Switching Off…

switch off one

 

Does anyone else have a love/hate relationship with their smartphone??  I love that I can be contacted in an emergency regarding my kids; love the fact I can fill boring waiting times by checking emails; love capturing magical spontaneous moments with my babies; they are brilliant networking tools; and it’s amazing that you can now be connected with friends and family far and wide.  Plus, I love a good Insta selfie.  However.  I also hate the control these little screens have over our lives and the message we are sending our kids; really hate it!  But probably not as much as I hate computer consoles, but that’s a whole different blog!

When I was growing up, if the house phone rang and we were busy or eating we just ignored it.  We didn’t rush up to see who it was, we didn’t have an answering machine or caller ID; and we didn’t have ‘1471’ in the early days (shit I feel old!).  So if you missed a call, tough titties & nobody really cared.  The phone was also wired to the wall and located in the busy kitchen so there was no privacy as such.  So phone calls were to the point and purposeful.   We hated being on the phone; we had shit to do and people to see – you know, in actual person!

screen_addicted_parents_ignoring_child_v_dunckley_md

As a parent, especially a single one I think it’s really important to spend real quality time with my babies, and actually be ‘present’ rather than distracted by my smartphone.  They are growing up in a fast-paced technological world (which is great!) BUT there is simply never ever any substitute for being present and giving your time and attention to both your loved ones and people in general for that matter.   Since Cancer, my time with my babies is even more valuable and precious than ever and I began to distance myself from technology as a direct result a few years ago.

For example, I deactivate my personal Facebook account a few times a year to take a break; there are certain apps that I turn the notifications off for; all group message conversations are permanently muted; certain emails are filtered straight into specific folders so I only notice they are there by physically checking occasionally; no phones allowed at the table; I rarely scroll through the Facebook newsfeed and I’m not one to ‘overshare’ my shit on there either (show some damn dignity people).  I am a HUGE fan of the ‘Do Not Disturb’ function and use it a LOT!  I’ve also always turned off all notification and phone calls from about 8pm at night (unless I am out and need to check in about my babies).   And when camping with my babies I have always turned my phone off to enjoy the peace and experience fully.  I always thought that this was enough.  It wasn’t. 

A few days ago I was trying to reply to a really important email; the kids nagging me for yet another snack; the youngest getting angry; I couldn’t concentrate on the email; it was turning into bloody chaos.  In that moment I had forgotten my priorties.  The email actually wasn’t that fucking urgent, yet my kids craving my presence was.  So the phone got ditched and I gave the kids their 10th billion snack of the day as we all sat and chatted about travels and holidays we were planning for next year.  How it should be. 

That evening I decided to stop ALL notifications on my smartphone and placed contact restrictions on many people in my caller list who are known to drain both my time and energy needlessly.  And it’s been liberating.   I only know if I have an email or message if I make an effort to physically check, and no more of those annoying Facebook notifications for everything single little bloody thing!

Now, we aren’t all Topsy and Tim (God those obnoxious little brats irritate the hell out of me and well that mother is clearly using something to get her through the day!).  But I do feel it’s important to set a good example as kids mimic behaviours they see.  I want my kids to gain confidence with the outside world and real bloody people – not waste their life away watching YouTube videos of some anti-social gamer playing a video game and commentating as they go (what the actual F is all that about?!?!)

So, if you don’t get an immediate response from me (or no response at all)…..it’s either because I have my priorities set differently to you; or I’m busy doing the other zillion things single parents have to do!  I’d definitely suggest giving it a go – you would be surprised at how addicted you actually are to those pesky little screens!

switch off 2

 

Amy Griffiths, Well Being Freedom Services Ltd ©

Happy 7th Anniversary!

7th anniversary

So, no, this isn’t my wedding anniversary (ha!).  No.  This Summer I am celebrating 7 glorious years of single-parenthood 😀  I know, I can’t quite believe my babies are growing up so quickly!  Seems like only yesterday I was patting my growing tummy and suffering from horrific sickness ha!   My babies make me incredibly proud, even with the meltdowns and pre-teen eye-rolling!

Being a single parent has certainly changed over the years.  I remember choosing to do it alone the first time around 11 years ago; I was in my early 20’s, career-driven and after struggling with fertility issues never in my wildest dreams thought it would be possible to ever carry a child of my own.  I look back now and realise how people generally pitied me for being a lone parent, like I somehow was suddenly in a sub-standard class, struggling and unwanted.

unplanned.jpg

Second time around three years later things were slightly better, although perhaps I had toughened up and learnt to take less shit 😉  These days however, times have changed dramatically.

Single mothers are no longer pitied.  We are feared, and so we should be!  We deal with more before 6am than you will ever know.  We fight battle after battle for our babies, and we do it with absolute grace.  We take no shit, and walk away from drama queens (you know who you are).  No longer does society view us as weak beings, struggling to cope.  But now rather as strong, powerful females who to do it all (and more!)  

I’m not going to lie and say it’s always easy.  It’s not.  Especially with my own health issues and raising two wonderfully quirky babies both with varying additional needs.  But I can tell you this……..choosing to raise my babies full time single-handedly will win each and every time, hands down 😉

 

Amy Griffiths, Well Being Freedom Services Ltd ©

Haha Cancer, Do One!

So after a bloody agonising few weeks wait, I’ve FINALLY being given the all-clear after another sodding cancer scare!!! That’s TWO scares within 7 months; two lots of surgery; two lots of biopsies. I’ve beaten you once cancer, and there is no way you’re EVER going to beat me

💪

So cancer has taught me some valuable lessons………

  1. Live with passion.
  2. Push yourself further than you ever felt possible.
  3. Take chances. Life’s too short.
  4. Make memories. Not mistakes.
  5. Spend as much time at the beach as possible.
  6. Let music heal you.
  7. Never accept mediocre.
  8. Talk openly and honestly.
  9. Love hard and with sincerity. Always.
  10. Take no shit 😉
So with that in mind I have been busy re-writing my bucket list. My medical team are going to love me…….NOT ha!! But you only live once. Well, unless you are me. I appear to be a cat. And a fucking awesome one at that

😜

Now for the soppy bit….
Thank you to the Cocky Glaswegian for always being there for me (even when he’s not!) And my drinking partner in crime who keeps me amused falling asleep on my toilet lol! All my wonderful friends who have rallied around. The stranger at the swimming pool for a much needed hug. The stranger on the top of the mountain for his wise words of wisdom……And my beautiful babies who have shown unbelievable resilience over the years and make me incredibly proud each and every single day xxxxx

BOOM

One Down….

keep-calm-one-down-many-more-to-go-1

Well, that’s the first official day of the Summer holidays over!  How did you do mums??  Did your day resemble this below by any chance?!?!?

tired-mom2

Or was it more like this…….

funny-parenting-meme-04

For us our day went a little like this:

6:17am: Wake up
Tantrums.
Babies bickering.
Tantrums.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Breakfast.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Get us all dressed.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Watched a film at the cinema which was actually quite good (forgot the 3D glasses so now have an extra 3 pairs to add to the billion others in the drawer of crap!)
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Endured a grumpy person.
Babies collected for a few hours (yes, this is the FIRST time in TWO years that I have arranged having small breaks during the Summer holidays!)
Quick lunch & work emails.
Childfree trip to B&Q for screws.
Childfree trip to the gym where I snorted out a massive laugh watching this video whilst on the treadmill (WARNING, not for the easily offended ha!)
Childfree swim.  Bliss.
Had an allergic reaction to something.
Collected some parcels (new camping equipment, yay!)
Got harassed on Gumtree messages by somebody called ‘Jade.’
Home for DIY.  Realised I got wrong screws.  Bugger.
Childfree trip to B&Q for screws.
Collected babies; one happy; one sad. *sigh*
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Medical appointment for one of the said babies.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Back home for tea.
Tantrums.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Tantrums.
“Mummy I want a snack.”
Babies up to bed.
Told how much they love me and missed me today. *awwww* 
Lovely cuddles and kisses with my babies.
Housework.
“Mummy I want a poo poo.”
Housework.
“Mummy I want a drink.”
Housework.
“Mummy I want a drink.”
Housework.
“Mummy I want a drink.”
8:23pm: I start work for the evening when I should actually be preparing for a hospital trip to London in the morning. Bugger.

Sound familiar ladies???

One day down.  43 to go!

cheers

 

Amy Griffiths, Well Being Freedom Services Ltd ©

I Hate This Place…..

hate-dictionary

 

It’s been a while since I blogged ‘on location’.  Today my ‘office’ is the cramped, depressing Oncology waiting room.  I hate this place.  Not the wonderful staff; but how this awful clinic fills me with dread on each occasion, which gradually builds up for a few weeks before each check up.  I think most people who have fought cancer feel like they are a ticking time bomb, I know certainly that’s how a lot of my brave cervical cancer warrior friends feel.  I however, try to see it as living more for the moment, never committing to anything too far in the future. And that’s not me accepting some awful impending fate; it’s me learning to be more spontaneous and fulfilled in the moment instead (well as much as you can do as a single parent to two quirky babies!).

Looking around this airless room, it’s full of every aged and type of woman you can think of; cancer does not discriminate.  You can also tell which ladies are here for their check ups, and who are awaiting initial results….God I remember that day so vividly.  The day my world changed forever.  In lots of ways for the worse.  In other ways for the better.  I have a love hate relationship with my cancer journey – I wrote a very personal account on why this time last year which I would encourage you to read HERE.

Anyway, back to the stuffy waiting room…..I’m being subjected to an episode of Jeremy Kyle on the tele; “Did my fiancée have sex with another man on the bathroom floor?” Well according to the lie detector yes she did…..but of course she protests her innocent.  God, I’m bored and feel sick waiting here.  Whoever designed this place needs a hard slap. Sticking cancer females who are now largely infertile due to no real choice of their own, right within a maternity unit.  Yep, you read right.  Talk about adding insult to injury each and every time you come for a check up.  Clearly emotional well being still means very little to some hospitals; no matter how caring and wonderful your treating team are (and mine are amazing!).

So I’m home now, after over an hour’s wait, contemplating in that horrid room waiting to see my Oncologist.  Upshot is, I’ve made a fully informed decision to decline a drug and major surgery which was hoped would help ease some of my ongoing pain that was caused by my cancer treatment 3.5 years ago.  Even my Oncologist sighed a breath of relief that I had made such an empowering decision based upon weighing up the pros and cons of such a risky and big operation (even more so than my initial cancer surgery!), especially given my status as the sole-carer to my quirky babies.  I actually feel a calmness about ‘just’ living a life of a pain instead of having the treatment.

In other areas, I’m back in two months time to check on something new that has developed (FFS), another MRI, another referral to a different specialist.  This all comes at the exact same time as having heart scans, colonoscopies, and a different surgery next week.  But for now at least I can tick Oncology off for a few months before the panic sets in again…..

Is it gin time yet??? 

gin

 

 

 

Amy Griffiths, Well Being Freedom Services Ltd ©

When the music just isn’t doing it….

busy-brain

Does your brain ever feel so busy that you are sure it’s about to explode?  Usually a good dance to loud music or exercise (on my good health days) really helps to clear the noise and get clarity on my thoughts.  Music is a wonderful tool for the brain, I live for music!  I wrote a previous blog about it’s therapeutic qualities which you can read here.  But lately neither exercise or music have worked.

It’s been a very difficult few months; health flare ups, massive issues with my youngest baby’s education (or lack of, but that’s whole other rant!); studying; exams; life.  I’ve been running on an empty-autopilot state for the past few months, under huge demands, not really processing much, just fire-fighting situations and trying to get through my exams.

If you follow me on social media, then you will know that despite everything going on (and being a single mummy to two wonderful quirky kids!) that my hard work paid off – I am now a fully qualified Fitness Instructor, YAY!  This means I can better meet the needs of my clients, rather than simply focussing on good nutrition.  But I will write more about that another time, sooooo exciting!

Anyway, back to my busy brain……side tracked again!  So when music and exercise fail to clear my mind sufficiently, I jump in the car and head to one of my special places to reflect and sort the crap.  I have four main special places which help me to reflect:

  1. Cardiff Bay – this is not so much the ‘place’ but who I feel close to when I am there; miss you always xxx.
  2. Caerphilly Mountain – this is a few minutes from where I live so I head there quite often if I need a quick ‘fix’ and can’t get to Cardiff Bay.
  3. My Aunty’s grave in Gloucestershire – although since moving away I haven’t had much opportunity to visit.  I need to make more time, I’m sorry.
  4. Torquay – before the babies came along, any sign of trouble or overwhelm and I was straight in that car!  Sometimes I didn’t even pre-book accomodation, just knocked on hotel doors until I found space.  These days I have to be less spontaneous due to said babies.  But we still enjoy heading to the ‘English Riviera’ once a year, although not much peace these days to reflect!

So, today I was meant to be going for a swim during my two hours of childfree time as it helps my Lymphoedema and EDS.  But instead I got the pull to grab the dog (we are looking after the most gorgeous doggie this week for a friend!) and head to Cardiff Bay.  I’ve hardly slept in weeks, so this busy head needed to empty!

It may sound odd, but when I reflect I am able to visualise a spreadsheet where I can sort all my tasks, thoughts, feelings etc into tables and columns to give me more clarity on situations.  It doesn’t necessarily always stop my brain being as busy, but stops a lot of the rushing around and muddling that can happen when i’ve been running on autopilot too long.

I envy those who successfully manage to meditate each day.  I just don’t have the alone time or patience for it, so for me I have to ‘reflect’ on the go which probably isn’t the most productive way to sort a busy brain, but hey life and shit happens.  So a calming walk around the Bay was the ‘meditation’ I really needed – I won’t dwell on the part where I had to pick up the biggest dog shit from right outside Starbucks – thanks Douglas for your audience witnessed crap! 

Welcome to my random life 😉

 

Amy Griffiths, Well Being Freedom Services Ltd ©

Well, I REALLY didn’t mean to do that…..

IMG_20180127_174322_173

 

But I am feeling pretty smug that I did ha!  But I really didn’t mean to at all!

You see two days ago I had a small surgery and was meant to be ‘taking it easy.’  So I told myself I was only going to do a small run down into town and back (I run most Saturday mornings to help with my lymphoedema and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome).  I haven’t felt that well the past few days, even went to bed at 8pm last night totally drained and in pain.

But something happened this morning before my run which I won’t bore you with, but let’s just say it released too much adrenaline into my system (a quirky benefit/punishment of having EDS) and once I was running with my favourite tunes on in the pissing rain and wind, I just couldn’t stop.  I love how ‘free’ running and music makes me feel, everything else just kinda fades away.  It’s a very therapeutic feeling; one I only ever feel when I am running, dancing or singing.  Its irreplaceable. 

You will know from my previous blogs how hard I have found my fitness journey due to my health issues – if you haven’t read them you can find them here and here.  Never in a million years would I have ever thought I was capable of doing what I did today!  So I guess there is a lot to be said for running when you are feeling emotional 😉

I am sooooooo incredibly proud of myself, and not in a bigheaded way but in a fucking grateful way.  Grateful that I am still here after cancer, grateful that my EDS and lymphoedema haven’t ruined my life, grateful to be a strong role model to my babies, grateful for good music!  But fuck am I in agony now.  My legs are wrecked and my stomach can’t make it’s mind up what it’s doing.

I am expecting to go into a full blown painful chronic illness flare up over the next few days, but you know what since cancer I have learnt to live life like it’s your last day on earth.  And I don’t mean that in a morbid way.  But I was genuinely given a second chance at life and I have absolutely no intention spending it festering away!

 

As John Cena says…….NEVER GIVE UP!!!

 

 

Amy Griffiths, Well Being Freedom Services Ltd ©

Grateful Reflections…

GoT_Christmas

 

Most people will think I absolutely love Christmas, afterall I am forever dancing around to the cheesy Christmas tunes embarrassing my babies and couldn’t wait to dust off the novelty jumpers & awful sickly festive DVDS!  But in reality, Christmas for me is a very difficult time, as it is for many others.

In 2006 I lost my Poppa on Christmas Day, followed by my wonderful Nanny 30th December a few years later.  These two deaths alone made me dread the Christmas period, but as a Mummy you learn pretty bloody quickly to paint that smile on and chuck yourself into the festivities to ensure your babies have the most magical time.

Then in December 2014 I had my cancer treatment.  As a mother it absolutely broke me being so unwell and not able to give my babies the Christmas they would normally have.  But equally, it was probably one of the most touching and special as we weren’t rushing around trying to cram everything in.  I also remember getting a pretty spectacular phone call late Christmas Eve; my wonderful Oncologist wanted to tell me personally I was cancer free.   I will always be indebted to that man for giving me more time with my babies.  Always.  

This year, the lead up to the festive season has been very difficult again, but for reasons I’m not quite ready to share just yet.  But my duty as a Mummy will always be to ensure that my babies have magical memories.  I of all people know how precious these are.

Despite the challenges surrounding Christmas, a text I got from a good friend prompted me to reflect and appreciate some of the wonderful people I have around me.  He called me ‘pigheaded’ because I have a tendency to shut down & not deal with certain shit.  Now, if anyone else would have called me that they would have been firmly told where to go ha!  But I think he is probably the one person who can get away with it & actually make me question my actions.  For that I love him, even if he is a car-nut chav 😉  And I probably don’t tell him enough how incredibly proud of him I am.

Then there is the Northern blonde bombshell who just says it like it is whether I want to hear it or not lol!  And the loveable cocky Glaswegian who drives me absolutely mad, but has a heart of gold.  The ginger swadie who I miss more than he realises.  And my wonderful ‘adoptive’ family who would do anything for my babies & have been there through thick and thin over the past 8 years.   I Love you all x

I think sometimes we get so blinkered fixating on just getting through each day that we forget to step back and appreciate those around us.  And for anyone else who finds Christmas hard, I’m sending you a hug & vodka 😉

And always remember…..

grateful

 

 

Amy Griffiths, Well Being Freedom Services Ltd ©

Spreading The Word #RareNotFabricated

IMG_20171015_153026_216.jpg

 

You will remember from my earlier blog here that I have recently become SWAN UK’s first Volunteer Parent Rep for Wales, covering the Cardiff and surrounding areas.

Well, in October I spoke at the Third Annual Rare Disease Patient Network Meeting, based in Cardiff. The day involved a range of talks from guest speakers ranging from genetic testing, data sharing, the connection between mental health and living with a rare disease, policy changes and both parent and patient experiences. The event went really well, a good mixture of professionals, patients and parents.

I wanted to talk at this event because I feel very passionate about ensuring that not having a diagnosis should not prevent accessing information and support services! I actually found the experience of talking easier than I expected. I purposely didn’t dwell too much on the early years as they were quite difficult times. Instead I focused more on being a good advocate for your child’s needs and how being a part of SWAN UK can be a really good support network when you don’t feel that you ‘fit’ anywhere else. I found it really rewarding to hear such wonderful feedback during the break, and to chat to some new parents who are keen to join our SWAN UK Wales network!

I hope from my talk that the professionals can take on board the anxieties some parents may have, and also include parents fully in all decision making processes to ensure that the correct needs of the child are met and that the relevant support services are put in place. I cannot wait to engage in more public speaking on behalf of SWAN UK! I want to do more talks like this in my role as Parent Rep as it’s really important that professionals work closely with parents (who are often the experts on their child’s needs!) to best support not only the SWAN child, but the family as a whole too.

Without a diagnosis it can be challenging to access the support and information you need. Many families don’t feel that they fit into the wider networks for parents of disabled children, and therefore end up feeling more isolated.

I am really looking forward to developing the undiagnosed network in Cardiff; it’s been a long time coming! I can’t thank SWAN UK enough for the support they offered my family in those early years, where as a parent I felt ignored, belittled and isolated at times.

I’m keen to ensure that SWAN UK families have a voice, and that a label should never restrict access to support services and now I have officially been named as Parent Rep for Wales, it is full steam ahead!

 

To find out more about SWAN UK follow their website https://www.undiagnosed.org.uk/

 Amy Griffiths, Well Being Freedom Services Ltd ©

A Busy Mum’s Summer in Pictures

So, the Summer holidays can sometimes fill a busy mum with dread BUT in reality between all the sibling squabbles and billion demands for a snack, perfect memories are made!  You can read my rather humorous recap of ‘Day One’ of the holidays HERE!

This year we had one of our BEST summers ever thanks to my clever planning ahead!  Our weeks were filled with laughter, holidays, daytrips, friends, family, good food, smiling monkeys, saucy tortoises, detoxing (me, not the babies!), training for a mud run (also me!).  

Here is what this busy mummy and her wonderful babies got up to this summer!

 

Amy Griffiths, Well Being Freedom Services Ltd ©