Fundraiser for motorised wheelchair – PLEASE SHARE!

I’ve mentioned my twin brother once or twice on this blog, including the fact that he suffers from SLE, more commonly known as lupus. I’ll pop some information links at the bottom of this post, but the gist of lupus is: it’s an autoimmune disease that, essentially, causes the immune system to attack the body’s healthy cells as if they were “bad” cells, and damages them. It varies from person to person, but it can affect the entire body, including skin, joints, and all major organs. My brother is affected everywhere, and I don’t necessarily want to try to explain what he goes through in my own words, so if you want to know more about his specific condition, he has a blog over at Life of a Lupie (lifeofalupie.wordpress.com).

His symptoms heavily affect his mobility. He currently has a manual wheelchair (which has recently been damaged), but he is basically unable to propel himself as the lupus affects his shoulder joints. I or another family member are there to help him as much as we can, but we can’t be there all the time, and he’s constantly having to cancel events because he’s simply unable to travel on his own.

He’s planning to go back to university this year, to do a Master’s in biomedical science, but for that to become a reality, he cannot struggle on in his manual wheelchair. He’d be commuting to a city 60 miles away, as we currently don’t have the finances to move over there again, so it would include traveling by train. He’d be unable to get around campus and classes unless he has the motorised chair.

Wheelchairs, unfortunately, are pretty costly, so he currently has a fundraiser running at http://www.youcaring.com/lupuswarrior where you can donate if you’d like. Any donation, no matter how small, is very appreciated. If you’re unable to donate, I ask that you share the fundraiser around your sites (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress, etc.) so that it gets around. Maybe your friends or followers are able to give something, or maybe their friends and followers if they share it too! It takes a second to pop the link into a tweet, but it might mean that my brother reaches his goal a lot more quickly.

With barely six months to go till his course begins, he’s just approaching the halfway mark. Please, please, be part of helping him get all the way to his goal!

Thank you so much,
Sascha x

Information links:
NHS website: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/lupus/Pages/Introduction.aspx
St. Thomas’ Lupus Trust: http://www.lupus.org.uk/what-is-lupus
Lupus UK: http://www.lupusuk.org.uk/
Life of a Lupie blog: lifeofalupie.wordpress.com

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Memories.

Isn’t it funny how memories work? What your brain recalls, what it chooses to forget… For some reason I’m not really sure of, my family and I, particularly my mother, have been discussing our memories and pasts recently and it brought up some concepts related to memory that always intrigue me.

My first memory is from when I was three or four years old. My twin brother and I were about to star in a fashion show at nursery, and he was so excited that he ran, on a rainy, overcast day, misjudged where the door was, and smashed his nose on the stone wall outside. I always insist to Mum it was the Christmas party we ended up missing out on, because I remember taking his present home with me and giving it to him, but Mum’s equally insistent it was the fashion show. I’m fairly certain he didn’t miss out on both events, so either he did miss the Christmas party after all, or the present was a gift for participating (or in his case, not, as it turned out) in the fashion show.

I wonder whether it’s because it was such a dramatic event that it sticks in my mind (it’s my brother’s first memory as well). Dramatic, or traumatic, events in people’s lives tend to be recalled more easily even at a very early age (though three or four isn’t actually remarkably early as far as I can tell). This is where Mum comes in. When she was a toddler, she had lots of problems with her hips and ended up in plaster casts on her entire lower half, and spent a lot of time in hospital at around two years old.

She remembers those days very vividly, whereas I can’t recall being two at all. The details she offers are almost trivial; for example, sitting with an ice cream in the sun after the staff opened the blinds right up. She remembers the pain, and her visitors. I suspect that if this hadn’t happened to her she wouldn’t remember being two either, although I am aware of some people’s memories stretching back that far even without something major occurring then.

I myself remember tedious details about my own hospital stay at five years old, like insisting to my dad I didn’t like Crunchie bars, but when he convinced me to have one I loved them, but then I can’t even remember my teacher coming to visit with a card signed by my classmates, which happened. There’s tons of stuff in my early teens I remember, but some of it only comes to me when prompted by seeing a written account, or finding an object which brings it all flooding back. It’s interesting thinking about what you can and can’t remember – someone’s name, even someone’s existence, or what you were wearing during an event – and also how you remember it, e.g. recalling something of your own accord or requiring a prop to stimulate those memory banks.

I used to have an online journal, which is really good for looking back on moments that were so unimportant that I ended up forgetting them, but which turn out to be interesting upon reflection later. I am considering beginning a journal again, but either on paper or on the computer, and one only I view. There are tons of pros and cons to having an online journaling presence, which is an idea for another blog post, and for the moment, for a few reasons, I’d prefer to have my own private space (I plan to use my blog for musing on specific topics, a bit like this post, rather than day-to-day activity). Writing down day-to-day events and feelings is a great way to look back on things and recall what would otherwise have been lost from your mind forever, or, as is sometimes the case, popping up in your head randomly and unexpectedly!

I don’t really know where I was going with this, but the subject’s just been on my mind for a few days. I just thought I’d ramble a bit about it.

What was your first memory?

Until next time,
Sascha x

Hair be gone!

After ruminating on the issue for a loooong time, I finally did something I’ve been wanting to do – I got a pixie cut! Throughout my childhood, my hair was always long (at one point reaching my butt) and then I started to get shorter. When I started university, it was as short as my chin. But I’d never really thought about a pixie cut except for saying, which I often have, “one day I’ll cut all my hair off, just to be able to say I did it!” I still say the same about shaving my hair, which I probably won’t have the guts to do for a lifetime!

I began to think seriously about a pixie maybe a year ago at the most, which mostly stemmed from my intense frustration with my hair. I love having long hair, but it’s that dastardly combination of very thick hair with fine individual strands, which has led to a lot of knots and tugs. It also barely holds a curl at all, which is a massive disappointment for me, since my hair is pretty much perfectly straight!

Very very tired of splitting my hair into two halves in order to wash it (otherwise, 99% of the time I end up missing spots with the shampoo and my hair ends up looking icky and weird) and having it get caught underneath my bag strap, and in my hoodies, and tired of the knots, et cetera… and with the encouragement of both my brother and a good friend, I booked the appointment at Liza Konu Hairdressing, a salon near me.

This is my hair before the cut…

…and this is after!

I was very very surprised not to shed even one tear, since I’m so emotional a person in general! But as soon as one of the ponytails came off, all I felt was relief. It already felt liberating, and I was happy to see that I would suit a shorter style, after all! I knew what I didn’t want, and I told Liza some of those things, but more or less let her work her magic and I was so pleased with the result. In the end it wasn’t even the type of cut I had had in mind; it was better!

A whole thirteen inches was cut, which I’m donating to the Little Princess Trust, a charity here in the UK which makes wigs for children who have lost their hair, whether from chemotherapy and or from alopecia. Both causes are dear to my heart, as I have loved ones and friends who have suffered from these diseases, and I am so glad to have been able to contribute something to help. Despite all the disadvantages my hair gave such a low-maintenance person like me, I really wanted to let someone else get as much happiness from my hair as I did.

It’s been four days since the cut, and I am in LOVE. Nothing is better than getting up in the morning and only needing to run my fingers through my hair (or a quick dusting of volumising powder). It doesn’t get in my way at all. I’ve had so many compliments from friends and family and every time I catch my reflection I’m basically punching the air! So many people say that once you join the Short Hair Club, you never go back, and right now, though of course I’m still experiencing the novelty, I can see that being true! I can’t believe how afraid I was of getting a pixie cut, and I really should have done it sooner! I adore it. I’m excited to really get creative with styling it, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how different clothing and makeup will look.

Until next time,
Sascha

Many thanks to Liza Konu Hairdressing (based in Perth, Scotland) for the cut and photographs. Link to her Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Liza-Konu-Hairdressing/356228671147614

Link to the Little Princess Trust website: http://www.littleprincesses.org.uk

Establishing routine? New Year Resolutions and a look ahead to 2015

Over the years, and particularly since I began blogging, my biggest difficulty is finding the balance between giving myself too many goals that I never accomplish and motivating myself enough to make the changes in my life I want to see happening. Every so often I, in earnest, swear that I’m going to do better and actually become a regular blogger and get my life into gear, but I just as often come back along to say “whoops, that didn’t go as planned!” My expectations for myself and my routine come from so many sectors that I feel a bit dogpiled on trying to set myself goals for every aspect of my life, and it seems that my way of coping with that huge looming to-do list is simply to avoid it entirely!

Therefore, I always wonder whether it’s simply a waste of time giving myself New Year Resolutions. The new year does always give me a sense of renewal and hope that I will finally get my ass into gear, but these days, it’s more in theory than in practise. Sticking to a self-imposed deadline is difficult for me when there’s no one else to disappoint. When I was at university, I was one of those people who perhaps overdid it in terms of setting targets and, gasp, actually fulfilling them. Nowadays, I find it hard sometimes to even do one thing I promised myself I would.

Is it all in vain, then, to yet again promise, whether to myself or on this blog, that I will at least attempt to change the way I’m living my life this year? I know I’ve been unhappy in my gut somewhere, feeling unaccomplished and lacking something, since I left university and spend a lot of my time in a retail job, and I know two and a half years slacking off has been difficult to put aside and finally overhaul. The pressure I put on myself seems somehow to feel simultaneously too harsh and too loose; as I said above, I attempt too much at once just to hide away from it all, but I also give up too easily. I’ve become lazy, physically and mentally, since then. So do I cut myself some slack and say “right, this doesn’t have to be THE moment you change your life”, or “right, girl, kick yourself in the butt and get going if you don’t want to continue in this sort of suspended reclining lifestyle”?

I’m not going to tell myself that 2015 is the year I’m going to finally get violin lessons and find a better-paying job and become a popular blogger. Instead, I’m aiming to get thinking about what I want for this blog, what areas of life I want to discuss; I’m going to finally repierce my ear and wear earrings again; I’m going to be brave and cut my hair; I’m going to work on my French, German, Ancient Greek and Latin and impose some sort of loose regularity with them; I’m going to keep reading as many books as I managed last year; I’m going to work on writing more. I’m going to keep a remembrance jar to document all those lovely memories throughout the year.

2014 was a year that in some ways I can only describe as ‘meh’, but looking back, it did bring me a lot of happiness. At work I recently moved to a new department, and it brought a new lease of life to my happiness there. I’ve made a lot of strides in my views of social justice, and have made acquaintance with a lot of amazing people on Twitter. I feel stronger in a lot of senses; more insecurities are shrinking, and I become more and more unapologetic about how I comport myself both in terms of how I view myself and how I fight for others’ rights. My tolerances are shifting to the right places, and I am wasting less time being bothered about the wrong things. As I near my mid-twenties, I realize I am still growing so much as a person, and I have high hopes for the future in terms of my self-image and self-confidence.

Turning 24 has felt strange. I feel like it’s a factor in how I’m viewing this year’s resolutions. I think now that I’m getting closer to my thirties I’m changing how I approach my life and organizing my life, because I have to if I want to be in a better place. I’m not telling myself I’m going to get exactly where I want to be soon, if I even get there at all, but I think how I’ve been trying to deal with my life post-graduation just hasn’t been working so I’m having to tweak it a bit not only in how I actually implement changes, but also in how I even view change.

I can sense I’m rambling now (a habit I want to rein in for blogging purposes!) so I wish anyone reading this a happy new year. I hope 2015 brings you all what you’re looking for.

Until next time,
Sascha

I’m Voting Yes?

[Note: This post was not written with the idea of proselytizing. I am not interested in trying to police others’ political choice in this respect. The issues are not black and white, and I respect people voting either way. There are so many factors to weigh up and how each person prioritizes these issues will be different.]

With only one month to go until the independence referendum, and after a while of being firmly in the No camp, after a long, long time weighing up my options, I’ve finally decided that I’m going to vote ‘Yes’. After a while, the increase in grocery prices and the decrease in research grant money couldn’t make up for the shitstain on humanity that is the Tories, and their increasingly Toryish competitor, Labour. The choice of Tory vs. Baby-Tory governments isn’t something I would like to continue, if I can help it. And there is a way I can escape it, so I will take the chance.

I’m tired of the history of Scottish votes being meaningless (we would have had a Labour government up here a lot more often if we’d had our way). I’m tired of disabled people being treated like shit on the government’s shoe and effectively being murdered by the anti-benefits system. I’m tired of the anti-immigration and racist rhetoric that spews like vomit from more and more politicians’ and citizens’ mouths. I’m tired of living in a country that doesn’t seem to want to do much to champion equal rights. I’m not putting all my faith in the Scottish government to sort out all these problems miraculously post-independence, but at least we’ll have a chance.

I’m still not absolutely sold on the idea, I must admit. The burgeoning problems that are bound to arise in the wake of a massive political decision like this will most likely affect people like me first and foremost, i.e. those of us who already struggle with money. It will be a tough time immediately after the plans are all put in place, and maybe at first it might not even seem worth it. But in other aspects of my life, such as when I was debating leaving a job when my prospects were unclear, or when my twin brother and I were deciding whether to live separately or together when we went to university, I tended, although anxious and afraid, to take the “well, you never know until you try, even if it turns out bad” sort of attitude, so in its own way I’d feel a bit hypocritical if I didn’t adopt the same mentality with this. Those two plans went wrong, incidentally — I quit my new job after two weeks and went back to my old one, and after spending night after night calling my brother crying that I missed him we ended up living together again anyway — but I can’t regret that I made the decision to see if they worked out. I wouldn’t have wanted to play the “what if?” game the rest of my life. Of course, the independence question is a whole lot bigger than those examples, but the principle remains the same.

There’s a lot I haven’t appreciated during my decision-making process. Those who have not entertained even for a second the notion that it’s not been a easy, snap decision for all Scots. Those who have not only acted like someone voting No — because of uncertainties or because they feel it’s too much of a risk in this current climate or that we’re simply not ready — is a turncoat, but those who have actually deigned to call me one when I was explicitly voting No. Now, I’m not a hardcore patriot, but my pride at being Scottish doesn’t mean I thought we were ready to be independent, particularly when I didn’t have many facts coming from the Yes side at all. When I say (like in the above paragraph) that I’m not 100% sold on the idea, it’s not that independence as a notion is something I’ve never fancied. Even when I was going to vote No, it wasn’t the idea of independence putting me off completely, it was other factors. I wasn’t going to ignore the risks I felt were present. Hey, I’m not a gambling person, clearly.

But now that anti-immigration, anti-Europe, anti-anyone who isn’t a rich, white, cis, straight male Eton-educated politician, basically, sentiments are all on the rise within the UK, and now that Labour have determined to be just as stringent if not more so than the Tories have been on welfare cuts, and now that I’ve discovered that the PM did not allow the SNP’s proposed 3rd ballot option — more powers, or something along the lines of devo-max, which is something as a No voter I was supporting as a kind of compromise — well, I can’t quite make the remaining risks feel worth it when everything a good country should be is simply not present in what the UK (or more specifically, London) is offering.

It’s not been an easy ride, and I’m not looking forward to the problems that will inevitably present themselves (particularly for us poorer folks, not really for the big rich politicians who are selling us the grand idea), but if I don’t vote Yes, I’ll be asking myself “what if?” for the rest of my life.

“Not All Cis People”?

Something I’ve noticed cropping up more recently, particularly on Tumblr, is sayings resembling and in the same vein of “not all cis people!”, “not all white people…!”, “Tumblr hates you if you’re cis, white, and straight!” Now, this is not anything new, and it’s certainly not a concept feminists don’t recognize — “not all men!”, anyone? — but that’s the thing about this; I largely see people who do identify as feminists replicating this ridiculous cry.

The nuances between all these intersections differ in myriad ways, but the principle by and large remains the same. It really is heartbreaking and disappointing to see otherwise supportive feminists fail to realize that their “not all cis”, “not all white”, “not all straight” messages serve them up as a direct equivalent to the “not all men!” men that they strive so hard to condescend and invalidate. What I can’t get my head round is their inability to recognize that every single member of an oppressor group IS complicit in the oppression that that group lords over a marginalized group.

But, but, this is obvious and repeated time and time again when it comes to patriachal ideas — many, or even most, feminists realize that while there do exist tons of genuinely nice guys, supportive men who don’t believe in their superiority over women and make no effort whatsoever to ever oppress women in any way, but we also tend to take it as a given that all men are complicit in the system that serves to oppress women, because, their own personal views on women notwithstanding, society does reward men in this patriarchal society.

Yet when it comes to seeing white supremacy or cis privilege in the same light, these same feminists struggle to see the comparison. “But I’M not a racist!”, they cry. “I’m NOT one of those white/cis/straight peoplee you keep decrying!” Quick little tip: as soon as you want to focus the spotlight on just one member of those oppressor groups, i.e. you, and turn the conversation into how you’re such a nice person and you’ve never oppressed people of color/trans people/LGB people etc., that makes you one of *those* people. Derailing a conversation that is discussing systemic oppression from one group towards another to turn it not only personal, but to appease your own misguided sense of morality and alleviate your guilt, is contributing to that oppression, because the voices that matter, and the necessary discussions thereof, are not being heard.

Look, I know it’s a tough and bumpy road coming to terms with the fact that you hold privilege in this society. Feminists are so used to the fact that women as a group are a marginalized, not an oppressor, group and so sometimes this feels like you must lack any privilege. But patriarchy, i.e. how all men oppress all women, is not the only power system of oppression that operates in today’s world, and the sooner it’s realized, the better for everyone. Women can be oppressors, but they are never oppressors *because* they are women. Trans men do have male privilege over cis women, but cis women have cis privilege over those same trans men. A gay white woman still has white privilege over a straight black man. Privilege does not mean your life isn’t difficult. It doesn’t mean you actively oppress marginalized groups. But it means that society does favor white, cis, straight, able-bodied men over everyone else, and so if any of those refer to you, you have privilege over people who do not. Privilege is not a one-issue matter. It’s not “you have it or you don’t”. You can have various privileges and lack various privileges, and they might not even have a tangible effect on your life, but they exist, and they are, whether you like it or not, complicit in the oppression over the marginalized group that you have privilege over.

The derailment of important conversations is disgusting and damn irrelevant. Do you, my fellow feminists, tolerate men who try to derail every conversation with “not all men are like that”, “but I’M not like that”, “why are you generalizing men?” etc. etc.? Largely, no; you realize how the situation is being dealt with and you try to make these men realize that. So, don’t be that person in a conversation about transphobia, or racism, or ableism, or any other issue that discusses oppression. Yes, disparaging jokes on Tumblr are, at first, hard to take, but the retaliation and coping mechanisms of marginalized groups do not exist to make you feel comfortable. You are bound to feel “othered”, generalized, uncomfortable, at first, because as a member of an oppressor group, i.e. a group that holds power in society in its own respect, you are not used to having that part of your identity attacked and disparaged. You are not used to the members of an oppressed group being able to speak up and have their voices heard about how being oppressed affects them. You realize how unaccustomed you are to being included in a generalized group that is not the one being oppressed. If Tumblr is the only place you feel oppressed, chances are you are not oppressed. For many oppressed people, Tumblr is one of the only relatively safe spaces for them, but you are changing that for them. You, by derailing, are making it unsafe.

It maybe takes a while to get past being personally offended by things like that, but hey — making jokes on Tumblr does not give societal power to the marginalized. Stop acting like being the butt of an internet joke means you receive daily hate from most people every day and you can’t function ideally in a society that condemns you. Never should it be necessary to see a certain concept in your own context to realize exactly how it functions, but, if you are a woman, see what men say to you and apply it to what you say to groups that you marginalize. Think of all the men offended on Tumblr at jokes about men and think about how it’s ridiculous to you that of all things, that’s what they focus on. That’s what they take offense at. Think about your reaction, which might be something like this: “wow, men, it must be so frustratingly difficult being the butt of jokes all the time. Yeah, being a man is so hard in this society”, heavily laden with sarcasm, of course. Don’t you realize you are the “man” in all those other scenarios? If being joked about like that is so difficult to cope with, think about what the system actually does to oppressed groups, and how you’re wilfully refusing to recognize that in favor of focusing on that little bit of hurt you feel at being told you contribute to that.

Listen to marginalized groups. Stop taking offense at being grouped in with an oppressor group, because that’s your reality. See past the jokes they tell, because much more important things are being loudly shouted, and you keep ignoring them because you are so desperate to not be in the wrong. Realize it is not about you, adapt accordingly, and start supporting people. Because as long as you pull the “not all…” line, you are *not* any kind of ally and you are not supporting the groups that you claim you are supporting.

Something to take away from this: whenever someone says, “ugh, humanity”, no one ever pipes up “not all humans”, right? Because we know exactly what it means to say “ugh, humanity”; that even though there are perfectly wonderful people out there who’d never hurt a fly, the discussion is not about those people, it’s about the wicked people who do hurt people. And focusing on those good people and saying “but they’re not like that!” helps no one. So stop it.

Tumblr hates you if you’re cis, white, and straight? Society still hates you if you’re anything but.

A New Start.

I finally said goodbye to my old blog Fanciful Reality, which was mainly for my beauty posts and YouTube videos, in order to focus my blogging solely within this space. I’m concentrating on variety: as someone who doesn’t really have one particular niche to zone in on, I’ll try to keep it more ‘me’, simply blogging whatever subject I feel like. Pretty much how this here blog’s been running so far, but now with the added beauty and YouTube stuff, plus all the new ideas I have. I wanted to consolidate things into one space for a few reasons: 1) so as not to feel overwhelmed with trying to upload regular content onto two blogs and two channels (which we all know I’m crap at, anyway) and 2) not dividing myself up into hobbies or likes/dislikes. I just wanted a space where I put myself out there as a whole person, not just as one facet of myself. I was never such a great beauty blogger, anyhow, and this also helps ease the insecurity I’d been having where I was wanting to compare myself to other beauty bloggers and wanting to be just like them. I will now find it easier to be happiest doing my own thing.

I know I’m not such a regular blogger, but I do want to increase how often I post without giving myself too much to work with. It’s just some fun, after all. As I said, I have a lot of ideas; some may be well received, some poorly, but at this point in time it’s just important that I get content up that I’ve wanted to post without second-guessing myself or feeling like I have to fit into a certain niche or ‘type’ of blogging.

(Edited to add: To complete the aspect of novelty to the blog, I’ve changed the name! I don’t think it’s fair to steal titles from Serj Tankian, anyway 😉 I chose Fluffy Owl Feathers because, well, I really love owls! The owl-Athena link is dear to my heart as well, as she is the goddess of wisdom and I am, of course, an ardent classicist. So I hope this will be a nice refresher for me to make this space something I’m passionate about.)

Here’s to a fresh start, then! Until next time,

Sascha x