Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Wheelchair Assessment Continued

Just a brief note today to say we've had a message to the effect that the Kuschall AirLite IS compatible with the power add-on system, so it looks pretty definite that this is the chair we'll be going for. Not sure what the next step is, but tomorrow I'm going to phone Mark at Wheelchair Services and tell him what happened yesterday, and find out what we do next.

I'm still rocking with laughter. Last night I posted on the Brainfog (M.E.) forum that there was a blow by blow account on my BOG!!!!!!!!!! What made it worse was that they were all laughing and quoting what I'd said, and until someone kindly quoted it in bold, I hadn't a clue what they were on about, because I didn't spot it originally, and I didn't spot it when quoted either!!! No hope for Foggishoshi, I'm afraid! I was ultra-foggy last night after our big adventure, so I really think SOME allowances should be made, lol!!

They are all dead jealous on Brainfog - such cool wheels! (It's called Wheelchair Envy, he he!!)

I just want to get this wheelie show on the road now!!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Wheelchair Assessment

My appointment with Wheelchair Services was this morning. This is the first time I've been properly assessed, as my existing wheelchair, my Rolls Royce, was second hand and obtained on Ebay. It's been a reasonably good fit, and very comfortable, but having put on some weight since being ill, it is now a very snug fit, and it's also showing some wear and tear - it's probably getting on for about 15 years old now - and since my condition shows no sign at present of improving (rather the reverse), I decided it was time to be properly assessed and to get a new wheelchair - Rolls Royce Mk II!

We arrived half an hour late for the appointment, because the place proved extremely difficult to find – the letter did not include a map, or any indication that the place was actually on an industrial estate. Mark, the gentleman who assessed me, discussed the various options in light of my OT’s letter; it appears that they can issue me with a voucher to the value of a rigid ultra-lightweight manual wheelchair, or a dedicated power chair, but not for a manual chair plus power add-on, which is what I want. It is going to cost quite a bit to have my existing power system transferred, but considerably cheaper than getting a new one.

The NHS has certainly improved – they are now offering a much greater range of wheelchairs, including the one I’d originally looked at at a possibility: the Quickie Helium.

Sunrise Quickie Helium

However, if I received this chair from the NHS, I would not be allowed to add my power system. I could only do this if I got a voucher and bought one myself.

Mark was not sure that this was the best chair, though; for my clinical needs and to be suitable for the power add-on, he said he’d really recommend another Quickie GPV, which is what I’ve got. I’m not too keen on this though. He said he can be flexible, and will give me the most generous voucher he can. He suggested that the 90-degree angle of the front frame of the Helium might not be comfortable for long-term use, although it does look cool! The advantage is an extremely small turning circle and great manoeuvrability, and being able to get close to things.

The voucher would also cover maintenance and repairs, which is good.

Mark referred us to the Exeter Disability Centre (EDC), which is a commercial operation, supplying all sorts of mobility aids, and having in stock a wide selection of wheelchairs – they deal with them quite a lot, and the staff there are experts and can advise what is best. My hubby suggested we went straight over, and after stopping for a pub lunch, we duly turned up, and the two gentlemen there were extremely helpful, and our time there proved very useful.

When I suggested the Helium, they immediately advised against it. There have been various teething problems with this very new chair – people have been returning them in droves with bits breaking etc. Not good news. Quickie have given an assurance that these problems have been dealt with, but even so, EDC said that although it has the reputation of being the lightest chair on the market at present, Quickie seem to have sacrificed strength for lightness, and if I am thinking of adding on a power system which is pretty heavy, they could suggest several chairs which would serve the purpose a lot better.

They had several there, and of course they weren’t set up for me, so it was hard to judge what would be best; I tried this one, a Top End Ti, a titanium one from the USA:

Top End Ti Wheelchair

but I was looking for something with a more minimalist frame, and it was also quite high, which would make getting my legs under tables more difficult – although there is some adjustment for this.

Finally they produced the Kuschall AirLite. Kuschall is a Swiss company and they make beautiful wheelchairs – I have a friend who got one recently, although his is a lightweight folding one with high back and push handles. He is very pleased with it. The AirLite is one of the Kuschall K series and they are substantially made but very lightweight. The K4 has a more sloping front than the AirLite – the AirLite has a 90-degree angle, which Mark at Wheelchair Services said might be uncomfortable.

Kuschall Airlite

However, I sat for quite a while in the Kuschall AirLite and found it extremely comfortable – the back rest needed adjustment, and when we discussed the angle of the front, they suggested turning the foot rest around, which would have the same effect as a more sloping front without sacrificing compactness, and when this was done, it was even more comfortable.

He telephoned the suppliers of my power add-on system to ascertain whether this will be a suitable wheelchair for it, but unfortunately the gentleman in question was out; however, having said that the Quickie Helium would be suitable, it looks likely that the Kuschall will be too – it fits most standard modern wheelchairs.

So it looks as if the Kuschall AirLite will be the wheelchair of choice.

As for my existing wheelchair, both gentlemen at EDC said that it was far too sloping which makes it very hard to get close to anything, something I have experienced constantly. My hubby hired a wheelchair for me from the Red Cross when mine went away having the power system fitted, which was a traditional NHS-style wheelchair whose design has changed little in over 50 years, and very different from a modern lightweight. I called it the Iron Maiden because it was extremely uncomfortable, heavy and unwieldy, and I felt completely trapped when using it. However, that’s another story!

So now we wait, pending hearing whether my power system will fit the Kuschall or not. I shall phone Mark to let him know what we’ve discussed. If we get the go-ahead, we will make an appointment with EDC and have a detailed prescription filled out, which will include full measurements, and all the required specifications and extras I require, such as back angle, footrest height, flip-down push-handles, frame colour, etc. etc. This will then be forwarded to the manufacturers and the chair will be provided, after which it will be sent away to have the power system transferred. As this will involve removing it from Rolls Royce Mk I, it looks likely that I shall be back with the Iron Maiden temporarily! Eeeeuww.

After that, however….. Catch me if you can!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, 22 October 2010

ARTHaven Revamped!

After working in my new ARTHaven for a few weeks, I have discovered various drawbacks in the layout, mostly the light – I usually work in there in the afternoons, when the sun is very bright on that side of the house, and it shines right in my eyes. Also, the shelf above the table casts a shadow over the work, which made it even more difficult to see what I was doing. Here is how it was:

18 ARTHaven with Video Setup 27 Aug 10

Another problem was that there were several “dead spaces” which wasted space because I couldn’t get at them. It was also impossible to reach the window, so I had to lean over and open and close it with a crutch! On the left, the tables were up against the big shelves, which meant that some of them were inaccessible unless I pulled the tables out (they are all on castors so it wasn’t a big deal, just a bit inconvenient). Finally, although it was nice to have the video camera set up over the table, the tripod did get in the way a bit.

So the other night I mentioned it to my hubby and said I was thinking of changing it round, and he said, “Oh no…” I reassured him it wouldn’t be as bad as last time, just a question of swapping the two big tables around. It involved me in a great deal of work yesterday, because before, I’d never sorted the bookcases, and there was a heap of clutter in the corner, which had been there long before I set up my ARTHaven in the first place, making the washbasin not only inaccessible, but invisible!

I asked my hubby to swap around 2 of the bookcases, so the big one is now by the door, and the smaller one is now beside its twin, making a more uniform surface, and useful space above. I had to take ALL the books out, and this gave me the opportunity to sort them out in a way I’ve never done before, and I am getting rid of quite a few, and all the music is now in a box on a shelf, and the result of this is that I have now freed up an entire small bookcase which can be used for storing creative stuff – an unexpected bonus!

Then I needed to empty the filing cabinet so that it could be moved – otherwise the big table would not be put in place because the windowsill sticks out. I cleared the entire surface of both tables in readiness for the transfer, and as before, I did this late at night on Thursday evening after returning from a meal at my parents’, because Wonderwoman, my home help, comes on Friday mornings, and I needed her and my hubby to move the tables – she was also able to clean all round in the places that are normally inaccessible.

This afternoon I managed to put most of the stuff back. The most difficult was setting up the desktop computer again as the cables are always a nightmare and it involves crawling under the table! Still, it’s all done now, and this is what the room looks like now.

This is the new arrangement with the book shelves. I’ve put my paper racks up on top which has cleared some floor space. The washbasin is on the right, beyond this picture.

19 ARTHaven Revamped 1 22 Oct 10

The next picture shows the big black table with its shelf, moved back to where it was originally, before the room was my ARTHaven. The wooden table is now under the window, and is going to be used for my computers – there’s room on the left for my big laptop, which I use for all my graphics work, and which I also connect to Jiminy Cricut, as it has SCAL 2 installed on it. Actually, with this arrangement, the cables reach a lot better, and I’ve got all the technology together.

20 ARTHaven Revamped 2 22 Oct 10

Above the black table is a lovely blank wall, which I will be able to use to fix my Ikea rails to hang my punches on, and maybe put some small shelves up to hold other crafting equipment. I think I will be able to make the video camera reach over the work table, but that needs a bit of trial and error.

Moving on round, you can see that I’ve pulled the small black table and low filing cabinet away from the big shelves, which means that I can reach the window, and all the shelves. On these surfaces I’ve got the laser printer, Jiminy, my scanner and my Cuttlebug. The pink and black containers hooked over the top of the cardboard box will eventually hang from rails over my work table.

21 ARTHaven Revamped 3 22 Oct 10

Finally, moving on round, I’ve still got my old computer table against the shelves, still with my rubber stamps and distress inks, and all my painting stuff, with glues and a big box of stuff to be altered underneath. Eventually I want to rearrange all this stuff, and may get rid of this table altogether, but I’m not making any hasty decisions on that one! The shelves look a tip, I know, but it’s organised chaos, and one day I hope to get it all tidied up.

22 ARTHaven Revamped 4 22 Oct 10

Since starting my ARTHaven, my office has suffered! It’s been quite difficult to make it work, and I’ve had a pile of folders and bits and pieces on the floor. A couple of days ago I found a real bargain on Ebay – an ex-catalogue kitchen trolley which folds flat when not in use – it is solid hardwood and has 3 shelves, so I am intending to use this for my office stuff, and it can be pushed out of the way when not in use. Photos to follow! I am expecting it to arrive early next week.

I am really glad I’ve done this revamp. Sometimes you have to live with a setup for a while to see whether it works, and I’ve had time to think about how it might be improved. Lots still to do, but it’s much more workable now!

It’s now payback time as far as my health is concerned, because I’ve seriously overdone it these past couple of days.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Another Thank You Card

I wanted to make a special card for one lady who helped me while my hubby was away, who also took me out for a drive and for lunch – she really went the extra mile, and I had such a lovely afternoon, made all the more special because I’d just heard the disappointing news that my hubby’s return was being delayed by a day.

When she arrived, she brought me a little potted miniature rose, which I am enjoying very much – the flowers are really opening up now in the warmth of the room. It came wrapped in the prettiest paper:

Wrapping Paper from Ruth Massey's Flowers 1 15 Oct 10

Wrapping Paper from Ruth Massey's Flowers 2 15 Oct 10

and was tied around with multi-coloured raffia to co-ordinate with the paper – I’m afraid I forgot to put this in the photos! I thought it would be fun to make her a card which used some of this paper, and I made this today.

Ruth Massey's Thank You Card - Tag In

Ruth Massey's Thank You Card - Tag Out

I cut the frames using Penny Duncan’s 4-point sloped shaplie mat:

http://cid-599a4ab7197c18bb.office.live.com/self.aspx/.Public/PDC%20SVG%20Files/Penny%5E4s%20Shaplies/PDC%204%20Point%20Sloped%20Shaplie%20Mat%202-16-2010.svg

and embossed the larger one in the Cuttlebug, cutting 3 layers of scrap cardstock in the same shape, slightly larger than the opening, and using my new “No More Shims Embossing Mat” to great effect. (Cuttlebug Sandwich recipe: A Plate, embossing piece made of scrap cardstock, card frame face up, No More Shims Mat, 2 B Plates.) The papers I used were from a gorgeous pack of scrapbooking papers and embellishments I got on Ebay a few weeks ago. I inked the edges with Tim Holtz Distress Ink in Victorian Velvet.

On the back of the frames, I stuck some of the transparent wrapping paper, selecting areas that had the smaller flowers printed on them. The larger one was filled from behind with several layers of the pink tissue paper, so that it had a cushioned effect. The smaller one was stuck over a solid shape cut from the scrapbooking paper. These frames were glued to the front of the card, the smaller one being left open at the top to hold the tag.

The tag was one of the die-cut embellishments which came with the scrapbooking papers, and the raffia was from the miniature rose gift wrapping, tied and then frayed. The Thank You sentiment was one that I cut for my other thank you cards (on the previous Hand-Made Cards post), as were the flowers, only this time I coloured them differently.

I swiped my Dried Marigold Distress Ink pad onto my craft mat and spritzed it with water, and coloured the flowers by swirling them in the ink, and dried them with my heat gun. I then swiped my Victorian Velvet Distress Ink pad onto the craft mat and used this as a palette to watercolour the markings on the flower petals, and I then spritzed them with DIY glimmer mist made from Spun Sugar Distress Ink re-inker mixed with Perfect Pearls (in Perfect Pearl colour) and water, and again dried them with my heat gun. I re-did the detail with the Victorian Velvet, using my paintbrush as before, as this needed re-defining after the glimmer mist had been applied. Finally, I edged the petals with Victorian Velvet Distress Ink.

The flowers, and some leaf trails the same as those I used on the previous thank you cards, were attached to the top of the larger frame, and the tag inserted into the top of the smaller frame. I inked the edges of the white base card with Victorian Velvet Distress Ink and then attached the card front.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Thank You Cards

Well, I’ve finished my cards! I made 15, which I thought was a huge amount, but Celeste on the Creative Inspirations group makes 45 and more at a time and would blink and miss 15!! Anyway, this is a big production run by my standards!
I am so grateful to Penny Duncan of
http://pennyduncancreations.blogspot.com
for her free downloadable .svg cut files, which I used to create the flowers for these cards – a doddle, using SCAL 2, to cut them on Jiminy, my new Cricut machine! The flowers on my previous post were made for these cards, and also the embossed gold card. They have all been sent off now, and I hope the recipients really enjoy receiving them. I so enjoyed making them, and while I was doing it, thinking of all these lovely ladies who came in and helped me while my hubby was away, and also I sent one to my GP to thank her for her support in my recent DLA application – without her support, I am sure I would not have been awarded it, and it’s such a weight off my mind.

So – if any of you are reading this – a Big Thank You to you all!

Thank You Cards Oct 10

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Dartmoor

It’s so lovely to have my hubby home again! Until the other day when my friend took me up on the moors for a drive, I hadn’t been out all the time he’d been away. Today was a beautiful day, so he suggested we went out for a drive. As it had been so nice up on the moors, I suggested we retrace our steps, and this time I’d take my camera.

By the time we got going, it was mid-afternoon, but it was better that way, because the sun was lower in the sky, and the shadows were lengthening, which is a magical time to be out, and great for photographs too.

Before reaching the moor we drove through Holne Chase, one of my favourite local places. When I was well, I used to park the car where we stopped to take this photo, and I would climb up above the road and walk along parallel to the road, overlooking the river, through the beautiful woods.

01 Holne Chase

We approached the moor via Poundsgate – the road goes up and up from the bottom of the valley, and each time you think you’ve reached the top, there’s more steep hill and twisting road to come! Gradually the trees become more stunted and less dense, and then suddenly you leave the trees behind, and you are up on top and can see for miles, in this wonderful, wild, desolate and beautiful landscape.

02 The Moors Above Poundsgate 1

03 The Moors Above Poundsgate 2

We drove over the top and then down to Dartmeet, where the two rivers, the East and West Dart, meet to form the River Dart, and then turned off towards Hexworthy. We stopped by a bridge over the river.

05 Autumn Trees Above the River Dart near Hexworthy

06 Bridge Near Hexworthy 1

There are some very pretty woods by the river.

07 Woods Near Hexworthy 1

11 Woods Near Hexworthy 3

Climbing back up onto the moors again, as we passed the Forest Inn, we spotted an ancient Celtic stone cross, one of many to be found on the moors.

13 Celtic Cross Below Forest Inn Hexworthy

When we reached the top we found a tor right beside the road, an outcrop of granite rock.

14 Tor Above Venford Reservoir 1

16 Tor Above Venford Reservoir 3

As we came down off the top, we came to Venford Reservoir, and drove over the dam, and then returned home.

18 Venford Reservoir from Above

21 Venford Reservoir 2

It was great to be able to get out, and although it was windy, it wasn’t really cold. The light was beautiful, and the sky interesting with lots of billowing clouds, and to be in the wild open spaces again was simply marvellous.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Flowers for Thank You Cards

Continuing from yesterday, I have now completed the flowers to embellish my Thank You cards. I have made 2 sizes, from one Penny Duncan's Shaplies cut files:

http://cid-599a4ab7197c18bb.office.live.com/browse.aspx/.Public/PDC%20SVG%20Files/Penny%5E4s%20Shaplies

The one I used was the 5-petal Shaplie flower. I cut the large one 1 1/2 inches across, and the smaller one 1 inch. The centre of the larger one is cut from another of her Shaplies, the 7 point flower Shaplie, 3/4 inch across.

I cut some 12 x 12 inch sheets of white cardstock filled completely with these flower shapes, and I've now saved these files, created in SCAL 2 (Sure Cuts A Lot software for use with my new Cricut machine) so that I can easily cut further whole sheets of flowers in these sizes when I want. (I spent some time arranging them on the virtual mat in the software, to use the maximum amount of card, with minimal wastage.)

For my Thank You cards, I need 2 of each size, so I've decorated 30 of each. Here are some of the larger ones:

Large Flowers for Thank You Card 15 Oct 10

and some of the smaller ones:

Small Flowers for Thank You Cards 15 Oct 10

To decorate them, first of all I inked the whole top surface of each with distress ink in Old Paper. So that the colour wasn't too strong, I swiped the pad onto my craft mat and spritzed it with water, and then swirled the flowers around in it. When this was dry, I used an inking pad to ink the edges and bits of the petals with Antique Linen distress ink. I then inked the edges of the petals, and added some definition, with Walnut Stain distress ink, taking care not to overdo it as this is quite a strong colour. To add the little veins to the petals, and some darkening to the centre of the flowers, I swiped the ink pad on my craft mat and spritzed it with water, and used a very fine brush to paint in the detail, treating the ink on my mat like watercolour paint on a palette.

When it was all dry, I took a piece of funky foam, and using my round-ended embossing tool, I embossed the petals from the back into the foam, and then, on the front of each flower, embossed down into the centre with the tool to complete the 3-D flower shape.

I then spritzed them with glimmer mist in a pale pink colour, which had the effect of toning down the brownish shade of the flowers. This has given them a slightly greenish hue which was unexpected, and which I rather like!

The centres of the large flowers I inked with Tattered Rose distress ink, and inked the edges with Walnut Stain distress ink. These were also spritzed with the pink glimmer mist, and glued to the centres of the flowers.

All the flowers then had centres added, using Ranger Stickles (glitter glue) in gold for the large ones, and Fruit Punch (a nice rich pink) for the smaller ones.

I have already cut some of Penny's Small Leaf Cluster cut files:

http://cid-599a4ab7197c18bb.office.live.com/browse.aspx/.Public/PDC%20SVG%20Files/Leaves

in two sizes, the larger one to go at the top left of the cards, and the smaller at the bottom left, and also the words "Thank You" in the same gold card that I made the backgrounds from yesterday (with the embossed script and gesso).

In order to assemble the cards, I need to cut some brown card to attach the script background and all the embellishments onto, and then the whole thing will be matted onto plain white card.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Boring Gold Card Again

You may remember a while back I was experimenting, trying to improve some boring gold card I had. I managed to produce a good result using my script embossing folder in the Cuttlebug.

Embossed Text with Gesso 

However, when I tried to replicate this the other day, I had terrible problems with it. The idea is to paint gesso over the whole card, and then rub it off the raised embossed part in order to expose the gold underneath. The problem was getting the gesso at exactly the right dryness - if it was still too wet, it would all rub off, and if I let it get too dry, none of it would - and once it's dry, NOTHING will shift it!! For some reason I didn't have this problem when I did it before, and I can remember exactly what I did - perhaps it was just a fluke and it worked that time! Anyway, all I ended up with this time, was a big mess, and quite a lot of wasted card - and gesso.

So, time to put the old thinking cap on. I've learnt that it really pays to "think outside the box." There's so much papercrafting and card-making stuff available now, and we tend to think that that's all there is, and not use materials and equipment from other disciplines. It helps to have done lots of other art and craft, and also to live with someone who does other things too, and as I was considering that perhaps the best plan was to apply some sort of resist where I didn't want the gesso, I thought of watercolour artists' masking fluid. My hubby uses this occasionally when he is painting, but he says he doesn't really get on with it. It ruins your brushes, too. I had a look online, and found some in a bottle with a very fine nozzle which I thought would be great - not only much more controllable, but also avoiding having to use a brush. It is a very useful substance. You apply it where you don't want the paint to go (for example, where you want clouds), allow it to dry, and then you paint over the whole thing. When the paint is dry, you rub away the masking fluid, leaving blank paper where it had been.

So I had a go, and it was a great success! I found I needed two coats of gesso after the masking fluid was dry, in order to cover the gold completely, and once the gesso was dry, I could rub the embossed part, and the masking fluid, now set to a rubbery consistency, would come off, taking the gesso with it.

This is the result. In this photo, you can see the pot of gesso with the small foam brush I use (gesso is also pretty ruinous to brushes and you certainly don’t want to use good ones with it – foam brushes are cheap and do the job really well). To the right is the bottle of masking fluid. In front, left to right: gold card in its original state; embossed with Cuttlebug; coated with gesso after application of the masking fluid (I didn’t photograph the masking fluid stage because although the fluid is blue in colour, it didn’t show up sufficiently to be any different); partly rubbed off; and right in front: after complete removal of the masked portions.

Embossed, Masking Fluid, Gesso 14 Oct 10

The next thing I have to do is ink the edges with distress ink as before, and then I shall paint it with acrylic gel medium to get the semi-gloss, ancient parchment effect that was so successful in my first sample.

I am making up quite a number of these, in order to make a quantity of similar cards, which I will show you when I’m a bit further on.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Jiminy Cricut

I ordered my Cricut machine on Thursday, and within an hour of paying for it, I received an email informing me it had been despatched, and less than 24 hours later, I received it! How's that for service? I got it from Smart Crafts:

http://www.smartcrafts.co.uk/epages/es117161.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/es117161_shop

and I don't think I've ever experienced such quick delivery on anything!

The machine is a limited edition blue Cricut Expression, and it came with a free 24-inch mat (the standard one is 12 x 12) and two cartridges - you were even given the choice of which cartridges, if you did not want to receive the ones they suggested. However, these seemed to have the most useful things on them so I opted for them.

It's a beautiful machine. To look at, it has sleek lines, and is embellished with a blue trim and decorative swirls. Structurally it seems very robust; it's heavy (always a good sign) and feels substantial.

I set it up this evening and did a trial run, choosing a flower from one of the cartridges, which I cut a number of times, for use on the base of my Beehive Explosion Box. I also managed to get it connected up to the computer, as I have decided that the cartridges are of limited use when you can design your own cut files, and share with others, using the free (open source) vector graphics software Inkscape, and SCAL 2 (Sure Cuts A Lot - what a fabulous name!!). These programs enable you to see exactly what you will be cutting, arranged on a virtual mat on your computer; the shapes can be edited, resized, moved, layered, and manipulated in any number of ways.

My only problem now is learning to use the software so that I can start creating in earnest! I had a very frustrating evening achieving not very much, after an equally frustrating afternoon where I didn't accomplish much either, except to make a lot of mess with gesso! (But that's another story...)

I am grateful to my friend Penny Duncan - http://pennyduncancreations.blogspot.com/ - for her excellent video tutorials on this, and many other subjects, which I am sure will set me on the right path to get this stuff under my belt. It all seems fairly daunting at present, but so many of my friends on the Art group we all belong to, are creating and sharing cut files all the time, and making the most wonderful creations from them, so I am sure it won't be long before I master these skills too!

My new machine goes by the name of Jiminy Cricut. This post is by way of welcoming him to my blog, and to all of you! He is itching to get going, but will have to be as patient as all of you before you see too many wonderful creations just yet!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

DLA (Disability Living Allowance)

I haven't posted anything for a while because I've been through rather a bad patch with my health, and also various things in my life have been going wrong, or causing me a certain amount of upset. To cap it all, my hubby is now away for nearly a fortnight, so I was really hoping things would settle down a bit because it's much harder dealing with issues on my own!

I am coping far better than I thought with his absence, and like last time he went away, he's arranged a rota of carers to come in and do odd jobs for me in the mornings once I've got myself up - things he usually does for me. It's lovely to see people because normally I don't see many people except my hubby, so it's nice to catch up with their news. Things have settled down and I'm much more relaxed now than I was last week.

Seven weeks ago I applied for my DLA (Disability Living Allowance) to be reinstated. Last time they granted it to me for two years, and initially they turned me down, despite the fact that I'd already had it for one year, and my condition had deteriorated in the meantime. After appealing, it was reinstated, and it ran out recently. I was fully prepared to have to go through the whole rigmarole of appealing once again, especially as there's so much talk about cutting back on benefits to reduce the national debt.

I made sure this time to enlist the support of my doctor, and also my occupational therapist. Both have been very supportive, and I asked my doctor to request that if my application was successful, it would be for an indefinite period, because filling in the form is so stressful and exhausting in itself, particularly for someone with M.E. I also included a covering letter to that effect.

When the dreaded brown envelope arrived this morning I almost didn't dare open it, preparing for the worst. However, it is the best possible result I could have imagined - they have reinstated the benefit at the same level as before, and for an indefinite period! I am still pinching myself, wondering when I'm going to wake up! I can't wait to tell my hubby.

They will check up on me every now and again to make sure my condition hasn't changed, but this won't be the same thing as having to reapply at regular intervals. If they think I have improved, they will reduce the amount or stop it altogether, and it is also my responsibility to inform them of any change, but that's OK.

Over the past few months I've been putting a bit of money aside to buy myself an electronic cutting machine for my papercrafting, and I was very reluctant to go ahead and order this until I was sure the benefit would be reinstated, because I still have to go on paying my home help, and I need to be putting money aside for my new Rolls Royce wheelchair when the time comes. However, now I know my disability needs will be met, I am free to get it, and I ordered it this afternoon! Watch this space for projects using this very important piece of equipment - it's going to make things so much easier, and also increase my productivity rate because you can cut multiple items in minutes, rather than cutting out each one individually by hand, which is also very tiring for me.

After everything that's gone on recently, when I was wondering what else might go wrong, this is a marvellous piece of news for me, and I can relax again. It has been quite stressful, waiting all this time for a decision, and psyching myself up for all the hassle of a possible appeal, and possibly even appearing before a tribunal. (They certainly know how to make you feel like a criminal, don't they, appearing before the bench, having to prove your "innocence"!!!) Anyway, while my circumstances remain the same, that is not going to happen now, so I am mightily relieved.