The one where I talk about #edbookfest

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August is nearly over, and like every year, I’ve been spending it consumed in books. I had to ditch some of the books I had begun at the start of the summer to focus on these 3 in an attempt to finish them before I met the authors who wrote them.

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I confessed to Sue Perkins (and apologised) for the fact that somewhere in the ether the Senior Section girls have video footage of me pretending to be Sue when they ran their own Bake-Off night. She asked me how I did that. I just had to say that I was told to comment on their baking by mentioning dodgy baking innuendos like ‘soggy bottoms’ etc. Sorry Sue once again. Because you’re so lovely and I simply could never do you justice. Actress I am most definitely not (except for that first day of high school when I got myself out of a detention by crying).

And of course then when I meet the authors I can’t not buy their books and have them signed if I hadn’t gotten a copy already. I can’t wait to get a moment to read Tim Burgess’ book which all about a challenge he set to find copies of vinyl in record stores around the world recommended by various artists. He was interviewed by Ian Rankin, who is well known in Edinburgh for writing the Rebus novels, frequenting the Oxford Bar and being a vinylophile. Ian gave me three recommendations of vinyl records I needed to buy when I got my first record player back in April. I asked Tim if he would be willing to do the same. He very kindly did…

So yes. I’ve had to give one of my tickets back, but hoping to make the final event I have booked if I finish work on time and the buses are on my side this weekend!

Meanwhile, I need to get off my blog and finish putting together the accounts for the two Girlguiding units I volunteer with. There has already been some hair tearing out over the Guides’ ones (too many people handling the moneys this year, not to mention the chaos of going from 9 to 24 Guides over the course of year. So it’s a bit of a mess that I’m sorting out). Seriously though, volunteering is GREAT. Meanwhile I’m appreciating even more my wonderful staff Pam and Emily, and my co-manager Sarah from when I ran the community centre and the pregnancy centre who did all the bookkeeping work. Like seriously…I’m so grateful because this is not my natural gifting. I can do it, I will get there. But man, this is my least favourite task of running a Girlguiding unit.

Help me.

Ok. Really am going now.

And to do accounting.

Not read The Little Paris Bookshop.

The one where I explain why my name looks weird on twitter…

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So why is that I have a weird name on twitter? Well you might also have noticed walking around your towns and cities over the last week or so that street signs are missing letters and people taking selfies with written signs where they seem to have made a few typos. Or playing a weird game of Hangman!

But if you’re smart you’ll notice that the only letters missing are consistently the same 3: A, B and O.

It’s all part of a social media campaign called ‘Missing Type‘ to raise awareness of the need for more blood donors. And I want to share a little bit because I know the reason many people don’t is because they are afraid to.

I was one of those people!

When I was 17, I learned what blood type I was. I have rhesis negative blood. Most people in my country have ‘positive’ blood types (usually A or O). Only 9.5% of the population of Scotland share my blood type.

I later learned that my blood type is the only one that pretty much anyone can receive. I am what they call a universal donor. Great for all of you, but not so fun for us because we can only receive our own blood type. It means that often there are short supplies of my blood type as it’s used in emergencies when they know a patient needs blood STAT but haven’t found out what type they are (yet).

When I discovered this I felt that I couldn’t not give blood. The only problem was that I’m not a huge fan of needles. In fact I was so scared of needles that I managed to get out of a few vaccinations when I was a teenager in very creative ways*. Me being me, I prayed a ton about it, really felt that God was saying that I needed to step up and face my fear because it was worth it to save someone’s life.

Can’t really argue with that.

Two of my good friends (both medical students who had no fear of needles and several times during their training asked to practise their clinical skills on me) who knew that this was going to be a BIG DEAL promised to come in solidarity with me and to generally ensure that I’d be ok.

Attempt number 1 involved a trip to the Glasgow blood donor centre during the summer holiday. This trip revealed that having Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome had caused me to lose so much weight that I didn’t weigh enough to be allowed to give blood. The up side of this was that I still got to be with my friend while he gave blood so I got to see the process and how friendly the staff were. I spent the rest of the summer eating as much as I could handle in an attempt to regain the stone I’d lost!

This led to attempt number 2 in Aberdeen when my friend and our other friend  and myself all went to the blood donor centre in Aberdeen. My friends were wonderful in helping me explain my fears to the nurses working there, and the nurses could not have been nicer. They made sure to explain everything they were doing, they checked my weight and I confessed that a few months before I hadn’t weighed enough to be allowed. I had surpassed the 8 stone line and we celebrated my weight gain. And perhaps most importantly they allowed my friends to be by my side to generally distract me from the whole giving blood process. Being that they were both medical students they also enjoyed getting to have a close watch and I think one of them got very excited at the moment she saw my blood coming out through the tube.

I’m not especially squeamish about blood – I can handle it…unless it’s my own. This basically means that if you split your head open I’ll be able to hold it together and mop up the mess while we get you to a doctor who can stitch you back up again (so long as you’re not puking up from concussion or something…) But I still remember the day my GP handed me my own blood samples to take down to reception and I just about passed out on the spot.

The nurses at the blood donor centre didn’t bat an eyelid at this news. They got my friends to talk to me while they inserted the needle (and because they do this all day every day, they are PROS, unlike some nurses/doctors who are less experienced in the world of phlebotomy). Then continued to get my friends to keep me distracted while they covered my arm in paper towels so I couldn’t see any of my blood. They had also checked to see if seeing other people donating would trouble me and I assured them I’d be fine seeing everyone else. However, had I told them it would, they were ready to put me behind screens so I wouldn’t see any blood at all. And I know that my friend’s husband (who is more terrified of needles and is VERY squeamish) got the screen treatment and thanks to these amazing nurses has given blood several times.

Unfortunately, halfway through my blood just well…stopped! The nurses did everything they could to help me donate a full pint but eventually they had to tell me it was no use.

I was absolutely fine. I didn’t feel weird. I was just really disappointed.

The next three times I tried though, it became clear that due to my lack of blood pressure my body just couldn’t give a pint of blood. The nurses looked at me sympathetically and told me I should stop coming back.

They still gave me chocolate biscuits and juice each time to thank me for trying.

It makes me sad that I can’t give blood, because I really want to be able to. Plus, giving blood really has taken away my fear of needles. I mean I’m not like a fan, but I can now happily go into my practise nurse for blood tests, injections and vaccinations and as long as I don’t see anything: we’re all good.

So. All this to say please go – take a friend to be with you if need be – and try to donate blood! It is so needed. You can see here the current stock levels in Scotland.

I know that in the USA, the Red Cross have some fantastic blood donor centers (note my Americaneze spelling of ‘centre’ there!) and I’m sure there are loads of places to give blood in other countries too.

By giving blood today, you could be helping prolong or even save someone’s life tomorrow.

Why wouldn’t you want to be that kind of superhero?!

🙂

 

*No I’m not telling you how, because I do not condone my behaviour. Plus  I risked missing my final year of university after contracting mumps due to not being vaccinated against it. This was partly my Mum’s fault for telling me I had been vaccinated as a  baby and also Andrew Wakefield’s for making up data that scared many people out of allowing their children to have the MMR vaccine. Thanks Andrew. Not. Oh, and BMJ I’m also going to include you in this because if a 3rd year Health Science undergrad can tell a study is dodgy, who the heck peer reviewed his and didn’t pick up on it?! Ok. I’m stepping off my soapbox and ending this tangent now.

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The one where I have a rant about sexism in sport…

I grew up with a Dad who worked in football. I was the first female born into the family in quite a number of years, and the boys – well they were introduced to football from an early age. Like most kids, I wanted to be just like my Daddy – and that meant I wanted to play football.

When I got to primary school, the boys in the playground told me and my friend Tracey (who was probably the best at sports out of anyone in our class -male or female) that we couldn’t play football with them because we were girls. Kids will be kids, and we were mostly at that stage were the other sex is apparently ‘gross’ and ‘icky’. But the main injustice that sparked for me was when I was around 7 (I think) and our primary school teacher announced that our school was starting our first sports team – a football team! I was sooo excited. And then I got told I wasn’t allowed to join because it was only for the boys.

Yes folks.

Our school only provided a sports team for boys to join, but nothing for the girls.

That may have been when I started campaigning for a pupil council so we could change things like that. Sadly, the ‘boys only’ football team remained so while I was there. The same happened in high school. There was a rugby team for the boys, a hockey team for the girls. About a year into high school they introduced a football team – only for the boys. Despite the fact we had some talented female football players in my school (one of them was in my class – even the boys wanted her on their team during the football module of the hideous compulsory P.E. lessons I endured for four years of high school).

Like what the actual ding dong heck?! This was the 90s people. Hadn’t feminism already been through a few waves by this point?

People have asked me once again during this Olympics – “Laurie, how do you know so much about gymnastics?” They assume I grew up a gymnast.

I’ve never done gymnastics in my life.

I mean, I had a few lessons as part of P.E. at school which involved doing forward and backward rolls, attempting handstands and I think at one point trying to somersault through the air and landing on a crash mat. But I was pretty terrible.

But I fell in awe of gymnastics at the 1996 Olympics. They could do all the things I couldn’t as well as dance. Only throughout the year, it was hard to find coverage of the competitions.

Over the years I’ve been disappointed with the lack of coverage. One year just before one of the British gymnasts won a Bronze medal at the European Championships, the tv coverage suddenly stopped halfway through her routine and switched to a football pundit show. I, along with the British Gymnastics community were spitting mad (especially when it turned out we missed watching a medal performance from one of our country’s gymnasts!)

And so I’ve been the one trying to find live feeds online, befriending sports journalists attending competitions, hounding them for updates and scores and details. When there’s a great achievement it rarely makes the sports homepages, and definitely not the back page of the papers along with the rest of a few select sports where only the men who compete get reported on.

That is annoying enough.

But then there is the sexism. Whether it’s journalists and commentators who simply haven’t done their homework or commentators who spend their time making comments about how a woman athlete is looking or referring to her as a ‘girl’ or ‘lady’ (have you ever heard a male footballer being referred to as a ‘gentleman’ while he is on the pitch?). The 19 year old gymnast is ‘so cute’. The six time gold medallist who hasn’t quite taken in what just happened is described as looking to his four time gold medallist fiancee “wondering what’s for tea”. Apparently women don’t want to win enough if they are having to pose for pictures with toothpaste because that company is giving her an endorsement. Which is weird, because I’m sure I saw two time Gold medallist man gymnast posing with a car on instagram, and it didn’t seem to affect  his performances. And man, that running guy (what’s his name again?😉 ) he seemed to be on my TV a lot trying to get me to switch broadband companies, and seems to pose for a lot of pics – even taking pictures of his mates with journalists’ cameras during the Olympics – but I think he just defended his Olympic title too.

What is most annoying is the people that argue that “well, they didn’t mean to be sexist”. Well perhaps the woman who wrote about how difficult she found it when her white daughter brought home her black boyfriend “didn’t mean to be racist”. But it doesn’t take away from the fact…IT IS.

And we need to address it. Because it starts with a comment…and some cat calling…then turning a blind eye to women getting groped on public transport..and it can lead to us growing adults who believe it’s ok for men to rape a woman because marriage means sex on demand.

So back to that question everyone keeps asking me: why do I know so much about gymnastics? Because in the lead up to London 2012, I made a concerted effort to do everything I could to give the journalists and spectators some background on the amazing stars we had that nobody else had been watching in the previous four years. Kohei Uchimura, the best male gymnast that’s ever lived. Oksana Chusovitina, who won medals before most of her competitors were born. The British men’s team that everyone had assumed wouldn’t have a chance to place in the medals. So I created their wikipedia pages, updated ones that already existed – and with others created medal tables and stats so that people could easily look back and know if someone had won 3 consecutive All-Around Golds before with just a few clicks.

It’s also why I wanted to make sure at the end of my placement last year, all four of our heroines had their own wikipedia pages. Priscilla Bright McLaren was not just ‘the wife of the Lord Provost’.

And to the men like Andy Murray and Adam van Koeverden who are joining the feminist movement and calling out the sexist commentating and reporting… THANK YOU! Welcome to the club working for gender equality!

On a side note, I do have hope. My friend’s daughter started primary school 7 years ago today(ish). I still remember when I saw her after her first day, her excitedly telling me about the school football team she was joining. And my honourary nephews? They do gymnastics.

🙂

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Missing Kylie is Free on Kindle this weekend

Today is the last day kindle folks can download Missing Kylie for free. A collection of journal entries, letters and blog posts written by Mark and the rest of Kylie’s family throughout Kylie’s battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, and the year after she died and dealing with the loss of Kylie and continuing her wonderful Smiley legacy. Please do share, and read it.🙂

A Generous Helping

Since the intent of Missing Kylie is to raise awareness for the need for safer & more effective cures for childhood cancer and to share Kylie’s faith, the Kindle version of will be free this weekend: August 12-14, 2016. Additionally, we have purchased an ad that we hope will lead to at least 20,000 downloads.

Please share, download your copy, and join us in praying that it gets into the right hands.

free

https://amzn.com/B01DY1TZ1G

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Can one pen change the world?

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One of the things that keeps getting to me about Hamilton is how much his writing is what gave him a better life. Writing drew attention him and led to people sponsoring him to go to university in New York. Writing is what gave him a job. Writing is what he did help to start the USA being an independent country.

Can one child, one teacher, one book and one pen really change the world?

Certainly there are differences that can be made.

And I’m realising more and more that I’m always feeling the need to read and write.

But does it make any difference when I pick up my pen (or laptop) to write?

I really am not sure.

What do you think? 

Do our pens change the world?

 

A post that needs no words…

…if you know how much of a fan I am of artistic gymnastics. When I first became obsessed with watching Gymnastics 20 years ago, I dreamed of seeing Brits on the medal podium but doubted it would ever happen.

Last year, I got to be present when Max became the first male world champion we’d had. Tonight he ended a 108 year drought on All-Around medals, adding to his two bronze medals from London 2012 which no gymnastics journalist predicted he would win.🙂

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Well done Max (and Nile – who came 8th in a hugely competitive and closely contested men’s all around final!)

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On friends, blogging and organ donation…

IMGP0634Over the years, I’ve been blessed to make a ton of friends through the wonders of social media. I started blogging when I moved to Edinburgh – I’ve always kept journals and been pretty open about my life, and in the year 2007 I moved 5 times. I left a ton of friends behind in Aberdeen, and communicating that year wasn’t made particularly easy when I was moving so much. I was also applying for jobs I bit like I am now and working where I could get shifts in an old job I’d held as a student.

Cyberspace became my constant. My place to write and try to make sense of the world. The place where I found people who were using cyberspace to do the same thing I was. Writing their thoughts, their experiences and hoping that just maybe, someone out there would understand.

There are a fair number of friendships I have made over this strange ungeographied place and one of them is Holly. She was all the way over in New Zealand.  We worried about Holly when the Christchurch earthquake took place until we heard she was ok. Despite the distance, together we helped our other friend, Rebecca start Airmail Christmas after one of Becca’s patients died of cancer after telling her what her Christmas wish would be. And one day, Holly messaged us to tell us she was moving to the UK. Becca and I were so excited for the chance to finally meet our friend in person (as Becca and I had met up a few times ‘in real life’ by this point). In August 2013 I finally got to make Holly my ‘in real life’ friend. We went to Edinburgh Castle together, and a few months later she was one of three blog-turned-in-real-life friends who travelled up from England to help me throw a party for my 30th birthday. Holly, Becca and our other blog-turned-IRL-friend, Ruth blew up balloons and spacehoppers, helped wrap pass the parcel gifts, made chocolate crispie treats…and didn’t bat an eyelid at the chaos of the next day.

They read my posts sharing about the documentary about another blogger, Eva called 65_RedRoses and advocating for organ donation. I guess all three of us have used our blogs to advocate for more awareness about health issue ourselves and our friends have experienced.

This weekend, Holly is in hospital. She’s still been tweeting away to me and Becca (and others). The pesky kidney disease that she’s been having a battle with is trying to take down our friend. I may have been using a few angry face emojis in reaction to this. I hate that Holly is having to go through this. Unfortunately it’s not in any of our control. We do know that  our awesome friend is going to need a kidney transplant at some point.

I hate it when my friends are going through crummy times, and there’s nothing I can do to change it. So I’m doing the only thing I know – I’m writing about it. And once again I’m using this little blog platform of mine once again to promote awareness about organ donation.

Organ donation is voluntary – and in the UK, even if you’ve signed up to the NHS organ donor register, your next of kin still can deny permission for hospitals to allow you to donate your organs at your time of death. (Rebecca years ago agreed to come and tackle my Mum if she denies permission for my organs to be donated. My older brother Mark also took note as well, but I’m not convinced he’ll remember. Sorry Mark).

If you’re not sure if you are on the register it is easy to find out – call the NHS Blood and Transplant service on 0300 123 23 23 and you can check, and even amend your details. And if you haven’t registered you can do so by going to the Organ Donation Scotland website or download the form, print it off, complete and post it to the NHS Blood and Transplant service.

I don’t know how organ donation works in other countries, but I urge you to find out, and feel free to share details in the comments. I would love love love if we could raise more awareness about the need for organ donors. There’s a charity I’ve supported for many years called ‘Live Life Then Give Life‘. That’s exactly what I’d like to do.

I hope you might be up for that too.