to paper-cutting. I feel a brilliant sense of satisfaction when I see the final results of something I have imagined, designed by hand and then painstakingly cut over the space of a few hours (and sometimes days). The feeling is as unique as the art itself. I've begun challenging myself and experimenting with the craft. Many use box frames so shadows are cast in the right light and others apply techniques that create a marvellous three dimensional effect - despite being mounted flat against the board. I want to take the two and combine it with the idea of pop up paper books - something we experimented with in our primary school days. I am so inspired by folklore - particularly if it is local to my area and would really like to put together a pop up book that incorporates the story into a visual feast. To start with, I came across these Bell Jars which were used at a wedding. They are very small but just the perfect size to encapsulate little scenes. This one represents The Black Shuck, a ghostly hound that haunts the coastlines and countryside of East Anglia.

"For centuries, inhabitants of the East of England have told tales of a large black dog with malevolent flaming eyes (or in some variants of the legend a single eye) that are red or alternatively green. They are described as being 'like saucers'. According to reports, the beast varies in size and stature from that of simply a large dog to being the size of a calf or even a horse. Sometimes Black Shuck is recorded as having appeared headless, and at other times as floating on a carpet of mist. 

 According to some legends, the dog's appearance bodes ill to the beholder - for example in the Maldon and Dengie area of Essex, the most southerly point of sightings, where seeing Black Shuck means the observer's almost immediate death. However, more often than not, stories tell of Black Shuck terrifying his victims, but leaving them alone to continue living normal lives; in some cases it has supposedly happened before close relatives to the observer die or become ill. 

 By contrast, in other tales the animal is regarded as relatively benign and said to accompany women on their way home in the role of protector rather than a portent of ill omen. Some black dogs have been said to help lost travellers find their way home and are more often helpful than threatening. These benign accounts of the dog become more regular towards the end of the 19th and throughout the 20th centuries".

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A little hobby to occupy maternity leave - The Paper Meadow

If I'm not kept busy crafting, up-cycling or designing something I get bored. Very bored, and very quickly.

Now that college is over I have two WHOLE empty days to fill while my darling son is at nursery. So out came the craft box and a little craft diary my Mum gave to me earlier in the year. It is filled with numerous ideas for you to try out every month and the beginning of July just so happened to be the art of paper-cutting.

So I dug out an old DIY scalpel, some paper and pencils and my super old cutting board, sat in our meadow under the Apple tree and got to work. It was there that I fell in love and have't stopped since. It's perfect. Its therapeutic, is helping me de-stress and I find I'm grow patience as a result.

This is my most recent design, based on Sleeping Beauty. The name is blurred as it is a commission for a friend of a relative who has recently had a baby (I don't want to risk them seeing it and knowing it's for them before they get it - however unlikely that is).

After getting a couple more requests I set up a page to display my work. Right now I am waiting until Friday before I say a definite "yes" to anyone as I need to find some pretty, locally made box frames and try out a few different mounting techniques.

So, watch this space! My new hobby might just be growing into something wonderful.

The Paper Meadow on Facebook

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Another quick fix.....

Surprisingly, this little project only took 3 hours in total. I also did it completely on a whim so don't have any before pictures (which I am notoriously bad at doing anyway. I will try to get better, promise). Sorry.

I needed to do something with my sons room to make it a bit more welcoming and homely for him. He loves pirates, so the pirate theme is an obvious route to go down.

I wanted to start with his bed - the centre point of the room and the place where most of our battles take place during the dreaded bedtime hour.

I got to work, attaching 4 posts to our existing toddler bed and painting them white. Then, I got an old double bed sheet we had kicking around (we upgraded to a King size with memory foam....Luxury!) and cut it to size. I outlined a skull and crossbones, painted and hung it over the posts. Then I tied some lovely red and white stripy sections of material to the posts to hide some unsightly rivets and finished by tying the "sail" up either side of the skill and crossbones.

Toddler not included...unless we are having a bad day in which case he comes FREE

Voila! One easy, simple pirate bed.

Monday, 7 July 2014

A beautiful, hand-painted cot (no £££'s needed, just a steady hand).....

....for a naughty breech baby! We found out today at our growth scan that our little girl is following dead on the 50th percentile, which is fantastic news. When they scanned me, however, they discovered one foot up next to her face and her happily playing with it and her bum and other foot down in my pelvis.
Also looks like she is blowing bubbles in there! 

It's a good thing I started on the nursery earlier than planned, as if she doesn't turn I will be in for that c-section earlier than I considered.

The first big job was our old cot. It was given to us by my sister after her 3rd baby (my gorgeous nephew) had finished with it, which means after DS it has "housed" four babies. They bought the IKEA Diktad over a decade ago and finding a mattress for it is awkward - It seems cot's are no longer made in this size.
 Before: Brown and uninteresting. 

 As you can see, although it is a lovely, sturdy cot it lacks any sort of interesting features, colours, patterns... anything that would make it a little bit more exciting for a baby. I wanted to color each of the bars differently and cover the brown in white Our only problem? We were absolutely SKINT last month. But I am impatient. So I had to get my thinking cap on....

 Leftover acrylics + Leftover B&Q paint = RAINBOWS&UNICORNS!!

Ok, so I lied about the unicorns. Although, it does give me a few whimsical ideas about further nursery decoration.....

Anyway, I already had the white paint in the garage so in lieu of a grand (yet costless) idea springing to mind I made a start on painting the cot white....and then it hit me (...literally. I knocked into the bookshelf while painting and a whole box of forgotten acrylic paint smacked me on the noggin. Ouch!).

I got to work mixing in little bits of the acrylic into blobs of white paint from the big pot (I found an old, plastic egg box was perfect for the job) until I had the exact colours I was after.

Half job...

I finished off a white base coat on the bars (I found 2x coats were needed to cover the dark adequately enough to colour over) and waited until it was dry before putting the first coat of colour on.

It then took 2 more coats of colour each on the bars and 3-4 more before the white covered the wood underneath completely. All in all it took about 2 weeks to complete....
Soooooo pretty <3

...but it was 100% worth it. I could not be happier with how it turned out :D

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Quick fix

Having had a busy weekend, I was delighted to find some time in the evening to sew these gorgeous cusion covers to go with our "new" sofa..

Mum donated the patterned fabric and I used old offcuts from other projects for the backs, finishing with little lace ties to hold the cushions in place.

Molly x

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Harmony test and its role in Eugenics

My dissertation research is making for some very hard reading. I have to get this out before I can continue writing about the topic and the controversy surrounding new prenatal screening methods or my ability to remain academically un-bias will cease. I am writing this to get things clear in my head and am not necessarily after opinion, although I more than welcome it.

I’m 23 weeks pregnant and, as with my first it hasn’t been a breeze in any way, shape or form. At a critical point in my pregnancy, while choosing my topic, I was given a 1 in 15 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome or some other form of trisomy.

I read and read until my eyes were sore. I posted on Mumsnet, desperate for advice and reassurance that I wouldn’t be that one, that if I went through the invasive procedure I wouldn’t fall into the percentage of miscarriages that can occur afterwards. Then I was pointed in the direction of the Harmony blood test.
At this point it made sense, given all I had learned about the subject, that my dissertation topic be the ethics and practicalities behind prenatal testing – including CVS and amniocentesis. But recently I have found that it goes much, much deeper than that. Until now I have only been scratching the surface.

My first concern arose from the potential for gender preference to influence the decision regarding whether or not to abort the fetus, regardless of any medical need. With the test showing gender as early as 7 weeks gestation teams in America have already seen an increase in needless terminations following the test – which in itself in not considered diagnostic and have a higher false positive rate than we are lead to believe. Many practitioners will, in this situation, conclude that should continuation of such a pregnancy present a great risk to the mental wellbeing of the mother (and therefore the welfare of the child) that a termination should be granted. In other words, if you are determined enough to play the mental health card they will allow a termination on the grounds of gender preference.

The second, and what I find the most innovative yet concerning use of this new technology, is its role in eugenics – a technique used to “improve” genetic quality in our population

Historically eugenics was practiced in brutal forms and most famously during World War II where Adolf Hitler based the potential for strength in German society on the preservation and improvement of the Aryan race – something we all know he put into practice during his reign of terror.

In good practice it is hypothesised that eugenics will eradicate some of the more prevalent single gene disorders, such as cystic fibrosis and Huntingdon’s disease although many will argue that this is unlikely. 

When it comes to the Harmony test, however, it makes the process a whole lot easier.
Advocacies for Down syndrome heavily oppose the use of testing and diagnostics for the purposes of abortion – arguing that it will see a steep decrease in the overall population of those affected with Down syndrome, putting eugenics into practice before a mother bonds with her unborn child.

What do I think?

Scientifically, I think that the Harmony test is both a blessing and a curse for service users. I think it will be exceptionally difficult to regulate when it is made available on the NHS with regards to gender disclosure and “selection” without an outright ban on it, which is argued to be against the rights of the parents. Alternatively, it will make decisions and overall diagnostics easier on pregnant women and, as mentioned previously, prevent certain disorders being passed to children.
Ethically, morally, socially? I think it is an absolute minefield and only foresee much debate and activism where the subject is concerned.