Our Feminist Catholic Wedding – We are doing it our way. – Save the Date Blog

Today (12th September 2019) is a year until, we take our wedding vows, and also a year since we made rings and officially became engaged. Today we have chosen to send out our “save the dates” that included a link to this blog.

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Planning our wedding so far has been more challenging than we expected and if we are honest we worry about others expectations and visions for our day, one thing we have in common is worrying about letting people down, and what others think, the last thing we want to do is make anyone feel left out, or unwelcome.

From our own experiences and from our research planning a wedding can be a stressful time, it’s easy to get caught up and believe you need all the extras, that the wedding fair’s push on you, but that’s not what makes a wedding for us. In the early planning stages the advice we got was – ‘it’s your wedding do it your way,’ and that’s what we intend to do, it might not be the most traditional, but it will certainly represent who we are as individuals and a couple.

Rachel is an intersectional feminist and Anthony a practising Catholic, so our day aims to combine these both.

How do you have a Catholic feminist wedding you might ask?  Well, this blog aims to answer that question, and in turn hopefully help you understand some of our thinking and decision making.

As a feminist, it was important to understand where traditions of marriage come from, and to ensure we did not carry out a tradition that upholds the idea of oppression or ownership, but also ensuring we respect the Catholic faith.

For those unfamiliar with the Catholic faith marriage is thought of as an equal partnership,  the primary purpose of marriage is the generation and nurturing of offspring; the second purpose is the mutual help of spouses, and the third is the remedy for concupiscence.

The Venue Choice

We have chosen to marry in Anthonys family’s parish Church in Blackhill, something very important to him, as many generations of his family have married there, followed by a celebration in Middlesbrough later that day.

The Marriage Course

To marry in a catholic church, you are required to complete a marriage course, although we joked about it in the lead up, we both found the day enjoyable and informative, it mainly focused on communication.  Marriage for both of us is a life time commitment. We know at times it’s not going to be easy,  however this course gave us some advice and techniques we plan to use throughout our life together.

The Hen and Stag Parties

In researching its history , we found that the stag party can be traced back to as early as the 5th century BC.  It is believed that the ancient Spartans would hold a dinner in the groom’s honour and make toasts on his behalf to celebrate his last night as a single man.

In Ancient Greece the Hen Party can be traced to a party referred to as the Proaulia, held during the last days before the wedding. The bride and her family would make an offering to the gods and later celebrate with a feast.

The modern pre wedding party has developed in to a whole celebration often taking up a weekend,  we are encouraged to dress up and make fools of ourselves often with reference made to what some might consider lewd behaviour,  that in turn might be seen as objectification.

At first, we talked about having a joint weekend away, but the more we have talked and planned this idea has lost momentum.

Rachel is planning on a weekend away with friends. I’m not into big nights out, and the thought of dressing up, and watching a stripper fills me with dread. I would much prefer, a nice cottage or hotel with spa, a comedy show, visiting historic sites or an art gallery to see Grayson Perry’s latest exhibition.

Anthony is planing a weekend away that will involve a group activity followed by a night out.

The Rings

Getting married was a decision we made together and to celebrate this we booked a ring making workshop and made each other silver engagement rings.  It was important that we both wore engagement rings as modern symbol of love and our plans to marry, as the history of the engagement ring is surrounded in ownership of woman.

The first ring was made from grass twisted into a circle, however due to the temporary nature over time what was used evolved from other plants to rope, leather and finally metal.

In the 2nd century BC the ancient Romans gave betrothal rings instead of high-priced gifts and dowries. This was a physical representation that a woman was taken and was meant to show ownership.

We also looked in to wedding rings having a religious meaning, and found that although the exchange of rings for marriage is not mentioned within the bible, other Bible passages show jewellery being used to symbolise a special bond between people.

We plan to embrace the symbolism of a bond between us rather than a symbol of ownership and plan to attended a further workshop to make our wedding rings together.

The outfits

The white wedding dress, is a common tradition in the western world, it originated with Anne of Brittany on her marriage to Louis XII of France in 1499, But it wasn’t until 1840, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, that the white dress was made popular.

Up until the nineteen-hundreds, brides hardly ever bought a special wedding dress, opting for their best outfit instead, of any colour, both Rachels Mother and Grandmother did not wear white for their weddings.

We are at the stage of looking for wedding outfits, this is something we are going to do together, for me the colour of dress is not important, it’s more about what flatters my shape, so watch this space.

Shoes are also a concern for Rachel her disability means she has always had an issue finding shoes that support her.  Growing up wearing callipers, splints, and now specially made orthopaedic boots I have never and could never were a shoe with a heel.

I’m hoping that at the time of our wedding current treatment will have reduced the swelling in my right foot so I can wear a pair of Dr Martins the boots I lived in as a teenager,  although I want everyone to feel comfortable in what they are wearing if you own a pair of Dr Martins or have a comfortable pair of shoes we would love you to wear then in solidarity with Rachel.

The Bouquets

Interestingly this tradition of the bride carrying a bouquet was first introduced to mask the bride’s odour, Rumour has it, the scents of fragrant flowers were used to ward off evil spirits.  Traditionally, the bride also throws her bouquet. Rachel is opting for a non-flower-based bouquet, and she’s not going to throw it.  We have commissioned a bouquet made of paper and feathers, something we can keep and treasure.  Rachel promises to shower, and use deodorant and perfume on the day so hopefully won’t smell that bad.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.

Meant to bring a bride good luck, this poem originated from England during the Victorian Era. This wedding tradition, is full of well-wishes and embraces the past, present and future success of the newly married couple.

The old signifies the bride’s past, her heritage and how she got to this point. The New is an optimistic look at the couple’s future ahead. The borrowed symbolises the ongoing support from family and friends. It is a blessing for marital bliss and a pledge that you will have support when needed. The blue has been around since ancient Roman times, blue was worn to symbolise loyalty, fidelity, purity and love.

The more we have learnt, about this tradition the more we like it, but we have agreed that it’s not just the bride, and plan to uphold this tradition between us.

Not seeing each other before the wedding.

This tradition dates back to the days of arranged marriages, when marriage was more of a business arrangement than something done for love.  This is not a tradition we want to honour. We are planning a relaxing spa day the day before our wedding at will be stay in a hotel together in Durham the night before.

The Bridal Party

In the book of genesis (29:24, 46:18) Jacob, and his two wives Leah and Rachel, literally came with their own maids, a possible origin of bridesmaids. These women were handmaidens (servants or slaves) instead of social peers.

Some sources state that, in ancient times, originally the bride and all the bridesmaids wore exactly the same dress and veiled their faces heavily, for the purpose of confusing jealous suitors and evil spirits.

The tradition of the “best man” is thought to have originated with the Germanic Goths of the 16th century. He was the “best man” for, specifically, the job of stealing the bride from her family, and he was probably the best swordsman. 

Given some of this history which again is drowning in women not being seen as an equal to men.

Anthony has chosen to have his sister Hailey as his best person, although we are unsure of her swordsman skills.

Rachel has chosen not to have bridesmaids, we would however like to invite our friends children to get involved and if any would like to be flower people / aisle escorts they are more than welcome, to walk down the aisle, wearing anything they feel comfortable in. 

We also plan to have somethings to entertain children at the back of the church so please feel free to use this during the service, children should be children and noise is fine with us.

Being given away

While it is considered normal for the bride to be given away by the father, Catholics believe that the bride and groom give themselves to each other as equal partners. This means that the bride and groom should walk in together or be escorted by both their parents. While you hardly ever see this, it is what is recommended according to the Sacrament of Marriage teachings.

The tradition which dates back to the days when marriage was more of a business arrangement. Brides would quite literally be handed over to “a new owner, usually in exchange for money or dowry.

Rachel does not want to follow this tradition  it’s so important (just as her Mum did) that she walks down the aisle as the independent woman she is, and that no mention of being given away is referred to.  Anthony wants to wait at the foot of the alter to meet her as he wants the surprise of seeing her coming down the aisle. Be prepared for waterworks from either of us (especially Anthony). 

The Ceremony and Vows 

For us the most important part of the day, the part where we make a commitment to each other, in front of God our friends and family, and ask you to help and support us in our married life.

Perhaps a common misconception, the word obey does not appear in Catholic wedding vows. The word was introduced by the Church of England in 1549 when it released its first Book of Common Prayer.

We are still planning the hymns and readings, but there will be connections to our family’s history here, any suggestions would be warmly welcomed 

Confetti and being environmentally aware 

Where possible we are trying to be environmentally friendly, we would encourage people to share lifts or use the bus service we will be providing.  We ask that you do please consider the environment, and the church we are marrying in does not aloud confetti, due to the remembrance garden being located at the door of the church. Traditionally, rice was thrown at the newly married couple to encourage fertility, but it was the Victorians who first used shredded paper. Although we happy for people to bring and thrown confetti, when we arrived at the reception,  you might want to explore ideas on creating environmentally friendly versions,  like making biodegradable confetti with a hole punch and leaves. 

The Theme

We have had lots of ideas of themes, from Ghostbusters to the 1920s but the more we plan the more we go off the idea of having a single theme, but there will be elements of these themes plus others and things that represent us.

The Occupational Therapist in Rachel wants to have activities for you to engage in during the day, there will be things to entertain you on your tables and we ask that you share any photos of the day or things you are doing in the lead up to the day using our hashtag. #BoothGardinerWedding

The Cake

Most wedding rituals are to encourage fertility, and so it is with the wedding cake. The tradition began in the Roman Empire with the Romans breaking small cakes of wheat and barley over the bride’s head, the tradition was a symbol of his dominance in the marriage and over her.  

During the reign of Charles II, the three-tier cake with white icing we use today was introduced. The cake takes its shape from the spire of Saint Bride’s Church in London. The couple cuts the first piece together as a gesture of their shared future, whatever it might bring.

We have commissioned song bird bakery in Middlesbrough to make our three teared cake that Anthony has designed. 

The Party

Often the mostly costly part, we have made some compromises here, as there are some many people, we want to share the day with, we have chosen a venue for it size, convenience to places to stay and reasonable priced food.

The party will be held in Teesside Uni’s student Union, this is the University Rachel went too and holds many memories for her. (Transport will be provided for those that need it, please let us know your requirements on our wedding website which will be on your official invitation)

We are planning a Hog Roast Buffet meal with half being a traditional Hog roast & half being Parmo, to bring a bit of Middlesbrough to the event.

The Parmo is a traditional Middlesbrough dish, it consists of chicken or pork topped with a white béchamel sauce and cheese topping.

(If you are not a meat eater you will be catered for again please let us know your requirements on the wedding website.) 

The speeches’

Always Rachel’s favourite part of the wedding, tradition states that the groom, father of the bride and best man give a speech.  We will both certainly be giving speeches, but as we are not having a traditional bridal party, It’s important to us that you feel part of our day, so if you would like to say something at this point just get in touch and we will fit you in.

The Name Change

Rachel could write forever on this subject but we feel this blog is already to long,  however this article https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/dec/12/im-getting-married-should-i-change-my-surname perfectly explains her thinking when it comes to changing her surname.

The choice to take your husband’s name or keep your maiden should be a choice made without judgement.

As explained in this article the history of changing surnames for women is again surrounded in the ideas of ownership, and by the end of the article the writer states ‘To abandon my surname and take that of my partner would mean abandoning me, along with all her luggage — the errors, achievements and resonances created over the years. I would become, first and foremost, my husband’s wife. And that’s not the whole of me. So when it comes to my own wedding day I will be “ambitious,” “pert” and “forward”. I will keep the name, and its luggage. And as I sign my unchanged name, I’ll think of all the women who made it possible for me to do so.’

Although I love her words in my own research of those within the suffragette movement, I found that many like Middlesbroughs first female Labour councillor Alice Schofield Coates and her sister in law Marion Coates Hansen, chose to double barrel their names upon marriage.

The idea of keeping Rachel Booth with all her errors, achievements and resonances created over 37 years is a must, but to also to acknowledge that we are making a life choice to tie ourselves together until death us do part, doing as those pioneering women did by double barrel feels right.

We have discussed this a lot, and feel we want to have the same surname so once we are married will both become Booth-Gardiner’s.   Ms and Mr Booth-Gardiner in-fact (keeping the Ms which I switch to using a few years ago)

We hope this has helped explain our thinking and we would love you to get involved, join in the spirit of the event and share any ideas this blog might have sparked. Most of all we just want everyone to feel comfortable and have fun.

Love Rachel and Anthony.

Protest as occupation, following in the footsteps of women before me.

If you google ‘protest as an occupation,’  you will get lots of hits for protests that occupied buildings. As Occupational therapists occupation refers to everything you need to, want to or have to do, from waking up to going back to sleep again.  At this year’s Royal College of occupational therapists conference one of my favourite presentations was an occupation station about the occupation as protest.  

Having attended a protest today,  following Boris Johnson’s move to shut down Parliament, and after engaging in a conversation with a friend, it sparked and idea for this blog. 

Why do we protest? 

After a little online research,  (I know not always the best resource) I read a few interesting articles and blogs. One article about Art Markman, a Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, particularly interested me.

Art wrote, ’ I’ve been really interested over the years in motivation and trying to understand the factors that motivate people,” “Those motivations affect both people’s performance in tasks, as well as the evaluation of that performance.”

His interest in motivation led him to write several articles on the topic, drawing on other people’s research and trying to bring more psychology into the discussion.

He found that people who have an issue with something that is important to them rarely start with violent protests first. “What they normally do is work through other channels to try to resolve the issue that they’re having,” says Markman.

When this doesn’t provide a satisfactory outcome, they will next try protesting in a public, but inoffensive way. “You’ll see people holding signs or writing articles or doing things that are outside of, say, the legal system, but still within the general bounds of what we consider to be civil discourse,”

If this does not work, the next step is getting people’s attention by offending them. Markman says the psychological mechanism for offending others is to transgress their so-called “protected values.”

As I read this, it screamed occupational therapy to me, understanding what motivates people to be able to engage in the occupations they need to or want to do.  

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Within the Royal College conference’s occupation as protest presentation we were asked to think about protest in its widest terms. 

The act of engaging in a protest like I did today, But also why our service users may protest against injustice, these may include the treatment services are trying to engage them in.   

 

Is challenging behaviour the result of motivation, to protest against something someone is not happy with?  

As occupational therapists do we explore the reasons why people do not engage,  or show behaviours that could be interpreted as protesting?  

I find a lot of meaning in the occupation of attending a protest,  it allows me to express my thoughts and feelings,  and makes me feel like I’m part of something.  All important aspects to a persons well-being.  

However the act of protesting is difficult due to my disability,  i’ve been on one rally in London, ‘ I loved every moment of it, the feeling of solidarity,  it happened to also be the day that Jeremy Corbyn was first elected as leader of the Labour Party,  so the atmosphere was electric. But moving in the crowd was difficult,  and walking the long distance was painful,  I don’t think I can do that again.  Today’s protest was more standing and listening and it was only for an hour,  Although I have had to rest for the rest of the day.  It was worth it. 

When I looked around at today’s protest I saw meny in wheelchairs, scooters or using walking sticks,  so that says something about the motivation to protest, overcoming difficulties  in order to engage in this occupation that was important for those who attended today. 

Feeling part of something,  feeling like you’re making a difference,  feeling like you’re telling the world about injustices,  it’s a very important occupation.  But how can we make the act of protest more accessible for others? 

In the 21st-century social media has become a big part in both organising,  and allowing people to engage in online discussion and protest.  But for me it doesn’t have the same feeling as being there in a crowd with others.  

What other occupations could be seen as an act of protest? We could create art,  boycott organisations that serve themselves over the needs of others.  Be more conscious, in the ethical values of the services and products we use. 

Does Protesting alone make any difference? 

It’s a place to start, a place to form ideas and learn from others. The suffragettes had the slogan,  deeds not words,  but the suffragists let by Millicent Fawcett followed her words ‘courage calls to courage everywhere and its voice cannot be denied.’

I often debate with myself whether I would’ve been a suffragist or a suffragette.   I admire all women that fought for us to have the vote,  and I’m sure they would be a shame to see what is happened to democracy today.  But I think I would’ve followed in Millicent’s footsteps.  She lead rallies and marches, always peacefully but also lobbied MPs, and policymakers.   Yet it’s the suffragettes,  their violent acts, and hunger strikes that we remember.  

Perhaps there is a place for both.  

Does protesting change minds?  

I’m unsure if I’m honest within a work context I think we still have a long way to go in understanding the act of protest, in a wider context history shows us that protests can play a part in change.  

I love reading good night stories to rebel girls to my niece Lyra who accompanied me on todays protest, one story from history that springs to mind is Rosa Parks refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus. Following her defiant act, a boycott of the bus services spread until, The US Supreme Court  a year later made segregation on public buses unconstitutional.

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” — Rosa Parks

With her words in my mind,  I’m given the motivation to carry on with the occupation of protesting.   

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References 

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/gallery/2010/nov/14/ten-best-protests

http://spsp.org/news-center/member-newsletters/12-18-2017/why-do-people-protest

 Good night stories for rebel girls. 

https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/RachelBooth/deeds-and-words

My take on engaging in the occupation of laughing my head off at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  

For those of you unfamiliar with my blog, I’m an occupational therapist, as an occupational therapist I’m interested in how we engage in everyday occupations,  by occupations we mean everything you need to, want to or have to do, from waking up to going back to sleep again. 

I often reflect in these blogs on how my disability, dyslexia and/or my environment, impacts on how I do the things I need, want and have to do. 

I came to the festival with my partner Anthony,  it was a last minute decision, which is not like me at all.  I love to plan,  it makes me feel secure,  but I was intrigued after listening to the Standard Issue podcast, interviewing women that would be preforming here.  We already had plans for a family holiday to the Isle of Arran, so decided, to set off a day early and go via the festival.  

Getting round Edinburgh itself was a bit of a nightmare. It has cobbled streets  and  lots of hills,  but with some online research, a few tweets and emails to venues clarifying things and the use of google maps to work out distances we would need to walk,  it was manageable.  Without modern technology the occupation of planning would have been impossible, and that would have put me off coming.  (I’m great at avoiding what I don’t understand, can’t figure out for myself, or feel too stupid or uncomfortable to ask about). 

On a whole I felt the festival caters well for those with access needs. Although I found the web site overwhelming and difficult to navigate, when I spoke to a human on the phone,  they were so helpful, explaining how accessible venues were. 

Once we got to the festival we were impressed by staff attitudes. They went out of their way to accommodate my needs,  providing chairs whist queuing, and making sure I had seats in the venues that were comfortable and with room to stretch my leg out. This was honestly refreshing, and not my usual experience.  

So what did we ‘do’? The anxiety that drives me, created a schedule, which I’m pleased to report we stuck to. 

We got up and left the house at ridiculous o’clock in the morning making the 3 hour drive  and arriving just after 10am (a few mins later than planned) at the Grayson Perry exhibition : Julie Cope’s Grand Tour.  Now when booking this my dyslexic brain was confused by the title, and the fact that the website said it started at 10am.  Was there going to be a grand tour? Did we need to be there at 10 or would it be like a normal art exhibition and you just rocked up and went in? A few tweets clarify that it was not a tour, and that we could come between 10am and 5pm.  I still felt the needs for us to be there for 10am as my brain worries I might have misunderstood.  (I’m a worrier) 

The exhibition of beautiful tapestries displayed the life of a character named Julie Cope.  There was lots of written narrative to go along with each piece, but if I’m honest I only pretended to read it – you know to look intellectual.  Instead I chose to make up my own narrative from each tapestry.  The vibrancy, and attention to detail was breath-taking.  

For me Julie was full of potential but the social constraints that are put on women, including what they are expected to do, meant at times she found it hard to muster the energy to fight but at other times she found the strength to strive and do the exciting things like travel. 

As I write this blog I highlight the words ‘Julie Cope’s’, to get Siri to read them to check the word reads Cope’s rather than Coope’s.  I now think perhaps by giving Julie this surname,  Grayson was making a points about a women’s role in society, are we just expected to cope?  Or is it a strength of women kind,  we have learnt to cope? (The occupation of coping, existing and living are perhaps ideas to explore another time) 

As an occupational therapist I often use engagement in the arts as my assessment and or treatment,  the process of how someone does something (the doing part) is the interesting part.  I have watched a number of Grayson Perry documentaries, he also appears interested in the process of making art,  maybe that’s why I find his work so intriguing, as it somehow comes through in the finished product. 

We then took a break from the festival and caught up my good friend, fellow member of the  OTalk* team Kelly and her 11 month old,  Isla, for lunch.

Our first comedy act was Laura Lexx: with her show Knee Jerk. We thoroughly enjoyed her energy on stage, she reflected on her own experience of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and how it had helped her to break down and understand her anxieties, with sharp observations and hilarious consequences.

One of the ideas she explored was how as young children we are taught how important we are, simply by the sports they are encouraged to play,  boys are given the universal recognisable game of football, that has a few simple rules, and can lead to a career of wealth and fame. Where as girls are taught the game of netball, which has more complex rules that restrict your movement around the court, and can lead to not being as valued as a sports person, and mostly likely only ever a part time low waged career. 

Next up was Sofie Hagen: with her show The Bumswing, a thoughtful and astutely written piece of stand up,  she talked about how the British and Danish cultures differ,  particularly when it comes to communicating with each other. She explores her memories and tenancy to remember only the things she wants to believe, told some funny anecdotes,  of growing up with false memories that shaped her future.   What I loved the most was she really challenged the audience at times, making some excellent points about positive body image. 

We finished the night off with the amazing Rosie Jones and her show Backward. She literally took us on an emotional rollercoaster.  

She had the room filled with laughter, as she explored her lived experience, of being a disabled gay woman in comedy.  Until a poignant moment, where it all went dark, as Rosie detailed a story of reading a text message over the shoulder of a stranger, that described Rosie with words so derogative that I can’t quite bring myself to repeat them here,  I was in tears. 

She made some excellent points about being prejudged on her ability. Then brought the room back to laughter again, with her sharp wit. 

Rosie is everything a disabled woman is not allowed to be, clever, witty, rude and lewd,  definitely not an ‘inspiration’ but a fucking genius (and the daddy) I can’t recommend her enough you owe it to humanity to see this woman’s standup.    

What stood out for me as I watched and listen to these three women was how they all touched on occupational deprivation** 

That it was the attitudes of others, not their mental health problems or disability or bring a women, that created the barriers to engaging in the occupations they wanted. 

How we and others perceive us will  impact on what occupations we choose to engage in. Like for me growing up being a child with a disability,  at school they struggled to accommodate my needs and often I was left out of playing sports; you know in case they broke me. 

We both had the most amazing day and will definitely be coming again. Thank you Edinburgh Fringe Festival, for ensuring my engagement is this occupation was not a deprived one.

*OTalk is a weekly twitter chat about everything occupational therapy related that Kelly myself and 5 other occupational therapist organise. https://otalk.co.uk/about-2/

**Occupational deprivation is a relatively new term which describes a state in which people are precluded from opportunities to engage in occupations of meaning due to factors outside their control.

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Brexit – despite the chaos we should still have compassion for others.

I voted remain in the referendum in 2017 and still feel the same.  I believe that immigration is both important and crucial,  to ensuring we grow as a country.

I understand that the European Parliament is not perfect,  but I believe it is better to be part of something,  that will  always effect us as a country and to influence it from the inside rather than powerlessly watch from the sidelines.   

I’m also passionate,  about human and women’s rights,  most of which are European laws,  and fear that the progress we have made will be lost,  in the transference of laws from the EU to the UK. 

I was pleased that the Scottish referendum voted to remain part of the UK,  and understand their frustrations and fears for Scotland’s future as they are being drag along in something,  their people did not vote for.

I’m also highly aware that the North (the place I live and love) voted overwhelmingly to leave,  I heard others say,  ‘they were sick of not being heard,  being ignored’ by what is seen to be a power centric London,  This may well be true,  but everyday,  I see compassion, kindness a willingness to develop, learn and a want to not to be forgotten or left behind, within this Northern population.  

I grew up in the 80s and 90s and remember daily news reports of Ireland’s troubles,  even being in a bomb scare myself once when visiting the national Science museum in London.  I fear that the good Friday agreement might be jeopardised, by a border, a backstop or a even just a pure lack of memory and understanding of Ireland’s history.  

Since my teens I have had an interest in politics.   I have never claimed to be an expert, but fundamentally I’m lead by a sense of human compassion, and ensuring that everyone regardless of faith, creed, race, gender, sexual orientation,  ability and class gets a fair chance in this world.   

Whether that’s through education, health, work, pay, or a safe place to live. But after 2 years of this brexit mess,  and after watching and being both fustrated and confused  by the amendments parliament have voted on this week. 

I’m beginning to think that parliament as a whole is old fashioned and out of step with modern times,  and the whole syteme needs revisiting to truly reflect and respect its Constituents.  I have no idea and little faith that this will happen.   But as MP’s across all party’s continue to play power and mind games with each other,  the people have lost  interest and patience.  History shows us,  when people feel  betrayed and not listen to,  their only option left is disruption!!!  

Which is something we really don’t need.   

I urge anyone that reads this post,  to only treat every person they come across, no matter how they voted in the last referendum with respect and compassion.   Let’s show parliament we can act like grownups and demonstrate that tolerance, kindness and a push towards equality is truly a representation of what it is to be British, and in turn European.  

When you know you know –  So we made rings.

fullsizeoutput_47c3Regular readers will know that in the last couple of years,  this blog has focused less on

Occupational
Therapy a more on my recovery journey after breaking my hemi leg.

This experience has change me in so many ways,  One of which was to begin to concentrate on me a little more and in my last blog post, I talked about how I had met someone, that I now planned to spend the rest of my life with.

I honestly never thought I would meet someone (sick buckets at the ready), that understands me, challenges me,  loves me faults and all, with such honesty, passion and  consideration.

Being in a committed relationship takes work and compromise.   (I’m still learning)  Marriage has never felt important and if I’m honest, I always saw it as a way to control women,  marriage is still full of traditions and expectations of which as a feminist make me feel very uncomfortable.

The idea that the man asks the woman’s father for permission,  then is expected to propose buying an expensive ring that the woman then wears as if she is now owned,  than thats the mans job over and the woman is expected to take over,  plan the day and look amazing in a white dress, feels so very odd.   But for Anthony as a Catholic and from a loving family where marriage is respected and worked on.  Showing the world that you are committed to this person is an act of love and respect.

It’s the social pressures and expectations that are the things about marriage on reflection I have an issue with, and when Anthony says I’ve been googling how to have a feminist  wedding,  you know you have landed with a good one.

We have talked at length about our hopes, wishes and desires,  we both want the same things,  and I’m now in a position,  where I feel comfortable with the idea of marriage,  as long as it’s done our way, and for us.

So I would like to say that today was an exciting day.   We recently made a joint decision to get engaged and eventually get married.  Today we attended a workshop and made each other rings to mark this joint decision, and a celebration of our future plans together.

We could not be happier.

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Broken Leg Part 4- Two Years on All Change. 

20th December 2015 will be a date I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Two years on I’m now at the stage, where I can reflect objectively on the experiences.  Those of you that are regular readers on my blog will know this is my 5th post on the subject.

https://otrach.com/2016/01/05/from-the-other-side-what-i-have-learnt-part-1-the-break-and-wait/

https://otrach.com/2016/03/31/the-broken-leg-part-2-what-does-independent-really-mean-do-prescriptions-differ/

https://otrach.com/2016/07/02/the-broken-leg-part-3-six-months-on-and-getting-back-to-work/

https://otrach.com/2017/06/29/loving-the-dead-leg-again/

My thoughts and feelings about the experiences have fluctuated, often due to the treatment I received when I initially broke the leg,  and the on going pain I have been in, but I’m also thankful for the experience.  It has made me re evaluate, what I want from life.  Two years on I’m in a better place than I was even before I fell down those pesky stairs.

Following on from the last blog — loving the dead leg again,  where I talked a lot about the pain I was in on a daily basis, I have had a further operation which removed scar tissue from my ankle.   This has made a difference,  I still have pain,  but there are some days where I’m pain free, and I can walk a little longer and tolerate standing up in the morning meeting at work.  Pain will always be a part of my life, I’m struggling to remember what my pain was like before, so I can’t really compare it.  But my weekends are no longer waisted resting in bed,  I have enough energy to do something.  Those that know me well will know during the worst times I would just say I want the leg chopping off,  and joked about chain saws, and what sort of blade I wanted to replace my leg.

I have a lot of people to thank, my family, friends readers of this blog who have often sent messages of support, and of course the OTalk* girls who have all been a consistent support.  I know I have not always been easy to get on with, at times shutting people out.

In my revaluation I looked at want I wanted from life,  and what I had already achieved and had.  The career I love, a home, close friends and family,  but no one to share this with.  With the support of The Otalk girls I ventured into the world of online dating,  something I would advocate, if you have ever thought about it,  it’s an odd world and you need to be careful.  I had some weird conversations and dates,  which created much amusement within the Otalk WhatsApp group.

Five months again I found someone very special,  who shares my hopes and dreams. He is caring, supportive and has quickly become a firm fixture in my life.

So without falling down the stairs I don’t think I would be in the place I am right now.  I hope to draw a line under this experience and move on to a new chapter.  I have recently become an Auntie for the first time and although I have fears about how my physical health impacts on my ability to help care for her, I’m learning every day.

If I have learnt anything its that Life is good – live it, you can always work around the barriers life throws at you.

Thank you for reading, Merry Christmas and Happy new year.

*OTalk is a weekly twitter chat planned and organised by myself and 6 other occupational therapist across the UK and Ireland. https://otalk.co.uk/about-2/

Loving the ‘dead leg’ again

I was recently listening to a woman’s hour podcast, in which the photographer and author Laura Dodsworth was being interviewed along with some of the models from her most recent book. Manhood the bare reality.  The book focused on one to one interviews with men and how they felt about their body along side a photo of their penis.  This is the second book in the series, in 2015 Laura published Bare Reality 100 woman — their breast theirs stories.

When I got home I ordered both books, as I flicked though them both (I have to confess I have not read them cover to cover.) There was plenty of interviews from cancer survivors or how changing the function like having a child and needing to breast feed changed the persons view of their bodies.  I came across one interview with a man who as spina bifida, he stated his impairment disables him when he interacts with society and states sexuality is more complex when you are disabled.  I began to reflect on how I feel about my ‘disabled’ body and in particular that leg, the right one the one that causes me all that pain.

Over the years I have explored how I feel about my leg, within poetry and a few years ago for an art exhibition at work.  I took a series of photos of my feet in various situations to reflect how different they looked and how I managed different occupations.  For this blog I have decided to revisit this idea.  As a child I used to refer to it as the ‘dead leg,’  but do I need to readdress my relationship with my leg and embrace it?

Its swollen, bruised, scarred, I don’t have an ankle,  it looks and feels odd,  its on my mind all the time as every movement I make is a painful reminder its still there.

Some days it tells be to stay in bed, other days I ignore it and carry on regardless,  but every now and again it catches me out,  with a good pain free day or a day of tears and feeling sorry for myself.

  • I hate that in makes me wear flat sensible shoes that don’t go with the outfits I would like to wear,
  • I hate that it sometimes stops me from doing the things I want to, need to or that I am required to do.
  • I hate that I have to rely on others, during this time.
  • I hate having to justify myself to health professionals as I go to yet another appointment that does not solved my problem.
  • I hate that people give me advise all the time as if you have not researched it and tried everything yourself.
  • Most of all I hate how it dominates my thoughts I feel the need to talk about it all the time —  it must be so boring for others.

But these are bad days and there not everyday.

  • I love planning out my day in detail to minimise the amount of walking,
  • I love a duvet day,
  • I love the unique insight into the world it gives me in particular how I look at each new environment, to work out how can I do this.
  • I love the comforting conversations its allowed me to have with others,
  • I love how it has brought me closer to friends and family,
  • I love how it forces me to think differently, and creatively,
  • And I confess I love the opportunities it gives me to talk about myself.

I’m not ashamed of my body the leg or any part,  it is what it is.  These series of photographs help me love the leg again.

 

My take on the Royal College of Occupational Therapists conference June 19th -20th 2017

IMG_6854What a fun, productive, motivating, challenging and tiring two days that was.

I try to draw out the positives in everything but today’s blog will start with a few negative points.

This was the first year, the now “Royal” college of occupational therapists held its conference in the IIC in Birmingham,  the venue is bright and modern, however the layout is confusing,  all areas are accessible but often using a lift rather than the stairs meant a longer walk,  which made getting to workshops within a timely manner difficult.  There was no pre booking for sessions before conference.  Many people were turned away, and often because of the distances and layout of the building,  you did not have time to get to another session. – My feed back to RCOT will highlight these two issues heavily.

This years conference sponsors also brought some controversy.  Capita, a company which carries out Personal Independence Payments assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.  Capita recently placed an advert in OT news which has upset some occupational therapists as it has used the tag line ‘This is what you trained for’.  Before and during the conference occupational therapists and those who have had experiences of PIP assessments have been using twitter and the hash tag #NotWhatITrainedFor, to express their disappointment with Capita’s association with the royal college.

Personally this relationship sits uncomfortably with me,  As a person with a disability still in receipt of DLA awaiting my letter for a PIP assessment,  but also as a occupational therapist who has worked with many people that have had poor experiences of the PIP assessment, which has caused unnecessary stress, and feelings of low self worth.  As Occupational Therapists we are best placed to assess how a persons disability/ mental health problem or learning disability impacts on the persons ability to function, and what level of support is required to live a life that is meaningful to that individual, but I don’t believe the PIP assessment system, uses evidence based occupation focused assessments to determined its out comes.  As Occupational Therapists we must advocate for those we work with,  in my experiences working with those with mental health problems this assessment has only added stress and worry and in some cases severe mental distress leading to a relapse and readmission to hospital rather them giving support.

I feel strongly as a profession and professional body we should be advocating for those we work with to ensure fairness. A slight word of warning tho,  I am concerned that some of what I have seen on social media condemning this relationship has become personal, towards those Occupational therapists that are employed by Capita.  Let’s learn from the recent general election campaigns,  and take a leaf out of Jeremy Corbyn’s book.  I encourage a constructive an open dialogue with the Royal College of occupational therapists about this issue.  But please I ask let’s not run a negative campaign that focuses on personal attacks.  This just distracts from the issue.

This year I funded myself which gave me the freedom to attend sessions and workshops that interested me and were not just purely work related.

The opening plenary – The first Keynote speaker was Paul McGee I’m guessing a professional motivational speaker, he is also known as the SUMO Guy. ‘Shut up and move on’ he told some funny stories and encouraged us to look for open doors, but in my opinion did not bring anything to the conference.   The second Plenary Speaker was Dr Winnie Dunn from the University of Kansas, she is  internationally known as an expert in the field of sensory processing in everyday life.  As a novice in sensory processing – this gave me a foundation in this theory.  She  emphasised not using sensory assessments to label clients based on their scores, and explained that every one has a sensory profile.  –  this is an area I know I need to learn more about.  – perhaps a challenge for this year.

Session 3 Education – Teresa Rushton from Coventry University – Understanding the experiences of occupational therapy students with additional support requirements, whilst studying BSc (Hons) in occupational therapy,  this was a small study with Occupational therapy students and their experiences whilst on placement.   Although its important to research and understand the experiences of students in this manner I found myself feeling disappointed that it focused on the negative experiences. It saddens me that 11 years on from qualifying, students and educators are still finding making reasonable adjustments for someone who needs it a challenge.  When will the profession recognised that those with disabilities have so much to offer?

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Session 24 – Introducing RCOT’s new career development Framework:  – this framework has nine levels of skills covering clinical, educational, research, or managerial roles.   The aim is to cover all possible kinds of careers in occupational therapy. This is a great resource one I need to spend some time mapping myself against. If your using this tool please let RCOT know what you think on twitter using the hashtag #RCOTCareerFramework.

Professor Diane Cox gave the Casson memorial lecture this year ‘Life as an occupational being’. She gave an overview of occupational therapy its origins and meaning, reminding us of the importance of occupation  “Occupation is as old as humanity” (Reed et al, 2012) and from Brock (1934): “Occupation is not a secondary matter. It is a primary need of an individual’s life”.  So we must keep occupation central in our practice and research. I was struck with a quote she shared from Elisabeth Casson in 1941- ‘rehabilitation needs serious attention at present’, does this quote still stand today?   Diane went on to explain although occupational therapy has been voted as the least likely job to be taken over by Robot’s, on the surface it can be seen as simple, she urged us to combat this common misconception by getting work and research then  Published Published Published!! If you would like to read more about this lecture please see the Otalk blog here.

IMG_6796One of the sessions I was most looking forward to attending was session 63 – Occupational Therapy – a feminist profession? – Heather Davidson from the University of Salford, explained there is very little written on this subject.  We explored the links between occupational therapy and feminism, that it was a movement started by women, to empower people.  However is it still seen as a white middle class profession for young ladies?  Some of the debate and conversation within the workshop turn to men in the profession and how they might feel in the minority –  which as a feminist I found frustrating.

 

Something else new this year and that I was looking forward to, was the occupation stations – these were hands on workshops exploring occupations like bird watching, crochet, bead making and origami. These were very popular sessions and unfortunately I could not get in to one,  however from twitter and chatting with those that did attend, they were excellent sessions – lets not forget our roots of doing things with people.

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Dr Jennifer Creek gave the closing plenary the empire strikes back ; learning from the practise of Occupational Therapists working in the margins, she as always was thought provoking  and challenged us to think about our practise – has it became static and have we lost our focus on occupation. Jennifer took us on a journey from the origins of our profession and the rise in women’s movement from the late 19th century, to what it is in present day,  she ask us to pay more attention to practice that is happening on the margins if we want to seek answers to some of the major challenges we face currently, and want to discover places where creativity happens.

We were then treated to a hilarious presentation given by Tina Coldham a mental health campaigner – last night an OT saved my life,  reminding us that talking with and discovering what is important to the person you are working with can really make that difference.

Julia Scott chief executive of the Royal college of occupational therapists them gave her usual take home message,  this year she urged us not to abbreviate our profession to its initials, She believes by using our full title this will reduce the confusion between occupational therapy and occupational therapist and also give us more standing within the medical community –  Julia I will endeavour to do this and have try to throughout this blog (however to save characters on twitter I will at times still use OT)

I get so much from going to conference and understand it is a privilege to be able to attend, however I would urge those that were not able to go to do two things,  check out the #COT2017 on twitter for all the goings on and to read blogs that were written live at the event – all available on the Otalk blog here.   For me as an OT geek its an opportunity to learn, be challenged but also to network and socialise with those friends I have made over the years,  and a time when some of us from the Otalk team get to see each other in person.

Although I learnt lots, my favourite was spending time with friends.  You know you have had a good night out when you wake up the next morning with a green balloon attached to your walking stick.

The broken leg Part 3 – Six months on and getting back to work.

For regular readers of my blog you will know I fell down the stairs and broke my right hemi leg just before christmas last year, however if your new to this blog you can read more here Part 1 and Part 2.

Since my last blog post a lot has happened, however the effects of the brake still have a an impact on carrying out daily occupations, and managing my emotions.

My biggest frustration has been foot wear,  my right foot and leg remain very swollen despite daily stretches and exercises given to me by the physio. This has limited me to one pair of shoes.  It surprises me how something as small as not being able to choose foot wear to match what your wearing or how you feel, can effect your mood.  I have not wanted to go to the pub with friends, felt I have not looked professional at work,  and just broke down in tears at the thought of needing to dress up.

One large change has been my bathroom, I have had a wet room put in.  You can read a blog I wrote about it here for Impey showers http://impeyshowers.blogspot.co.uk.  In short it has changed my life,  feeling safe in the bathroom, has given me my confidence back.  Plus it looks amazing.

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In the weeks leading up to returning to work I set myself a number of challenges to increase the amount of walking I was doing,  however the weather was rubbish so I had to be creative. Museums and art galleries were good spaces to use with plenty of places to sit for a rest.  The apple watch as come in handy again,  as you can monitor how much walking and exercised you do. I have used it to set myself targets and increase them weekly, I find it motivating.

I’ve been back at work for 6 weeks now,  the first 2 doing half days building up to full days, I’m now work 4 days a week.  I can walk around inside unaided however still feel the need to use a walking stick outside.  I’m trying to lift my foot fully off the ground to prevent tripping however I have had a few close calls and without the stick to support me I would a fallen again.

I missed work whilst I was off,  but found getting back into the routine difficult, I found myself forgetting things,  not being able to concentrate in meetings,  and overwhelmed with emails and new responsibilities.  I questioned if i could still do the job feeling inadequate most days. However my team has been very supportive, there were days I felt like not going in, but stuck with it.  By about week 5 these feelings of inadequacies began to lessen.

Last week I attended the COT conference in Harrogate,  a big challenge both physically and for my attention span.  I decided to take the wheelchair just incase I needed it,  but set myself a goal to walk as much as I could.  I felt a little stupid walking a round with an empty wheelchair, however there is no safer place to do that, than at an OT conference,  full of friends and colleagues from both real life and those I have met online.  I had lots of positive chats with people about my blogs and experiences, and as always the conference itself gave inspiration  and hope for the future of the profession.  I will return to work with fresh eyes to face to next challenge.  However physically it was difficult, determined not to complain I took pain killers, ploughed through and on the odd occasion had a quick cry to myself (but that currently is normal).

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The last six months as been one of the biggest challenges so far.  To readers I would like you to take away two messages.   Remember to work with the whole person,  assessing how whatever you’re treating them for effects them both physically and mentally.  Trauma no matter how small can have lasting effects,  the trauma might not just be the event that started off the need for your input, it can also be the process of getting through it,  don’t be part of the trauma be part of the recovery.

Rachel x

Like mother, like daughter, occupational therapy all the way

In preparation for the College of occupational therapist conference this year me and mum reflected on our past experiences

College of Occupational Therapists

Mary and Rachel Booth are mother and daughter and they are both occupational therapists.  Mary qualified in 1980 and was made a Fellow of the College of Occupational Therapists in 2014, now mainly retired but working as a specialist advisor to the CQC.   Rachel qualified in 2006. She is currently a Clinical Lead Occupational Therapist in acute and rehab mental health, and is the outgoing chair of the Northern and Yorkshire BAOT regional committee.  They share their conference highlights. Mary and Rachel Booth

What year did you first attend the College of Occupational Therapists Conference?

Mary: In 1995, in Edinburgh.  Ashamed to say I did not attend for my first 15 years as a qualified OT. (Follow Mary)

Rachel: It was  2008, I was a band 5, and coincidentally it was the last time the conference took place in Harrogate. I had been qualified for two years. (Follow Rachel)

What do…

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