Wow, my head is spinning with all the things I want to talk about after having such an amazing weekend. I really don’t know where to begin so I’m just going to dive in and hope you enjoy my ramblings as I revisit my experiences.

First though, a little explanation. I spent the weekend in sunny Somerset, in the stunning country house venue, Croydon Hall. The Retreat was arranged by the awesome Sally from Who’s the Mummy and founder of Tots 100. It was attended by around fifty bloggers all keen to learn and interact, and happy to be staying together for the whole weekend.

front entrance of country house with a large semi circle porch leading to a big arched wooden door. the building is white with lots of windows and plant pots outside.

Croydon Hall

The Venue

As you can see, my first sighting of Croydon Hall really had a wow factor, what a lovely place to be staying. On going around the back the views were stunning, miles and miles of fields and trees and beautiful countryside set against the horizon of blue sky and wispy clouds.

The house itself was aged but still beautiful and very cosy. My room was on the ground floor because of my accessibility needs. I shared my room with the lovely Lisa, who I’ve only recently met online, and now in the flesh. We had an en-suite bathroom which was a nice luxury until we heard how clamorously the water pipes announced their work.

My bed was cosy, if a little firm. The covers adequate although the first night I slept in my dressing gown to ward off the cold of an old stone building. The second night was much warmer as the heating was escalated.

The view from my window was probably not as stunning as those from higher up in the house, but I still enjoyed a lovely sunny day picture on my first morning.

 

I spent a lot of time exploring as much as I could in my wheelchair. The rooms were all large but welcoming and cosy, the dining room big enough to manoeuvre around and most of the door pretty easy to push or pull open. Being a wheelchair user you notice little things that others may not, like two doors close in proximity, or double doors that will only open together. I did manage to move around inside well alone but I also appreciated every door that was opened for me. There was no lift so I did not go upstairs, but as my room was on the ground floor, there was no need anyway.

I did have a little trouble getting to the barn but Sally and Jaime were so helpful, driving me right up to the front where I could access the barn by a ramp. Had I a more suitable wheelchair for outdoor use, or a scooter, then I would probably have managed the short journey myself. Maybe a tip for the owners would be to provide a scooter to be used by disabled visitors that would need to get to the barn.

Here are a few more photos of the inside of the house. The bar and lounge, the entrance hall and the two bottom photos are from the study.

The First Day

We all arrived late on Friday afternoon and after the general hellos it was time for the first session, yoga.

Out on the grass in the warm fresh air we were led by the lovely  Rachel for a relaxing session of yoga. Rachel was wonderful, so warm and welcoming. She began by leading us into empowering poses and then on to a meditative yoga. I’ve never meditated like this in a group before and it’s something I probably wouldn’t have considered doing. However, I immersed myself into this session and enjoyed every moment. It really set me up for the rest of the weekend and I believed it affected everyone as we were all so relaxed and focused.

The rest of the day was pretty relaxed with a little photography, dinner and movie.

Day Two

Day two was a little more intense with lots of different sessions going on. Having chosen all of our sessions before hand it meant we all knew what we were doing. As we all had different needs and expectations I think this added to the community spirit, being in different classes with different people.

I had chosen carefully, making sure I had some down time. I didn’t want to burn myself out or run out of brain space.

I enjoyed a lovely creative writing workshop with Kirstie Pelling. I have attended many creative writing workshops and was expecting this one to be similar, but Kirstie took me on a completely new adventure that I’m sure will help me much more than anything I’ve learnt before.

Later in the day I attended a product photography workshop. Derek was a true professional. Suddenly I no longer want to throw my product on the coffee table, take a quick snap and then edit it so you don’t get my kids mess in the background. Derek taught me that it can be pretty simple to have a set up which will create the most amazing product photos. And his props do not cost the earth to buy, I can just imagine so many bloggers now running out to buy some tracing paper. Derek was informative and very patient as he let everyone get hands on with the props and their cameras. It all looked a bit complicated but it really wasn’t. I’m pretty sure my kitchen will be looking like this quite soon.

a photographer setting up a light environment for taking product photography, at the front there is a chair with a laptop on to view the photos.

After the photography I went on to a Confidence on Camera session. I don’t do videos of myself, I really lack the confidence to do Facebook Live or Insta Stories. This really was the session for me despite the fact that I was terrified.

The session was held by Darren and Sean from Aspire Presenting.

I had a feeling that I had seen Sean before but was not entirely sure where or when. The guys introduced themselves and when Sean said he’d worked at Butlins, I blurted out “Are you Shiny Sean?”

So, that’s where I’d seen him before, at Butlins, some 21 years previously. I obviously have a good memory for faces! Actually, it was quite a memorable holiday for me, the first after splitting with my husband, and I took my Mum to help with the kids. We had a really good week and the kids had loads of fun. Shiny Sean was one of their favourite red coats so I guess that’s why I remembered him.

Anyway, I digress. After a really interesting talk, in which I learned an awful lot about how to present myself, along with tips to boost my confidence. It was then time to start doing a little piece in front of the camera, one by one. It was a real eye opener and there was so much to take away from the session. It was also loads of fun and that helps so much.

I guess this calls for a photo of me with Shiny Sean 🙂

On the evening of the second day we had a lovely meal brought in by caterers, it was a special occasion where we all sat together and conversed while enjoying our food. I also got to meet some more people that I’d not really had chance to chat to before.

Want to see my food? Of  course you do.

Day Three

I woke in the early hours of the morning with a throbbing headache and I had to get up and take some pain relief. It seemed to take forever to work but eventually I drifted back to sleep. I woke up a few hours later and felt a little better so I dragged myself off to breakfast. After breakfast I didn’t have anything on my schedule so I went back to my room. I was going to lie down again for a while but instead I grabbed my kindle and went off into the study. It seemed a little strange switching on my kindle in a room full of books, but they had a cosy settee in there and I knew I wouldn’t be disturbed. So, headphones on, I switched to Audible and listened while I chilled. An hour or so later and I was feeling much better so I headed off for my next  session.

I’d opted for a portrait photography class led by Sarah Mason. My camera is a little ancient, I know I need to get a new one, but hey, I have more expensive things to buy right now, like a new wheelchair that doesn’t stop at every little bump! Sarah was brilliant though. Not only did she give me the courage to take the plunge and go into program rather than smart mode, she gave me so many ideas to think about when taking a portrait photo. Things I would never had thought of myself. She was also really patient, taking a look at everyone’s cameras and helping them find the right settings. We were soon getting the hang of it all.

This was my last session of learning. After lunch we all gathered one last time for a little positivity workshop, which was fun and a real nice way to say goodbye. I’m looking forward to seeing the photos from that.

Then, just like that, it was all over! Until next year 🙂

Food

I can’t leave it there though. I have to tell you how well we were looked after while at The Retreat. The first evening I watched Sally and her team rustle up a fabulous dinner of pizza, baked potatoes and sides. One thing that really struck me was the lovely smile on Lindy’s face as she beavered away. I can assure you I would not be smiling while cooking for so many guests, flapping maybe, but not smiling. Lindy was obviously in her element. There was a good choice for breakfast, on the first morning it was pastries, cereal, yoghurt and fruit, and on the second it was the same but with the added option of sausage buns. Lunch on the first day was sandwiches and on the second they sent us off after filling lunch of either fish pie, cottage pie or lasagne. And don’t forget the cake, there was always cake and cookies and even cheesecake.

I can honestly say, my tummy was full and pleased.

Finally

I have to say thank you to everyone who helped me, everyone who held open a door or fetched me a chair, or just simply just took the time to ask if I needed anything. I learned something even more valuable this weekend and that was how to accept help. I have always been fiercely independent and felt accepting help difficult. Now I realise it’s okay to need assistance, and there are so many lovely people willing to offer it.

And of course, a big thank you to the Retreat team who made all this wonderfulness happen.

Sally, Lindy, Louise, Monika and Sarah 

 

 

black and white photo of a piece of barbed wire stretched between two tree which are out of focus

Usually about this time I give you a run down of how my week has been, but I’ve been struck with another hemi-plegic migraine which has scuppered plans a little.

What is a Hemi-plegic Migraine?

Hemiplegic migraine is a rare and serious type of migraine headache. Many of its symptoms mimic those common to stroke; for example, muscle weakness can be so extreme that it causes a temporary paralysis on one side of your body, which doctors call hemiplegia.

Basically, it’s the worst type of headache you can imagine, accompanied by partial and temporary paralysis. Sounds like fun doesn’t it!

My First Hemi-Plegic Migraine

The first one I had was in October 2015, before I got SPS. I went to bed early, the same time as the kids, because I had a migraine. I woke up a few hours later in incredible pain and reached out for my painkillers on the bedside table. Only, I couldn’t reach out, no matter how I tried. My right arm could move but I my left side was completely paralysed and I had no strength to pull my right side over my left. So I decided to call out for help. Only, I couldn’t call out, not only was my body paralysed, I couldn’t speak either.

At first, I thought maybe I was having a nightmare. But, the pain was so severe and I couldn’t remember feeling such pain in a dream before. So, I then thought that maybe I was dying and that scared me and I started to panic. But I could still breathe so I calmed myself down and concentrated on breathing. In 2,3, out 2,3, stay calm, stay calm. I don’t know how long I was like that, it could have been minutes or hours, I just don’t know.

Eventually I could move again, although I had painful pins and needles everywhere. I managed to sit on the side of the bed and grab some painkillers. After a while, when I was sure I could move again and the pins and needles had subsided I got back into bed and fell asleep. When I awoke, I still had the migraine, but the paralysis had gone.

I went to the GP and he said that I should have called an ambulance straight away. That’s not easy when  you are paralysed and can’t even shout for help. He said I’d had a suspected T.I.A which is a mini-stroke, and sent off a referral for a CT scan.

I never had that CT scan because before the appointment arrived I was admitted to hospital with paralysis from the waist down. This time I had no migraine, just pins and needles that had started in my hands and spread all over my body until I went numb and couldn’t walk.

That’s when I was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis which was eventually re-diagnosed as Stiff Person Syndrome.

Migraine number Two.

My second hemi-plegic migraine happened in October last year. A week after my IVIG treatment at hospital. I couldn’t hold my head up because of the pain and the whole side of my face became paralysed. My husband took me to hospital because it looked like I was having a stroke. The hospital checked me out and said it was just a migraine.

A rare side affect of IVIG is meningitis, so I know we did the right thing going to get checked out. I would have felt daft going to hospital with a migraine, but to be honest, I was so ill that all I felt was pain. They gave me morphine while waiting to see the doctor, but it didn’t even take the edge off the pain. I did manage to sleep well that night though.

 

The Latest Migraine

Again, just a week after IVIG the third migraine appeared. Again I had temporary paralysis, particularly in my face. I felt more calm about this one as you do when something happens several times. I just went to bed and prayed that I’d still be alive in the morning. I was and after three days of pain I began to feel kind of normal again.

I’m seeing a link with the IVIG and the migraine, although I have had one treatment symptom free. I believe the key is probably hydration. I MUST not ignore my thirst, ever. I really need to get into the habit of having a bottle of water next to me at all times. IVIG thickens the blood and when the blood reaches the brain, if it is thicker it can trigger a headache or migraine.

Warning

My migraines have turned out to be nothing but migraines, but there are symptoms which I’ve learned that you should never ignore. Always seek medical help if you have any type of paralysis or numbness, pins and needles that will not go away and migraines that are really bad, in particular if you cannot stand any type of light, you cannot put your head to your chest because of neck pain or you have an accompanying rash of dark red or purple spots that don’t disappear when you press a glass on them.

Missed Out

Losing so much time in my week because of the migraine means that I’ve missed out on a lot. I couldn’t go out to the family meal for my niece’s birthday (although, I insisted my husband and the kids went.) We had a lovely sunny day that would have been great for a day out, but I spent inside feeling ill. And basically, I’ve had three days of not doing much at all.

Thankfully, I’m feeling better now and I am certain I’ll be able to shake the migraine hangover pretty soon. I hope so because I am going away this weekend on a blogger retreat! I’ll tell you all about it next week.

Do you have migraines?

 

Debs Random Writings

 

 a brick room with wooden ceiling and furnished with two bedsImage by Man Pan on Unsplash

 

If you are thinking of buying a summer house, there are many benefits to be enjoyed, and with some careful planning, the unit can be the ideal overnight accommodation for friends and family that visit. If you already have a unit in place, you are halfway there, and with some additional furniture, this will make the ideal luxury accommodation.

 

If you would like to see some cosy wooden summer houses with a view to buying one that can be used for overnight guests, there is an excellent supplier who has an extensive range of Nordic Pine summer houses, and some of the larger units are specifically designed as independent accommodation, with bathroom and toilet facilities built in.

 

Space is The Issue

 

Obviously, the summer house has limited space, and with folding beds and other furniture, you can achieve a lot more, and a bed that folds into the wall would be the ideal arrangement. If the summer house is big enough to accommodate the double bed and still have ample space to move around, then you have a choice. To be honest, a bed that doubles as a sofa is perfect, as a single item of furniture gives you two essential features, and with some thought about the layout, you can plan the space with two guests in mind.

 

Heating & Ventilation

 

Obviously, you will need to make provisions for climate control, and a portable electric heater would likely be ample. With adequate insulation and double glazed windows, it shouldn’t require too much energy to heat such a small space, and in the summer, you can always leave the windows open, just make sure you have insect screens fitted. LPG heating is not a good idea, as the enclosed space is a health risk, and a small electric convector heater would suffice.

 

Kitchen and Bathroom Facilities

 

The larger units can be accommodated to include these essentials, and if you are not much of a DIY enthusiast, your local handyman would be happy to oblige. These are, of course, optional, and it might be easier for the guests to use the facilities in your home, which wouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience.

 

The Décor

 

With a little creativity, you can do wonders to make the place more homely, with some tasteful wall art and a few rugs to give warmth underfoot, and if you would like some interior design inspirations on how to best decorate a guest bedroom, there is an informative article. Cosiness is a must with a guest room, and soft lighting and colours will go a long way towards turning the interior into something suitable, and make sure you leave fresh towels and bed linen in a drawer, which your guests can use.

 

If you are looking at summer houses with a view to adding a guest room, there are specific summer house designs that make this a simple transformation. Buying a quality unit will ensure that the summer houses lasts for many years, and like any other structure, it will need some maintenance from time to time.

This is a collaborative post.

 

We all want to do our very best for our children; we want them to feel safe, happy and loved and we certainly want them to grow to be successful adults who can stand on their own two feet. It is rather unfortunate then that most of us parents do things out of love that don’t do our kids any favours.

 

Here are some common things that most parents think are acts of love, but which can actually lead to poor outcomes for their children:

 

Keeping Them Away from a Parent

 

There are lots of parents who keep their kids away from their mother or father out of spite following a divorce, but there are also lots of parents who keep their kids away from a parent because they think it will be the best for them – divorce law firms like Austin Kemp Solicitors see it all the time. The thing is, these parents are often prejudiced and unless the other parent has been shown to be a risk to the kids, no matter how awful they may be in other ways, allowing them to maintain some contact is more likely to make them happy and enable them to grow up without worries. So, if they’re a good parent despite their other faults, don’t freeze them out.

 

Treating Them Like Kings and Queens

 

Us parents naturally want to make out children feel like they are special, but if we spoil them and we are lax in the discipline department, there is a good chance that this will lead to them feeling entitled and unable to take any criticisms in the future. So, although there’s nothing wrong with buying them something nice or giving them praise now and again, you should also ensure that their actions have consequences and that they must earn most of their privileges.

 

Not Letting Them Work

 

There are few children who have weekend jobs in 2018 and although that is partly because there just aren’t as many Saturday jobs available for the taking, it is much more the case that parents of not want their kids to work, They think that it will affect their studies or that they shouldn’t have to lift a finger when they are kids, and that can be really damaging. Why? Because we all need to earn a living and the sooner that kids get used to working and the fruits of that work, the sooner they will understand its importance and get used to doing it.

 

Wrapping Them Up in Cotton Wool

 

It’s every parent’s natural instinct to want to protect their child from harm, and although you certainly do need to do this, especially when they’re young, by teaching them how to cross the road and telling them not to get too close to the fire, for example, you should not take it too far. If you stop your kids from playing out with other children, climbing trees in the garden and generally doing the kind of things we did when we were kids in favour of staying in doors, not only will they become idle couch potatoes, but they’ll never learn how to manage risks, and they’re more likely to become anxious inexperienced adults as a result.

 

Love your kids, protect them and always be there for them, but don’t coddle them!

What do you think? Do you agree or not? I will admit to have an tendency to wrap my kids in cotton wool, and I know I could do more to encourage independence. But I certainly agree with the first one and I’ve never kept my two older children from seeing their Dad.

This is a collaborative post.

 

tea light candle in a glass jar spreading light across a table

I took this photo some time ago during one of our power cuts. I like the way the light makes patterns through the glass on the table.

I’m sharing this photo today in memory of little Jessica, a young warrior who went to sleep forever yesterday.

Life is way to short, and for some it’s even shorter. Sleep tight little girl x

 

Photalife

 

Sunday Snap