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View of the bungalow from the garden

Welcome to Our New Home

I cannot quite believe I am writing this post, and I keep wanting to pinch myself to make sure it is real. After 8 months of anxiously bidding on properties with our local council, we were offered the most perfect little bungalow at the beginning of May.

Photo of Tim standing by car in front of bungalow
It is, quite honestly, a dream come true. When we first found out that the council had approved us for a bungalow, I immediately thought of these. They are on the same estate as my Grandma, are just a short walk from my parents’, and are still within the catchment area for Little Man’s school. I’d even been in one several times as a child, as my best friend lived in one of them.

But as the weeks and months passed, I began to think we’d never be offered one of these. The estate we now live on is very popular, and before this bungalow became available I had only seen two other properties come up in this area (both houses).

I had come to think we would have to move out of the area, and that we would be on the waiting list for many more months to come. Because, like in most places in the UK, there is nowhere near enough social housing to meet the need. And bungalows in particular are very hard to come by, and usually offered to the over 60s.

View of the bungalow from the garden

But here we are, in our dream bungalow and, as I said before, I keep having to pinch myself to make sure it is real. I cannot tell you what a difference this is going to make to our lives.

We’ve been living here for a week now, and already we are noticing how much easier life is (even though we are beyond exhausted from the move and still have boxes everywhere!) The simple fact that I can get from our bedroom to the kitchen in less than 20 steps means I am actually able to get up and get myself a drink whenever I need one. I simply couldn’t do that in our old house, as the stairs and distance made it completely impossible on my bad days, and even on my good days I’d only venture downstairs when absolutely necessary.

Having easy access to every part of our home feels incredible. I hadn’t even realised just how much of an impact it would make. I still struggle with joint instability and pain. I still battle with presyncope and migraines. And my energy levels are still far lower than the norm, with post-exertional malaise (PEM). But the difference is that my home is no longer contributing to the severity of those things.

New bungalow in need of decorating

Getting here hasn’t been easy though. We signed the tenancy on the bungalow at the beginning of May and had 4 weeks in which to pack, decorate, and clean our old house. The new bungalow had been replastered throughout, and every wall needed painting. We also had to source flooring for all but the bathroom and kitchen. And as this bungalow is much smaller than our old house we had to have a major declutter.

We could never have done any of that on our own, because as you know Tim and I are both very poorly right now. It seemed a little bit ironic that we had been given this bungalow based on health needs but then expected to be able to decorate throughout. Thankfully, though, we are surrounded by truly amazing people who have supported us every step of the way.

We’ve had mums I’ve met on the school run coming round to help paint, along with our Minister and his wife. Family friends have done tip runs and taken donations to the charity shop for us. An old work colleague brought his van and helped us move free of charge on the big day. And my parents and Grandma have helped us fund new flooring and a new cooker, which we could never have afforded at this point on our own.

My parents have also done a huge amount of work on both the new bungalow and our old house, and we really couldn’t have got everything done in time without them. I know that as a parent you just do these things for your children, but I also know that they are as exhausted as we are right now. So I am so relieved we had others step in to help out as well. We truly are incredibly blessed.

Despite all that help, the move has still taken a massive toll on our health. In amongst the usual stress of moving, we also all had a sickness bug, I fell and badly bruised my arm (it’s still bruised and sore 2 weeks after my fall), and I had my PIP assessment. Combine all of that together with our usual health issues and you can begin to understand just how exhausted we truly are right now.

But the wonderful thing is that it really doesn’t feel that bad anymore. Physically it does, of course, but emotionally I’m doing really well. I had some really big realisations during this move, mostly brought about by the fact that I had to swallow my pride and just keep asking for help over and over again. And the fact that we are surrounded by green spaces and living in a home filled with light pouring through the windows is a major contributing factor too.

view of the garden from back door

Yesterday, for instance, I set Little Man up with his trains in the back garden and he happily played whilst I sat and soaked up the sun. I have so many plans for this garden space we have (including growing fruit and veggies), but for now we are simply relishing the fact that this is just outside our door. Little Man has even taken to sitting on the grass and looking at the clouds, which is quite a big deal for a boy who never seems to stop moving!

I cannot wait to get outside of a morning to meditate or do a bit of yoga and my physio exercises. And I’m so looking forward to having a more manageable home, once all the boxes are unpacked. But it’s going to take us some time to recover from the move and get fully settled in. It took me 3 weeks to pack up the old house, so I’m giving myself at least as long as that to unpack. Hopefully we’ll be sorted by the time the Summer holidays come around.

And I cannot wait to share it all with you on here. I have so much I want to tell you, but my head is swirling and it’s getting hard to type right now so it will have to wait for another day. Until then, make sure you’re following me on either Instagram or Facebook for mini updates, I’d love to see you there!

Never Lose Hope

Never Lose Hope

Never lose hope - reflections on how much life can change in just six months

Six months ago, life at The Patch was significantly different to what it is like now. Looking back, I can barely believe how far we have come in just six short months, and it feels important to mark the transition in some way. After all, six months ago I could see no answer, so it’s empowering to remember that no matter how bad things may seem to get there is always hope.

You see, six months ago I was signed off work for a month, close to a breakdown due to work related stress. I had known for some time that I was no longer right for the role, but I just couldn’t seem to break away – my passion for the cause was too great. Stress built up until it reached the point where I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I was consumed by it all. The day I sat trying to tell a doctor what was wrong through the floods of tears, only to hear “you’re not depressed, it’s your situation and you need to change that,” was the moment I began to accept this. It was, quite frankly, the first step in a huge transition that would shortly occur…

Five months ago, I returned to work and discovered I was facing redundancy. Had that happened prior to my talk with the doctor, I may well have fallen apart at this news. But instead, I had taken time out and found my peace. I had prayed for guidance, releasing the outcome to the Universe and had chosen the word “Surrender” as my focus for the year. I was ready to accept whatever came my way, rather than trying to “fix” things myself. I can’t actually explain to you how I did this, just that something had changed within my very being and for the first time I was ready to face the unknown with hope rather than fear.

Four months ago, I worked my last day in my old job and embraced the unknown fully. We had made many decisions during the previous month which we felt were leading us down a better path. We had found a house, closer to my parents, and I had decided to look for part-time work rather than chasing a full-time managerial role, so that I could provide better support for TJ and Little Man and pursue more freelance work using my writing and networking skills. And at first it all seemed to be falling into place. But then the landlord pulled the house off the market and I struggled to find a part-time admin role due to being “overqualified” and time continued to tick on with no work in sight

Three months ago, I attended yet another interview, this time sleep-deprived and nauseous from a sickness bug that had hit me the night before. It was a job we really thought I had a chance at, but once again the response was “you’re more of a manager than an administrator”. I finally began to feel my resolve wane and took to my sick bed, searching and applying for jobs outside of my usual search. And it was in this moment that I ultimately secured my current role.

Two months ago, we relocated to my home town, safe in the knowledge that I now had a new job (and a few extra hours elsewhere which had resulted from a previously unsuccessful interview). It all seemed to be falling into place, finally. Until just 3 days before we moved when TJ had a major reaction to one of his new medications and it was terrifying! I cannot even put into words how truly awful that first night was, and how much fear we both carried around for several weeks afterwards. You don’t just experience something like that and move on, it stays with you a long time. For all the amazing changes about to happen in our life, it seemed we were to be reminded of just how fragile life can be…

One month ago I started my new job and I could not be happier. I am utterly exhausted thanks to relocating, working more hours than contracted, and working a second job, but it is all good. I go to work happy, I come home happy. I get to know that the work I am doing is, in some way, helping to fund vital research that helps save lives. And I get to meet customers, volunteers and people on work placements every day. Anyone who knows me well will know how much I enjoy meeting people! I get to be creative. I get to contact local companies about opportunities for the store. I am, quite simply, happy.

Alongside this, I have seen a massive increase in my stats for the blog. After almost 2 years of neglect, I am finally finding the chance to connect with the blogging community (both on their blogs and on social media) and the knock on effect is that my stats have increased significantly. I am no longer simply writing for myself. And that makes me happy, because blogging has always been about the community for me. Which is why I am so excited about going to BritMums Live this month and reading out this poem as part of the Bloggers’ Keynote.

But for all the changes that have happened in our lives, there have been two things that haven’t. The first is TJ’s health. We are still fighting for a better diagnosis and more support with treatment, this is an ongoing struggle and one we will continue to fight for as long as it takes. The second is TJ’s job. He has a further commute from our new home and that, along with other aspects, has taken its toll. I have often felt guilty about how much has changed for me professionally and how happy I am in my work, because it feels like I have left him behind in the trenches somehow.

So imagine our joy when yesterday he went for an interview, only to be offered the job there and then. No “we’ll be in touch”, no waiting for the phone to ring and hoping you did enough to secure the position. He went out there, showed what he can do, and secured a new job just like that. I couldn’t be any prouder than I am of him right now, and I hope that this is the boost his confidence needs to know how good he is at what he does.

Which brings me to today and the point of this post – six months ago I could never have imagined that we would be where we are today, both with new jobs, a new house, and a better life. We still have our battles, but we are stronger and happier than we have been in a very long time. We have found hope where we once only found despair. I wrote about this in February, when we were first starting to find our way out, and now we’re here I just want to rejoice.

Life is good… I want to remember this!

Pick Daffodils to Bring Spring Colours into Your Home

Today I’m Grateful for New Beginnings

Today is a big day for me. It is the final goodbye to a particular part of my life, or rather the closing of a door that belongs to a world into which I once poured my heart and soul. It feels like there should be some feeling of loss for this, but there just isn’t.

The end of last year was my grieving period. It was a time when I knew, deep in my heart, that it wasn’t going to work out. It was a pretty desperate and terrifying time, realising that everything was about to change and not really knowing how that was going to pan out, and at the same time feeling like all the hard work and dedication meant nothing. It was, quite simply, a bleak moment in time.

But now? Now I feel the promise of Spring, the beauty of life that has laid dormant, building up strength to burst forth into a bright new world. The biggest thing about today is not so much the goodbye, but the welcoming of a fresh start.

And the day came with the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom - Anais Nin

Life isn’t easy. We’ve just found out that the house we were supposed to be moving into has been taken off the market by the landlord, meaning we have to start a whole new search. And our meeting with the neurosurgeon yesterday brought up even more questions than it answered. And we can’t forget the fact that, as of tomorrow, I am essentially unemployed. That’s a lot of uncertainty facing us…

And yet right now, I feel more hopeful, more confident, and more secure than I have in a long, long time. All of these changes, whilst challenging (to say the least) are leading us into a new life. We are taking the chance to do things we haven’t dared do, despite considering them for some time. We’re moving closer to family, we’re looking at healthier working patterns, and we’re learning to cherish the simple things in life, which remain unchanged regardless of the craziness elsewhere in our lives.

I plan on taking the next week off. TJ has a 4 day weekend coming up and we need some time to simply be. Then there are other houses to view, and a visit to  Little Man’s new nursery. And most importantly of all, I have arranged to meet a potential employer for a role that I am most excited about. I have boxes to pack, people to meet, and places to go.

Far from being the end of the line, today is the start of a whole new beginning. And for that I am most grateful.

Word of the Year 2015 Surrender

Surrender

I don’t know about you, but it feels to me as if 2014 has been a year of battles and anguish. Throughout the world there have been so many heart-wrenching stories of pain and loss, coming one after the other in quick succession, providing very little chance to try and get your head around one thing before another comes to rock your world view.

There have been lost planes, mass conflicts in both the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and then the Ebola Crisis in Africa. And it doesn’t seem to be letting up… a few days before Christmas lives were lost in Glasgow as a dustbin lorry veered out of control, and then today yet another airplane has been lost. It just keeps coming.

And away from the large scale news, there are the individual lives that are affected every single day. The deeply personal stories of those affected by the above mentioned events, as well as those fighting their own personal battles. And I count TJ and myself in this.

2014 has been one of the hardest years we have ever had to face. And that is saying something. Since we met in 2007 I have been through 3 pseudo-menopauses, surgery, and a HG pregnancy (further complicated by Obstetric Cholestasis). And TJ has changed careers twice in an effort to continue working despite increasing pain and symptoms that have affected every part of his life. We’ve both faced depression head on, both been in therapy, and both come out fighting another day. Yet this year has pretty much broken us!

TJ’s health took such a huge turn for the worst this year, and in turn so did mine as the stress of working full-time whilst trying to meet the needs of an active 3 year old and a very poorly husband really began to take its toll. We have fought until we had no fight left in us, and thankfully it seems as if the tides are slowly turning and we’re beginning to surface above the crashing waves once more. And we have hope that 2015 will bring us more good news. But we are beat.

And over the past few days I have been reflecting on this a lot. I find that I am in need of a complete change of attitude to the world around us and the personal battles that we all face. For too long now I have been fighting against the tide, passionately hoping beyond hope that one day things will change, when really it might have been easier to choose to surrender and ride the waves instead. But how do you do that when every inch of your being tells you to fight?

Word of the Year 2015 Surrender

It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote a blog post called “Warrior“. And I do still relate to that post a lot. But I’m beginning to wonder whether there is a balance between fighting and surrendering. Choosing our battles has to be wiser than fighting in each and every one that comes our way, surely?

This doesn’t mean accepting injustice, or allowing things that we feel are inherently “wrong” to go unchecked. But it does mean realising that some battles are not ours to fight. Some battles simply cannot be won by giving everything you have to them. Sometimes the battle is not so much the outer experience, but your inner one.

Last night I did something that I haven’t done in a very long time. I prayed. I mean I really, truly opened my heart and asked for help. I didn’t scream out my need for help in desperation, like I have been doing recently, only to then continue trying to fight the battle myself. Rather, I sat in silence and focused on what I really needed. And that was love, acceptance and peace.

TJ and I have so much more ahead of us that we need to face together. Our lives are pretty turbulent at the moment, and it can feel utterly overwhelming at times. And that isn’t going to change overnight. But what can change is our perception of this. We can give ourselves some grace to breathe and be and accept that even when every day feels like a battle, it’s okay.

And I know that for me this means learning how to surrender. I need to give up this idea that I have to fix it all myself. I need to relinquish the thought that I am not good enough, because if only I were better our lives would be better too. And I need to surrender my pride enough to open up my heart and let others in.

It isn’t an easy concept for me to grasp. I have become used to surviving on my own merit. But doing so has led me to become very cynical about life and closed to a lot of the wonderful things in our lives right now. And this needs to change. It is a change worth making, a risk worth taking, and it just feels right.

So my word for 2015 is surrender. I’m going to stick it up on my blog sidebar so that it reminds me every time I log on. I’m also going to add it to the manifestation collage I made for myself on the eve of the Winter Solstice. And I am going to be intentional about surrendering myself to what is happening right now in my life and what is to come over the next 12 months.

Tell me, what changes do you want to make for 2015?