Random Acts ~ Where kindness is the default

The first time I fundraised for Random Acts, I ended up forty feet up a tree, clinging onto the support rope attached to my harness for dear life. I knew hardly anything about the charity, only that it was created by a supernatural actor I quite liked and that they did really cool stuff for the community. Without knowing anything else, I signed up for Endure4Kindness and raised $200 whilst having a nervous breakdown trying to zipwire across the treetops like Tarzan, but if Tarzan was an awkward millennial with coordination issues.

Despite picking something absolutely ridiculous as my challenge, the feeling I got when submitting the total raised was absolutely incredible. Not in the “I did something awesome” way, but rather “maybe this will help the world to become a better place.” After that I was hooked and knew I needed to find out more about the only charity that had me willingly do something as crazy as stumble over logs suspended from tree tops.

As I began to immerse myself in the beauty that is RA, things really did start to change for the better. I watched as the school in Nicaragua was built, rooting for those out there who I’d never met but who I felt immensely close to because we shared the same passion to do good. Every bake sale, food bank drop off, knitting challenges and 12 hour long kazoo concerts were brought to us with an aura of absolute possibility. This wasn’t just a charity trying to raise money, this was a group of really extraordinary, kind hearted souls who gave you permission to be as fun and crazy in all the best ways, whilst saving the world. They helped me believe I could do anything, just by being their good selves.

I started fundraising for RA more, doing bake sales, selling merch or just giving part of my wage instead of being materialistic. Every time the newsletter would come out with what they achieved that month, my mind would instantly think up “alright, what’s next?” Kindness became my absolute default and I never wanted to go back.

Everyone who works for RA may think they are volunteers helping out, however in the early hours of the morning when I’d be having a bad time, Holli would be the one who warmed my heart. Rachel filled me with so much love and hope. Pau always shares really cool New York street heart which brings joy to my creative soul. Miranda gives and gives and has the purest heart, and seriously needs to take a break for herself! The Friends of RA group invited me into their Zoom meeting and we had so much fun doing crafts together whilst I was an ocean apart from all of them, yet felt so at home. And these are just examples from the people I know personally, there are many many more staff members and each of them do such brilliant things on a daily basis. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t get to experience all they do and bask in the kind glow they put upon the world. If ever the world had its own Avengers team, it would be the Random Acts Squad for sure!

My heart really does burst with love for them and I’m so proud of their 10 years of achievements, the fun and joy they bring into people’s lives and how much we can learn from them. My hope is that more people pick up on what they do and get inspired to do kind acts too, so that kindness becomes their default state and we set the ball rolling faster around the world.

Most people will say you can’t wake up and save the world….but they have been doing it every day for ten years.

Happy ten years Random Acts! I’m forever cheering you on and loving you all from across the world.

Luce xx

You light up my world, and save theirs

When I first started following Elle (on a different account many years ago before my inevitable Twittet break) I was absolutely obsessed with their cat posts. At the time I was suffering from really bad depression and anxiety and chronic pain, and seeing a ton of funny cat pictures with hilarious captions was a huge help. But what was a big healer was knowing Elle was out there doing something so wonderful.

As a cat lover, it absolutely breaks my heart knowing these poor creatures get abandoned, abused or left to fend for themselves and their young. Elle goes and gives them a home, makes sure they’re healthy and gives them a warm place to sleep. Knowing they do this had me in awe of their kind heart and love for animals.

Elle is like me, has a chronic illness and has had similar experiences. I always gravitate towards people I relate to the most but what touched my heart about Elle was how selfless and driven they are. Elle really, truly cares and doesn’t ever stop to take a break or pass the torch to someone else. If it wasn’t for Elle these cats would struggle and giving them all a home is a HUGE thing.

Sadly not everyone is supportive. Elle has received a lot of unkind or ignorant comments when they really are doing something that is changing the world, one cat at a time (or more, sometimes it’s a box of them) but when I look at the pictures, at them snuggled contently or playing with each other, how could anyone be opposed to letting them have a good life? Elle had a golden heart and is helping, to be opposed to that is to have lost your empathy.

All Elle asks is for help. They do this without huge sums of money or resources. Elle has created a patreon where they create art or poetry to raise money. They post a ton of content daily and work so hard to get what these cats need.

Elle needs our support. These cats deserve it. My favourite cat, Charmander, would help me through many bad nights and I owe them some help for that (and absolutely will once I am able) and in these dark times we really should stop the judgement and put some love out there instead. Supporting Elle will quite literally save lives and they definitely deserve the recognition for the work they do.

No one tells you that emptiness weighs the most

As an autistic person I feel a lot of things a day, quite a lot of anxiety and frustration with the odd burst of delight. And usually I cope with it, trying to keep being so overwhelmed to a limit and laughing along when I do something different like turning the lights off and emailing rather than phoning people, so that I can maintain the carefully put together cover that people most want to see whilst my mind is constantly burnt out and struggling.

It’s such a game sometimes, one I’m really bad at winning at. I know in my lifetime I won’t experience an autistic friendly world where people see you and understand, where you don’t have to overexplain everything and you don’t have to hide admitting how much you actually need. It can be so terribly lonely and it’s the only feeling I really struggle to live with.

This numb, empty feeling of being lost in a vast space has been with me for most of this year as I lost my ties to family, friends, experiences that got cancelled and the knowledge all of this wouldn’t be over anytime soon. It’s still with me now as I navigate trying to throw myself back into the world after months of isolation and all the hurtful events that went with that time, along with the sense that you can’t complain about not coping because everyone else is and you just had a long extended holiday.

That numbness is so obnoxiously present when I feel myself become overloaded, the need to stim becomes extreme and I experience autistic burnout, and absolutely no one around me understands what that means or feels like. Because everyone is tired and overworked so how can your experience be any different? But it is so different and so painful, but it’s the loneliness that hurts the most.

A part of me wishes for a worse disaster to happen where we were shut into our houses for years. Its terribly selfish of me to think of it, and of course I don’t really want that to happen, but I’m alive in a world that isn’t for me at all, a world where I don’t fit in any of the ways, a world where people talk too much but never actually say anything, a world I struggle to survive in…and it makes me just want to hide away forever.

The Autistic Community is not okay and Neurotypicals keep making it worse

I couldn’t stop the tears of frustration as I read through Sia’s posts, which were a mixture of refusal to listen to a community she claimed to be portraying and thinly veiled insults due to the frustration of us not getting on our knees to praise her for a film so outrageously abelist.

Not even a month ago, the autistic community was fighting against Red Chair Press for the publication of Finding SAM, a book that perpetuated harmful stereotypes and was full of trash talk about autistic people. They finally pulled the book, but it took hours of battling it out online before they listened to us.

In 2019 a book had to be pulled from Amazon, one that claimed to “cure” autism. In 2016 a teen called Bethany (surname cannot be published) was the victim of medical abuse and was sectioned by Doctors, kept in a cell and heavily medicated, all because they didn’t understand Autism.

For many years we have battled against Autism Speaks and supporters of ABA therapy as they continue to harm young children, produce propaganda that only advertises misinformation and stereotypes and supports voices of their staff, doctors, teachers and neurotypical parents…but not autistic people.

In short, autistic people are tired.

Sia claimed she was writing a love letter to us, but all I see is ignorance smeared onto our community as we try to get our voices to be heard.

Kayla Cromer, an autistic actress who portrayed Matilda in Everything’s Going To Be Okay, confirmed she was never even asked to audition. This incredible girl with so much talent, who should definitely be the first Autistic Superhero in Marvel, didn’t get a chance in the room because of ignorance.

Other autistic actors just starting out were all not reached out to. They weren’t even aware of auditions as Sia decided one experience with an autistic person was enough, and judged us to be all the same, thinking no one who was autistic was up to the task. Wonderfully creative and passionate people again lost out on work, because a neurotypical decided to speak for our community instead.

Chloe Hayden, an autistic public speaker and singer who has done so many amazing things for our community tweeted at how Sia’s response had broken her heart. That honestly hurt to read, because that girl has so much love and courage and talent. Another incredible creative who wasn’t seen or heard.

And then there’s me, and many others like me, everyday people stuck in this world of abelist people and neurotypicals who refuse to educate themselves, who are just trying to find representation so we can feel more confident and not so alone, but instead we get this. We get people with too much ego who think they can tell our stories without consulting us, or let us tell them ourselves. We get people who think they’re entitled to produce books or films just because they know someone who is autistic, but have never had the experiences we have. We constantly have the feeling of not being enough, not being heard or that we don’t matter, because our fellow autistic creatives can’t get the same chance as neurotypicals, or we autistic peeps can’t get supportive employment that is beneficial to us.

I’m sure many in the autistic community have had the same thought I have: when will this stop? Because our lives matter and yet it constantly feels that they don’t. Neurotypicals are unwilling to listen, abelism is everywhere and nothing is changing. It is utterly heart breaking.

Sia, I hope you understand that we don’t want a love letter. A love letter means nothing in your actions that cause us pain. We want the same rights as others, for our voice to matter and to make sure the younger autistic generation don’t have to go through what we’ve had to.

My love letter to MY community, is that I will continue to fight against people like you whose views and words hurt. People who see ego and money over autistic people’s lives. I will never stop fighting until I don’t have to fight anymore, but still I wish we didn’t have to fight. I wish more than anything we didn’t have to go through this.

But we do, and though it’s painful and draining I will continue to tell my story and boost other autistic voices, because we matter. We will always matter.

The Luxe ~ review

The book

My first impression was that on face value, it looked to be a mix of Vanity Fair and Pretty Little Liars. However when you really get into it there isn’t the thrilling drama that keeps you on your toes. Nevertheless, it is only the first book in a series which might explain the slow buildup.

The only thing I couldn’t get behind was the time period. There was quite a few wars and natural disasters in 1899, along with a boom in population of European immigrants. There was so much history to include and yet the focus was on a bunch of rich, white people who seemed absolutely oblivious to it all. What was even more confusing was that Elizabeth had just gotten back from France, and yet acts like she has never been, nor mentions it.

The plot

In all honesty, the pacing baffled me. The book is 400 pages and yet everything seems very rushed. We go from near poverty with the Holland’s to having their eldest marry a rich guy she’s never really had a proper conversation with (I know it was the old times where girls just wanted to marry well, but there could have been some earlier interaction and build up).

The majority of the plot centres around a very complicated love triangle between six people. Yes, six. And although I can see where everyone fits in, each character is completely oblivious to who they are all tied together in this battle of the heart.

The characters

This is where the book gets most of its points. For all the issues the plot has, the characters more than make up for it. They are dramatic, sneaky, extremely complicated and all have their roles. Elizabeth is “the perfect society girl” with a dark secret, Penelope is the perfect villain, Henry is the playboy who just wants to get drunk and Diana is the black sheep of the family.

Out of them all I felt Diana had the most quality to her and I really hope to see more of her story unfold in the next books. She had a fresh outlook on everything, was witty and blunt and knew how idiotic the aristocratic customs were. I respected her a great deal and want to see more from her.

Overall stats

Character rating: 4/5

Plot rating: 3/5

Pros: the characters are well written and keep the story going and there is a lot of room for character growth which I hope we shall see in the rest of the series.

Cons: the plot and setting is very two dimensional but then again this could be fixed in the rest of the series.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

The Anonymous Bookaholics Tag

This looked far too fun to miss! If you’re a book fan, feel free to do your own post on this.

1) What do you like about buying new books?

I just adore going into a bookshop and seeing them all stacked on the shelves. I love picking up a book that has been on my wishlist forever or that is a new release and I’m lucky enough to get it straight away. I get so excited knowing I’m about to open a whole new world with new adventures and people.

2) How often do you buy new books?

Very rarely! I do request a lot from the library but I’m on a book buying ban as I need to save money and also my TBR pile is massive! However, when I got my first job aged 16 I remember shopping at Waterstones a lot. I would buy at least 5 books a time!

3) Bookstore or online book shopping: which do you prefer?

Bookstore, especially the ones where they have a little cafe and you can sit and read whilst eating cake! I do like getting blind date with a book from Etsy, which is where you get a surprise book and some treats, but I love going to a bookstore way more.

4) Do you have a favourite bookshop?

At the moment I mainly stick to Waterstones, however I’m hoping to do the bookshop crawl in London in 2022 and can find some quirky, independent bookshops that become my new faves. My dream is to visit the bookshop in Bath as it looks absolutely amazing. You can even get an experience where the staff give you a cup of tea and recommend books for you!

5) Do you preorder books?

Very rarely. All the books I’ve bought have been second hand so I usually wait till a cheap copy is available.

6) Do you have a monthly buying limit?

I haven’t been buying recently, but if I had the money I’d definitely try spend as much as possible on books! It’s probably a good job I can’t afford to do that as my TBR would be as tall as me!

7) How big is your wishlist?

Absolutely massive! Way too big and that’s down to seeing everyone’s posts on Twitter and Instagram and my brain going “you absolutely need that book” and so I’ll add it to my list. My kindle wishlist is even worse!

8) Which three books from your wishlist do you wish to own right now?

That is so hard! I’d probably have to go with The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis as it’s a sequel I’ve been looking forward to for a while, The Left Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix because the blurb reads so well and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare as I don’t have any of his works.

This world is ruining Bake Off, and that makes me unbelievably sad

There used to be a time where you could express your feelings about a TV program in the comfort of your own living room…and that’s exactly where opinions about shows should have stayed.

Yes, we have all had a moan about reality shows, cried at soaps or been shocked at surprise eliminations in competition, but what used to be lighthearted and entertaining has now become something extremely sinister.

In the age of social media, every opinion we have is being posted, but no one stops at “oh that wasn’t my cup of tea.” Instead, people are harassed, threats and abuse are sent and people are made to feel defeated. It doesn’t help that shows like Gogglebox have become the norm, where views about things on TV are documented and made out to be humorous. But there are real people who work on these shows, for some it is their livelihood, and when there is backlash or unkindness the situation is definitely not funny.

Bake Off has been such a light in my life from the very beginning. We would cry laughing whilst running to grab cups of tea and more slices of cake. Yes, we had favourites, but we liked everyone and was sad at every elimination whilst simultaneously congratulating everyone who got through. It is how I got my love of baking and on the days I struggled with my mental health I would binge watch old series and with Mel and Sue’s jokes, Mary Berry being the nation’s beloved Gran and Sandi being the most genuine, kind and pure person imaginable, I would be able to make it through to the next day.

I began to come out of my shell by taking about Bake Off. It helped me start conversations with people and I was even brave enough to let them try my baking. I had so much fun watching each series and my memories include adoring Kate’s hair in season 4, making a Team Julia Fan Club and wanting to be best friends with Yan from season 8, being so overjoyed that Briony was on bake off as it is the first time a disabled person has been on the show (I have cerebral palsy, hypermobile joints and am autistic and suffer with chronic pain so any disabled representation in the media really helps me) and ending up being called “Kim-Joys twin” at work because we are both from Leeds and love anime, board games and cats.

The series that really made my life, however, was series 10. They was such a diverse, sunny group that I think they stole the Nation’s hearts. Steph’s journey helped me believe in myself more and Michael opening up about his anxiety helped me with my own battle with anxiety and depression and made me brave enough to start medication. I remember having a really triggering day and hadn’t eaten and was being really unkind to myself, and I opened up instagram to see pictures of Henry, Michael, Alice, Amelia, Steph…all hanging out and shooting some really pure, lovely photos. I might not know them but that was a small light in the dark for me. I adored every contestant and fell in love with the show more than ever.

Sadly I started to become exposed to the harsh side of being a bake off fan. I used to stay off Twitter whilst watching, but I ended up seeing the many tweets of people deciding their opinions mattered more than people’s feelings. There was some really awful stuff about Rosie (who is such a darling and an amazing person!) and in this series Laura has been a target. It feels so heartbreaking to know that these people took the time to be involved in this show to give us entertainment, joy and a break from the harsh realities of life and yet are being treated like this.

It feels like the world has decided we can’t have nice things anymore, we can’t let people enjoy their experiences or support each other instead of degrade them. I think it is completely wrong and wish more than I could say that we can go back to a time when we celebrated everyone and just had fun with what was happening.

This world has become such a hard place, and for the people who are just trying to live a dream their lives are being made even harder with the unkindness they face on social media. The news outlets now report seconds after an episode has ended, determined to cause drama and conflict and paint a negative light, rather than celebrating achievements. It is utterly soul destroying.

Instead of getting excited for new series and episodes, I’m instead anxious for the people on there, praying that twitter trolls don’t go after them.

I truly hope people can be kinder and that we start supporting and cheering people on no matter our personal opinions, and that one day we will get back to a place where we just enjoy shows and let the people on them enjoy themselves. And if you don’t like or agree with what has gone on, you switch over.

Why BTM are winning in the book box industry

They’re a good price, the boxes are prettily designed and your tissue paper collection will definitely grow, but what makes Books That Matter better than all the rest?

I took out a years subscription to BTM after failing to find a book box that suited me. As they don’t have as many items in their box as Fairyloot or Owlcrate I was unsure what I’d think of it, but I have never been more eager to say that that judgement was completely wrong.

The thing that sets BTM apart from all the rest is the feeling that they’re listening intently to the world without asking directly what it needs. Yes they do advertise that they support Black, LGBTQAI and disabled creators, but what really stole my heart is how determined they are to make the world a better place through their boxes.

Their Put Her On The Map box was one that really emphasised this. The contents were educational and I was so pleased to learn of disabled women who were public speakers or creators, as being disabled myself I’m always on the lookout to support disabled creators and most of the names on the map were new ones. The stories of these women helped boost everyone in this hard year, with subscribers rushing to learn more and take their mind off the current climate.

BTM also released their Brave Girls Book Club for kids this year, with boxes giving children the access to POC writers and representation that they might not have access to at school or home. After the reports of how little POC characters are represented in literature this was definitely needed, and I praise them wholeheartedly for how efficiently they have brought this to the market.

Asides from the political side -though inspiring their subscribers with brilliant representation and access to creators of all communities is the big reason I adore BTM -I feel the little things also matter. Adding self care items in the middle of a pandemic was a huge help whilst I was furloughed, the self heating eye mask helped on the day I had a bad migraine and I always feel so much love when I get a cookie in the box! No one gets a piece of that cookie -it’s gone in five seconds! As I mentioned, it feels like they listen in all the ways that matter and really put thought into what their subscribers need in that particular month.

It really is no surprise that the creators of this book are winning prizes. Their treat box idea was outstanding and their commitment to getting diverse books onto your shelves definitely deserves praise. You can tell the creators put their whole heart into this box and I hope they get more awards in the coming months/years.

If you’re in the process of choosing a book box, please go to booksthatmatter.co.uk and check them out. It will be the best decision you make this year.

No Big Deal ~ A book after my own heart

FINALLY a fat positive book that was available in my library. I have had this on my wishlist for a very long time and literally shrieked with joy when it became available.

I firmly believe that had this book and others like this been available when I was at school, I may have been more body positive. I felt that Emily was the girl I’d always wanted to be, but instead focused too much on the magazines and adverts that was telling me all the things I SHOULDN’T be.

The rawness of Emily’s confrontations with her mother was everything I needed to hear and to say myself. It was powerful whilst being equally vulnerable; after reading I felt as if my thirteen year old self who suffered from anorexia and bulimia could finally have peace.

On a lighter note, there was so much humour and fun. I adored the dynamic between the girls and absolutely laughed out loud at their conversations. I see this book as a brilliant role model to young people who are finding their feet in high school, dealing with friendships, exams, body confidence and conversations about sex. If this book was a person, I would feel like I had someone who truly understood my worries growing up.

I would absolutely love a sequel, just because I would love to know more about Camila’s story and have an insight on how she really feels. I was left really concerned for her because it felt like she had to endure some serious bullying and hasn’t been kind to herself. I also just want more of the girls together because I am so in love with them! But nethertheless, this book is perfect as a standalone too and I wish I could erase my memory of it just to have the pleasure of reading it all over again.

Thank you to the author, Bethany Rutter, for healing a part of me that has been hurting for many years.

How Hygge helps with bad mental health days

TW: mentions bulimia, depression/mental health &relapse

When you think of Hygge, do you picture lots of candles and fluffy blankets? Well you would be right, but hygge is also much more than that.

In my exploration of hygge, I’ve found how I can adapt it to help with depression and anxiety. Hygge in general is meant to help with wellbeing and feeling of contentment, but I’ve found it also helps with healing.

I’m not very good at self care, and that only gets worse in stressful and hard times. I’ve currently not been getting much sleep, I’ve either skipped meals or eaten a lot of junk, haven’t done any enjoyable exercise and even forgot to take my meds a few times. I knew I was slipping into a bad state when I was making myself sick because I felt like I wouldn’t be able to breathe if I didn’t (oh hello bulimia, haven’t seen you in a while!)

Now, as you read this it may shock and frighten you, or you may think that this is really extreme. However, as someone who suffers with many mental illnesses I know only too well that relapsing does happen, and it doesn’t mean the person who relapses has failed or has gone back to their old ways*

*though if you are really struggling and do feel like you’re slipping back into unhealthy/dangerous habits, please reach out to someone who you trust. You deserve to be safe and well and you are loved

Often enough, a relapse means your body and mind is under so much pressure and you’re refusing to listen to it. You push yourself to the brink until you snap, and being the type of person I am I often need to snap before I can fix myself up again. And that is where hygge comes in.

So what does my hygge healing entail?

Well, yes there are candles, but my morning will start by listening to a mindful podcast the moment I wake up so I can have positive thoughts in my mind before I get out of bed. I’ll do the maximum self care such as skincare, hairstyling and taking time to dress comfortably and this isn’t for materialistic purposes, but to spend time with myself so I can realise how I need to be a better friend to me.

I’ll often spend most of the day outside so that I’m not sitting at home alone with my thoughts. Walking in nature always makes me feel like I’m a part of so much more and that the world has so much possibility. The silence helps me breathe and I’ll often find a tree to sit against and read or, if the weather is bad, I’ll go to a coffee shop and order a comforting drink.

Throughout the day I’ll make an effort to eat and drink the most nutritional options, as hygge isn’t about dieting or cutting things out, but is about nourishment and being kind to your body and giving it what it needs. A warm bowl of stew and dumplings and a cup of hot chocolate always soothes the soul.

As well as doing all of this to help myself, I’ll also check in with friends and the online support team to let them know how I’m doing. Just having someone know what I’m going through and understand how I feel means the world.

I hope this helps if you are in the same position and need help being kinder to yourself. I would definitely recommend reading up on hygge but also please check in with a support team to help you on your journey as well. You deserve all the help around you and it’s not a weakness to have that support.

Sending love, always.