A Story and a Grovel

The past year hasn’t been the easiest for my family. In the winter of 2016, I was on the phone with my parents, when they first mentioned something might be wrong with my sister Jessie’s eyesight. My phone signal was bad, and I was on a break at work, so I didn’t really get the full message. I guessed she probably just needed glasses – most of us in my family do. 

It was only a few weeks later when I found out she had a referral to Moorfields Eye Hospital, that I really realised the severity of what was happening. By that time, her identical twin had also been to the optician’s and they had found similar symptoms with her – an unusual area on the back of her eye. It was the first of many appointments at Moorfields, one of the leading providers of eye health services in the UK. Each time, there was a little bit of hope that maybe it might not be that bad after all.  

I remember the day of their final appointment pretty well. This was the one where we would be getting a definitive diagnosis, as well as an idea of how severe it would be. I was meant to be in lectures for my Master’s, but I didn’t feel I could sit through it without panicking. As a distraction, I ended up heading to the cinema to watch ‘Beauty and the Beast’ – but when I left and headed to meet up with them post-appointment, the dread had set in again. 

When I got to their hotel, they gave me the news. They were both given a diagnosis of Stargardt’s Disease – something that we had suspected for some time. 

What is Stargardt’s Disease? 

Stargardt’s Disease is a recessive, genetic disorder, that causes fat to collect on the back of your eye – specifically, the central part of your retina, called the macula. It’s the most common form of inherited, juvenile macular degeneration, and symptoms commonly appear in childhood or during your teenage years but can go unnoticed until later in life. In the beginning, central vision becomes blurry and loses colour, before losing sight in that area completely. It is rare for those with Stargardt’s to become completely blind, but many are left with only peripheral vision. It typically starts slowly, before becoming more rapid and then tapering off in later years. 

 

Amy Eye

This is a picture of the back of Amy’s eye – the dark spot in the middle is a sign of macular degeneration.

 

The news broke our hearts, but obviously, the primary impact was felt by Amy and Jessica. They are both currently in their final year of university, and both previously took time out of their degrees because of poor mental health. The news came just as Amy was returning to her second year at Cambridge University to study Veterinary Science. Jessie was starting her year out from the University of Exeter, where she is studying Animal Behaviour. Both of their plans have had to drastically change following the news – Amy will not be able to practice as a vet (unlike doctors, vets must be able to conduct surgery, which you cannot do if you are visually impaired.) Jessie has always wanted to work with big cats but now has to decide what she can do with impaired vision. She recently had the opportunity to go to Africa with her university, which we made sure she could undertake – because we didn’t know if she’d be able to see them again. 

Doing things because we don’t know if Amy and Jessie will be able to see them again is a common thing at the moment. And not something we ever thought we would have to consider in our family. At the end of the day, we are glad that we are in a position as a family that we can make these things happen – we know some other people aren’t fortunate enough to have these opportunities. We’re a strong family unit, that can support them, and each other, through the uncertainty ahead. 

We will be taking part, as a family, in ‘Eye to Eye’, a sponsored walk raising money for the Moorfields Eye Charity. They support many individuals and families going through a similar experience, as well as funding new research that aims to make blindness a thing of the past. We are proud that as a family we can participate in an event like this to not only raise money for a worthy cause but raise awareness of sight problems like Stargardt’s.  

I understand that money is tight right now – no one has as much of it as they would like! But even a couple of pounds thrown in our direction can make a difference towards our goal of £600. So please, if you can, make a donation. We would really appreciate it – and it would make walking for nearly four hours (with my family) seem worth it! 

You can make a donation by clicking here. 

January 2018 Goals Review

Full disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link to Gousto, a recipe box service here in the UK. When you sign up through this link, you get two boxes for half price – and I get a little kickback! 

Can you believe January is over already? The only silver lining is that it’s nearly February – which means my birthday, and I’m off to see to see Hamilton on the West End! But before that, let’s have a look at how I’ve been getting on with my goals so far!

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Hello 2018!

Full disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links. When you make a purchase on Amazon after using the links in this post, Roxy and I get a little kickback, helping us keep the website running.

2018 is here, and I’m ready with my goals for the next twelve months! I was inspired by Mrs Craft over at Craft and Other Crazy Plans who set 17 goals in 2017. In that fashion, I’m going to be doing 18!
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Catching Up with My 2017 Goals

Where has 2017 gone? I can’t believe it’s December already! As everyone gears up for the holidays, I’m looking back on my 2017 goals. So, let’s dive in!

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1. Finish my Master’s Degree

This one was always a dead cert unless something went drastically wrong. There were a few weeks in August when I began to think about deferring my final essay until 2019 (this has been the year of continuous fatigue) but I manage to stick with it and get everything in. This was despite that fact that by that time I was basically working full-time! (More on that later). I knew that I probably hadn’t done enough at that point to get a distinction, but was happy with what I had achieved. I finally got my results back a couple of weeks ago, and not only passed by got a mark high enough for a merit – except my university doesn’t do them! Boo! Regardless, I am proud to have gone from a lower-second Bachelor’s degree to a Master’s degree, whilst also working crazy hours. I will be officially graduating on the 11th, and have basically been told I have to go because my family wants to come! I don’t particularly feel the need to spend a whole afternoon socialising and waiting for my name to be called, but there we are!

2. Fit in More Crafting

This goal has been a little bit up and down! I have added ten minutes knitting to my daily to-do list (although don’t really time it, I just finish one row of whatever I’m working on!). This has definitely helped, as it’s one of the easiest things I set myself to do. But, I’m still not managing to do it every single day, and non-knitting crafts have really fallen by the wayside. I’d love to be able to do some more papercraft and cross stitch, so think when my current knitting project is done I’ll have to mix it up again!

3. Develop My Career

This one has been a little bit of a rollercoaster this year! Way back in January, I was working as a stage manager for a brilliant new show. This was a fantastic opportunity to return to my first love, theatre. Shortly afterwards, I stage managed another show, this time a devised ‘dramatised tour’. Both experiences were great, I loved them – but they were so stressful. My anxiety and depression were all over the place, making it difficult to get anything done that wasn’t work. Not what you need when you’re also trying to finish a Master’s! I began to see that even though I loved the career, it wasn’t working for me. On top of my mental health, I’ve had more physical health problems during the year that, as of yet, the doctors have refused to diagnose. A job that requires lots of running around and late nights just isn’t healthy for me. I think I knew this four years ago when I first left, but because I had never loved anything the same way, I didn’t know where to turn.

I got lucky though. On a whim, back in February, I applied to do a marketing administration work placement for an arts organisation. I figured it would be good experience whatever I ended up doing. Well, soon after that placement started, their Student Recruiter left, and I was offered the position until that contract ended. Then, their Marketing Assistant left, and I was asked if I wanted to take on that role for an additional two days a week. Meanwhile, my previous experience working with adults with learning disabilities and driving minibuses meant I was asked if I would like to work with our after school disability programme, with the occasional Saturdays. ‘Why not?’ I said, suddenly working five and sometimes six days a week. By this point, I’d fallen in love with the organisation, and had found a new passion in marketing – something I never thought I would enjoy! But all of this was only until the end of 2017, when they were recruiting a full-time Marketing and Communications Officer.

Of course, I applied for the full-time role, really not expecting to get it but not wanting to let go of the job I’d fallen in love with. Much to my surprise, I found out last week that my application was successful! Plus, my manager wants me to continue my work with the disabilities programme, allowing me to be flexible with my hours to make that happen. I really couldn’t be happier, and am still riding on the high from the news!

Safe to say, I have achieved this goal for 2017!

4. Make Some Friends

This was always going to be a hard one. I did start off the year really trying, but as socialising isn’t always something I enjoy, it’s pretty easy to talk myself out of it. Now I’m starting to get a more regular timetable, I will continue to try to do this. I have been talking to people at work, and going out on our work socials. I just always struggle to trust people! But all I can do is keep working on it. I have been trying to at least maintain current friendships, which I guess is something?

This will have to be a goal that comes with me into 2018!

2017 Achievements

  1. I passed my Master’s degree, and didn’t just scrape through like I expected!
  2. I applied for and gained a full-time job at an organisation that I love.
  3. I’ve nearly finished another large craft project – this time, crochet, which I’m really not good at but determined to try!

Tune back in at the end of the year, when I’ll be outlining my goals for 2018 – and let me know if you have any suggestions or goals of your own!

2017 Achievements and Goals Revisited

 

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We’re nearly a quarter of the way through 2017, so now seems as good a time as any to review the goals I set myself for this year. This is also a chance to share my 2017 Achievements so far with you all, and for you to let me know how you’re getting on with you own in the comments  below.

1. Finish My Master’s Degree

Back in January, I submitted my first essays for my Master’s degree. I’m not going to lie, it was terrifying. I barely scrapped through my Undergraduate degree, so have been going through some serious imposter syndrome since I got accepted onto the course.

All of this taken into consideration, imagine my surprise when I more than passed my first two modules. My university doesn’t do merit grades for Master’s degrees, but if they did I would be well on my way to getting one. I honestly couldn’t be happier! I’m holding onto my achievements so far as I head into the Easter break – the time to get my next two assessments done and dusted. A distinction isn’t completely out of the question if I score well on these, so I’m going to be throwing myself into the work to make it the best that it can be!

2. Fit in More Crafting

I’ve been a little up and down with this goal. Some weeks I’ve been doing loads (generally when I have something to procrastinate from),and others I haven’t gone near anything craft related. I’m slowly improving though, remembering to make time for myself. I’ve also been reminded that I always feel better when my downtime still seems productive. With this in mind, I’ve taken to adding craft projects to my to do list, so that I feel like I’m getting stuff done whilst still making time for myself to relax. I currently have a couple of projects on the go, which I hope to share with you all soon. I’ve also just finished a huge cross stitch project that I’ve been working on for over a year. I’m hoping to post about it soon – it just needs to get to it’s recipient first!

3. Develop My Career

I started the year by returning to a career I thought I had left behind me long ago. In hindsight, adding a full time job on top of full time studies probably wasn’t the wisest of choices. Regardless of this, it went really well, and I began to question why I had ever left it in the first place.

So, since then I have been seeking out stage management work again. It’s been a little difficult, as I’m restricted by my contact hours at university, but I’ve been making a couple of applications a month. I even have a job interview this week for a perfect sounding job that would combine my stage management experience with my growing applied theatre knowledge. So, fingers crossed for that.

In the meantime, I’ve been continuing with my work placements for university. On top of my pre-existing one from last term, I have a new placement each Wednesday. This one focuses on Marketing and Administration; Two areas I have very little experience in but which will be essential in my future involving an amount of freelance work. On top of my work placement, I’ve started doing some paid reception work with them, which should help make ends meet!

I’m still not sure where all this is leading me. I suspect though that I might be heading towards a series of odd jobs to make ends meet, interspersed with the work I want to do. When I work out what that is, exactly.

4. Make New Friends

I kind of hate myself for putting this on my list of goals for the year. It’s not that I don’t want friends – it wouldn’t be on my list if that was the case. It’s just so difficult! I hate having to put myself out there. Years of social anxiety and trust issues have built a massive wall I have to climb over whenever anything remotely friendship like comes my way.

That being said, I have been making baby steps in the right direction (mainly with help from my lovely ‘Mental Health Specialist Mentor,’ courtesy of the university.) I met up with an old work colleague. I’ve been pushing myself to join more conversations between classes at university. Most scarily of all (for me, at least) I went along to a London Craft Club meetup earlier in the month. The bonus of this is that there was very little pressure to socialise, as everyone was engaged in their own crafts. Plus, it helped me towards my second goal of making more time for my crafts. I haven’t managed to go back since then, but I’m hoping I will some time soon.

So basically, no huge leaps of progress towards any of my goals as of yet, but a couple of little achievements worth mentioning. I’ve listed them below, mainly for personal bragging reasons. It also helps boost my mood when I’m feeling rubbish to remember everything I’ve achieved. Don’t forget to add your own achievements and goals in the comments!

 

2017 Achievements

  1. I have received good marks for my Master’s degree assessments so far.
  2. I worked on a show as a Stage Manager for the first time in three years. The show got great reviews, and I received high praise for my part on the show.
  3. Pushing myself to the edges of my comfort zone, I went to a craft group meetup.
  4. I completed a super secret craft project that I’ve been working on for over a year. Hopefully you’ll hear more about this really soon!

Think Resilient

Last year, a survey conducted by Girlguiding revealed that 46% of girls between the ages of 17 and 21 have personally needed help with their own mental health. In response to this, Peer Educators such as myself voted that Mental Health and Resilience should be our next resource topic. (For those who don’t know, a Peer Educator is a member of Girlguiding between the ages of 14 and 25, who has had training in running sessions on social issues such as body image, sex and relationships and youth health.)

As mental health is a subject very close to my heart, I applied to be a part of the Task and Finish group, developing the resource and was very fortunate to have been selected. Following a lf and the rest of the team have been reviewing the resource, making it the best it can be. After a year of development, the resource was finally announced to the public last Tuesday. (Possibly even more exciting, a quote I provided about the resource was picked to go in the press release, so I now have a little collection of news reports I’m quoted in!)

Think Resilient
“I know low mental wellbeing is a major issue affecting the daily lives and ambitions of lots of young women my age. Many girls feel there is a stigma attached to talking openly about their mental wellbeing. I hope this resource will help to change that, giving girls the positive and practical solutions they need to build resilience and a safe space to share what’s on their mind.”

As I said in the quote above, I’m really hoping that this resource is going to have an impact on young women. My own mental health problems started to surface while I was a Guide, and access to the activities in this resource would have meant I was a lot better prepared to deal with what was ahead. If I can help just one girl who is in the position I was in, I’ve achieved my goal!

On the 2nd April, I’ll be off to Sheffield with my sister to be trained in the resource, and I cannot wait to finally hold it in my own hands. I’ll be sure to report back on the final product after that!

When Zoe Met Roxy

I have wanted a cat of my own for years. My family has always had cats, but they were never properly mine, you know? And when I moved into student halls I faced my first catless years. It was horrendous. I’d taken for granted the puke on your pillow, the constant stench of kitty litter, the ‘playful’ bat to the nose.

Third year of university, and I finally moved out of halls. This meant only one thing to me: I could get a cat. Sure, I didn’t actually ask my landlord, but my uncle was his handyman and had assured me it would be fine.
So, to the internet I went (with my more experienced cat-buyer mum.) Within days, I’d found The One. A beautiful three year old, blue colour pointed Ragdoll, who was retiring from breeding and looking for a furever home. It was love at first sight.
My mum contacted her owner, who on paper said I was the perfect candidate but she wanted to meet me and see if Roxy likes me first. It’ll sound pathetic, but I was nervous the whole drive down. I’d joked to my mum that I should line my pockets with catnip, but didn’t want to end up with a whole lap of cats.
My nerves were still there when I sat down, waiting for her to bring Roxy in. And then there she was. And she came running over, and jumped into my lap.
Day We Met
 The day we met.
All she wanted was explore. All I wanted was a photo.
Three years later, I still couldn’t be happier that I found such a good furry friend. People say that cats are uncaring and aloof, but that’s never been the case with me and Roxy. We both fell in love at first sight.
Roxy is more than a pet to me; she’s a best friend, a confidante, a therapist (which I’ll talk about more later.)
Roxy Poser
Our most recent selfie – ever the poser
This whole post may sound sappy, but we really did pick each other, and she makes me happy everyday.

Z&R
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Welcome to the Crafty Cat Mum!

All About Zoe

My name’s Zoe, and I live with my beautiful ragdoll Roxy in North London. Welcome to our little corner of the internet! I’m a full time student, whose free time is filled with all things crafty. The local craft store staff know me by name and my credit card wilts whenever I go too close. So, I figured it’s time to stop spending money on crafts and time to start writing about it instead (swap one addiction for another, so to speak!)

All About Roxy

Roxy is a blue colour point ragdoll, who will soon be reaching her tenth birthday. She once belonged to a breeder, but came to me when she was searching for a fur-ever home. Five years later and I couldn’t be happier with my constant companion.

Roxy Intro
My gorgeous kitty, Roxy

Find out more about us on our About Page! Until then, we hope you enjoy what we have to say!