Overwhelmed with kindness

Sometimes you know you need help. You know what your skill set is and, more importantly sometimes, what it isn’t. I have never been able to draw or paint – it’s one of the main reasons I took up photography.

The LimbBofoundation has come a long way in a short space of time and we have many projects ongoing. The book for children was an idea that we needed help to achieve. I’ve written the story and I have friends helping me to shape it. We put out an appeal for an artist to help us. Amie from Darton asked the question ‘why don’t you get pupils to illustrate it?’ Never one to miss out on an opportunity (and we love a good project!) I went into Darton College  to ask for help.

I was encouraged that the pupils all said yes of course we will help but had no idea what I would get. I left them with lots of photographs and the story outline.

I walked into Darton College today and burst into tears! Look what greeted me.

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Look how amazing and how thoughtful. A whole range of skills, ideas, understanding and a sea of smiling faces. These pupils are year 10! What can I say? Education is about educating the whole child – not a cliche in this case, these pupils have empathised and offered their skills. PicMonkey Collage

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I’m not sure yet how or where we will get this book edited – but I do know that we WILL.

(any offers of help gratefully received!) PicMonkey Collage2

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, often people will help willingly but don’t know what you need. Thank You Year 10 x

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Painting with sunlight

I’ve been playing with dyes and sunlight printing this week. I love it – so easy and so effective – for those of you who asked for instructions and more details here are just some quick guidelines.

You need:

white cotton or calico fabric

Dye na flow paints  available here  – lots of different colours available

Flat surface (covered as it will mark)

leaves, flowers or any object that will lay flat

paint brush

water

sunlight!

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Rosa – aged six created this by herself

Instructions:

wash your fabric – (gets rid of chemicals and allows paint to absorb better)

cut fabric to size and wet

squeeze out excess water (but it still needs to be wet)

Place onto a flat (protected) surface

Paint with as may colours as you want – more than one is effective but you can get some colours from plants (dandelion heads leave a yellow mark)

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place your leaves onto the wet fabric and press them into the paint with your finger tips

leave in bright sunlight to dry

carefully peel off the leaves

iron to seal the colours

Notes:

some colours work better than others – pink on its own very pale but pink and blue mixture is stronger

Burnt umber is v effective

Fern type leaves are an excellent choice as they add detail

There are no ‘rules’ just play!

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It’s worth allowing children to play – Tommy threw a pile of grass onto his picture so I left it – it really worked!

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Let me know how you get on x

FINALLY …

Tommy can use a camera by himself. For a couple of years I’ve been campaigning -aka ‘banging on’ and moaning about the fact that there is no such thing as a left handed camera.  (You will find several blog posts on here 🙂 ) None of the major camera companies could help – they suggested remote releases or apps …and whilst I know these work Tommy is 3 and wants to run around and snap what he sees not set up a studio type shot.

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My son (obviously fed up of my moaning ) decided to sort it out for Tommy. With help and advice from friends, a 3D printer, lots of patience and a determination that #Tommycan take photos – the ‘LimbBo Cam buddy’ was created.

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Tommy can hold it easily in his left hand and still press the shutter – he literally squealed when he used it in a cafe and saw what he’d taken. So much so that people came to talk to us and ask what he was using.

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We can now have mama and Tommy camera sessions and he’s so proud of his shots. If you know any child who would benefit from this please contact https://www.limbbofoundation.co.uk/ and we can point you to the design which Adam has made ‘Open source’  . If you don’t have a 3D printer but have a child with a limb difference that would benefit then please get in touch.

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Just goes to show there ‘is always another way’ (@ITLWorldwide) and we can celebrate what #Tommycan do 

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What a week! Those of you who know me or follow this blog will be familiar with my grandchildren Tommy and LJ. These two are ordinary, loving, often mischievous children who bring joy to so many.

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As you can see, Tommy has a limb difference and is ‘differently abled’. It was a shock when we found this out at Katie’s 12 week scan – my son and daughter – in – law are amazing – here is Adam’s account of that time. I’ve added a few photos and links but the words are my son’s.

During early pregnancy myself and my wife were given the devastating news that a complication had occurred and our baby was going to born missing a limb.

I’ll never forget the day we were sat having a normal baby scan, looking forward to seeing our beautiful baby again. The lovely chatty nurse paused and went quiet. I instinctively just thought she was just concentrating trying to find a better angle or whatever. The silence continued and she began to look concerned. She said quietly “I’ll just be a minute, I have to go got a colleague”. My heart sank, I tried to reassure my panicking wife that everything was ok…I knew it wasn’t. Another more senior looking nurse came in, she looked concerned, they talked quietly and the she left. The nurse turned to us and nervously said “I’m very sorry something is wrong with your baby.

That moment I’ve never felt pain quite like it, I didn’t know what to think, they explained that our baby we had tried for so long to have was going to be born disabled and missing a limb and could have potentially more problems.

Still crying and shook up we were ushered into a cramped little room, walking past the waiting room full of expectant parents who didn’t know where to look….i just wanted to run away.

We were given a basic black and white pamphlet of a generic limb difference which to be honest didn’t help one bit, it was dry and clinical. We were also given the option/possibility of abortion.

We left feeling numb and confused.

Well the rest is history, we went along with the pregnancy, and we are blessed with incredible courageous son, Tommy.

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We were helped by other fantastic charities and people such as the NEVER SAY NEVER FOUNDATION who helped Tommy attend a limb difference pirate camp, the work those guys do is simply unbelievable

Making friends at Pirate Camp Florida
Making friends at Pirate Camp Florida

 and Greg & Tori Lynch who built Tommy’s first ‘Buzz Arm’ and introduced me to prosthetics.

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We’d also like to thank to Lucky Fin Project for all of their amazing work in promoting positive images of limb different children.

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Huxley, Tommy and Kobi at a Lucky Fin meet up

We have thought tirelessly of a way as parents we can help not only limb difference children but also parents and expected parents so along came the idea of the limbBo Foundation.

I invested in a budget 3D printer initially and then a more advance one and tirelessly taught myself how to use it.

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I was able to create a prosthetic with the help of The amazing TEAM UNLIMBITED, I was incredibly proud, was my first step at helping him adapt. download

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The first step will be to design and create heartfelt, considerate, informative, non judgmental, useful leaflets plastered with photos of superb kids like Tommy and how they’ve overcome adversity, made friends and living a happy life….that’s what we needed, a hug and it’s going to be ok, not medical journal. We will aim to get a professional product that can be mass printed and positioned in hospitals throughout the UK.

Going forward we want to bring limb difference kids together in this country, have regular meet-ups, adventure days, and trips away. This will also give parents a chance to share their stories and adversity’s together.

Finally we hope to research, design and create new electronic aids and prosthetics to help limb difference kids do tasks that are at the moment not possible for children missing upper limbs (using a knife and fork simultaneously for example) and make day to day life just a little bit easier.

The charity is still in the creation stage and with the help of friends we hope to fully register with the charity commission by the end of the year as soon as we have completed their criteria.

Yesterday  BBC Look North and Radio Leeds came to interview us and film Tommy – two incredibly patient and kind ‘Misters’ as Tommy called them.

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There is so much happening at the moment it’s a roller coaster – website (still under construction), facebook page    Just Giving page Discussions about writing a children’s book – illustrated by a local school, so many things we want to do. I hope you can follow our journey and please get in touch if you can help in any way or more importantly if we can help you.

There is a link here to the BBC article and here for the video clip

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Friday saw an article in the Barnsley Chronicle

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Saturday the Daily Mirror

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Jane x

Still freezing flowers

If you read my previous blog post you will see that I began to play with frozen flower images. I’m hooked! After experimenting with different containers and flowers, I like the effect produced by smaller pots and freezing single flowers.

Frozen flowers

By using distilled water and having the patience (something I’m not very good at!) to build up the layers of water slowly you get the effects above.

Flowers which are deep in colour are easier – I love white flowers but the depth of the water and bubbles mean they are often indistinct.

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Blues work well, irises and hyacinths (I pulled this one to pieces, it was in the reduced section) The beauty of this is that it doesn’t matter if the flowers are starting to wilt or decay – it just means they have more texture.

These orange images are Ranunculus flowers that I bought at Sheffield Flea and Craft fayre yesterday from Orchis Floral Design – the colours were beautiful.

Hoping to freeze some Spring flowers from the garden soon, my husband despairs of me as the top drawer of our freezer is now my flower zone 🙂

Learning can be messy – Frozen Flowers

I have a confession to make – I am addicted to Pinterest and can spend hours looking at ideas and thinking ‘maybe I’ll have a go at that’. I’ve not done any photography just ‘because I wanted to play’ for ages (done weddings and proper stuff but nothing just for fun). I saw some images of #frozenflowers and immediately created a new Pinterest Board. The images looked amazing, I’ve got a ‘foldio’ portable mini studio and several bunches of flowers due to a recent birthday so ‘jobs a good en’ as we say in Yorkshire.

I hit several problems which I needed to solve – it struck me that this would be a great project to do with children as they could work around the problems – great for combining arts, science and photography.

  1. I didn’t have a container in mind so hunted around the cupboards – I chose a round one which didn’t give me a flat surface from the sides – first mistake but it did mean I tried out different shapes and depths. It was at this point that my teacher brain kicked in.
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  2. When I put my flowers into the water they floated – when I put flowers in first and poured water on – they floated! I would ask pupils to solve this problem for me. (A quick tour of Pinterest – pour in a small amount of water to freeze the flower to the bottom of the container. Then add a small amount of more water and return to freezer. NB the word ‘small’ is important because if you pour in too much it melts the first layer of water – mistake number 2!)
  3. I took my frozen block out and managed a couple of ‘OK images’ such as this one.
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    My water had frozen as ‘cloudy’ and none of my Pinterest images looked like this – how did I get clear ice? Teacher brain now in overdrive.
  4. Another search – use distilled water! I had some in the garage but if I was in a classroom I’d get pupils to distill their own – there will be a tutorial or a friendly science teacher won’t there?
  5. Photography session number 2  revealed that distilled water doesn’t freeze at the same rate as tap water (science lesson here people!). What looked like a frozen block was still liquid in the middle – lots of puddles later… I managed a couple of images – I love the patterns in distilled water when frozen – (Art lesson 🙂 )
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  6. I discovered lots of other issues – the thickness of the ice alters the patterns, and affects how much of the flower you can see. Ice blocks melt and move – (especially under a light source! – more puddles). Did you know if you put a block of iced distilled water onto another block they will fuse together … and crack when you pull them apart!
  7. I love this type of experimental photography as it gives you lots of room to experiment and come up with something unique. There is no end to what you could freeze and what you could learn along the way
    J x

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How old can you be and still have a mid life crisis?

It’s my birthday at the weekend and i’ll be 59. I don’t feel old but I am having a crisis. I’ve been saying i’m going to retire for a few years now but kept saying yes to jobs and seemed to limp along. A bout of illness at the end of last year made the decision for me and I had to cancel work bookings. It’s definitely a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’. I feel lost, invisible, isolated, guilty and am driving my long suffering husband to distraction. I want to be useful, I want to do something for charity, I need to be creative … my head is ‘a shed’ and I’m not sure where I go next.

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This morning I received an e mail from someone I went to school with and haven’t seen for 40 years! They were so lovely about my book Learning Through a lens and had taken the time to contact me. You have no idea how much that helped me. It really did make a huge difference and made me determined to make sure I tell others how much I appreciate them.

So at the minute, I’m trying to turn my sewing into a productive hobby (very frustrating but rewarding), I’m investigating charity ideas and planning to spend my birthday with my two grandchildren at my great nephew’s 5th birthday party – how can you feel down when surrounded by so much joy x

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Sewing linen and leather baby shoes

Sewing outside the lines

I’m reasonably new to sewing but health issues have forced me to slow down for a while. I need to have projects on the go, I need to create, I need to experiment. I attended a free motion embroidery class which led to the creation of ‘not the norm textiles ‘ with a friend and a series of portraits.

I then decided I needed to be able to sew straight lines which I found a lot more challenging than free motion. I made tissue holders (loads of them)- four straight lines and that’s it – result!
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I progressed to simple pouches/purses – definitely a bit hit and miss with the zippers 😂. I spent hours on Pinterest and worked out how to sew bags, tweaked the patterns and made most of my Christmas presents.
I’m not good at reading Instructions or following patterns – i.e I just don’t do it. Having worked out a basic bag pattern I decided to create a bag using just
free motion quilt as you go sew outside the lines scrappy quilting.IMG_5647

 

There are no rules I just put scraps of materials over one another and sewed, I used random machine stitches, different angles and whatever scraps I had. It was amazingly liberating, no pins, no straight lines no worries! This can then be cut to a rectangle and used as the front of your bag – here’s my first attempt at scrappy quilting aka sewing outside the lines.
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The kindness of strangers

I’m going through a difficult patch -‘It’s your age’ and ‘you’ll grow out of it’ were phrases my mum often used to say to me. At the moment they are making me smile as I definitely feel that my age and getting older is having an effect. I suddenly seem to have developed various minor ailments which have resulted in doctors visits and subsequent hospital visits. I’m ok but struggling. I’m fine but shattered.
Yesterday I had a biopsy on my tongue – yes it was scary and yes it was painful but due to the kindness of strangers I managed. I was on a day surgery ward where no visitors are allowed. At first we all sat in rows in our own little bubble of worry, expectant faces lifting every time a nurse or doctor appeared.

Gradually we began to chat and form our own little support unit, the elderly lady next to me squeezed my hand and said ‘good luck love’ when I was called. Complete strangers supporting each other.

I know I’m naive but I didn’t realise I would have to go to theatre – I lay there in my gown having my ID band checked and began to shake – sheer nerves. The nurse held my hand and didn’t let go until there was someone else to hold it. I daren’t open my eyes as they cut off a section of my tongue and stitched it back together, but all the time the nurse held my hand and squeezed. I felt safe and cared for, this was above what they are paid to do but that hand just held on and got me through. We talk glibly about giving others a helping hand but I will never forget their kindness.

My new friend reappeared in recovery and we chatted- I was happy to be able to return her kindness and find her husband to tell him how she was as I was released before her.

I can’t eat properly, I’m drinking copious amounts of coffee but am smiling at the kindness of strangers and thanking my lucky stars for our NHS x

30 years on – tread softly …

Do you ever drive somewhere and when you arrive just literally shake your head as you have no idea how you got there? I was having this discussion with an old friend and we both feel like that about our lives – how did we get here? We are pushing  sixty our children are grown up, married, parents. Our own parents are in their 80s and some have died. Life has quite a surreal quality at the minute. This week it Is 30 years since my eldest son died and I want to mark it in some way. He died when he was 8 weeks old and I will never forget how soft his skin felt when he was first born. 

Do I see him as a 30 year old? No he’s my baby, he will always be my baby and I can’t imagine him as a grown up. I think about him, the hurt has faded and I know he would have suffered if he’d lived. Has he left a gap, changed my life … hell yes! When he was 21 – I bought a watch which I have worn everyday since. I take flowers to his grave, I talk to him there. The anger has gone – you can’t be angry for 30 years, the pain has lessened, the memories though as sharp as ever. The sounds and smells of the intensive care unit imprinted on your subconscious. 

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As Matthew only lived for 8 weeks, his birth and death are all intertwined in my memories – I wrote this last year but never posted it.

Certain days are etched on your memory. The sounds, the weather, the emotions. One of my worst days was 29 years ago today. My baby son died in my arms. He lived for 8 weeks and 2 days. I’d  held him up to the hospital window to show him the world he would never get to experience. I’d cried and begged him to let go, I could see he was suffering. The fear, the sheer terror accompanied by the steady hum and beeps of hospital monitors. Death isn’t peaceful it’s drawn out and rasping breaths getting further apart mark life’s end. 

The silence when it comes is all invasive and the need to run or scream or curl up in a ball take turns at overwhelming you.  Nervous expressions, kindly smiles but no one knows what to say. You are offered a Polaroid once all the tubes are removed but I can’t look at it.

The uncomfortable silences, the forms, the formalities and then you go home without your cherished son who has been your focus every single hour of his short life. Emptiness,sadness, bitterness, rage – every emotion you can think of and suddenly it’s 29 years ago. You are divorced from his dad, you have a younger son who has his own children, the floral tributes now include one to ‘uncle Matthew’. Life goes on, the hurt is buried deeper, the scars fade but nothing can take away the memories.

So here I am 30 years on, blessed with two amazing grandchildren- no idea how I got here but I’m going to enjoy it and honour the memory of my beloved Matthew by looking after his namesake Thomas Matthew, and his little sister Layla Jane

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‘Tread softly for you tread on my dreams.’ WB Yeats