28/11/2020

9 Years Of Blogging

9 years ago a shy and nervous 14 year old Shona made the best decision she would ever make, she started a blog. I sat there with my tiny, slow netbook typing out my introduction to the world with absolutely no idea about what it might lead to. I was simply feeling isolated at school and looking for a sense of community, not for one second did I believe that 9 years later I'd still be writing on here and I would have a dream career as a result. It's quite surreal to think that my whole life changed that day, I'd be on such a different path now if I hadn't crafted myself this little corner of the internet.

Photography by Kaye Ford

The effects of starting my blog can be seen throughout every area of my life. Not only did it open the door to me now becoming a freelance writer and photographer but my blog also gave me a confidence I'd never had before. That confidence allowed me to start going to the theatre on my own and more regularly, where I would meet my wonderful girlfriend and friends. My blog afforded me the opportunity to become a published author in my early twenties, a dream I never thought I'd fulfil. One of the biggest things though is the community I've built up, and it's something I've been reflecting a lot on recently.

If you follow me across social media then you'll know that this year I've been organising getting a wheelchair accessible car and learning to drive and the support I've received has been overwhelming. There are so many people who are always cheering me on and rooting for me. Many of you have been here since my beauty blogging days, which means some of you have been supporting me since I was a teenager. I can't quite put into words how incredible that feels, to know that there are people across the world who have your back. 

Photography by Kaye Ford

Without blogging I absolutely would not be the confident and empowered disabled and lesbian woman I am today either. The online disability community helped me to accept my disability and realise that a lot of good could come of it. Being a teenager dealing with having your whole life turned upside down is incredibly daunting, but the disability community helped me find my way and for that I am beyond grateful. So to now be a trusted voice within that same community means more than I could ever say. 

9 years is the longest amount of time I've ever stuck doing anything and I've been asked a few times recently whether I'm considering stepping away from blogging now I'm working as a freelance writer for other publications but I can safely say that right now I can't see me ever stopping blogging. Whilst I adore writing for print and online publications having my blog is so important to me because it is my space to write about what I want. I don't need to pitch to anyone, I'm not being edited by someone else, I am free to write as I please. As a writer I think I will always want this space to do that. The sense of community I've built up is too precious to me to step away from and I hope my blog and social media will always be a welcoming space. The exact kind of space that helped me find my way in the world.

But, where now? My blog is like a child to me and I will always write here and keep coming back to it, but those amongst you with an eye for detail might have noticed that I've switched around my social media bios a little. I used to say I was a blogger before everything else but now I'm at a point in my career where I want people to refer to me as a freelance writer and photographer first. I still love my blog and I will always be grateful for it because it's got me to the point now where I can say it's given me a career. I know you're not meant to have favourite children but my blog will always hold a special place in my heart and right now I can't foresee a time where I stop blogging. I am beyond excited to see where I am this time next year when I'll be celebrating it being a decade since this little space was born. 

16/11/2020

5 Books To Read By Disabled Authors #2

Gifted - I was kindly gifted a proof copy of 'Girl of the ashes' but I have not been paid and am under no obligation to post about it.

3 months ago I shared five books by disabled authors that I love and the reaction was incredible. It seems that I'm not the only one who was lacking disability representation on their bookshelf! I loved hearing about how many of you had added some of the books to your 'to be read' lists, and learning that so many of you had already read and loved many of the books in my post. So, I'm back with five more recommendations for you and I'm just as excited about these ones, there are some really gripping reads in there that I just couldn't put down.

5 books are stacked on top of eachother against a white background. Top to bottom they are: Girl of the ashes by Hayleigh Barclay, Break the mould by Sinead Burke, Haben the deafblind woman who conquered Harvard law, Sitting pretty by Rebekah Taussig and The Oracle code by Marieke Nijkamp and illustrated by Manuel Preitano.

Girl Of The Ashes by Hayleigh Barclay

Fantasy is definitely not my usual genre of book to go for but Hayleigh Barclay's debut novel might have just changed that for me! This is essentially a vampire book but it is so much more than that, the complex family secrets involved in this story had me hooked from the start, there are so many twists and turns! It was obvious from just the first chapter that this had been written by a disabled person as well, with the fight for disability rights being present in a timeline given by the main character, Elise. There is also a badass disabled vampire in this as well, she is complex and multi-faceted and I really fell in love with her! If you're a fantasy fan then this is a must read, and I hope that Elise's story will be continued beyond this first book as I'm dying to know what happens next. 

Break The Mould by Sinéad Burke

Moving on to an entirely different book and audience now, we have a recent release that is marketed more towards children, but I thoroughly enjoyed it as an adult! Sinéad Burke is a writer, activist, influencer and more, mostly known for her work in increasing representation and access to fashion for disabled people. She has achondroplasia and was the first little person to attend the Met Gala and be on the cover of Vogue. On the cover of her debut book it says 'how to take your place in the world' and I couldn't sum this book up any better myself, this is a guide on how to embrace your differences and be confident in your identity. It's the kind of book that as a disabled teenager I'd have benefitted from and it's a book I will read to my nephew as he gets older to teach him about differences and how to strike up conversations without being condescending. The lessons in it are simple and yet rarely taught by society to our children, if you've got a child or young teenager in your life then I couldn't think of anything better to pop in their Christmas stocking this year.

5 books are stacked on top of eachother against a white background. Top to bottom they are: Girl of the ashes by Hayleigh Barclay, Break the mould by Sinead Burke, Haben the deafblind woman who conquered Harvard law, Sitting pretty by Rebekah Taussig and The Oracle code by Marieke Nijkamp and illustrated by Manuel Preitano.

Haben | The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma

I'll be honest, when I first saw the title of this book I feared it was another inspiration porn type memoir, but I trusted in every disabled person who recommended it to me and gave it a try and I couldn't be happier to say that I was so wrong! Haben Girma gives a masterclass in how to write a memoir as a disabled person without pandering to the identity of the 'inspiring disabled person'. I truly could not put this down as I learnt about Haben's upbringing and family, her experience at school and college, the endless barriers put in her way and the intelligence and creativity she had in working to remove them. I learnt so much about communicating when you're Deafblind, including things that as hearing and sighted people we can to do to facilitate that communication. The book ended in truly the most perfect way, with Haben meeting President Obama and our next president Joe Biden, but you'll have to read it for yourself to find out more about that!

Sitting Pretty by Rebekah Taussig

I've followed Rebekah on Instagram for a few years now, so when she announced that she was releasing a book I was over the moon and couldn't wait to get my hands on it! Rebekah is a writer, teacher and advocate and created the Instagram account @sitting_pretty to explore and write about what it means to be disabled, for her. Her debut book is an extension of that account exploring everything from love to kindness. I found myself being completely immersed in her story and using post it notes everywhere to note the areas in which I found myself nodding along. In the chapter 'An Ordinary Unimaginable Love Story' Rebekah talks about prioritising everyone else's comfort over her own and this realisation absolutely floored me because it's something I do everyday too. She talks about helping to make other people feel comfortable about disability, "helping them see us as human without making them feel threatened or shamed", and I don't think I've ever related to words more than that. Further on she talks about stepping out of line when not accepting help from strangers when it's not needed, again this idea that if we decline help then we've stepped outside of the role we're meant to be playing to make society comfortable. The way she talks about people thinking it's a compliment not to see a disability or wheelchair resonated so much as well. I basically spent the whole time reading this book nodding my head and clapping! For disabled people this book will give you so much validation and for non-disabled people, you will learn many important lessons. 

5 books are stacked on top of eachother against a white background. Top to bottom they are: Girl of the ashes by Hayleigh Barclay, Break the mould by Sinead Burke, Haben the deafblind woman who conquered Harvard law, Sitting pretty by Rebekah Taussig and The Oracle code by Marieke Nijkamp and illustrated by Manuel Preitano.

The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp & illustrated by Manuel Preitano

For the the final book we have something really different, my first graphic novel! I was over the moon when I won this in a giveaway on Twitter, particularly as it's by Marieke Nijkamp, the same author who edited Unbroken that featured in the first post. This graphic novel follows Barbara Gordon after she becomes paralysed below the waist following a gunshot wound, she undergoes rehabilitation at the Arkham Center for Independence but soon finds that all is not as it seems. Disabled people are rarely the heroes in stories, we're far more likely to be the villain, so to read a story that centres young disabled people as the heroes was just incredible. Again, one of those books that really would have helped me as a teenager to see that a disability was not the end of my life. For ages I thought I wouldn't enjoy graphic novels but the illustrations in this are stunning and I really enjoyed it, and have actually gone on to read another one since! 

Like last time I really implore you to add at least one of these books to your TBR list, I know my bookshelf is a lot better off for having better disability representation on it! Words are powerful and can can change minds and opinions and teach us important lessons. I've linked the books in this post via Waterstones but I ask that where you can and are financially able you choose to buy via independent bookstores. 

11/11/2020

AD | 3 Products That I'm Loving As A Disabled Person

AD | This post is an AD in collaboration with SwetWipes and includes a gifted item from them. This post also contains discount codes but these are not affiliate, I do not earn any money from them. 

When people think of disability aids they probably think of an elderly person using a stairlift or handrails on the outside of a door, and whilst these are all very helpful tools for me the things that help me most are a little atypical from what most people imagine when it comes to daily living aids. Yes, I have the typical bathroom aids, dressing aids and walking aids but it's the smaller things, the unexpected things that help me live my best disabled life and today I wanted to share a few of those!

First up are SwetWipes, a product that I really wish I had after all my previous operations! SwetWipes are a luxurious anti bacterial, plastic free and biodegradable adult sized body wipe. They are extra thick and 20x30cm, much larger and thicker than a standard baby wipe. Now, if you've ever been in hospital and had a bed bath you know how unpleasant they can be and how much you're just itching to have a shower. Often when I've been unwell in hospital or at home I've resorted to washing with baby wipes, often going through half a packet at the time and ending up with my skin being really dried out. However, I only need one SwetWipe to clean my whole body! It's quicker, I feel cleaner and my skin isn't left feeling dry and irritated. These wipes honestly would have made the world of difference to me when my health was worse and showering was more of a challenge. I'm now going to be sure to always have a pack of these handy for my worse days or when I'm feeling unwell, it's nice to know I won't ever have to resort to a pack of baby wipes ever again! 

SwetWipes have kindly given me a 20% off discount code that you can use until the end of November 2020, 'SHONA20' will give you 20% off any order over £10. The wipes are £4.99 a pack, and they each contain 12 wipes. 

Next up is my beloved BundleBean fleece-lined wheelchair cosy, an item that I couldn't survive Autumn and Winter without! I've had a BundleBean cosy for about as long as I've been a wheelchair user and I really could not imagine being without it now, my original one was stolen off the back of my wheelchair last year and I was devastated, and so I was very quick to replace it with a slightly jazzier design! My original one was black but I am loving the lighting bolt design now. There are adjustable velcro straps that you can use to secure it to yourself or your wheelchair and the design really allows you to be able to attach it wherever is best for you. The inside is fleece lined to keep you nice and toasty and then the outside is a waterproof material to keep you dry, I really haven't found anything else that keeps me as warm, dry and looks good! There's also a fleece lined pocket that you could use to keep your hands warm if someone else pushes your wheelchair, or when you're stationary, or you could use it to store a pair of gloves like I do. At £44.99 this is certainly an investment but it's one I will keep making for years to come and BundleBean have very kindly given me a discount code for you to use! Use the code 'SHONALOUISE10' to get 10% off their wheelchair product range. 

And finally we have my smart light bulbs! I got an Amazon Echo Dot a couple of years ago and it's been such a good tool when it comes to making my life easier but it's the smart light bulbs that I've connected to it that make the biggest difference. There are loads of brands out there but I have the Philips Hue ones. I can control them from my phone or by voice via my Echo dot and honestly it's made such a difference. At night I don't need to get back out of bed to turn off the light and in the morning I can turn it on without needing to get up too. It might sound like something so simple but it really makes such a difference for me and I know for many other disabled people smart technology like this has allowed them to regain independence where they didn't have it before. I know that for sure when I move into my own place I'm going to have a house full of smart technology! 

What products help you live your best disabled life?

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