Painting rocks

Who would have thought that painting rocks could be such fun and so addictive?

It all started on a very small scale back in early September. I read about the national craze sweeping the country for painting, hiding and hunting for painted rocks and thought what a lovely idea it is. I never thought to join in with this activity until our village Scarecrow festival. With the influx of thousands of visitors it would be fun to paint some stones featuring scarecrows for people to find as they walked around.

 

As well as hiding painted stones it is fascinating to see who finds them and (hopefully) track the stones on their travels.

To facilitate this, there are many rock hunting groups set up on Facebook and/or Instagram where people can photograph their painted stones, give clues as to where they are hidden and post triumphant pictures of the finders when the stones are spotted. So far to my knowledge, the furthest that one of my painted stones has travelled is from Leicestershire in the UK where I had hidden it in the local park to Majorca where the “Finder” was on holiday.

I belong to four rock painting/hunting groups, the two main ones being #Market Harborough Rocks our local group and #Islastones a group created for a little girl with DIPG cancer who sadly died in July this year.

Of course, when hiding a rock you need to provide details of the group to which you belong so that the finder can post a picture online showing that the rock has been found and where it was found. Not everyone wants to “play the game” and may leave the stone in situ, pick it up and keep it or, in some cases, throw it into the bin or hedgerow. I like to think that most people will join in by following the instructions given on the back of each rock and “photo, post on Facebook then re-hide or keep.” Personally, I always give the finder the option of keeping the stone on the basis that it is because they like it and makes them happy but always secretly hope that a picture of the stone will appear at some stage.

There is a lot more I can tell you about my new hobby and I will do in future posts. Meanwhile here are a few of my stones painted, hidden and in some cases, found over the past couple of months.

 

Positivity wins the day

Tut. Tut. SIX months since my last post-that’s a record and not one I care to brag about. The good news is that I am winning my fight against those Black-Dog and extremely anxious days which can creep up gradually when your guard is down or just as likely strike without warning as a reaction to specific circumstances. At 55 years young I consider myself a slow learner but I’m not sure whether I am slowing down as a result of my age or, more hopefully, my experience but either way, a slower and more measured and calm way of life seems to suit me.

My mother always said that if I had been born 30 years later I would have been diagnosed as “hyper-active.” My psychologist initially thought I was bi-polar due to the extreme fluctuations between energy and fatigue and even now I get comments that I do too much and I have more energy than many people much younger. I make sure every second counts in my waking hours and I am always doing and making something but I am learning to do it slower and try to enjoy being in the moment.

Driven by a combination of both nature and nurture I have to make use of every waking moment and, unless I am making quilts, hedgehog houses, cards, or Twinchies, decorating, gardening, blogging, taking photographs or organising my next project, I am wasting my time.  I can’t help it, I have to be doing something but, although I do get tired, I get a lot of satisfaction from my many and varied activities and this helps me keep mental equilibrium (and sleep).

I have decided that much like Tutenkhamun, I will be buried with my most treasured possessions; knitting needles, sewing machine, crochet hook, camera, hammer, nails and electric saw and, maybe IF I get to heaven,there will be a long-arm quilting machine, unlimited Kaffe Fassett fabric, a very patient crochet teacher, a wide-angle lens and pre-cut wood pieces waiting for me!

Here’s just a few of the projects I have been working recently.

 

 

 

MIDLANDSABILITY

“Improving workplace opportunity for those with disabilities”

Once upon a time, a long time ago, two friends and colleagues came up with a great idea.

Although our idea was great, we don’t take credit for the original concept as our lightbulb moment was actually based on an organisation already in existence but only accessible to people living and or working in London. That organisation is WHARFABILITY.

“WharfAbility is a network of networks founded in 2012 by a group of individuals involved with the disability and carer agenda within major firms based in Canary Wharf.  Our mission is to connect businesses and colleagues to share experiences and ideas, enabling them to increase their impact in the work place. We have grown substantially over the past 3 years and now have 27 member organisations, principally from Canary Wharf but also from London generally.”

Our brilliant idea was to replicate the Wharfability network in the Midlands and so the journey began.

My colleague and long-time friend Richard Day has been the driving force behind creating this network as, pretty soon after attending some initial meetings with interested parties, I changed my role at work and began working from home. Reluctantly I bowed out but was more than confident that Richard would take this forward to its conclusion.

Richard and Linzi

Over the past three years, Richard has worked with a number of people also passionate about creating this network. Lorna Gavin; Kate Nash OBE; Graeme Whippey MBE; Karl Edge; Tracey Wright and Becky Brooks to name but a few. The culmination of this collective passion and hard work was the launch of Midlandsability yesterday.

The event was overwhelmingly successful and a testament to everyone’s determination to see this project come to fruition. Everyone involved should be very proud of themselves and everyone else should be very proud of them. I know I am.

Amongst the guests and inspirational speakers were Kate Nash OBE who interviewed the brand-new straight out of the box Minister of State for Disabled People, Work and Health, Sarah Newton; Graeme Whippy MBE from Channel 4; John Coxon from Disability Confident with the very funny, perceptive and down-to-earth Becky Brooks keeping everyone in line and on time.

Sarah Newton MP and Kate Nash OBE

It was a fabulous event hosted by KPMG in Birmingham and I am looking forward to joining this group on their future journey improving workplace opportunity for those with disabilities.

Well done everyone!

Silver Linings

Well.
If you’d told me a few weeks ago that I’d be standing in front of an eminent audience talking about my depression, its impact and how I cope at work, I would have been extremely sceptical.

Caroline Ashrafi

For just three weeks ago I was feeling very overwhelmed, anxious, mentally and emotionally exhausted and my head felt like eggs being scrambled in a magi-mix.

In fact, to prevent any further deterioration in my mood and general well-being I invoked my work-place adjustments. I don’t like doing this. I try and manage my condition day-to-day but I have to admit that I did lose focus on maintaining my own good health a couple of months ago and, true to form, suffered a relapse arising from the delayed reaction weeks later.

Coincidentally, I had been asked to give a ten-minute talk at the Midlandsability network launch yesterday and had already chosen my topic,my workplace adjustments, never thinking that I would be able to quote from such recent history and experience.

Silver linings. It’s hard to have faith sometimes but I keep reminding myself that there are often silver linings to alleviate my downturn in mood.

But thanks to some amazing friends both old and new, a staggering amount of hard work, passion, dedication and sheer determination, yesterday was pure gold.

“Good” mental health

We all have mental health. Just like we have physical health and need to look after it, so we should take more care of our mental health. Or so they say.

Whilst all the advice about how to maintain good mental health is undoubtedly useful, my mental state does not depend on how much gentle exercise I do, how healthily I eat or drink or how much work I have on hand. I know this because over the years I have made lifestyle changes and they have made no difference to my mood or outlook. Lately, I have made no changes at all and yet I feel so much better.

I still take my medication, my diet could be better and I could certainly get around and move more yet I feel so much better and more stable emotionally than I have done for years. Not two or three years but maybe 10-15 years. So why is this?

Who knows and I am not saying that people should ignore all holistic advice and let nature take its course but I do believe that not all low mood/depression can be “cured” or alleviated by a healthy diet and exercise regime, mindfulness meditation and CBT sessions. This is something that I feel very strongly about and I get very cross when people assume that this is the case. It’s too simple. That’s also why I still only feel 100% comfortable with my Tribe. They understand and they appreciate the individual nature of mental illness in a way that someone who has never encountered a mental illness cannot possibly do.

There is still a long way to go in helping those with poor mental health and ensuring that they are truly integrated into society.

For me, I’m just grateful I am in a period of remission which is (hopefully) never-ending. It’s something I will never take for granted but will enjoy it whilst it lasts.

There is hope.

My wildlife garden 12 months on

Some of my more resilient readers will remember that this time last year I requisitioned the piece of ground that hubby used to grow vegetables on for my wildlife garden. Hubby didn’t have the time, and I am more interested in hedgehogs, birds and frogs than vegetables and so, over the next few months, a wildlife garden it became.

Only 12 months after my first efforts, I agreed to open my garden to the public on our village Open Garden Day. I was a bit worried that no one would be that interested and wasn’t expecting many visitors. Hah! how wrong can a person be? In this case I was hopelessly wrong and desperately ill-prepared for the masses that descended on my small garden.

Between 11.00am and 5.30pm we had a constant stream of visitors that were interested in how to attract wildlife into their gardens. For these enthusiasts, my garden is perfect. I was in the lucky position of being able to develop a garden from scratch purely with wildlife in mind, and although I didn’t plan it formally, the garden which evolved organically is beautiful and what’s more important, definitely attracts the wildlife. I am very proud of my efforts but am even more in awe of the plants that have established themselves so comfortably in the last year and presented a garden to be complimented last weekend.

More details of how I achieved the end (but ever evolving) result in later posts but here a just a few photographs of the finished product as at 11 June 2017.

The Underground Railroad

Something else that I have read about since becoming interested in Civil War quilts and reproduction fabrics is the Underground Railroad.
Just like Red Rock Cider (It’s not red and there’s no rocks in it) the Underground Railroad is neither underground nor is it a railroad. That’s disappointing but nevertheless still interesting.

I understand that the Underground Railroad grew as a romantic myth describing a network of secret routes used by slaves trying to escape their confines and assisted by abolitionists and freed slaves along the way. I wouldn’t have heard about this unless I was reading about the history of quilting in the US and what initially caught my eye was the story that slaves and abolitionists made quilts which included secret codes and messages enabling escapees to seek out friendly homesteads and safe routes towards freedom. For me, this was a great idea and what a fantastic story. The more I read however, the more evidence I found to render this story invalid.

What a shame. I would much rather think of white abolitionists fighting against the regime to help the slaves gain their rightful freedom, than read about the harsh reality. Slaves were more likely to escape on their own, safe routes were often closed down quickly and those enslaved in the deep south were unlikely to survive the longer journey northwards to the free states.

Personally I can’t grasp the idea of having a slave employed to do my bidding. It is unthinkable. Slavery still exists in some countries and cultures which I find incomprehensible but thankfully it is much less widespread than 200 years ago.

So much for coded quilts.