Tag Archives: charity

No Spend November

I’m going to say it as it is – I’m useless at saving. Everytime I attempt it, something happens and all the pennies get spent and more goes on the credit card too. It sucks to be in this cycle of never ending debt and not being able to see a way out of it. I want to start with the small things. We regularly change service providers, we aren’t Brand Snobs, and we walk or cycle whenever possible. It wouldn’t have been unusual for us to do a good walk to The OutLaws of a weekend although, sadly, my fibromyalgia means that is now a complete no-go. Having access to a fabulous car has been one of the only positives but it is amazing to have a brand new car covered for breakdowns and repairs with no hassle or concerns. It has meant we don’t have to worry about a possible vehicle problem and the expense that would incur because it is All Inclusive. A major weight lifted off us.
We do have bills to pay, a car to fuel, school trips to cover, and every week essentials that we can’t buy in advance for one reason or another. There is also every chance of an emergency and the only thing we can do about that is suck it up as usual. I can, however, do something about the kitchen which is what my No Spend is going to cover. I will have a strict list of essential buys and that’s it. I’m not going to cave to any more Christmas pressure either. I have everything I need to make it a wonderful family gathering with heartfelt, handmade gifts. If I go near Wish or eBay I know I will crack so I am taking them off my homescreen and I’m going to turn off notifications for the next month at least. If I can avoid my usual pitfalls, I truly believe I can do this (gulp).

Whenever you try to complete an exercise like this, I find it useful to make the rules that work for you, after all, no two families are the same and when you’re catering for 10 people you can be dealing with figures that others might find appalling. Hey ho, nothing I can do about how others tick, I need to focus on our kitchen for now.

So here are my basic rules;

~~Essentials covers milk, bread, eggs, ham (The Boy will eat it all if I buy in bulk), salad items, fruit

~~Essentials does not include chocolate, crisps, snack foods, lunchbox fillers, The Mr’s lunch (he buys his own Up Town to save the cycle legs)

~~List the food you have in already – pantry, cupboards, fridge & freezer

~~List the meals you can make with what you have – pasta with sausage, chicken and chips, veggie bolognese with spaghetti…

~~Try something different or one of your “once in awhile” specials (corn beef hash! – but I don’t have any corn beef in. Boo!)

~~Have Meat Free Mondays (Vegan for us with The Big Boy now opting for that choice)

~~Have Leftovers Clearout – all those one meal portions you freeze for lunches you never get around too

~~Take note of anything you really miss so you can PLAN future meals – the Ginger Teen loves pulled pork but will have to wait as we don’t have a joint in the freezer this month

 ~~Get Creative – fancy crisps? Cut and bake a tortilla, use the popcorn kernals, bake bread, bake chickpeas for a “nutty need”, soak the bag of beans that you’ve stockpiled “just in case”

~~Minimise your shopping trips –  I get easily distracted by the middle aisle of Lidl

These are not hard and fast rules but you need to control the things that might lead you astray. The Mr loves his crisps. We have some crackers but he’ll either go without or get inventive. The Mr also likes to rest with some cider, wine, or whisky. Good job we have a cupboard of alcohol that could do with finishing off ready for a fresh New Year collection. 

I also have to consider things that could potentially lead us off course. I’m going to a Baby Shower on the weekend and will need to contribute a few bits. We have a stockpile of Baby wipes thanks to Amazon Subscription so they can be passed along, I have rice and seasonings, we just had a Muscle Foods delivery so there’s chicken to use. I don’t think I need anything extra except some lemonade so I added that to our last essential’s online shop due in the morning. Sorted. I have also arranged for a trip to Primark up town. They’ve decked it out all Hogwarts themed and I’m bound to want something. I figure a set amount plus a birthday gift for Ginger Teen and The Mr. That should make things less stressful but I’m going to be drooling for sure over just about everything.

The Big Boy and Grandan have birthdays at the end of the month too. Presents are sorted. I know there are cards somewhere in the draw. I even got fancy birthday candles in Poundland so the only thing I have to consider is cakes. As eggs are essential in our household, I think I can make it work. I’ve also got a nice store of vegan friendly alternatives going with the new change and a bag of semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips so I’m sure I can knock up some kind of yummy cake-like affair for Himself. 

I’ve also got change enough to buy Poppies, a complete essential for us although a white poppy is important for me too. 

That about wraps up what I’ve worked through this far. I admit to going back and streamlining the online shop. The whole point is to use what you have in the cupboards and here I am loading up on the things we buy regularly but that I don’t know if we are actually using completely. The other household Fibro Hangup is my lack of kitchen time. I love to cook, from scratch and with enjoyment. I know we have ingredients in the cupboards that, quite frankly, scare the Whoshamaflips out of the children and The Mr. They are improving, especially with having to cater for a vegan and a pescatarian, but there is a tin of mixed beans waiting to be turned into a chilli and some sardines which could be turned into a delicious pie with the right TLC and a bit more imagination. I need to show the children how exciting a meal can be when it isn’t chicken, tomatoes and pasta. It won’t be an easy adjustment but it is a much needed one. When they tell me we have nothing in for dinner I have to laugh. My issues mean there is always something to make a meal, it just might not be to your liking on that day. Eat It or Don’t. There are no second options this month.

Wish me luck, I think I may need it!

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Nice people have nice thoughts

I’m fat. I get it. I look at myself every single day. I don’t need you to tell me. More importantly, your kids don’t need to tell my kids. They know I’m fat too.

This morning, whilst driving to school in more pain than is good, my little fiery Redhead told me that her friend had called me “oomph”. I explained that as her wonderful aunt was also “oomph”, I was obviously in good company. Miss Redhead then explained “yes, but you’re still more oomph”.

That’s what you call a kick to the gut. 

This evening, my wonderful Unicorn obsessed daughter explained that she is writing a poem inspired by “Truth”. She has to write about a secret those at school won’t know. She has chosen to write about me and my Fibromyalgia. She has chosen to write about being bullied because her mum was so fat she needed a minibus instead of a normal size car.

A kick to the guts and ice cold shot to the heart.

My baby was bullied because *I* am fat. Nothing she could do would stop those children from finding me a funny one liner to hurt her with. Kids are cruel. That doesn’t just happen. Normally it is a sign that an adult they spend time with speaks with such prejudices and insults that it becomes a normal way to talk to others. I want to be angry at these little snot noses but I can’t. I feel sorry for them. To be 9/10/11 years old and already be aware of language that you know will cause mental anguish is such an unfortunate roll of the dice.

I have tried to raise our family in a way that allows them to see others in a positive way. Isn’t it brilliant that they also have a large family. How cool is it that she has Minion glasses. Perhaps we could give our old clothes to the charity shop so other families like ours can get good stuff for cheap. They give pocket money to all the charity pots they see, they offer help to anyone who needs it, they look after the local green areas, and they stand up against bullies, casual racism, slurs against a person’s shape and size or mental capacity. These kids don’t kill spiders even though they give some of them the curly whurlies. With all the good that they are, it is that very kindness and compassion to others which leaves them vulnerable to attack from kids who haven’t been taught that it is never okay to make fun of another person who is just trying to live their life.

I get it. I’m fat. I’ve always been the biggest of my siblings and I have spent my whole life learning the ever new and imaginative insults to the fat girl. Guess what? You insulting me isn’t going to make me magically drop half my body weight. I spent so much of my teen years hiding from mean girls; what insult would they use today? Are they going to aim for my weight, my second hand clothes, my intelligence, my big feet, my body odour? Maybe today would be a wonderful mixture of all of the above. I never once found their insults the key to change. Instead, I would hide inside myself, gobbling as many chocolate bars as I could afford and wiping snot on my unironed shirt, picking at threads on my washed grey black skirt and bashing the heel of my ugly clown shoes on the floor over and over. Trust me, I didn’t go running through the park home to fix up a tasty salad. 

A few years ago, I decided to improve my health. I walked for miles and miles, even completed a Race for Life 10k fun walk. I made sure I ate three meals a day, including loads of lovely veggie goodness and drinking at least 2 litres a day. I had pain but I was managing it well. I finally, for the first time ever, felt in control of my destiny. I lost 3 stone and maintained the weight loss through pregnancy to be my lightest since baby number 2, over 11 years before. Then the fibro took an evil twist.

I had a contraceptive implant, started 4 different regular medications as well as daily painkillers. I have a long list of terms to describe my condition and none of them pretty. I’m depressed, sleep deprived, in pain, and uncomfortable. Seriously, I know I’m fat. I am trying to get a hold of my physical health, to work on my mental health, to get back my fitness. My insecurities are not going to disappear with your “you certainly like your food” comments or the “now you reach for the diet drink” said under your breath and probably never meant to be heard. You can’t taunt me skinny anymore than you can tell an anorexia sufferer that they “look fine, definitely not fat”. 

Please don’t tell me what works for you or tell me what to try. If I want your help I really will ask for it, like I have done with my close friends and family. When the time is right, I will be able to get off meds that seem very much connected with weight gain, my already fairly good diet will realign itself and I will stop squirrelling chocolate bars in my bedroom, until then, try not to openly say thoughtless things in front of your children and try teaching them that we are all unique and all the more wonderful for it. Talk to your children about why we are all different and how when we assume something of a person, we may be doing them a disservice.

My disability is invisible but it’s symptoms are not. I’m fat. I live with it every day. I will one day fix it. Perhaps, one day, you’ll learn to be a bit nicer to the fat girl at school, to the short man at the shop, the kid at the park who can’t help being clumsy, or the person in the town centre who you can’t work out if they are male or female, as if their gender should ever be any of your business.

I’m fat. I’m disabled. I’m a human being. I’m also kind, considerate, and polite to strangers. I’m a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, and a member of the human race. 

There’s a politician who seems to be very happy to use his platform as a member of parliament to share his very conservative points of views. One of his latest comments was about the compassionate and uplifting view British foodbanks gave. Mr Rees-Mogg’s opinion

I can see merit in what he says. Foodbanks are non-profit, donation based enterprises. The fact that the British people continue to pop some beans or a box of teabags into the food bin after a shop when their budget is stretched to it’s thinnest is incredibly heartwarming. Every penny counts and still we try to make sure those who don’t have a slice of bread or the bashed up can of beans that stays on the shelf for it’s entire 4 year shelf life, get given food to see them through the next few days.

That doesn’t mean that it’s okay that Mr Rees Mogg says what he does. He is part of a government which seems to be hell bent on pulling the rug out from under the feet of the nation, a government who year after year reduces the real term money in the budget of nearly every family within the UK. It will never be okay that he talks about how inspiring the great British public is whilst he sits in parliament and almost consistently votes for the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer. Voting history of Mr Rees-Mogg

I hold my hands up. The Mr works extremely hard but with my disability we are increasingly reliant upon the benefits system. This isn’t ideal. It was never meant to be this way and every time we make headway something happens to kick us back down. We have never been at the point of need so bad that we have visited a food bank, and it is largely thanks to family and wonderful friends that this is the case. Our budget is able to stretch further having to not buy a whole new wardrobe as a child grows, because of the generosity of pre-loved sofas and kitchen tables, because our friends are in similar positions themselves and we have all recognised that it is through the generosity of friends, family, and even strangers, that our world keeps turning.

With every passing bedtime I breathe a sigh of relief. We made it through another day and no one went to bed hungry, they might even have managed to have dessert too. I’ll ignore the hole in my shoes, the lack of a coat that fits, I’ll cut my hair myself again and continue to cut the rest of the families too. I don’t even mind that this is the state of our life. We feel blessed everyday to be able to love our beautiful children and our ever growing circle of nieces and nephews. We are healthy(ish) and (mostly) happy but of course there are ways we could be happier.

We could reduce our significant debts for example. We are trying to count every penny and be held accountable for our “luxury” purchases like new stacker shelves for the understairs pantry and a hot chocolate on the go. Having so many appointments at hospitals means I do spend whilst out and about and I should get better organised but I’m also tight so settle for hospital hot drinks or a Maccy Ds hot chocolate with the hope of saving enough stickers to get my free drink! No fancy Costa drinks with marshmallows for me any time soon.

The Mr is trying too. He’ll buy a pile of microwave dinners and a bunch of bananas for the week – cycling backpacks aren’t very useful for taking in a homemade lunch – and he is quite adept at spotting special offers on crisps which makes him a fairly happy chappy.

I know we aren’t alone in a budgeting stresses and I recognise that there are families out there who think we are extremely fortunate and, I guess, in lots of ways we are. Mr Rees Mogg might not have any clue about the majority of people and how we live. I’d happily show him how it works for our family but I doubt he’ll be slumming it in South London any time soon. The frustration will continue and the families struggling now will also be on this treadmill in a year, five years, ten years time. It is the fallout from austerity and the penny pinching from the poorest whilst shoving the pounds towards those at the top. We live in a democracy but so many don’t know how or just won’t vote and it is so frustrating. The people have decided that this government is fit to serve the people but it only has those that already have in their sights. The have-nots will continue to pinch every penny they see, just like us, and our Prime Minister and her cronies will fill each others’ bank accounts ready to see out their days never needing handouts or suffering from NHS funding cuts and the continuing fall in student nurses and teachers because you can earn more on the till of your local supermarket than ensuring the educational and health needs of the next generation. 

How did we end up in this mess? And is there any way we can get through the next decade without watching our children going to school filthy and hungry? I am fairly certain Mr Jacob Rees Mogg doesn’t have a plan for the foodbank users of the 21st Century.  

You had a bad day

First up, sorry if you now have an earworm. If you don’t know the song, here you go!

It is Friday evening here and unusually quiet as half the kids have gone for an overnighter with the Best OutLaws Ever! Yes, I used the term out law instead of in law – long story for another day. Anyway. The two littleuns, the Lawkeeper and the Selfie Ginga Queen are away for the night ready for entertaining their fabulous Grandparents and volunteering out in the community tomorrow. The Duke of Edinburgh awards have been fantastic for helping us help our community and I personally love to see the rosie pink cheeks of a good day’s work on our children’s faces.

Our biggest Sometimes Ginga has been hard at work these past few weeks with GCSE hell but I’m quietly confident that he has put in all of the groundwork necessary to obtain the best results he can, honestly, and that isn’t just as his mummy but his teachers are also sure of his abilities. I’ve been really impressed with his dedication, timetabling, responsible attitude, and general restricted flapping. He’s got this!

We’ve had a long May with a virus circling the household and I fear I may have been the main culprit having not had a moment to rest with a Birthday full month. I’m ending the month with a sinus infection to add to my general bleurgh feeling and the inability to shift illness like I once would. I was one of those annoyingly healthy kids where I would watch my siblings in bed with coughs and colds etc whilst I ate dirt and bogies and the yuck of life which makes most adults squirm. Now, as a fully grown person in my own right, I seem to have been dumped with this autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndome, fibromyalgia blanket as a 30 something and my dirty faced childhood is a distant dream. 

As a mother, I have always tried to just get on with things and I spent far too long ignoring depression and refusing pain meds which seemed to just make matters worse so I probably lived with a great deal unnecessarily until I sought help in 2010. Since then, I have never visited a GP so frequently and the added bonus of telephone consults has been an absolute body saver. 

** yep, this is a catch up on a blog I fell asleep writing and we are now half way through July **

I am now less than 48 hours away from meeting with a consultant to discuss my Fibro and all which comes with it. I am extremely excited and terrified in equal measure. It has been so long since a specialist took a look at me that I’m a bit worried that they’ll tell me that there is something else at work with my body and if they had known then I could have started this miracle cure years ago. That, of course, might just be wishful thinking. 

As I type today with just a few of my fingers because it is too sore to use more, I am also suffering from some type of trapped nerve type pain in my shoulder that has been persistent for a few weeks and it is now travelling down my arm. This same arm is being traumatised by pins and needles and also a sensation like a twisting burn across my wrist. It is the most irritable of symptom clusters and is slowing down my creative crafting to a crawl. No good to me at End of School year gifting.

I also feel like I need to “crack” my ankles – you know, when you flex your fingers and they all “crack” and feel better for it. I’m walking around, almost collapsing every few feet as my ankles seem to fail under my weight. I’m also experiencing hideous cramps which I try to rub and ease but, more worryingly, these spasms which are catching me off guard are taking my feet and making it point in funny directions or forcing my toes to spread out and it is taking all my resolve not to cry and swear.

Blimey, I sound like a right moaning Myrtle! That isn’t quite what I meant to do. With all this moaning and groaning it is also important to remember the positives too. I have 8 beautiful, healthy children who all got fabulous school reports and performed wonderfully in the exams we already have the results for and most importantly they’ve ended the school year as better people! Their generosity and kindness has been exceptional this year and they’ve all offered clothes and toys for children who were left homeless in London, pennies into collection pots out and about, and even offered many suggestions for fundraising this year. 

Our children have so little in the grand scheme of things; we don’t have holidays, our bikes and clothes are mostly secondhand or hand-me-downs, even toys are often sourced from charity shops and Facebook selling pages. The fact that they feel they have more than enough to give back to others is extraordinary to me and I am often humbled by their generosity. They don’t limit this to our wider community either. They have been playground friends, members of the school councils, advocates for improving LGBTQ+ awareness and support, and generally being “good people”. 

There is so much to be glad about in this world and it is easy to forget in my daily world of pain just how wonderful this world is. There’s another ear worm and is quite apt given that Pride is being celebrated around the world right now with beautiful rainbows being flown high and wide! 

I am Proud of so much and have always been. We are blessed beyond measure and as long as we hold that love for each other close our days will never be as bad as we think they may appear to be.