The thing with laundry

When it comes to doing laundry, I have to get a little bit creative. Before I moved away from home my parents had always helped with it so it was a shock to the system when I had to do it for myself and I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d cope with it.

While I was at university I had help from an outside supportive living agency who would also assist me with my laundry, cooking, cleaning and shopping whenever I needed it so I know that it’s not something I’d ever have to  worry about too much if I ever did decide to live alone. Yet I hate to be defeated by anything (except my shoe laces – I gave up trying to tie those a long time ago) so I made the effort to find ways around washing my own clothes. I knew that I could always ask for help if it got too hard, but I wanted to be ready just in case there was ever a time I don’t have a choice, and so that I know I can do as much for myself as is physically possible.

Luckily I’d always managed to find somewhere to live where my bedroom had been on the ground floor so I didn’t have to fret about trying to get all my clothes downstairs to the washing machine because there was no way that I would have tried to carry the basket myself. Eventually I did manage to find a way around this problem though for if I ever want to give mum a hand at home where my bedroom is on the first floor and the washing machine isn’t. I have to get some plastic carrier bags (like the kind you get from the supermarket), fill them with whatever I’m planning on throwing in the washer, loop them around my wrist and go downstairs holding on to my handrails as normal. It usually takes three or four trips for me to gather a full load, but I get there in the end.

When my room was on the same floor as the kitchen at university I usually opted to do what I like to call the ‘crawl and push manoeuvre ‘ where I would get down on my knees on the floor and push whatever I had my clothes in along with me until I got them to where they needed to be. This took a while too but it was better than the alternative if I tried to carry it. When I would try to do this I would usually end up falling over (what a surprise) or I’d spill all my clothes all over the living room floor, neither of which are very good, especially not if the people you live with are around at the time and just so happen to see your unmentionables go flying across the room. My housemates were always really helpful and would help me if they were around though.

The difficulties don’t stop there. If for whatever reason I can’t use a dyer or my clothes need to be hung up on an airier before I can put them back in the wardrobe,  that takes me a fair amount of time too. I have to hold on to the airier for support while I put things onto it, which means that things often fall off again as fast as I can hang them there, so it takes ages (and a lot of mumbling to myself most of the time) to get everything to stay in place. The constant bending down to pick things up makes me quite tired too so I have to take a lot rest breaks too.

I used to use Betsy for extra drying space too if I wasn’t planning on going out anywhere. I haven’t had to do this with Martha yet, but I’m sure her time will come.

Thank goodness for my walk-in shower

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My walk-in shower

When I woke up this morning I was a zombie, there really is no other way to describe it other than that. My legs and back had decided that last night they were going to Tag Team against me and ache so much that they would keep me awake most of the night. Next time they plan on doing this, I hope they tell me so I can have an afternoon nap first. Despite their best efforts I think I managed t catch somewhere between three to four hours of Zs  which is not so great –especially when one of those blissful hours was between 7:30 and 8:30 this morning. I’d have loved at least another half an hour but I have lots to do today so I didn’t really have a choice but it suck it up and get on with it. All I can say is, thank goodness I have a walk-in shower.

For a long time, showering was something that my mum had to help me with because we didn’t get the wet-room installed until I was around 17 or 18.  From the age of around 15 I had other things that would help me to get washed by myself including a swivel bather and a bath board, but before that mum had to lift me in and out of our bath shower, and stay there with me to make sure I did slip. This did happen a couple of times though, given that my balance is less than good, especially on a bad day, and it also meant that my daily wash was done whenever mum could fit it in around all the other household chores. Now I can do it whenever I like, which is something I will never take for granted. It takes some pressure off my mother too. I’m grateful that she used to help me all the time (she still does wih some things) but I’m sure this is one thing she’s quite happy about not having to do anymore.

Thanks to the wet room I can just stroll in (quite literally) whenever I like, plonk myself down on the seat and stay there until my aches and pains have gone away, or until I feel human enough to bother facing the day. It works too. My legs aren’t as bad as they were first thing today, I’m half-awake and I’m sitting here writing this post. Not bad, eh?

Like most things in life, getting the wet room installed was a trade off. It meant that we had to get our bath taken out which was really useful on the days that I was stiff and the shower doesn’t work quite so well for that, but at least I have my independence. There is the odd day that it decides to get blocked and flood, but the bathroom is designed to handle the water. It just means we have to do the mopping up afterwards.

The fine art of making people smile

In all honesty I was actually planning on blogging today something happened that I feel the need to tell you all about. Martha and I made some strangers smile. That is always a good thing if you ask me.

When I woke up this morning I had no plans to leave the house, but when I saw how sunny it was there was no way I could pass up my mum’s invitation to go and visit a local art gallery. We’d probably been there less than five minutes when I heard a voice ask “Can I have my car painted that colour?”

Being the nosey person that I am I turned around to see which of the paintings he was looking at and was pleasantly surprised when I saw a man by the side of me admiring my blue walking frame Martha,

“I wonder if I could have my car painted that colour?” he grinned “It’s lovely.” I nodded back at him and was just about to launch into my why-I-love-Martha so much speech when his family came and joined us and started chatting about how great they thought she was and listed all the things they like about her: the blue paint (of course), the fact that she still looks like new (give it another two weeks and I’ll have scratched all the paintwork off) and the fact that she has a seat. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself, they’d come out to see all the brilliant work of real artists and here they were stood looking at Martha and praising her as if she were a prize winning picture. After a couple of minutes of smiling and chatting they waved us goodbye and went on to look at other things, but I was still left feeling all warm and humbled inside that I’d managed to make someone else smile. I love that.

When I was a teenager I once had a man stop me in the supermarket when I was on holiday and tell me that he “hoped his granddaughter ended up like me” because they’d just found out she was disabled and they didn’t know if she’d ever be able to walk. At the time I felt really awkward and mumbled something about the doctors telling my parents I might be able to walk around the supermarket at best so never to give up. At the time I felt guilty because I felt like I should have been able to do or say something more. It is only now I’m older that I see I probably did far more than I had realised. If this happened to me tomorrow I’d handle it better. I’d feel proud that I managed to give someone I’d never met before some hope, even if it was just for a moment. I’d feel happy that he’d had the courage to pay me the compliment. I’d like to think that he went home and gave his family hope too. It is moments like this that make me feel very humble and very grateful. That day I made a stranger smile. That day, the same stranger made me smile too.

Please, call her Martha

Martha and I
Martha and I

Well, I think it’s about time I introduced you all to me trusty counterpart Martha – AKA my very new, and indeed very blue, Nimbo walking frame. I know what you’re all thinking –pfft, she’s named it, why on Earth would she do that, nutter – well, I’ll tell you.

I’ve always had a frame for as long as I can remember but I haven’t always given them names. That tradition started with my last glamorous aluminium-assistant Betsy who sadly had to go to walker Heaven about three weeks ago after about a year-and-a-half by my side (I’ll tell you more of her life story another time, though).  Her name came about almost by accident. I was given her by the hospital the day before Christmas Eve and I was really excited because the last one was getting so wobbly that I couldn’t wait to get her. In my excitement I decided to announce to the physiotherapist that gave her to me that she deserved a name and that name would be Betsy.  Enough about Betsy for now though, let’s let Martha have her moment of glory first.

After a while, and many confused friends later, I decided that this should be a tradition that I would keep up.  After all, when you are a child you name the teddy bear that you carry about with you all the time and lose on at least sixteen occasions while you’re growing up, so why shouldn’t I do it? And, even though I’m not embarrassed by the fact I need a frame in any way, I think it sounds nicer to ask my parents if they’ve put Martha in the car rather that saying ‘did you remember to bring ‘the frame’”.

Giving her a name is great too because it helps get me out of trouble “Martha didn’t mean to hit your ankles Mum. She’s got PMT today and is very sorry, she won’t do it again”. My mum can’t help but laugh every time I pull that excuse.

It’s a great ice-breaker at parties too. When I say “I’m Nic and this is Martha” they usually look at me like I’ve had one too many, then ponder on it for a minute and offer up what their own choice of name would be in my situation. I think sometimes, it helps people who’ve never met me before relax a bit and realise that they can ask whatever they want about the CP, and that I’m probably not going to mind, as long as they’re polite about it.

As I said, Martha is very new to me but she’s also very special because she is the first walker I’ve ever had with a seat attached which makes all the difference. Now, I don’t have to worry about there being somewhere for me to sit so that I can take notes without falling over if I’m interviewing someone at an event, I can rest if my sister is taking too long to decide if she wants to buy that dress she’s been mulling over for an hour, and I never have to worry if there’ll be a free chair that I can use in the pub. It is these little things that make the biggest difference.

Welcome to my world, Martha. We’re gonna have a blast!