You may be wondering what has me thinking about these incredibly whimsical creatures, especially when the last 60 weeks have been all about the global pandemic and not a great deal else. The answer is really quite simple and that’s my happy discovery this week of The Book Fairies. For someone who loves books as much as G and I do, what could possibly be more magical?
Last year, the Duchess of Cambridge and National Portrait Gallery launched a UK-wide photo project called Hold Still, which asked individuals and communities from across the country to take a photo portrait based on one of three themes reflecting life in lockdown. Thousands of photos were submitted and somehow whittled down to just 100 encapturing the nation’s experiences of COVID-19 in a number of different ways. These photos were presented in a digital exhibition as well as being displayed across the UK during the autumn and last week a book was also published.
Now you may be wondering how fairies come into the picture, but as my reading revealed, a number of book fairies as well as some of the 100 photographers included in the photobook were given a copy to leave in their local area in a place that had given that community hope over the last year. Book Fairies are a group of book-loving individuals from around the world, who want to share the joy of books with others by leaving books in public places to be found and enjoyed by just about anyone. Notes can be hidden inside and stickers popped on the cover to indicate that the book has been left by a fairy, and the idea is to simply share a book you’ve enjoyed with others.
I can’t imagine anything more magical than coming across a hidden treasure like this and think I may well encourage G and even M to think about finding some books that they’d be happy to share by becoming book fairies. How very wonderful to be able to bring joy and light to a world that has experienced great darkness over the last fifteen months and many individuals who will continue to do so.
If there’s one thing the last few years have taught me, it’s that it is truly worth reaching out and sharing the story of our experiences, as it is thanks to those who have had the courage to share their stories with us that we have found the strength and courage to persevere and carry on, even when the hardest of decisions have had to be made. Talking about the challenges that have faced us, sometimes on a daily basis, is unquestionably therapeutic and can often be a self-centred process, but I’ve learned that sometimes, when I’m speaking about a moment that represents only a small part of a much larger picture for us, that is the thing that speaks most into the heart of a matter that is a seemingly insurmountable one for another family. I’m grateful for those who have taken the time over the life of my blog to get in touch and let me know that a post I’ve written has sometimes made what is, for them, a big difference at that time in their life.
Today is the start of National Eosinophil Awareness Week 2017 (#NEAW2017), our fifth year of finding new ways to talk about EGID and telling those in our community, and beyond, about this disease. Last year, we went all out with our approach to raising awareness and raising funds for the charity, Over The Wall: I appeared for the third year in a row on our local BBC radio station, talking about life with M and with EGID, and our local paper also ran another story highlighting what we were trying to do. We attended some community summer fairs to hand out leaflets about EGID as well as running some mini carnival games to boost our fundraising total. M took some of those games into his school and shared in assembly the short film that he and G had created to explore the impact of EGID from his point of view. Likewise, G’s secondary school offered their support and ran a Year 7 non-uniform day and asked every tutor group to show their film. We extended our fundraising efforts past the third week of May and, with the help of our regional theatre who kindly agreed to have collection buckets available for 2 weeks at the end of each performance, we managed with the help of the wider community to collect more than a staggering £1,000, which I not only know will have been put to good use, but have seen in the fantastic OTW South Siblings Camp that G attended for the second time just a few weeks ago.
This year we’re taking things a little easier, though I’m still planning to write a blog post a day for the week and as a family we’re once again taking on the challenge to “Eat like M” for the duration. Our week starts with another radio appearance, with this year marking the debut appearance of M, and G if she deigns to give more than her usual, teenage monosyllabic answers on air. I am filled with some slight trepidation as to what might come out of their mouths as they speak live during the programme, but I’m looking forward to hearing what they both choose to share about life with EGID. As M’s career at his incredible Junior school draws to an end, the Headteacher has agreed to support our awareness-raising campaign for the final time and is helping M to host “Dress as your Hero/SuperHero” for the day on Friday May 19th.
We have also asked for donations of any unwanted fancy dress costumes to send to Over The Wall as part of their appeal this year. They are looking to replace as much of their existing stock as possible for camp and whilst they are grateful for any and all that they receive, they are particularly looking for costumes to fit teenagers and adults. If you have some lying around your house and want to help support this amazing charity, you can find the Head Office address to send those costumes to here. All in all, I have no doubt it will be another busy week, but hopefully a good one too and of course, you can all do your part to help us by sharing my blog posts wherever you can to reach out to your community and share our EGID experiences.
This year we have decided to continue our support of the amazing charity, Over The Wall and their camps. If you’re able to donate even a very small amount, please follow this link to my Virgin Money Giving Page where your donation will help more children living with chronic illness like G and M by giving them and their families a chance to enjoy some much-needed time away from it all.
I feel a little as if I’m on “Appeals” overload at the moment, but as both these causes are extremely worthwhile in my opinion, and with deadlines fast looming, I just had to squeeze them both into the same week. The first was the Teal Pumpkin Project that I mentioned in my last blog post and it’s not too late to sign your household up and help provide some peace of mind for parents of allergy children. You can pledge your support through this link and make a big difference with just a few simple steps. If Halloween isn’t your thing, once it is done and dusted this weekend and the pumpkin spice lattes disappear from the coffee shops, your attention will no doubt start to turn towards the final big celebration of the year, Christmas. Now, for various reasons including the need to meet a last posting date of October 13th for Canadian surface mail, I am rather spectacularly “on top” of the Christmas present buying this year and must confess to feeling unashamedly pleased with myself! Of course, this level of organisation almost definitely won’t result in a calm approach to December as there are still gifts to buy for the 3 most important people in my life and both G’s 12th birthday and our 16th wedding anniversary need to be celebrated before the big day itself.
The one advantage of being so prepared is that I have been able to focus my attention on preparing some Christmas shoe-boxes for this year’s Blythswood Care Shoe Box Appeal. Our church has been supporting this organisation for a number of years and in years past, G has also helped support this cause through her school. Last year was our first to actually prepare 2 shoe-boxes at home and this year G asked if we could fill 4 – 2 from her and 2 from M – a request I was more than happy to meet. As with the Teal Pumpkin Project, once again the idea is a simple one and will make a huge difference to those who receive one of these boxes this Christmas.
What is the Shoe Box Appeal?
Blythswood Care, as well as many other organisations, ask for donations of filled shoe-boxes, which are sent to individuals and families in need in some of the most destitute countries of the world. They are often the only gift these people will receive this Christmas and bring some seasonal joy in otherwise difficult and dismal situations.
What do you need?
an empty shoe-box
some Christmas wrapping paper
same basic toiletries: soap, toothbrush and toothpaste are the bare minimum
a pair of winter gloves and either a hat or a scarf, or both
a selection of small toys, make-up, stationery and other bits and pieces to make your box an extra-special present to receive
The above items all need to be new and there are clear guidelines to follow in terms of purchasing sweets and toiletries/cosmetics for them. You can choose who you want to fill the shoe-box for and just need to clearly indicate the intended gender and age of the recipient.
What sorts of things should I add?
The choice of how to fill them is yours and really yours alone. As long as each box contains the basic toiletries and winter clothing requested, everything else is at your discretion. The nice thing is that you can spend as much or as little as you want and can afford. G, M and I visited our local pound shop and I encouraged them to pick out items that they thought their target audience (2 boys and 2 girls of approximately their age and younger) would enjoy opening on Christmas morning. Between them we ended up with bags of sweets, pencils, stickers, toy cars, Lego, Where’s Wally books, small puzzles and toy ponies.
Where do these boxes go?
In the case of Blythswood Care, the shoe-boxes are delivered to mainly Eastern European countries such as Albania, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. They are then distributed locally to low-income families or families identified as having a particular need, who are unable to buy gifts themselves and are otherwise unlikely to be able to celebrate the Christmas season.
Why fill them?
In our family, the children have chosen to fill these boxes because they both know how lucky they are to be able to count on a pile of presents to open on Christmas morning. Throughout the year, G has been sorting through bits and pieces in her bedroom and has kept asking to put things to one side to add to our boxes. We’ve taught them that these gifts are really something small that they can easily do and which will truly have a big and lasting impact.
How long do I have to fill my box?
The deadline is as fast approaching as Christmas itself, with many locations collecting boxes by November 6th 2015. If you want details of where to drop off your filled boxes, you can look at the collections schedule here or contact them directly on 01349 830777.
Are there other options?
Of course, there are a number of other charities and organisations out there that do similar work in a whole host of countries and for different individuals during the Christmas period and you might wish to support one of those instead:
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