For all your days & nights…

My niece will be 9 years old this week. My tiny muffin is growing at record speed. She is the oldest of my niblings. The first perfect little person one of my siblings created. The first mini Kerr to steal my heart. Our wee goddess is not so small anymore. She does however remain utterly incredible. Which is why I give you this Ode to Athena.

Athena is girl who wins gold medals in her very first Jui Jitsu competition. She speaks with that Aussie tone that makes almost everything a question, but always make her point clear. She can mimic a Glasgow accent expertly & she turns it on with perfect comic timing. My muffin has always been precocious. She walked & talked before most; her tongue has rarely been quiet nor her person still since.

Bias aside this child blows me away. Her vocabulary is impressive. Her creative talents prodigious. She excels in every subject, but more importantly, she’s kind. My Athena will brook no cruelty. Be it mean names or rough handling, tiny animal or a giant Daddy, no feelings shall be hurt. She cries foul. This Goddess rules her world with benevolence.

My baby girl now has longer legs than her Mama and as much sass as you’d expect from a kid who’s ancestry includes a Scot and a Zimbabwean. She can always come up with a game we can play via FaceTime and she still ends every call with beep, beep, beep, love you. At almost 9 she has already worked out that Disney love stories are bull & clocked it’s important to watch the news. So much of the baby Athena is gone. She now prefers jeans over party dresses and ipad games over my little ponies. My little one is big and brave and so so smart, but she’s not grown yet. She still wonders if maybe I should have married a dragon and to my utter relief she still has time for long running video calls with her old Auntie.

No matter how incomprehensible her text messages get, Athena will forever be my muffin. I’ll always know where her select freckles lie. I’ll never forget the days she fell asleep in my arms. I will always love her more than my heart can handle. She has been wowing the world since even before her first breath. I’m certain she has many more wondrous feats in store for us. She hardly needs to be told, but,

Baby be a giant,

Let the world be small.

Time to say goodbye…

This week I said goodbye to my Uncle Gerry. He died before his time, but faced death with courage & humour. He lived his life with warmth & generosity; never forgetting a birthday & always offering whatever he could of himself to his loved ones & community. The packed chapel at his funeral reflected how much he was appreciated.

In his honour I wanted to pause to share the beauty I am still lucky enough experience. So often I (we) get bogged down by the stresses & strains of daily life that I forget how lovely the world can be. Sometimes it takes a loss to remind us what we still have.

Fireworks, swans, GlasgowSunset paws

Blue sky, Glasgow, lilies

In the spirit of his giving nature I also wanted to share some organisations doing incredible work. I hope you will support them if you can.

Crookston Community Group aims to develop a sense of community whilst helping those in need. The fund a number of services ranging from a food bank to children’s activities and community cohesion workshops.

Street League works with unemployed youth using sport as means to provide training & gain skills needed to find employment. They have fabulous success rates in getting young people into work. They focus on areas of high youth unemployment.

Peek want to increase the opportunities for children to reach their potential. They offer free play and creative learning services that allow children to thrive. They remove barriers by offering support & education for both parents & children.

Chin Chin, Uncle Gerry. You will be greatly missed.

In every life you have some trouble…

  
The first thing I saw when I checked Facebook today was this delightful message. A friend had liked it, which hit a sore spot. Of course I have seen this sort of thing before. The rise of ‘inspiration porn’ is oft discussed amongst disabled & chronically ill folk. We find this trend of objectification disturbing & frustrating & rage inducing & a million other things, none of them positive. We are told in patronising tones that we are amazing for simply existing with a disability whilst simultaneously being bombarded with the message that we must be stoic. Through our pain & struggle we must remain uncomplaining. Take it all with a smile, so healthy, able bodied folk can pat us on the back & declare us inspirational. 

So, yes i’ve seen this crap before. Tried to educate people, been offended & grown just plain tired of it. I think it was such a kick in balls today as I was waking up in a hospital bed. Within the space of a few hours I went from a cinema trip with my sister to emergency surgery in the middle of the night. That is the truth of chronic illness; never knowing what will attack next. 

  
Understandably when I see healthy people declaring the only disability to be a bad attitude I don’t feel good. In a matter of weeks I’ve endured a chest infection & accompanying hacking cough, vomiting, cramping, panic attacks, a weekend of so much pain I barely got out of bed & finally for extra fun an inuigal hernia. That’s without even mentioning the constant chronic symptoms I live with day in, day out. 

I live alone, meaning there is no one to run after me. Sure, I have loved ones to help out with some heavy lifting, but the daily grind of running a house & a life is my responsibility. Cast your mind back to the last time you were really sick. Now imagine feeling that way & having to carry on regardless. Add to that not knowing when the illness will stop or if it may suddenly get worse. Factor in having to carefully calculate how much you can do each day, get it wrong & you could end up passed out in the street. That’s my life and believe me when I say there are times when I feel really quite disabled. 

I’m not writing this for pity or admiration. I merely want acknowledgement. I want it accepted that disabilities are real & varied. I want society to allow those of us dealing with impairments to be pissed off. Our lives can get pretty fucking hard & it’s not always possible deal with that in good grace.

I’m not your poster girl. I’m not your uplifting story. I’m not brave or noble or a motivational tool. I’m just a person playing the game with the hand I’ve been dealt. Stop stealing my bloody aces. 

  

Women of the Year 2015

At this time we’re usually all having a last glance at the old year before forging ahead into the new. We often see best of or most shocking lists and tonnes of folk write their own lists of resolutions. Well, bollocks to the new year, new me trope. I quite like me & so I am summing up 2015 by laying praise at the feet of women who helped me to see that. We can all be better people, but you don’t do it by joining a gym. To quote my dear Mother, all you have to do is keep trying your best. Try to be kind, stay open to learning, say sorry when you’re wrong, seize every opportunity you’re able to, use your talents & always show the people you love how much they mean to you. Those are my ideas on how to be my best self, but everyone is different, you do you. In the mean time, if you need any inspiration, check out these kick arse women.

 

Let’s start with my 2015 musical hero, Sia. I love every note & every word that escapes her mouth. Her consummate ability to express both strength and vulnerability blows me away. Her music is clearly amazing, but what really excites me is her total commitment to doing it her way. From her unique take on keeping a low profile to the, at times, controversial choreography of her videos, it is all marching to her beat.

There has been much discussion about rape culture in the last year. Violence against women has a rising profile thanks to the dedicated work of feminists & professionals in the field. The problem of how universities in America deal with reports of sexual violence has been a topic of outrage. The actions of one student struck me as more courageous than I could ever hope to be. Emma Sulcowizc was raped in her dorm room at Columbia university in 2012 by a fellow student. The university found her attacker not responsible after an enquiry in 2013. Sulcowizc conceived Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight) as an act of endurance performance & conducted it as her thesis during her final year of a visual arts degree. Commencing in September 2014 the work involved carrying a 50lb mattress ( the kind used in uni dorms) everywhere she went on campus. Emma said she would cease the project if her attacker was expelled. That, however did not happen and she carried the mattress until they both graduated in May of last year. On her graduation several other female students helped her carry the mattress across the stage. To have survived not only the heinous crime of rape, but the further violation of her abuser going unpunished takes strength. However to continue with her degree knowing she may see her rapist at any time on campus shows true bravery. Moreover, to face that threat whilst carrying literally a huge weight in order to protest not only her own experience, but that of countless other young women, is beyond powerful. For Emma to open herself up to censure, attack & possible danger to make this statement humbles & emboldens me.

Mhairi Black is a testament to what a person can do when they believe in something passionately. At the age of 20 she became the youngest Member of Parliament since 1832. As if that wasn’t achievement enough her election victory for SNP ousted the Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander. At the time of her election she hadn’t even completed her degree, but went on to earn a First-Class honours degree in Politics from Glasgow University shortly afterwards. Black describes herself as an old fashioned socialist, which is perfectly aligned with my own politics. Her stance on welfare cuts & LBGTQ issues have proved her ethics & her maiden speech in the house was outstanding. As a Scot and an SNP supporter I couldn’t be prouder of this home grown talent. Having met her briefly at my brother’s wedding, I can also attest that she is very patient & lovely when accosted by drunkity fans.

 

My next marvelously outre woman is an all time favourite. Carrie Fisher is everything. Obviously she’s a cult actress, star wars & when harry met sally are in my watch a million times pile. Oh my, but she is so much more. Her writing is incredible. When I first I read one of her books I cried. I felt every emotion, I was awed. No one can write like Carrie Fisher because no one’s mind works like hers. Her words rush off the page is flow into parts of my brain that no other author can reach. Carrie is not only wonderfully eccentric, but also an outspoken advocate on mental illness, ageism & sexism. Her words are direct, but dripping in caustic humour. Last, but not least she made a hilarious appearance in one of my favourite shows, Catastrophe. Let’s face it this Hollywood royalty is the real deal, Carrie Fisher is genius.

Bree Newsome is an outstanding film maker & activist. He film Wake has won numerous awards and been screened at film festivals including Cannes & the Montreal International Black film festival. She has said that her experiences as a black woman working in the horror genre led her to activism. She saw that the space for Black women was so small that it wasn’t possible to advance without activism. In 2015 Newsome came to media attention when she removed the confederate flag flying in the grounds of the South Carolina State House. Removing the flag was no easy feat, she had to climb a 30 foot pole. She was arrested (along with a man police claimed helped her, James Ian Tyson) & charged with defacing monuments on capitol grounds. Within hours of bail being set, the $6000 for both parties was raised by crowd funding. Support for Bree’s actions was huge. The flag’s presence was of course repulsive and a talking point, but her bravery in taking action was inspirational. A lesson to us all that actions speak louder when words. The flag’s permanent removal did not take place until July after a vote that was no doubt forced by the media attention garnered by Bree Newsome’s activism.

My final wonder woman is fast becoming an idol. Luisa Omielan is a stand up comedian whose act is not only hilarious, but also massively uplifting. Her show, Am I right, ladies? is absolutely the best stand up I have ever seen. Her handling of body positivity, slut shaming, mental health & penis desire will not fail to have you screaming with laughter. From the moment I saw her grooving on the stage before the show to watching her grab her belly with delight I was enraptured. Omielan’s message is what I need. Her brand of feminism is what we all need. The joy of Luisa goes beyond her act. Her can do attitude towards everything is impressive; not only crowd funding her dvd, but also packing & posting them herself, acting as her own manager, creating the best social media presence and even funding amazing events. Luisa Omielan, if it’s not too creepy to say, I love you.