Last birthday as a “single” woman

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As I write the title of this blog I cannot help but roll my eyes a little at the term “single” as well as get a little annoyed that it’s even relevant anymore. What is more relevant than it should be is being a single woman.

Last week I read that single women pay, on average, almost £800 a year in car insurance, yet a single male only pays around £400. The same punishments apply for loans, mortgages, even healthcare. It’ll only get worse with the UK exiting the EU, maternity rights are already being affected and we’ve not even officially left yet.

I want to marry Simon, I am looking forward to the day, the simple ceremony and lunch with friends and family. What I resent is that my life will be better off simply for having that piece of paper. I’ll be seen as Mrs Woods before I am seen as Claire and that bugs me more than I wish it could.

I’m 38 today and am having a rant on the internet about equal rights – I consider myself lucky.

The Price of Ignorance

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Ever since I was a young girl I’ve been exposed to political and philosophical debate, and I was taught to look at all sides and have an informed and intelligent opinion. My parents were not rich, my father came from a poor background in fact and my mother was lower middle class. They were both politically active in the 60’s and they passed this activism on to me at least. The truth is, is’t not hard to be involved, or to find out what’s going on locally or even nationally (if you are British and have access to the internet you have no excuses).

However, somehow two years ago a slight majority in this stupidly rich country voted to leave the EU. How did this happen? Well, not only am I likely in the minority when it comes to upbringing on the subject, but most people of voting age in this country are willfully and dangerously ignorant. Even when they do vote they often do not know what they are actually voting for.

Case in point. Facebook. The litany of faux and stupid political rhetoric on that social media site is toxic and does more harm than good. Fake news abounds and people very likely made up their minds about Leave because of what they saw and read in their Facebook feeds! So either they didn’t bother to vote or they voted to Leave.

Ergo, you get posts like this:

LEAVE

There is no way to get the horse back into the stall, it’s bolted already and we are heading for more than another recession – we are facing isolation from the world market on several levels and many companies will leave these shores meaning people will lose their jobs. The NHS is already buckling under the pressure, and the government is using this as an excuse to privatise it. It’s a mess and there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that this mess will be cleaned up in the lifetime of those born next century.

Too fatalistic? Too dramatic? *shrugs* I voted to Remain and I volunteer and I do research to better the lives of sick people, my conscience is utterly clear.

*drops mic*

Employ us -and- pay us equally

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One of the most iconic brands in the UK and worldwide and definitely our best broadcaster is shamefully leading the way when it comes to gender-equality – and not in a good way. This is hardly news, but I still feel aggrieved and angry on behalf of female broadcasters when I see this:

BBC likes paying men

For those not sure about the gender of Nicky Campbell, he is an old white dude. In fact, these are all middle aged to old WHITE DUDES.

It makes me wonder why I buy a TV license, we only started getting one again before the world cup and since then I’ve mostly watched Escape to the country, Versailles and Poldark. More white dudes in lead roles. HOWEVER, the new Doctor is a lady, and that starts soon as well as the BBC making Good Omens and and His Dark Materials (which has the heroine and main character of Lyra, a teenage girl).

I just really want to see a woman take Chris Evans place and for her to earn as much as him, maybe even more. We all know it’s not going to happen though, since the listeners will follow him to Virgin and the new host will not be paid as much as a result.

Independent Woman

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Even growing up in a religious household surrounded by brothers and sexism I was taught by my mother how to be independent. Not just how to fend for myself, but how to think for myself and act for myself. It was not just about survival for my mother, it was about living the best life possible.

On the 13th August 1997 I lost my mother to renal cancer. She had been terminal for a year. I was about to turn 17 and had my whole life in front of me but it felt like that life was now over. Grief took a hold of me in ways no one in my life could ever imagine, there are things I’ve not even told my best friends or Simon. It was a dark, dark place, not least because I’d gone from being raised to be independent to having my whole life tethered to a broken home.

Don’t misunderstand me when I say I felt trapped. It was not the fault of the innocent children, or even entirely the fault of my father. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, it just was. I’d lost the greatest and most positive influence in my life and I knew I’d miss her forever.

It’s 21 years later and every day I think about her. Genuinely so, for she was such a huge influence there is always something I relate to her. I had not been awake more than a few minutes this morning when I’d thought about something she had taught me.

My youngest sister turned 23 last month and she is expecting her first child, a daughter, around Christmas. She even has the same cravings mum used to have when pregnant, pickled onions (specifically Monster Munch crisps!), and I know each time my sister looks at her daughter she’ll think about mum. It’s times like these, experiences like these, that I miss her the most. I wish she was here with us, experiencing the highs and lows of our lives. I wish I could have her advice now, it’s been so very long since I have had the voice of a matriarch talking at me. I miss it. I miss her.

I turn 38 in a couple of months and for the first time since getting sick I’ve experienced more of that independence she taught me. I have my power wheelchair now, I can “walk” away when I want, go at the speed and in the direction I want. I can do so much more for longer and go further – it’s hard to describe just what that means to me.

I think she would be proud of me. Not just my academic achievements, but of the person I’ve become as well. I am more patient and quiet, more selfless and forward thinking, more positive and happy than I thought I would be at this point in my life. It seems that my challenges in life have strengthened me, which is what she wanted of me.

The night before she passed I was alone with her for many hours, and though she was in and out of lucidity (the cancer had reached her brain by this point and she essentially had dementia) she managed to give me one last bit of advice, and these are words I’ve seared onto my heart and mind.

“Challenges either break you or make you stronger. Be a fighter and be stronger.”

I was strong for you, mum, and strong for my sisters (and brothers), but now I am strong for me too and my life is much better for it.

I miss you and love you forever,

Your dutiful, independent daughter,

Claire.

Wedding Day [2]

So much tabletop…

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…and I love it!

My schedule atm is:

  • Sunday: Eriad Game (DM)
  • Monday: Sanctum Game (Player)
  • Thursday (ad hoc): 1×1’s (DM & Player)
  • Saturday (fortnightly): Werewolf the Apocalypse (Player)

The Eriad game is the first time I’ve been the dungeon master and we’ve reached our 25th session (started the game at the end of January). I love my players and really enjoyed preparing the sessions, as well as kicking their asses and my NPCs getting theirs kicked too! I wish I had more time (and less pain) so that I could do the gdocs associated with the game. We have fun every week and they are engaged with the world and story, so I feel like I am doing an ok job!

As for being a player, I’ve learned so much from the DMs and Storytellers who have run campaigns and continue to run them. So thanks to Kai (my first ever DM!), Tobias and Whuffie and I look forward to the Jane Austen-esque game Clare is going to run too!

Having given up forum roleplaying almost a year ago I am so glad to have replaced that hobby with tabletop. TT is more engaging, the people are more reliable and the game is just more fun overall for me. Plus, my wrists don’t hurt from doing it! 😀

Five Years Younger

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Five years ago all this nonsense with my health kicked off and I am wanting those years back. After an appointment with my neurologist I’m realising ever more keenly that I may need to give up having my own children in favour of having bariatric surgery. Though what I will not do is wait for the NHS to make up it’s mind, to stop trying to have kids while I find out if or when I can have the weight loss surgery.

Still, it’s a sucker punch. Five years ago we’d been trying to have kids, I’d been losing weight and it would all have happened naturally. I’m almost 38 now and time has basically run out.

It’s gotten me into a bit of a funk, if I’m honest. I already know all of this, of course, but it was easier to put it to the back of my mind when I was in the middle of appointments and surgeries. Today I was forced to make a choice, to admit that the bariatric surgery came first, and it kinda killed my hopes about children.

My TM Journey

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This is a blog I wrote for the TMA – Transverse Myelitis Association.

It was a sunny day. I remember the early morning sunshine pouring in through the living room window shaming me into hooving up all the dust. Typically, the hoover bag needed changing first, so while squinting because of the sunlight I bent down to take out the bag. That was when it hit. A sharp, stabbing pain in my lower back.

Read more: http://ow.ly/gq1C30kOZse

Timing Is Everything

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Perhaps it’s the hot weather making me sick, or generally feeling powerless, but I am in a bit of a limbo right now. I’ve worked hard on my proposal and everything surrounding my PhD but I seem no closer to it then I was six months ago. I can’t begin for September, which vexes me but that’s mostly because I am 38 this year and I wanted to be qualified before I was 40 – or not long after. It just feels like the timing if off with everything in my life right now, be it education and career, starting a family, or generally being out and about.

I started volunteering for the MS Society last week only to then get an email to say it’s all postponed until the area supervisor is back (she’s had to take a leave of absence), so bad timing for me there. I’m trying to finish my proposal but with the end of term and my supervisor going to Switzerland for work I’m not getting any further with that. Then of course is the baby issue. I’m still not pregnant, but because I was sick my period missed a month and so I had to delay an important cervical procedure. Delaying that means further delay on trying to conceive.

Of course I am impatient, and I’ll not give up, I’m just feeling frustrated and a little deflated right now. On top of that I’m being snappy because I have come off one of my painkillers and am starting to reduce my tramadol as well. All of this in an effort to conceive since those medications can cause miscarriage and birth defects. So irritable from more pain too. All in all I’m not very fun to be around right now.

Oh, and I gained 2kg because I was in funk after the miscarriage and the move was making it hard to cook and eat properly… fucking A right?

Too Hot for Much of Anything!

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Even though the British public have been thoroughly introduced to summer weather I’ve still been busy with a variety of things – hence a lack of writing. Inevitably I have also been laid low, my symptoms have gone haywire leaving me in bed and watching tv and movies for the most part. When I’ve not been too sick I’ve been getting out and getting shit done though.

Last week I started volunteering, am officially a volunteer now, and that is just the start of this new phase in my life. I figured that being busy meant less time to stress about a certain time-sensitive event.

Also, I’m going to be an aunt for the first time – officially! So by Christmas we’ll have another addition to the family. 😀

Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down

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Pro Choice Vote

The handmaids are always going to be a provocative image whether or not you’ve seen or read A Handmaid’s Tale and could be used for many a subject for a blog. The title of this post could be used for many a subject too, I’ve used the term in relation to bullies, cyberbullying and general feminist discussions. However, this time I want to talk about pro-choice and why votes like repealing the 8th Amendment in Ireland are so important. How pro-choice changes lives in an important and significant manner. Why sex education for children and teenagers is crucial and why women should have ultimate control of their bodies and as much control of their destiny as chance allows.

Explaining my own position will hopefully put things in greater perspective. As a 37 year old white, straight woman living in the UK I am supremely privileged – yet I am still not equal to a white, CIS, UK male. There are some things I want to clarify from the get-go.

  • I support pro-choice not pro-abortion
  • I support education of all options, not press ganging women into one choice using alarming and psychologically distressing pictures and videos.
  • I would never have the abortion procedure but I fight for the right for all women to make that choice and do not judge others choices.

Until a few years ago I would have had an abortion. Even now, as a better educated woman on the procedure itself, I’d have an abortion if my life was in danger. Now my reality is that if life and death did not come into it I’d not abort, but that is my choice and my reasons are my own – though I’ll hint at the reason being linked to how the baby is gotten out, but I’ll not scaremonger by saying more. It’s up to us as parents, carers, teachers and responsible adults to make sure children and teens are educated on all choices. ALL CHOICES.

It horrifies me that any women is put in a room with pro-life literature and forced to read it all before even being allowed near an abortion clinic. Then there are those women throughout the world who are denied anything at all. Not only do we have to pay for our menstrual cycles and have tampons and sanitary towels taxed but so many of us – 50% of the world’s population! – are denied control of our bodies. Everything from pro-lifers shooting patients and nurses outside of clinics to child brides and women dying in labour because they had no other choice than to have the child.

These are decisions ultimately made by men and unfortunately there are women who prop up this culture too by being complicit.

In Ireland a major step was taken, a step for all women in the world. Today we need to build upon that.

“Illegitimi non carborundum…”

“Don’t let the bastards” (men, pro-lifers, governments) “…grind you down.”