Sunday, October 18, 2020

COLD HARD FACTS (Manifesto Part 2)

Following on from my last blog....

            RECAP: After my recent disappointment in a certain business owner ghosting me on social media, I sent them an email stating that I would still be willing to give the feedback they asked for. 

               Their response was possibly the most professional piece of writing I've experienced from them. It was suspiciously like it was written with aid from someone with more business aptitude, tact and diplomacy (and rightly so) while still retaining their down to earth tone of speech. They fully admitted that they ghosted me although it seemed like they took offense to my use of the word 'block' and insisted that they didn't do so on social media, only 'muted' me. Strange....because I was pretty sure that when someone's profile disappears from even the generic Facebook search bar, that's because someone has blocked you from finding their page. Maybe I'm wrong, but I digress. 

 Anyway, they explained that they've chosen to disengage in conversation with me because it's bad for their mental health and that their 'admin' team will be dealing with any further emails from me. As someone who suffers greatly from mental health issues, I responded that I completely understand and respect their decision, and that this would be my final correspondence. I added that I wanted them to have every opportunity to hear me out as this individual has said repeatedly in the past that if people have an issue with them or the business to "come talk to me first".  

I had hoped when I got that initial text that the truth will out and I would finally be able to unburden myself of the long buried grievances I held and be a martyr for those who wanted to speak up but were afraid to.

I spoke to dozens of close acquaintances & friends from the studio whom I knew had issues in the past and present, hearing their stories and addressing their concerns. I have compiled a concrete list of poor business practices, and personal shortcomings that have been a detriment to this individual’s business. I had hoped that I would be able to bring forth this agenda to the studio owner in a calm and constructive way. This was not meant to be a ‘bitch fest’ (although with the level of unprofessionalism shown in the past it very well could have been). This was meant to be a chance to hear feedback, open up a discussion, and move the business forward so that no one would have to suffer the same way I or anyone else did.

There are those who have drunk the cool-aid for far too long, but I’m hoping that anyone who knows the business and reads this in disbelief will wake up and run like many others did. Believe you me…once you are out of the hazy mushroom cloud of toxic behavior and sketchy dealings, you begin to see a lot clearer and things from the past start to click and make sense. So without further adieu, here are the reasons why I and others turned away from this business after years of loyalty and support. 


Please note the following key: 
๐Ÿ”ผThis is to note a first hand account, meaning I have witnessed/experienced this myself. 

➤ = This notes a 2nd hand account, or something that someone else whom I've spoken to has personally witnessed/experienced, so I'm trusting them that it truly happened. 

๐Ÿ’ข= This is something that has been filtered down through a couple of people, so it may only be rumor, but there is plausibility that this actually has happened.

POOR BUSINESS PRACTICES:

There is something to be said about small businesses, that their charm lays in the very human mistakes that get made. They aren't big companies that thrive on a perfect image and cannot afford to make any minor PR mishap. However, when all of the minor offenses all add up it seems more like poor business decisions rather than careless mistakes. 

  • There are no policies on pregnancy or post natal procedures on the website, health waiver, or any other public forum. During both my pregnancy and post natal period I was told that I could come back, but I couldn't do most anything. I was told on the spot and expected to follow the rules even tho there is no procedure on this. ๐Ÿ”ผ
  • The Course Descriptions on the booking page are rarely updated and significant changes can be seen as false advertising. Someone I know signed up for a 'sexy music video style' chair dance class and was very disappointed when they were taught a contemporary piece. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  • Reluctance to offer full refunds/admitting admin mistakes. Many MANY times students have been told they 'read information wrong' when they have evidence of admin mistakes that effected them. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  • Changing dates of events (showcase) with short notice and only in a private sector (private FB group). The annual showcase date was announced a year prior in front on a public audience, however mere months before the actual showcase date, the date was changed and only those in the private Studio facebook page were notified. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  • Changing dates/times of classes/workshops. Again, MANY times a class or workshop's time would be altered with little to no notice and the business owner denies changing it even though they are the only person who does the admin. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  • Extortion/Charging students to get the business free advertising. A personal bulletin was made by the studio owner looking for people who were willing to have their photo taken (on the equipment in the studio with a professional set up) that the business could use on advertisements. Volunteering should have been enough, however, they not only needed to give their consent for their picture to be taken and used publicly, but they needed to pay the professional photographer, absolving the studio owner of all advertising costs. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  • Flippant employment status: A few employees/past employees of the studio have made it known that the employment practices of the business owner are less than desirable. This ranges from changing a clause in the employment contract (ie: period of leave) or student agreement (restricting any competition by banning students from opening their own business or teaching within a period of time after leaving the studio) all the way to the confusion over status of employment. For example,  the business owner insists that all instructors are self employed, however they are still treated like normal employees with certain contract agreements in place. Another example of this is that instructors were paid per class(including a cushion period before and after the actual class) instead of per head, which is how most self employees exercise classes work. 
  • Double Standards/Favoritism: There are so many examples of this, and although it's not a bad business practice that would hold up in a court of law, it's still worth noting a few instances where double standards could be sited specifically instead of relying on speculation: 

    1.       Changing showcase date for a certain individual--This was self admitted on a facebook comment by the studio owner that "one of the reasons" the showcase date changed was due to a certain student's availability. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
    2.       Double standards when it comes to paying for Grip (an item from the online shop). The studio owner is forever chastising people for not paying for grip that every time someone asks to have grip, they have to show proof of their purchase of it from the online store. However, the people who hold favor with the studio owner will be told "oh don't worry about it, just pay for it later". ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
    3.        Rigging a raffle to ensure the studio gets the top prize. One showcase, the top prize was 'won' by an instructor's partner. Since they had no interest in the prize--an aerial apparatus--they gave it to their partner, one of the studio's instructors. The instructor then 'decided' to 'gift' the prize to the studio. Allegedly this was all according to a plan for the studio to gain new equipment for free (since the prize was donated by the company who makes the apparatus). This has been corroborated by 2 people who heard the story from the instructor who gave up said prize, but since this is a 3rd hand account, I've marked it as speculation.๐Ÿ’ข 
    4.        It is an unwritten, but verbally announced at every class, rule that you 'DO NOT TEACH EACH OTHER' and 'DO NOT TRY SOMETHING YOU'VE SEEN ON A VIDEO'. However, the studio owner has contradicted both of these statements. The first by calling me out for not 'helping' a fellow student with the choreography, when I shouldn't be teaching my peers. The second by producing videos of showcase routines and telling students to learn it themselves. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
    4.        Allowing favorites use of the studio out of hours: During this pandemic, a comment was thrown about on a FB live video by the studio owner that they know everyone is missing aerial, 'so are we' and going on to explain that the instructors don't have their own equipment at home to train on, so they are deprived as much as the rest of the students were. However, I know of at least 2 people--๐Ÿ”ผ➤1 confirmed, ๐Ÿ’ข1 speculated by timings and locations of social media posts during lockdown (there may have been more)--who used the studio while it was allegedly shut. Not only would this potentially be breaking the law at the time, but it doesn't look good to have lied about it. 
  • Poor inventory management. It's a common occurrence that 'things for sale' go missing from the studio without payment. Whether this is poor inventory, or poor cash handling I don't know, but this is FAR too common an occurrence to just be a simple mistake or someone has stolen merch without paying. ๐Ÿ’ข
  • Double Booking/No Shows: Due to the business owner's poor admin skills, there were numerous times where private lessons overlapped or were double booked. There have been more than one occasion where a private lesson with them had been booked, only for the patron to be stood up by the studio owner because they forgot they booked someone in until they were called out on it. In addition, I myself have pointed out admin mistakes as a kindly gesture where 2 classes were put on the booking system at the same time in the same room.  ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  • Pricing. This is a personal pet peeve of mine because the studio owner would, on more than one occasion, say to me "It's always about money with you, isn't it Jen?" .... My father was an accountant. I'm just interested in where the money is going. I have NO problem paying a price, otherwise I wouldn't have paid it, but I like to know where my money is going and keep my books in order...so forgive me if I ask questions revolving around money. But...my due diligence has shed some light of the following: 

    1.       SHOWCASE:
              First of all, it is unfair to ask for rehearsals to be mandatory and have people pay for said rehearsals. Showcase rehearsals should either be mandatory and free....or they can charge per head, but then people can choose whether they pay to rehearse. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤

              Secondly, if you are charging per head for a rehearsal (to pay for the cost of keeping the lights on, the instructors time, the equipment upkeep, etc), then it needs to be reflected fairly instead of picking an arbitrary number. It's a elementary maths problem: If the cost of running a rehearsal in the studio is £50/hour, and you have 10 students, how much will each student need to pay?(£5/student) What would be the cost per student if there were 20 students? ...you'd think it would be £2.50, right? But no....still £5, that arbitrary amount that ensures a 50% profit margin at the expense of your gullible students. ๐Ÿ”ผ

               The Third issue surrounding pricing and showcase happened while i was away, but I had more than one of my friends still participating in showcase tell me that instead of attending rehearsal where the routine was taught to you... a few routines were not 'taught' in rehearsal. You were sent a video of the routine, which you had to teach yourself and know it ahead of the rehearsal time slot. Part of the cost of rehearsals is the TUITION/TUTELAGE you get from an instructor, otherwise, why are you paying for their time to teach you? 

    2.       MEMBERSHIPS: 

              ๐Ÿ”ผ➤The price of a gold, all-inclusive (and by all, it meant mostly) memberships when I was paying for it was steep, but I couldn't do aerial anywhere else so I didn't mind paying for the privilege. It made more sense to me than paying per class and spending loads more. Aerial is a *specialist* form of exercise....with specific equipment that you can't find in a gym. I know this is what SHOULD have been said by the studio owner, but instead they used the word 'elite' when describing the new pricing regime post covid lockdown. 

                This may have been a case of misusing the incorrect word, but I think it was more of a Freudian slip because what followed was disgracefully elitist, said with an air of superiority when explaining the price increase was "Because we're worth it". 

                It was explained in an online zoom meeting that the old regime was out. Memberships are a thing of the past and a new block booking system would take it's place....EXCEPT for people who were financially secure enough to keep paying their full price membership during 'lockdown'(without use of it) while the economy tanked and people were either sacked or placed on furlough. Those who kept funding the business by paying their memberships while the studio was closed would be rewarded with a freeze on their membership price-- so long as they kept that membership ticking over, they would never face a yearly price increase. But prices would continue to rise at the desecration of the business owner for any other patron of the business. 

                 I am outrageously appalled at this action. It's essentially Socioeconomic Status Discrimination and it is disguising. The business owner is very quick to think about their own financial security by begging the government to reopen their business, or by explaining price increases as 'I have to pay myself too." However, when it comes to other people, there is no financial consideration, and it's all take take take and bled them dry. I've known people to pay for a one-off workshop or photoshoot instead of spending the rest of their very tight budget on the last food shop of the month. Now, that's that individual's choice; however I don't think the business owner knows how much of a slap in the face this 'reward for keeping membership through lockdown' really is. 

                People are real life
    individuals who require a job to pay for things, and while I appreciate that this business owner is a person, they were still making money during lockdown by offering online zoom classes. Whereas students might have been furloughed during this covid pandemic, couldn't afford a nearly £100/month membership without using it and now they are being punished for their poverty. Elite sport indeed....


ALL BARK AND NO BITE:

This business owner has a very large social media presence and they talk a big game about body positivity, mental health, women’s advocacy, but all of it does seem a bit of hot air. Things that have been said on social media to big up women, to inspire confidence, to be a positive influencer has to look a bit hypocritical next to the way this person acts in real life.

  • There have been posts about women building each other up, but then I've heard them talk about students behind their backs. And I know that this may sound hypocritical coming from me who's blogging about the shortcomings of another, but I've never claimed to be a saint. I see it, I say it. I'm that blunt American with candor for days. ๐Ÿ”ผ

  • There have also been speeches in person, social media posts, and business mottos online that state People of all shapes and sizes are welcome at the studio. However, I have witnessed passing comments in class about someone's shape/size being an issue in executing a move (technical things about weight distribution, not enough 'pocket' (skin/fat) to grip the pole, but then the odd comment that only eluded to the subject of weight loss in relation to stamina or progress).๐Ÿ”ผ

  • I personally have not felt welcome because of my pregnant/post partum status.When I got pregnant, I made this known straight away as it would be a health risk undertaking physical exercise without my instructor knowing. However, this condemned my aerial career as I was not welcome in the studio whilst pregnant due to insurance purposes. Meanwhile, through social media and being told first hand by the business owner, there had been other girls who continued to train whilst pregnant. I was very confused as to whether this had been discrimination against pregnant women and the ‘favorites’ were an exception, or if it was just me who was being outcast. ๐Ÿ”ผ

  • Then there is the feigned apathy for mental health.  One example of this was when a work colleague of mine decided to give chair dancing a go to boost her confidence. However the class (not as advertised) was not for her. When she brought this up to the studio owner in an email, and expressed that she felt very out of place with the fit young girls who obviously had been regulars at the studio,  the reply had been “to try a different course in the future however the issues you have brought up seem to go deeper than the fact this was a contemporary course”. This was disheartening for a number of reasons, not least of all was the insinuation of ‘you got problems and that’s not my fault’ attitude of a business owner. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤


Another issue that could fall under poor business practices as well as attacking people's mental health is the amount of Public Shaming that this business owner initiates. 

  1. There was a news article where they publicly shamed half of their customers for not being able to afford memberships during an economic crisis. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  2. Reprimanding students in front of the whole class for a variety of reasons (being on their phone, not paying attention, etc) This is not school. We are paying for a service. If someone wants to waste their money by not participating in the class, that's their own prerogative. It is not their place to shame their students in front of others. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  3. When the aforementioned 'grip' goes missing, the business owner usually posts a facebook message to the group page and tags certain individuals in the message. Then people are forced to embarrassingly explain that they paid for the grip they took so it wasn't them. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤
  4. During showcase rehearsals, the business owner/instructor took the time to single out the individuals who were not doing well/holding the rehearsal up. This lead to threats of cancelling the whole thing if those doing poorly couldn't get their act together. ➤
  5. Showing competition videos to students of bad performances the instructor has had to judge for a competition, openly making fun of the routine and the performer. ➤
  6. The business owner's social media presence is a PR nightmare because I would say at least half of the comments they make online is either flippant, misdirecting, or sardonic to customers/potential customers. I think that sometimes they forget they are a business owner and  how the things they say/do will be perceived. Which isn't a crime, but their comments on social media have left more than one person feeling dejected and unworthy of their time. ๐Ÿ”ผ➤


Like I said before, these are all things that I myself, or my sources have stated as reasons for discontent with the business. Most of us either leave or suffer in silence. I truly, truly hope that those who read this and are still immersed in the happy bubble, begin to realize that these things ring true and reevaluate going back if any of it has caused you past distress, or consider addressing the problem. 

Next Time...I will go into detail about my own personal experience from a mental health perspective. Stay Tuned. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Its a Small World after all (Manifesto-Part 1)


One of the hardest things for me to do is keep my mouth shut when there is injustice. Seriously, I once got detention when I was 12 for getting into a physical fight with a bully after she wouldn’t stop tormenting a girl younger than us at school. Was it right to fight verbal violence with physical violence? Probably not. But I couldn’t just stand there and watch while this younger girl was being bullied. I don’t tolerate bullies.


As I got older I learned to hold back my fists and try to talk things out whenever I was faced with a problem. Slowly over time I learned to pick and choose when to speak up about my discomfort in something, and when it just wasn’t worth it to leave well enough alone. For the past 2 years I've had an onslaught of bad interactions with a local business that i used to love. I feel like ive turned a blind eye to some bad business practices, shrugged off some less than desireable conversations and just learned to solider on. For probably longer than two years, I’ve been supressing my thoughts about this establishment, because if I spoke up it would be a futile effort and the outcome wouldn’t be the most desirable.

Do you know those people that just can’t take constructive criticism? That everything you say in trying to help them is seen as a personal attack? For example, a director might tell an actor that they need to enunciate their words better when reciting lines on stage. A good actor would take the note and enunciate their words clearer, while someone else would grumble and moan about it being the director’s fault (bad hearing, etc) for not understanding the words. The business owner I have grievances with is an example of the later and it’s the main reason why I haven’t said anything until now.

To put it even more in perspective, I once complimented this business owner for hiring such an amazing member of staff in regards to a new employee. Instead of feeling pride for their ability to hire the right people that heighten their business, this owner looked offended. It was almost as if they thought I held their new employee in higher regard than I held them and it was completely unacceptable. What was meant to be a complement of their hiring skills was taken as a personal attack.

So when I say that I haven’t spoken up for fear of the backlash, just know this: Even when I mean to compliment them, their narcissistic tendencies somehow have twisted the compliment on their staff into a negative reflection of themselves; therefore, anything actually negative about them would surely have a more volatile outcome.

  The reason I speak about this now is because I see so many of my friends suffering with the same or similar grievances and it breaks my heart. I’m hoping that by writing all of this down that not only will I be unburdening myself of all these toxic feelings I’ve been harbouring, but anyone who has suffered the same wrongs will not feel as alone. 

Know that you are welcome to come and talk to me freely without fear of judgement or retaliation – a safe space to air your grievances instead of holding it in inside.  

First of all let me preface this by saying that anyone who knows this establishment and knows me will know exactly who and what I am referring to. I know that for every one person who will be on my side because they have experienced similar things, there will be an army of loyal followers who will rally against me…and that’s okay. I would just ask those who will take up arms against my words that you truly look deep within yourself and ask ‘Is it necessary?’ , ‘Is this my fight?’, ‘Will it change how I feel if I bully someone for stating their opinion?’ I am not here to tear people down or tell you what to do, I am simply stating my opinions and that facts I have to justify those feelings, so please choose to be kind, not blindly loyal.


I have known many strong independent business owners, and while they may not operate on a ‘perfect image’ corporate level, they still all have a level of tact because they know they are the face of their business. I have NEVER experienced the level of unprofessionalism that this individual presents as a business person. There is a long list of grievances that I have both personal and about the business practices. I won’t dwell on the petty “he said, she said” antics, but I will express how this establishment has affected my mental health. And because I have a lot to say, I will be separating these into different blogs so they are easier to digest.

For now, here is the vaguest overview of the turn of events that brought on the need to write this series of essays and air my grievances:

In the last year and a half, I have not given my patronage to this business more than twice due to my pregnancy and being post-partum, however I have been roped into drama unnecessarily.

I haven’t physically set foot in the business since January. I have not engaged in any contact with the business or its owner, even on social media, in so long because of the toxic atmosphere I feel and wanting to remove myself from that circle and move forward with my life.

The last time this business owner was in contact with me via message/social media was June.

 I received a Whatsapp message from said business owner, asking if I could let them know what they’ve done to upset me.

 

Up until now, I have stuffed down my feelings. I have silently removed myself from the situation to save my sanity and not rock the boat in the process. But due to my past of having been ‘ghosted’ without explanation by so-called-friends, I felt it would be hypocritical of me to do the same. So, in the most kind and articulate way I could muster at 10-o-clock at night, I sent that person a message back, saying just that.

What I was sent back was somewhat of a surprise- an olive branch. A chance to meet up and air not only my grievances, but present the concerns of many other patrons I’ve talked to on the subject. I think the exact words i got from the business owners response was “…I would actually love to hear more about this so I can work on this and hope no one ever feels this way in the future...”

                Although I was not happy to be a bearer of bad news, I was excited at the prospect of this individual finally being open to feedback. Myself and countless others who have been jilted by this business would finally have a chance to be heard in hopes that things would change for the better. But this dream may have been to short lived. In the midst of back and forth messages trying to arrange a time for a meeting, my final message bounced back. It was sent, but never delivered. The message was never seen.

In fact, it took a friend of mine to casually mention that she was blocked on social media by this same individual, for me to actually investigate if I had been blocked in the same capacity. I checked my Whatsapp message….found it wasn’t ‘delivered’ and then noticed that this person’s contact picture had disappeared from the conversation ‘bubble’. I checked facebook…can’t see their profile (aka blocked). I checked Instagram…also invisible to me (aka blocked again).

Just when I imagined that things could be resolved, and a meeting would be held to have a civil conversation I surmise that it was all pomp and circumstance and a meeting was never going to happen anyway. In a last attempt to make things right, I sent an e-mail… something that hasn’t been blocked…to the business and announced that although the act of blocking me was unprofessional, I was still genuinely willing to give them the feedback they asked for.

 I don’t know what will come of this, or if it will be an never-ending saga. I don’t know if they ever truly desired the feedback and to grow their business into something better for the future, or if it was all a faรงade. ….All I know is that it has gone this far and I would be remiss if I didn’t speak up for the dozens of people I personally know that have suffered trauma, mental anguish, exploitation, low self-esteem, injustice, and unfair encounters with this person and their business, especially when so many have claimed it to be their ‘happy place’ in the past.

It begs the question...was it ever a happy place? Was it my version of Disneyland? Or are we all looking through rose tinted glasses and eventually find out that its Dismaland after all? 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

The onset of late night anxiety

So heres a fun little insight into anxiety...its a pain in the ass. It rarely ever goes away and you can only learn to mange it, or try and numb it for a little while. Thats why people who arent on anxiety medication usually turn to drugs, drinking, gambling or sex to distract themselves from the anxiety that gets overwhelming from time to time. I wrote a little prose (would you call this prose?) In the moment of an anxiety episode i had to illustrate what goes on when i have an attack. 

I wrote this drunk, whilst having an attack so forgive me if its a little disorganised-its just how thoughts raced through my mind at the time. whats that phrase?...was it Hemmingway that said "write drunk, edit sober"? Well, that's what happened here.  Enjoy.



"Missed messages on my notification widget of my phone. Oh now. That name. Not again. Heart palpitations. Why me? Why this? What now? Should i look? Should i not? Its gonna bug me if i dont. But then im damned if i look cause theyll see i read the message. Do i leave it until tomorrow? I wont be able to get to sleep. Ill keep wondering what they want. 

Fuck it. Im opening it. 

Okay. Its not so bad. But now ive read it. Do i reply? Do i not reply? Do i leave if and reply tomorrow? No, ill be up all night trying to think of what to say. I wont sleep. Best write something now. But what to say? I dont want to. I just want this to go away. I cant deal.

The impending doom creeps over me like a fog, enveloping my senses in its dark dreary matter. Anxiety. Its here and its staying. I sigh and steady myself. Time to craft a response.

A moment later...

SEND. There. Its done. I can go to sleep now.... except i cant. My mind races. I cant stop thinking about the words in my message. What will they think? What will they say? Will i get backlash from the proverbial shit hitting the fan? I need to relax. I need to go to bed-look at the time. But i cant sleep when im like this. My mind racing like the beating of hummingbirds wings,faster and faster as i try to leave my body and fly away to escape my current misfortune. 

I put my headphone on and crank up some tunes hoping to drown out the noise that my anxiety is making. My anxiety is unwelcome noise, like a poorly practiced music student screeching irritating cords on an ill-fated stringed instrument. The music, although lovely and enjoyable, does not compare to the ruckus my anxiety makes. I need something more. 

As i pace downstairs i pass the liqour cabinet, something i rarely touch now a days. 

Fuck it. Im having a drink. 

A nice drink, amaretto, i like amaretto...straight. thatll get me buzzed enough to shut my brain up. But wait, next to it...Bourbon. thats stronger. I dont much care for the taste on its own, but with my sweet favourite amaretto....and double the spirits. That'll do. 


I grab both bottles and begin mixing the concoction. No mixers. Just straight proof. I need sleep. I dont want to feel this anxiety. I justify my actions as i take swig after swig of the amber liquid, each time feeling the anxiety fading into the background. 

I change up my plan and try putting on an audio book ive listened to before and concentrate on visualizing a detailed picture of the scene and characters as the narrators describes it all in detail. I engrose myself in it, until in my mind pops up the text. No... NO. I push it down and try and focus on the audiobook again. I can feel the haze of the alcohol taking effect as a drift in and out of torn thoughts. 

<His hair was the colour of ink on stained parchment of his face>

...my mind drifts from the narration as it continues to play....

I wonder if they'll reply now; my thoughts overlap the narrators voice in my ears.

I quickly put the conversation on mute so i can focus solely on relaxing with my audiobook and head to bed. If i can go to bed before X time then i will get enough sleep before i have to wake up for work tomorrow morning...must concentrate on my book. Focus solely on the book....

I can feel the spirits working as they flush through my system and my brain slows down enough to switch from one train of thought to another in a slower dopey way...

<Lazily, he ran a rough hand through his dark hair and glanced at the french doors.....>

Slowly again my attention drifts. For a few seconds its floating high above me, not engrossed in the story that has now faded away and i can no longer hear the narration. It takes a while before it comes back down to my body and im thinking of how it tingles from the sensation of being drunk and i am suddenly aware of my new slowed conciousness. Good its working...it wont be long now ..."



That's all i wrote. I know its bad to self medicate with alcohol, but sometimes its just what needs to be done for a temporary reprieve. This all reminds me of some Green Day Lyrics and they couldnt be more relevant: 

Take away the sensation inside
Bitter sweet migraine in my head
It's like a throbbing tooth ache of the mind
I can't take this feeling anymore


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

A Brush with a death sentence - A COVID Tale

Let me start by saying.... I do NOT have COVID. No one in my FAMILY has COVID. As far as I am aware we've never HAD COVID. And I'm pretty sure from the start of my tale, that it was never going to BE COVID-19! Now That that's settled....


One thing that this pandemic has certainly pulled out of me is the crazy. My anxiety has been through the roof about contracting covid and every little thing I do has to be done with extra EXTRA precaution. I've been exhibiting very 'health anxious' behaviors that I'd never had before. But along side these new behaviors, my old habits have been creeping back again. 

I said before that one of my anxious behavior 'ticks' is the picking at imperfections on my skin...and if they are close to me: other's. I have been known to pop pimples on my face and hubby's face when he gets an ingrown hair. I've tormented our poor cat, picking at scabs he's gotten from fighting other neighborhood cats. And as of late this picking behavior has extended to the impulse to pick my son's scabs as well. I really REALLY have to watch my behavior around him and in fact I call the day a win if I turn to the cat or myself rather than baby boy's afflictions. 

The other anxious behavior that has come out recently has been my 'inconvenience' anxiety. I have a real big hang up about inconveniencing people. I have been known to stall a car multiple times because I'm so worried about stalling and holding up the line of cars behind me that it makes me more nervous and more likely to stall. I've also been known to fumble and drop my coin pouch and all it's contents on the floor because I'm worried that paying in change(which is all I had) would take too long that the cashier would be upset with me, I would delay those in line behind me, and just generally annoy everyone. Point is, my hang up about keeping people waiting, or holding others up, or any other type of mild convenience is a big deal for me. And when I get anxious I often make mistakes and get very depressed and hard on myself. 

So, how does this fit in with COVID? We'll I'll tell you. The story actually begins with Henry starting Nursery and me going back to work. Let me just say that every nursery or day care worker will tell you that Nursery and Day Cares are a germ infested playground. Even in the welcome packet we got when we signed Henry up to Nursery said expect your child to come home with more than a few colds (and eventually their immune system will grow because of it). This being the way things are, we think that Henry did pick something up at Nursery because he started to get a snotty nose. 

Jumping back to me returning to work for a second.... I had to delay my first day back in the office on Monday because someone we had been in contact with had a covid scare-- turns out.... Not covid. Just a high fever because of another medical condition.  So I already inconvenienced work for the first time, just after a week of working from home. 

When baby boy got sick, that meant mommy started to get sick too. Now when mommy gets sicks, she gets sick HARD. At first I was at work on Thursday, feeling like I had something stuck in my throat all day and trying to wiggle it out by clearing my throat continuously. But then when I was at home and I could cough and hack and clear it properly, it turned out that what I was faced with was a case of acute bronchitis. It was bad enough not to want to spread my germs around the office but I had a clear head so I told work that I was able to power through and work from home on Friday. Strike two for inconveniencing work in my book. 

The whole weekend I stayed in with baby boy, and tried to rest as much as I could but when it came to Sunday night and the coughing up green phlegm hadn't stopped it was time to tell work that I was going to take Monday as a sick day. One more day and it should be all fine. It still makes me nervous and I count that as a strike three for inconveniencing work. 

Well, word got around that I wasn't feeling well and Rob got sent home from work Sunday night and was told that he couldn't come back until I took a COVID test and it was negative. So, begrudgingly (cause I'll reiterate...I'm pretty sure it wasn't COVID. just my stupid broncitis flaring up!) I did my adulting thing-- booked a covid test for Monday morning, and emailed Nursery to say Henry wasn't going to be in for his all day session-- and then had a mental breakdown over the numerous accounts of inconvenience this has caused those around me: 

1. Rob's work
2. The worry that if I DID have COVID, then Rob's health would also be at risk
3. The Nursery for letting them know so late
4. Henry, for taking him away from Nursery aka interaction with other people
5. My Work--seriously, by this point I feel like it's just taking the piss--Strike Four, and possibly 5, 6, 7 etc if I had to self isolate for any reason 
6. Me, Rob and Henry for having to take Monday to drive to Wales to get a covid test
7. Anyone I've been in contact with over the past two weeks if the test DID come back positive
8. Subjecting myself to sticking a swab up my nose/throat
9.Subjecting baby boy the the torture of sticking a swap up both his nostrils

10. Wasting Government resources

That's the catch 22 of it all. If you tell people you're getting a COVID test, you feel like a leper because if you're getting a test you MUST have COVID. If you get a test and you're negative, it's STILL seen as a bad thing cause you've just wasted a government resource and took a test away from someone who could have actually needed it. 

You can't win with this Covid thing. 

So now that I've inconvienced loads of people, wasted government resources and had a few days of hacking and gaging my guts out to get rid of this thing, I'm back to work because guess what.... my test came back Negative. No COVID. 

Bloody thing needs to go away.....I've had it, officially, with anything COVID adjacent. 





Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Back to the Office

This is something that I have been dreading for a very long time: returning to the office. 

Not only was I not keen to come off of maternity and get back to work (i miss my mush mush!), but I certainly wasn’t expecting returning to work in the middle of a pandemic. My first week back luckily i worked from home, but this week was the “Reoccupation” of the Registry office- full stop. (Today was my first day back in the actual office due to my own personal circumstance.)


Leading up to this, i had many trepidations surrounding going back into the office. The way it will be is that every other person in the office will be working from home, while the first half work in the office...this way the people who a “In" will be spaced apart. This will happen for 2 week....9 days to be exact  with everyone on Friday of the 2nd week working from home to allow the cleaners to do a deep clean. This will also leave 72 hours between the first group of people occupying the office and the 2nd set of people(the ones working from home to start with) who will occupy the office for the following 2 weeks (or 9 days). And repeat. 



Two days before reoccupation i saw a risk assessment for the office as well as general university guidelines: 

Wear masks inside while walking around

Use the hand sanitizer provided at entrances

Wash hands often and for 20 seconds each time

Blue roll and antibacterial spray provided in each classroom and in the office. 

Wipe down desk and work area at the start and end of every day

Keep your distance 

Keep left when walking down corridors

Communication should be through phone, email or video call

If meeting face to face, keep distance, wear masks and limit to 15minutes


In theory it checks out, but my anxiety brain had more than a little freak out about things. How often are things(door handles, bannisters, etc) cleaned? When will bathrooms be cleaned? How many ppl are allowed in the bathroom at a time? Will we be able to use the kitchens? If so, how often are those cleaned? How many people are allowed in the kitchen at one time? Will there be proper ventilation in the office? How deep are the offices going to be cleaned every fortnight before the swap over of staff? Where will I be able to eat my lunch? Are the outside benches clean? How much cleaning supplies will be offered for us to use in the office? Do i have the right to refuse meeting anyone in person? Who’s going to be la-dee-da on the rules? Can i avoid them?  Will i catch COVID? What will i do if i do get it? What if i pass it on to Henry? Will i show symptoms? How will i know? 


And a myriad of other thoughts. On the surface, i reckon these are normal things to be worried about in a pandemic. I got some of these questions answered the next day but there were too many variables that didn’t add up. Since i was due to come back into the office this week and there was no way around it ive adopted the philosophy that the only one i can count on is me. So i took precautions to make sure all of my bases were covered. 


Office supplies...my own paper, notebook and pens. There is no sharing. No chance of cross contamination. 

5 facemasks: a new one for every day of the week, until they can be laundered

Personal hand sanitizer dispenser.....


The AWESOME thing about my personal anxiety is that some of my physical symptoms are increased heart rate, sweating, AND impulsive touching of face, chewing on my nails/cuticles, and picking my spots, scabs and other skin imperfections. Now what SHOULDN’T i be doing during a pandemic? ANSWER...all of those things. But being in a pandemic makes me do these behaviours exponentially more depending on how anxious i get. Hence i will be using a bucket ton of hand sanitizer


Measuring tape and some painters tape: this is so that i can mark out 1Metre around my desk so i know when to tell people to get out of my bubble. 

A picnic blanket: to sit on outside on the grass when i have my lunch

The little Book of Mental Health: in case i need advice

Antibacterial Wipes: these are mostly so that when i do need to use the bathroom i can wipe the door handle, lock, the toilet seat, the flush button, faucet and soap dispenser. I’ll also take these with me when i need to sanitize and there aren’t supplies provided by the university. 

A variety of cloths to use in conjunction with...

Anti bacterial spray: because wiping things down twice a day will not be enough

A plastic bag to put the used cloths into and take home to wash

My own water bottle

A back up water bottle to refill

Lunch, including snacks and soda so there’s no reason to need to visit the on campus shop or canteen. 

Coffee, Tea, Milk again...so i don’t need to go out of the office for my caffeine fix

My own Mug, spoon, and fork that i will take home and wash every day. 

A small tin can to use as a desk trashcan: so i don’t have to keep walking through the office to throw trash away


Everything that I’ve taken in to work with me is to ensure i am as safe and cautious as i can be. Some people might think im over doing it, but the thing about anxiety is that there is no rhyme or reason to it. Even though the risk assessment did its job in stating that security measures had been put in place, i still had a huge distrust that this was the case and that id be safe enough to return to work.

I fully expect that depending on how anxious i get, i may be spending a third of every office working day physically combating COVID.....wiping down desk, phone, computers, sanitizing hands, washing hands, wiping down toilets or door handles, or anything else that gets touched, putting facemasks on or off, walking further to avoid people. There is no knowing what is going to happen and seeing as how i will be sharing the campus and our building with staff and students i feel i need to be extra vigilant. 


So, how was my first day back in the office? Quite frankly...interesting. 


I made sure to allow loads of time to account for travel/traffic, parking, getting my staff card activated, setting up my computer and just generally getting my bearings. I got there 30min early which is what i hoped. Also it helped because I noticed while i was driving that my trousers were inside out...so getting there early gave me time to change too.

Besides the trouser mishap, the 2nd  pitfall?... I had to walk to reception to get my ID card activated since it wouldn’t work at the key activation point in our building. 

Next was tackling the desk. There was hand sanitizer,  paper towels and antibacterial spray in the office(although i couldn’t find it to begin with cause i was looking for stations on the wall, but they were on the ends of desks in the centre of the room).  I wiped down EVERYTHING.  And in fact, i dont think my station had been cleaned at all by cleaning staff over the weekend because there was a lot of dust build-up. I felt bad using up loads of the communal office sanitation supplies that i ended up using my own...which is why i brought it in as well...i wanted to make sure i wasn’t bogarting the supplies, knowing how much id want to keep my station clean. 

I marked down where 1metre (6ft) was with tape on the carpet surrounding my desk. Luckily I’m in a corner, by the windows, so im the furthest away from anyone else, with fresh air, and only 1 way for anyone to approach me. So if anyone does drop in unexpected, if they reach that 1metre line, that is the NOPE ZONE. 


After all the COVID measures were in place, i set up my laptop...but low and behold, nothing was working. I could log on to my computer, but i couldn’t open ANYTHING up because it said my internet wasn’t connected. Basically everything on the network requires internet connection. So I spent the better part of the day waiting....and waiting...and on the phone to IT to get my internet to play ball so that i could do some actual work. 


The only GOOD part of today was a visit from a new Campus Cat. Oooooooh! 

The windows being open...people in the office started hearing a wailing noise. It turns out it was a very loud Himalayan Cat that was wandering in the outdoor space between our office and the next open plan office about 7/8? metres away. Not only because i love cats, but because this cat was causing such a disturbance, i decided to don my face mask and go visit the kitty. 


I went round to the outside, called the kitty to me, and they followed me as i lead it out of that space and away from the offices so it wouldn’t disturb anyone. Then when we got far enough away the kitty laid down and started rolling around for me to pet them. I gave them a cheeky little stroke or two before sneaking back to the office. The kitty was SOOOOO friendly, the trouble wasn’t getting them to follow me away from the office windows, it was getting it NOT to follow me back into the building!


Anywho...I washed my hands after petting kitty and went back into the office to sit and do nothing again. *sigh*  This being my first day back i have no idea if this cat will hang around, or if it was a one off but it was a lovely addition to a complicated day. If this Himalayan kitty cat will be making a frequent appearance on campus, then A) I best think of what to call them, and B) professor Toby Paws(the actual resident Uni Cat-with its own Instagram account might i add....) better watch out!


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Creation of the Quiet Book

Over maternity leave i decided to create a Quiet Book for Henry. It's comprised of soft felt pages and everything is either tacked in with glue, Velcro, snaps, string, or sewn in. And let me tell you...there was LOTS of pieces to tack in. 


The majority of the pieces were hot glued or sewn in really well to make sure that they could withstand lots of toddler pulling and picking....cause if it's one thing toddlers do best, its to fiddle with things until they're destroyed completely (not unlike puppies actually๐Ÿค”). Since there was a ton of sewing and hot gluing to do i had to work on the book while the small child wasn't around during the day, which only left when daddy took Henry out for a few hours or when Henry went down for a long nap.

I tired to include a range of learning potentials (learning colours, numbers, life skills etc) for later on, but for now Henry will just be very textile as well as looking at pretty colours. 

The rundown of pages/learning: 

  • Textile page (buttons, a snap, velcro, yarn, zipper, sponge, rubber shapes)
  • Matching colours
  • Matching Shapes
  • Abacus w/ beads
  • I spy with my little eye 
  • Right v Left
  • Big to Small shapes
  • Learning colours
  • Counting
  • Moods Page
  • Name page
  • Learning how to dress
  • Laundry/washing pretend play
  • Braiding Hair
  • Tic Tac Toe/ Noughts and Crosses

It was quite a feat trying to fit in all the little pieces, lots of cutting felt, gluing, drawing faces, making 'clothes', sewing in sections... but I finally finished it! And already henry has fun flipping through the thick book like felt pages and feeling all the little intricate pages mommy hand crafted for him. Whether or not he uses it as it's intended for learning as he gets older will be another story entirely. 

One of the sections I debated on was something I would never have thought about consciously before: What colour felt do I cut out for the faces?  Up until a few months ago, it wouldn't have been a question and I would have automatically just put in a beige felt face. Thanks to the massive media hype around Black Lives Matter, I've been putting in the time to think about my world view, how I can broaden it, and what I can do to change things. 

One of the things I learned from actor Mehcad Brookes was that change starts with the collective consciousness. In the simplest terms, to make outward change, we first need to change the way people think. Everyone has unconscious bias about a myriad of things--these are things we have an innate opinion about because it's been made socially normal through our upbringing. A few good examples of that would be: 
  • Different jobs men hold or women hold (ie: Men are doctors, Women are nurses. Men are Builders, Women are ballerinas)
  • Gender Stereotypes (Boys play sports, Girls play with dolls....or Women should be pretty, men should be strong)
  • Cultural Misconceptions (Spanish people are Lazy, Canadians are too nice, the British don't care about dental hygiene, Germans are humorless, Jamaicans love getting high, etc)
  • Thinking all people over a certain age are frail and incapable of looking after themselves
  • Racial Bias (Black people are great at sports, white people are racists, Asian people are intelligent, Hispanic are illegal immigrants, etc)


I've been challenging these social norms and stopping more to think about them--"okay, well why is my first thought X, can it be Y instead?" Breaking the cycle of these 'social norms' and allowing room to grow is a big part of changing the world.

So, whilst I was making my Quiet Book and I had a few pages that would feature faces I thought to myself...I would normally put in little white boy faces because Henry is a white boy. But could I do it differently? 

The answer was undoubtedly YES! And why not? At the moment Henry's exposure to people of colour will be minimal because 99.9% of the people he sees on a daily basis are white-mummy, daddy, granny, granddad, mummy/daddy's close friends, Nursery carers, etc. I can't control outside factors--what people say or do concerning POC, but I can control how we in this family treat the issue of it. So that Henry can see that diversity is normal and 100% okay (hopefully to counteract any outside negative influence) I'm making efforts to grant him positive exposure to things he wouldn't normally come across. 
I'm firstly leading by example by checking myself (and Rob) for any lingering bias and correcting this behavior so Henry can't copy it. I'm making more effort to buy culturally diverse books, including some amazing finds from independent authors so that he can have an array of protagonists to follow and learn about some of the amazing cultures that the world has to offer.  And, I've opted for NOT putting the face of a pale blond girl (which is what my default would have been) to braid her hair in Henry's quite book. It's a minor change and it doesn't really matter who's hair is getting braided but it's one opportunity to diversify Henry's 'feed'. 

Now on to my next homemade project for Henry--The dreaded 3 page cross stitch that will take forever to complete. I'm hoping that I can at least manage the bottom half of the cross stitch by the time we start marking Henry's height. I'm back to work full time now, so that may be a pipe dream. 

More about returning to work in an upcoming blog. For now, I'm signing off!

Monday, September 7, 2020

All the Things that Ive Done

As my Maternity leave ends and I'm headed back to work tomorrow I've had a look back at all the things I've been able to accomplish in the last year. I know it might sound silly, and that raising a child should be reward enough but I'm a very visual, list checking type person. I prefer to see things laid out in a list and feeling a sense of accomplishment when I'm able to tick things off as I've done them. I get immense gratification from doing so and it makes me feel worth something when I'm able to display my accomplishments like this. 


So, for no other reason than to lay it all down on paper (or a digital format in this case) for myself, here is a list of all the things that I've done. 


My Prenatal / Postnatal / Maternity leave / Quarantine Combination Accomplishments List:



Of course the greatest thing during this time has been to be home and see Henry grow up and help him achieve new things...speaking of which, baby boy did his first full day at nursery today! I think he enjoied himself way too much and his key worker said he did extremely well.



 My BIG boy ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤