Browsed by
Author: Paul

Paul Fraser is a parent carer with his wife, to their adult son, who has multiple disabilities and together they strive to enable his access to an inclusive society with experiences as wide as possible and support others in similar situations by sharing their successes, and even failures so others may avoid pitfalls they found
How is success measured?

How is success measured?

Build it, and they will come …

I remember when I was working, this was a favourite question, I asked it of my teams and it’s one that I was always asked myself. “What will success look like”? “What does good look like”? but importantly something many forgot to ask was ‘how will success be measured?’ … in other words, how will you know that the success you have a vision for is the right one and delivers what you hope?

I had thought, and hoped, that my business days were behind me, and yet, I still find there are traits of it with me every day. Not least of all in the garden.

I have a vision for the garden – well in truth, my vision requires a garden of at least two acres, but as I have nothing like that, my vision needs to be a little more, well, quite a lot more, down to earth, dealing with the plot we do have – that sees, primarily our son, not only being able to access the garden, but also ‘wanting’ to access it and my first measure of that success will be the number of times he asks to go out into it each day, and then, how many photographs he wants to take on those visits.

My next vision is to create a garden that also attracts wildlife, from birds to bees, from butterflies to dragonflies, frogs, newts, and if at all possible hedgehogs. My measure of that success will be the number of different species and variety of those species that I can count and photograph each year. As an aside, will be the measure of how many I can correctly identify – and that’s going to take quite a bit of study!

I also want to create a garden that offers colour and cut flower opportunities throughout the year. Holly and mistletoe at Christmas, wreaths for the front door, and bouquets of flowers throughout the year bringing outdoors indoors with the seasons. A project to photograph our bouquets each week will be a measure of that success. Though optimism is high, certainty is not there right now, but I’ll not give up before I even start.

And so what, if I succeed or not? I hear you asking! Well, if I can achieve what I set out to accomplish, our son will have a smile on his face and enjoyment in what he sees, touches and smells for as long as he can, We will have done our little bit to help save species and the planet and the sight of these wildlife visiting the garden is so uplifting for our owns spirits and to have home grown flowers adorning the house in bouquets in every room is such a delight.

And so what? ….. That’s what, and it makes us smile 🙂

 

 

Walking with wheels and windmills

Walking with wheels and windmills

Wheels and Windmills

There is something very restful about walking amongst windmills. Not the new wind turbines, here to save the world – though they too have their own type of charm – but those that were used for grain, propelled by the breeze turning their sales.

Sadly, some don’t turn now, but are restored as heritage features, giving an indication of how we used to live.

Windmills have featured in Lytham’s history for hundreds of years. In 1805 Richard Cookson sought and obtained a lease from the Squire for a plot of land on which to build a ‘windy milne’. Later, in 1860, when the prestigious houses in the area were being built the residents looked upon the Windmill as an “industrial nuisance”! On the 2nd January 1919, a tremendous gale turned the sales despite the powerful brake and sparks ignited the woodwork. The Windmill was quickly ravaged by fire, the interior being entirely gutted. The Windmill remained derelict until 1921, when it was given by the Squire to the Lytham Urban District Council. In 1989, the Windmill was restored by Fylde Borough Council and opened to the public. Lytham Windmill is run in partnership with Fylde Borough Council and Lytham Heritage Group.

Lytham offers an ideal place to wheel walk. A lengthy promenade, flat and a wide, open area where you can walk for miles, encompassing several parks and skirting the town centre where outdoor cafes offer an opportunity to enjoy the sea, sun and company in a wheelchair and with a dog too. Fabulous 🙂

 

Gardening for tranquility and colour

Gardening for tranquility and colour

Tranquility and colourI had begun to create a page here to show our developing sensory garden. It didn’t go well. Neither my keeping up to day writing about it, or the actual planting and development of that area of our garden and so I pulled the page to have a rethink.

A sensory garden remains of utmost importance to us, as it allows our son to smell, feel and even taste the plants in his reach, but I need to go back to the drawing board.

The beauty is, that now we are in August, we can look at reshaping, planting anew and moving plants around the garden to create a little something special to spend time in. A recent challenge through Flickr was to post pictures of 100 flowers in 2017. I though to myself that I would aim to photograph 100 different flowers from our own garden … and hope we had enough to complete this challenge. Admittedly, I had taken a photograph of different ‘rose’ varieties, but earlier this month, I had pictured 100 different flowers within the garden, and another 30 beyond that. I am also delighted that we have had colour and something in flower all year round and even some that had not flowered in several years, had, this year, given us blooms too.

Now I think the challenge starts. Grouping of plants, increasing stock, colour coded areas, pathways, fences and easy access are all keenly planned for the next few months and so hopefully, by January we can sit back and enjoy the spectacle that ‘should’ open before us.

Some very good friends I met through Flickr, have helped me identify various plants I had without names and also suggestions with regard to design and planting.

With further inspiration from National Trust gardens and others, books and even TV programmes giving examples and ‘how to’ guides, my wellies are on, my spade in hand, my son watching every step I take with critical support … or otherwise and I’m setting in for around 12 weeks of …. creation.

First job is to mask an unsightly wooden panel fence that has become overgrown with neighbouring laurel bushes and trees, so much so that to replace it would be too big a job and too damaging to existing plants. Instead I have already put on fittings to the concrete posts and wire guidelines. A new plastic coated wire fence will be put up next along the full length and variegated privet (planted earlier this year) secured to it to create a new living hedge barrier so when the panels eventually rot away, a mature hedge will be in its place. Ideal for wildlife and birds too.

In front of the privet, is a row of Holly. Not the fastest growing but now 3 years old and looking good, pruning and shaping is all that is needed with a few plants being moved to better areas from along this Holly hedge. I then have a path to lay and a perennial border to create and plant …. but then, that’s for another post 🙂

There will be several areas that will be designed to our sons likes and so he can photograph it being created and with the flowers growing and blooming throughout the year.

A new wardrobe!

A new wardrobe!

New in ‘Blue’

As our ‘Lady Bronte’ turns 14 months old, it was time for new collar and lead and a few extra toys to play with – or as she does, chew them to destruction! The number of balls, rings, toys etc. we are told are indestructible, only to find that they last intact for no more than three of four hours.

I’m not sure how we did this, but when we eventually made our selection for her, dressed he up with her new collar and walking together down the street feeling very smart and well dressed, the first person we passed, smiled and patted her gently asking ‘what’s his name’ ….. “HIS” – this is ‘Lady Bronte’ … all girl!! – well nearly, we have had her spayed, but we’ll not broadcast it – this person said ‘oh I’m sorry, but with the ‘blue’ collar, I assumed ….’ then all became clear, Mrs F is a Manchester City fan and they play in ‘Blue’ she will not touch anything Red (The other side of town, for those who follow football) and so ‘Lady Bronte is now considered a passionate ‘Manchester City’ fan as well – Marc thinks it hilarious and urges me to go back and get Red …. haha! I’m not that courageous 🙂

In search of convenience …

In search of convenience …

Now! … which way?

Recently we went on a wheel walk at the coast. It had been many years since we were there to walk it, and wanted to visit to get advance information of writing the walk up in notes and publishing another suitable ‘wheel walk’.

Because of our sons requirements, anything longer than half an hours journey to get to our starting point, the first thing we look for are the public conveniences. Particularly disabled access ones for the wheelchair accessibility.

Our planned walk was to cover around 10 kilometres and as we were walking along the promenade, it was going to be linear, with a 5km outbound walk, returning the same way.

The first challenge we encountered was parking the car. We arrived at our destination at around 10:00am, but already all the key car parks had been filled. Including all the easy access/disabled positions – typically only 6 spaces in 300 and so we had to drive on to find a spot on the road.

Spending a little time setting up the wheelchair for our son and getting him into it, then dressing our dog with harness and lead, hooking up our sons grab bag, we get the signal that the ‘toilet’ is needed.

Not normally a problem as in a location like the seaside, public and accessible conveniences are normally frequent and well positioned to service the level of tourists visiting. We had not travelled that far from the centre of the town, but after walking for around 4km, we had not found any! We asked a number of people if they could direct us, and had answers as wide ranging from the ‘no idea’ to ‘you’ll be lucky, not here’ which did not help us.

Eventually we came across a sign which ironically listed the public conveniences – only one! and that was on the end of one of the piers, another 1.5km from where we were. Some joker has used thick marker pen and over the ‘Public Toilet’ sign has scrawled “NONE” – they were not joking!

We decided to carry on and find where the indicated toilets were, though our son, and by this time also ourselves, were getting increasingly uncomfortable and the joy of walking, became a rush through crowds to find our destination … and hope they were there, and open.

Our dog on the other hand was quite happy trotting along, relieving herself every now and again to mark her new found territory and leave her calling card. Pooh bags and grass verges, if only we could all be serviced so easily 🙂

We considered calling in to a café or pub and use their facilities, but a combination of ‘No Dogs’ and poor accessibility of a chair greeted us, it was not an option to consider further.

Eventually we arrived at the Pier and not even looking to see if dogs were allowed or not, we boldly turned into the entrance and wow! packed, noise, screaming, no access was greeting us. As our son suffers with Autism, he was immediately impacted by sensory overload – The lyrics to the Tommy movie, Pinball came to mind relating to no distractions, and at that moment I wished! – We had to fight our way through people who either didn’t see, or didn’t care about our need to get through with a wheel chair and soon my ‘excuse me’ gave way to shouting ‘coming through’

By this time our son was getting into a distraught state and meltdown was only minutes away and we found what we were looking for … toilets! it was like seeing an oasis and we charged for them. I have to say, they were clean and well maintained and the relief was, by this time, wonderful. Not just because we could relieve ourselves, but also in the cubicle, it was quiet. Silent in comparison to outside and no flashing lights. Using this time to apply our interventions, we readied ourselves to return to the madness of outside and plot the quickest route back off the Pier to the quieter, though still busy promenade.

Any further thoughts of sensibly making notes for a documented wheel walk were dropped and we just headed back to the car, picnic and head for home.

Clearly a return visit to this seaside town needs to be carefully considered where ‘conveniences’ will be required and parking would need to be more central, so they can be accessed before the event starts. We took a number of pictures along the route and it may well be worth me writing it up as it could be fun, if managed differently and I will offer notes of caution and consideration from what we experienced.

And the important thing is, we did have an experience and when we revisit our pictures and we recall the mad dash we ended up doing, just to ‘spend a penny’ our son is in fits of laughter as we add a slight exaggeration to make the point and keep his memories good.

Take a break …

Take a break …

Take a break and do something YOU love …

An early lesson you learn when living with someone who has Autism, is not to take personally words or actions that might otherwise seem an attack on you. As we understood more and more about our sons disabilities and how they affect his life each day, we gained this understanding through meltdowns and tears.

We also learned that people outside our immediate family and close friends can also seem to attack us, our son, our life style some through innocent ignorance, others to gain an upper hand for some self indulgent delight. In the early years this made us angry, but over time you do learn to understand it and why it happens. Just like we learned to understand our sons actions were generated through a fear and confusion that we were not aware of, we came to understand that other negativity we encounter will also be disregarded on a personal level and not be affected by it.

This resilience doesn’t always work, after all we are only human and from time to time something always creeps through and annoys you intensely.  The bible tells us to turn the other cheek and for the most part we can do just that, but occasionally, you do have to walk away and do something you love that absorbs you totally so you can deal with that negative emotion and get rid of it.

I was reminded of this recently when I received an email in response to images and comments I share through my photography site. Normally I would disregard such things, but the words in this particular email did hurt. Though there is no lasting hurt, the event has made me consider what I do put out for public view. My ultimate goal through this site and my flickr site is to share our experiences and how we deal with various challenges, in the hope that someone who may not have the same confidence can share what we experience and hopefully realise they are not alone, others do understand and may be able to share a problem or support a solution.

Taking my own advice, I am ‘taking a break’ at least on one site, immersing myself instead in our garden to work on the sensory layouts and wildlife attraction and work on photo opportunities there for when I return to photography.

Don’t let a knock, keep you down, as was once said, ‘if I get knocked down seven times, I will get back up eight times’

 

Earn your happiness

Earn your happiness

“Happiness is a how; not a what. A talent, not an object”

Herman Hesse

Spending time with Psychiatrists and Speech and Language Therapists with our son, dealing with understanding his emotions and terrors, often he gets asked ‘what makes you happy’ ? Our son can never answer this and in truth, it’s difficult for me to answer it for him. One day he can appear happy and thrilled undertaking some activity, or doing nothing at all and the next, he appears unhappy doing exactly the same thing.

I’ve learned to turn thing son their head and look at it completely differently and when I found this quote many years ago ‘Happiness is a how ….’ I began to realise that it was not so much our son, listening to music, or being with his pet cat or dog, but more about how he enabled the music to play, the selecting a disc, setting the volumes and tones or what game to play with his dog, choosing a ball to play catch with and then, his dog chasing after it and bringing it back, or his selected piece of music actually playing and his listening to the beat, repeating the process to catch every beat played.

This, I learned is happiness, not just the result, but the journey taking you to it.

When our son is now asked ‘what makes you happy?’ I get them to reword their question to ‘what activity do you enjoy doing to listen to music?’ to which he answers, in considerable detail and with a passion how he selects a disc, examines the cover (he can’t read, so it is the design and colours) chooses the volume, the level of bass and treble and then the track number or how he decides which coloured ball his dog will play with, where he will take his chair to play catch. Again with such detail and passion as he talks.

I have realised that happiness can be, and certainly is for our son, a ‘how’ not a ‘what’ and this too has taught myself some very valuable lessons understanding this.

 

Happiness

Happiness

I’d rather be happy than right, any day.

Douglas Adams

Sound words, and ones that I hold close as I strive to learn each day. I don’t know all the answers. I’m sure not many of us do. But we do our best and seek input and guidance from elsewhere to fill the gaps or to look anew at the issue, while sharing what we ourselves have learned along the way.

This philosophy does gain cooperation and partnerships, even friendships as we share what we know and to be open to change our opinion based on sound information and argument.

I know I’m not right, not always. I have an opinion, that is strongly held. Ways that we would do things, or not, but through discussion and transparency of knowledge, I will build on my understanding and I will be prepared to change. Does this make me happy? Yes, it does and I feel more fulfilled because of it.

Present

Present

Enjoy every moment

Don’t spend time worrying about the future, it will ruin your present!

I picked this tip up a while ago and initially I thought, I can’t agree with this as we need to ensure the future is secure for our son. A place to live, money to live on, a care package in place, what will happen when my wife and I do ‘pass on’ and care passes to another for our son, will he be looked after etc.

Shortly before I took early retirement, now 18 months ago, I was in a particularly bad place with worry. Our son had been going through really bad terrors and meltdowns and the future, his future looked so bleak and thoughts about the future for him seemed to be going round and round without any answer.

A close friend told me, ‘you can plan so much, but beyond that, you have no control. Do what you can and then enjoy the time you have together’ I don’t know why, but those words began to make sense to me and I began understanding that I cannot have the total control I thought I needed. Suddenly, I saw our lives as ones that we were struggling with, to get through each day, worrying about things that in truth, couldn’t have answers, but I realised we needed to accept some things don’t have an answer.

We wrote up our Wills, took advice on ensuring that if my wife and I passed, before our son, his inheritance would be held in trust so as to avoid impact on his social benefits. We made contact with Carers and Care homes, just in case, so we are known to them and we review these annually in line with current legislation provision and then we leave it alone.

I took early retirement and now spend every day we have, together. Sometimes getting out and about, wheel walking and photographing what we see, other times, we need to respect our sons need for the security and quiet of home, and busy ourselves in the garden, or books, or music until he feels better. We have become more relaxed, we see things clearer and in fact some of those worries are also being answer, and in different ways than we though they would.

Our worry had became so excessive, that our ‘present’ was being affected, by not enjoying it and not living it, but waiting for the future to arrive and no fond memories to look back on.

The present is called that for a reason, it is a gift. Tomorrow it will be in the past and gone, unable to be altered and tomorrow, the future has yet to come. If you don’t treat today as a gift, you will not have fond memories and fail to see the future with excitement and anticipation.

I learned a lot in these few words.

Our friend did also say to us, ‘if we, as is expected, survive our son, then what have we done with today’s present, that will allow us to still enjoy those days after, without succumbing to a sense of worthlessness at that time.

…. that is another chapter and more difficult, right now to consider.

Dance to your own beat

Dance to your own beat

Dancing to a new tune

“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain point on the floor, it is to enjoy each step on the way”

– ‘Wayne Dyer’

There was a time that I would worry over how we were perceived. As we learned that our lives would be different, new ways of living life had to be uncovered. It is interesting how many friends are no longer friends as we now dance to a different beat and appear not to conform to the usual accepted ways and their acceptance of what friends should be. It is also interesting how many family members are the same. Living with disabilities does tend to frighten people away, they do not know how to react or talk to or engage with us and their lives are too busy to even think about wanting to find out.

We do contribute to this separation ourselves too as we needed to learn to dance by ourselves and increasingly saying “no, I’m sorry, but we can’t …”

We did struggle with this at first, it felt like rejection and we became very frustrated in not being able to join the groups we once did and do the things we once did.

In time however, we began to realise that we were learning new steps to this dance, we could take to the floor in confidence and flare and we also realised that where we thought we had lost friends, in fact we had gained soulmates, more than friends, closer than friends and who would do so much more to help, or just to tolerate our pent up frustration and listen without running. We also learned that we could still walk across fields, row in a boat and teach other sin need to dance, even with a wheelchair.

And what is more, we enjoy it far more, we have learned to capture the moment, to make time stand still and live life. Every step in our dance is taking us on a journey that rather than restricting us, is making our lives more wholesome and fulfilling and we are meeting so many people who befriend us for who we are.