The Beelzebub In The Brush Strokes

There is a persistent assumption about make-up; that it’s intention is to fabricate something that doesn’t already have form. It creates cheek bones on a round face, lips from a fine line, push social boundaries that were steady. It is a message to the outside world: “I wish to mask myself”.

And it can be; Kardashian highlighting, instabrows, Kylie Jenner lips. These trends revolutionized makeup and what it means to apply it. Surprisingly enough, I err more towards freshed face looks, doing very little to adjust the shape of my face. Make-up is less a fashion statement for me and more of an enhancement of my best self. And as that changes from day to day, so does my make-up. If I’m feeling in touch with my body (whether that be CFS pain/fatigue or sexy to the nines) I like to embrace that! I want to look tired when I feel tired or look sexy when I feel sexy. If I am feeling more intouch with my imagination, I will replicate that in glitter or assuming a character. I purposefully choose to adjust my outside to suit my inside.

It is a conundrum that must plague those whom see make-up at that attempt to redefine what is. It may simply be an enhancement of what already exists. An unpainted canvase, no matter how big or small, is a masterpiece waiting to be revealed

Make-up, for me, is not a statement of vanity, it is not a reflection of my insecurity. It is a method of expression, a moving element of creativity and a true statement of my inner-self.

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The Best Thinks Come In Small Packages.

Children are exhausting; I don’t think anyone, whether they confess to loving or loathing children, would profess that spending an hour with a child, from birth to toddler to walking-talking hormone, is the most relaxing and serene encounter they have ever had. In fact I can guarantee that they would go into a blow by blow of every event that they did that day with a subtle sigh of exhaustion. The difference, however, is the knowing glint in the eye of someone whom adores children and the hiss of the sigh coming from between the teeth of someone who, by and large, couldn’t think of anything more horrifying than spending more than 5 minutes in the company of a child. 

I, thankfully, am the former. And I mean no disrespect to those who either popped out their sprog and now can’t deal with another scream about a skipping frozen DvD. I similarly do not scoff at those who hold a baby like it is on fire. But I am pretty thankful that I enjoy the company of children, sometimes more than the company of adults. And this is probably why I spent most of my weekend in the company of/behaving like a child. 

This began on Thursday afternoon with the arrival of my nephew and niece who were very excited to meet the new cat. 

I still haven’t introduced you to the cat but she isn’t really an exhibitionist so I doubt she is hurt by my lack of attention to her in the blog. In fact, she shuns the limelight and is quite particular about whom strokes her and when…she I’ll leave her where she is at the moment.

As I was saying; the nephew and niece came round and had dinner…never had chocolate got onto so many surfaces in this house (and I had a pretty wild Birthday/Christmas party last year). And not just chocolate either. Cheese sauce, spaghetti and even a little splash of urine. There were dressing up clothes all over The Den (my dressing up clothes I might add) and balls of fimo trod into the carpet along with suspicious stains which might, also, have been chocolate…but I didn’t dare lick to check.

  

How does this sound so far? Like a OCD’s worst nightmare? Probably…but for myself it is a little slice of heaven. The cherry on top being a very lengthy and exuberant conversation with my nephew about bow’s and arrow’s and Panter Pee! I mean- sorry- Peter Pan! We talked about being friends and being brave and thinking of happy thoughts! The kid was pretending to fly all around my kitchen with such height to his jumps I swear he had inbuilt trampolines in his bare feet. And then, with the widest eyes he pointed enthusiastically outside the window:

Look, Pip-pip, Look! I can see him, you know! 

In the clouds?

Yeah, I can see him there!

I wish I could see him!

You can see him, Pip-Pip! Look!

Oh! Oh! I can! He’s there! 

Panter-Pee is there! 

Proceding this, I turned him into a number of animals and I, myself, was turned into a number of animals also… and we ran the length of the house several times too, I think!
  
Yes, by the time they left Mr Panda and I were on tip toe around the house scared that we would stand in something sticky but I wouldn’t change it!

I spent Friday with Sister Spoon (who technically isn’t a Spoon anymore) and Lil’ Aardvark who is now a bubbly 7 months old plus more! Boy, does he have cheeks for days. If you’re really not into babies or children (and have decided to, for whatever reason, consider this an exercise of your personal endurance) prepare yourself or give in now because I’m about to spend a short paragraph dispensing every English derivative for the word cute…no? Fair enough. You have been warned. 

Lil’ Aardvark is cute. And I don’t mean adorable in the bambi eyed hamster sort of way. I mean ‘kitten in the pocket of a doe eyed kangaroo sleeping on a cloud while a smiling cartoon moon watches’ delightful. From his darling cheeks to his lovable little smile to his charming excitableness and sweet hand held toddling- honestly couldn’t get enough!

Okay, kid-haters, you still with us? Well, if the sick bucket is full please pour it down the toilet and not the sink.
  
I’ll segue into what we did but please bare in mind that the afternoon was punctuated with lots of baby talk and cooing and much in the way of singing as Lil’ Aardvark has discovered clapping which provided many opportunities for renditions of “If you’re happy and you know it” which never got past the first verse!
  

We partook in tea, apple juice and booby (for baby, not myself or Sister Spoon) in a specialist tea shop which also did cake but today wasn’t a cake day. And once Lil’ Aardvark had done several laps of the shop, discovered a spaniel and raised his voice to the ceiling in boredom, we took a little wander to Victoria Park. There, we fed the guinea-pigs and saw the peacocks and ducks. Lil’ Aardvark, although partaking a little in guinea-piggery, seemed far more interested in being social and spend the first part of the walk simply beaming at the other children, particularly ladies! Who flirted back with lots of smiling and giggles! But eventually smiles turned to the guinea-pigs…and the floor-carrot which would have become Aardvark-Carrot had Sister Spoon not done her true blue mummy duty and confiscated the floor-carrot! Did you know these things were right in the centre of Portsmouth? You should! It’s a nice we wander! Not to mention it was a beautiful day! 

   
 

We had a bite to eat and a conversation about smacking that was considerably mutual…great minds, after all, we do have ‘em. This isn’t a political forum, however, and if anyone decides to begin a fully-fledged debate on the rights, wrongs or wherefores of spanking a sproglette in the comment section…good god I will slap you silly with a wet trout and you see if I don’t! 
   
 

That night I received an email from Genie who was worried about the connection between her partner and her partner’s niece. I learnt 2 things; 1. Ask questions first lest you wander too far down a path already trodden and 2. People ask me things when they’ve reached a bit of a dead end. It felt nice to be consulted about people and their experiences with children.
  
Sunday was a day I truly surprised myself. I decided to do a bit of weeding in the front garden. No, the fact that I engaged in some form of manual labour is NOT the surprise. The surprise came WHILE I was weeding. I was coming up to the half hour mark and beginning to get tired as I had spent most of the early afternoon doing make up (…more on that tomorrow) and was pretty low on spoons already. And, as if to put a natural stopper into my activities, I happened upon a critter. A frog- in fact. It was about the size of a medium hamster but, you know, a frog! It was chilling in the dandelions as cool as you like.
   

   
Now, I’m not one for liking critters; I’m as opposed to them as you are to children, person who has come thus far through the waves of cute and grime! Moths, cockroaches, rats and I have a completely irrational fear of woodlice. So I spent the first 2 minutes of happening upon said frog deliberating my next movement. I could either: A) Scream loudly in a cloud of predictability and female stereotyped hysteria, B) Ignore it while warily eyeing it up over there positive it was planning its angle of attack , or C) Pick the little bugger up like my grubby, tomboyish inner child wanted to do so damn badly!

Guess which one I did?
    
And I called him Archimedes; not after the philosopher as some smelly adult would, no. I names him after the owl in The Sword In The Stone. I then proceeded to knock on the front window and ring the doorbell with my elbow to get the attention of Mr Panda and show him how clever I had been to catch such a wonderful little gift!

Mr Panda…acting his age on this particular Sunday…was an unimpressed 26 year old. As though we see frog’s everyday willy-nilly! 

The point of this monologue is that I have spent the first few weeks of university attempting to remain inspired in Early Childhood Studies when my CFS/ ME is forcing me to consider how on earth I am going to use this degree. My approach to practice with children has changed so much, I can’t move like I used to, I can’t lift children or concentrate on them like I used to! And it makes for such limited interaction that I am afraid that I won’t be able to form the bonds with children like I used to so as to help their development.

But this weekend has reminded me of something; That I know a thing or two about children and that, even on my worst days, I love to spend time with them and talk to them and listen to them. But most of all I love to just watch them discover and play and learn and just be in their presence and then tell others all about it until they want to sew my mouth shut!

If there is a way to make a living out of that then please point me in that direction!

To be continued,
P.

Think Outside The Information Box 

Well, hello there! 
Being a Disabled Student is a very interesting experience so far. Even more interesting when you have a very recent basis for comparison. The obligatory “oh, what did you do to yourself”s or the awkward offers of help from people whom you’ve shared lecture theatres with for the last two normally abled years; those things have a sense of humanity about them because usually they take the form of interactions with humans…depending on the disability, of course…I once saw a man having an intense conversation with his lunch and I like to keep an open mind. 
My interest doesn’t stem from the well-meaning empathy of fellow students, no. It is the cold hard steel of the hoops one has to jump (something I don’t find easy ) through in order to obtain the reasonable support as a disabled student.
University is stressful, you know. In fact, in my experience, it should come with a public health warning. They could have it flash up as you press ‘confirm’ on your UCAS application like one of those error alerts: 
Potential Student, you are about to commit to 3 to 4 years of emotional turmoil, financial strain and borderline psychosis. Are you sure you wish to continue?
It’s a firm, fast shove into “adulting” and this opinion is coming from a mature student of 26. I’m also pretty sure that it causes some sort of Stockholm syndrome as this is my SECOND degree.
I am joking, of course. university can be one of the most exciting, enlightening and enthralling time of your life. Nowhere else will you be able to establish how much you can function after how much drink and how little sleep, debate with people twice your age without reprisal, and contemplate all the other careers you could have chosen that didn’t involve writing 2500 word essays that are due in 12 hours. You make friends who will be more intimate with your body parts than your own mother, and you realise that Netflix is the cheapest holiday you’ll ever take (chill or no chill). And at the end you will have a degree. A really good and useful one given the appropriate support! 
Before my CFS, support came in the form of cake and movies, a blue wkd with karaoke on a Friday night at the Union and really helpful library staff. 
Not much of that has changed out of those activities (aside from the amount of cake and alcohol consumed, and possibly the amount of time I spend in the library) but now we can add to it how I get to class, what I do in class, how many books I get out, how I write my essays, the way I sit, how often I go to class, what I do if I don’t get to class. And them hoops? There are loads and they’re razor sharp and spinning…and on fire…and they change size…and some of them are really slimy! Seriously, if a dog was jumping through them; it would be on the live shows of BGT! 
Okay, no. They’re paper hoops-forms. We’re talking forest’s worth! But there are fricken hundreds of ’em. And filling in those microscopic boxes when you’re shaking more than Taylor Swift…well…no one would pay a ticket to see it. Okay, they would if they really didn’t like T-Swizzle. But it’s arduous, flailing and involves a lot of screaming in frustration…actually quite similar to Taylor Swift. 
I find it remarkable that, in order to get support as someone with enough significant differences to warrant additional support…they certainly make you put in additional effort, more than double of the average student! Oh what cruel irony! 
However, once you’ve done some significant leg work, you do get yourself into a place where there are many people and facilities available for those applying for DSA who genuinely want to make sure you are provided for appropriately especially if you are honest and open regarding your abilities or even lack there of! And I’m not just talking about the official folk! I had a massive amount of advice from a certain postgrad student who is part of my instafamily regarding my needs assessment! It really boosted my confidence when she advised me that the assessor is there to help me and not to trip me up as I had feared! 
Aside from my PIP claim STILL remaining undecided and the usual CFS nonsense, I’m really looking forward to the trials and successes of my final year! And I can begin to relax a little and enjoy myself some more! Blue WKD for everyone! 
Shall see you anon,
P.

First think’s first… 

So! I’ve decided to document my final uni year blog stylee! Why? Well I’ve had a bit of a u-turn in my physical abilities in comparison to First and Second year.I’m not going to kid myself here, I was hardly running marathons before hand but I was a wee bit more active than my current record of 2 spoonful-days, 2 rinse-a-ladle days and 4 sorry-you’ll-have-to-wait-for-the-dishwasher-to-finish-days.

I was diagnosed with CFS/ME in August of this year. It was no big surprise to me or a huge change by then as I had been slowly deteriorating since December to the point where I now sport a Ca-dazzled (a term penned by a friend due to my decision to take some rhinestones and hot glue to my mobility aid) turquoise cane to help with my balance and pain in the lower extremities! Aside from the emotional and physical trial of getting up and out of bed this morning I think it’s going okay. Bare in mind that it is only day one and the word “dissertation” is a hazey premonition of my future rather than a Buffy the Vampire Slayer like prophecy.
I met an old work colleague that pointed out a very positive aspect of my life in university following diagnosis; I see a good few people who greet me with a smile and that, in itself is quite wonderful to know with the prospect of some serious isolation on low-spoon days! I even felt confident enough to ask someone to move my chair into our circle for me in a seminar today. This isn’t a someone I know very well but we got along really well…so I guess I can be appreciative of the opportunity to open a conversation with a person I don’t know very well even if it is because I can’t lift a chair! 
I have noticed a significant change in my mental abilities recently; I have a limited tolerance to emotional stress at the best of times…these days, come 11 to 12 o’ clock…it is a zero tolerance what so ever. I struggle to write, listen, think or even see when I have to concentrate on a subject AND am dealing with stress. I had a friend, you see, back in first and second year; let’s call her Cora. Cora was quite a good friend, seeming self-assured and chipper and very open regarding her diagnosis of anxiety. However, sadly, sometimes personalities clash or one person outgrows the other and the friendship turned sour, probably due to a combination of the two. The stress stems from Cora’s reaction to the ending of the friendship through a combination of her anxiety and her once admirable trait of self-assurance becoming a perpetual refusal to apologise. There was no way to rebuilt the friendship…but she did manage to be incredibly insulting and calous regarding some personal issues of my own, along side criticising nearly all of the close friends she had made. You know how you encounter experiences that you don’t respond to because you want to rise above it or simply “not poke the bear” as my father would say. And then, a little way down the line, you think back on things and kick yourself for not saying what you should have said? Yeah, it was one of those. If I had said something I might be able to sit in the same room as her… But now, when I even hear her voice, my mind shuts off and I literally go cross eyed. 
It’s not something that I’m used to because it has only recently started happening. Like, when a car comes too close to the passenger side, when I think about deadlines…I seriously think people must think I’m a cartoon character; pink-haired, funny voice (I’m a Scottish girl, who sounds American or some sort of European, living in England) and cross-eyed with silver shoes.

Thankfully it currently looks like I am not in any seminars with her so far. It’s not healthy but on my worst days Cora comes to mind and I can’t help but feel bitter. But let’s not go into the ‘why?’ now because today is a good day! I’ll save it for a less diplomatic, more furious post!

I wanna talk about my own stigma which I’m trying to challenge at the moment; the difference between pity and compliments. Since I got my ca-dazzled cane, I have become more aware of people commenting on my appearance. It’s not that the comments have been bad. In fact, the reaction to my hair and clothes have been somewhat positive…but, for whatever reason…I immediately consider why they have said anything and, immediately, I think it’s because I’m so pathetic with my stick that I need reminding that I have something else going for me. It couldn’t possibly be a genuine compliment! I have a heightened sense of nervousness around my looks. Whereas before I didn’t really care until I made an effort and then I would just want to share a new lipstick or a new hair technique. Now I make the same effort but seem to want to be ignored because I question the sincerity of admiration.

Why do I mention this? Because today I’m seeing people I’ve known for a long time or encountered every so often for the last few years and the compliments seem to be sitting different. There is a refreshing bluntness or humour surrounding my cane…and then a frank and complimentary mention about my outfit or my hair of my make-up. So it’s definitely something about strangers… But, then again, I’ve always been taught not to talk to strangers! 

Particular attention was paid to my shoes today! They were a cheapie purchase from Missguided at £4.99 in the sale and I wasn’t sure the pointy, metallic lace ups would go with the whole 70’s vibe that my denim button up a-line skirt and Chelsea Girl top had going on! But for a lack of a more suitable, less trainer-like flat shoe, I made a judgement call…payed off as they certainly made a positive statement! 

  

K   
 I ordered a wee Cape coat that I to arrive from eBay, and foldable cane as my physio says it will be good for stronger but less sciatic/painful days! So I may be channelling some Jack the Ripper chic but it will be a chicness that my casual GAP cargo jacket doesn’t have! 

  
Like I said, making an effort had a different before I began to get ill; it used to be something I took for granted. Make-up and clothes, as materialistic and vain as it sounds, make me happy and are a very personal representation of my creativity! And, to quote Ms Carrie Preston née Bradshaw, “shopping is my cardio!” Now they take on the role of expressing my vitality or lack-there-of. Whereas before I could put on any old bra on any old day; I now have to consider how restrictive it feels on my chest, if it is one too many layers for my body to regulate my temperature, if it’s going to be too snug on my back for my sciatica. Can I wear my skinny jeans or have I become full-term pregnant overnight due to IBS so I only fit my boyfriends sweatpants? I could shower but the effort would empty the cutlery drawer so bodyspray bath it is! I know this seems like I have a preoccupation with physicality here but CFS can be quite physical thing…and this is a very accurate depiction of the “you don’t look sick”. 

Im gonna im-Parton some wisdom; it takes a lot of work to look this neat (see what I did there…with a Dolly Parton quote…no? ?..I’m not even a Dolly fan…pity me and my bad puns.) Even on the odd day when M.E isn’t beating my ass so hard, mustering the physical energy to get out of bed is akin to solving world hunger…never mind the super-human feat of getting dressed. To cut a long story short, before you assume that I “don’t look sick”; judge the book by its cover. If I look like a slob, as vain as this is, I’m very, very sick today. If you don’t see me at all…it’s because public nudity is a crime and my body odour has reached a state of toxicity! 

I know that this has been a bit of a mish-mash of a blog but it’s been a day of firsts…so you’re kind of getting the “first thoughts that come into my head” sort of blog! I hope to be a tad more linear with it next time! I’ve gotta go and swallow some penny sized pills now- yummy, yum, yum! B12 in my tum!

To be continued! I shall see you anon! 

P.