Ice Bucket Challenge (and more)

OK, so a few days ago I received, inevitably, my #IceBucketChallenge nomination. The culprit was my girlfriend, not knowing if this craze had yet made the journey across the pond. Thankfully it had, and therefore it didn’t come as a complete shock to me.

My girlfriend successfully completed her challenge in her warm Pennsylvanian garden (or ‘back yard’, I should say). I, on the other hand, was forced to complete mine on my blustery Welsh drive, in temperatures around 12°C. Oh well, at least it wasn’t winter!

Getting all the ice cubes from the freezer, I dropped them into a bucket of cold water. I sat on the drive, propped my phone up on the food waste bin and got it over with as quickly as possible, nominating my two best friends.

This challenge led me to wonder if the creation of a challenge for visual snow could ever catch on. Imagine that sort of awareness and money becoming available to VS research. VS sufferers are currently trying to reach a goal of $50,000 for the next phase of research to be conducted by Dr Goadsby and Dr Schankin.

Their most recent publication suggested that VS is caused by hypermetabolic activity in a part of the brain called the lingual gyrus. It was a milestone for VS sufferers; but only a momentary relief to the constant irritation this condition inflicts on its victims. After all, there is still no treatment.

I have tried coming up with some random challenge ideas to raise money for VS, but have struggled to build enthusiasm for any of them, even from within the visual snow community.

So this weekend I plan to just throw myself in at the deep end (mostly figuratively, but somewhat literally) and make another video, not dissimilar to the Ice Bucket Challenge, but this will be for Visual Snow. And, VSers, this will be shared beyond the visual snow Facebook group. Stay tuned. 😀

To donate to visual snow research, visit EyeOnVision.org

Career advice from the perpetually undecided

Last week saw this year’s AS and A level students find out if their latest year of slog was worth it.

A levels, in the UK education system, are the academic courses taken by many students aged 16-18 in order to prepare them and fill the requirements for university and other higher education courses, apprenticeships and jobs.

‘Results day’ is traditionally on a Thursday in the middle of August, one week before the GCSE results are released for 16 year olds. Students nationwide receive their results on this day, and second year sixth-form students find out if they have been accepted into the university of their choice.

Talking to several A level students this year has led me to reflect upon my own experiences of further education, and the expectations imposed upon myself by my school and my peers.

Throughout high school I was an A-grade pupil. It didn’t come without effort, but I was lucky that my mum would help me with revision for class tests and standardised exams. With her help, I usually achieved good marks. Not that I was incapable of this without her help, but I would often lack in motivation and she would push me to study when I would rather play on The Sims or update my Aaron Carter fan site. (Yes, I was late to the lesbian party.)

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(The Journal; September 1, 2004)

I changed my mind several times, during years 10 and 11, about what A levels I wanted to take and what I wanted to study at university. In hindsight, the fact that these were my career decisions at the time, seems odd to me. I think for most 15-16 year olds though, not enough is known about the ‘world of work’, the careers that exist and what they involve, in order for them to make a decision about a career path. So, a lot of the higher-achieving teenagers, especially, base their decisions on the subjects they do best at, and which school subject they most enjoy. That is what I did. It is not always a bad decision, but I would encourage people to also think what they enjoy doing out of school. If I could go back and give my 16 year old self any advice, it would be:

“Forget which school subjects you enjoy or are good at. Forget the expectations of teachers and the school, based on your grades and abilities. Think only about what you enjoy doing and what you are passionate about.

Your academic achievements should be there to help you into the career of your dreams, not used as a decider as to what career you should have.”

The career software we used at school predicted, time and time again, that my most suitable job would be a dog groomer. I laughed at this result, thinking it was ridiculous. I was an A-grade student. I would surely be a member of a prestigious profession. Right?

This concept of ‘superior’ careers and what high-achievers ‘should’ do, is what, in my opinion, needs to change. Thinking back to my 16 year old self, I most enjoyed spending time with my pets and walking rescue dogs. I volunteered at a cat rescue during the summer, and edited videos of my cats. I did a work experience placement in my local zoo. A career in dog grooming would be perfect for me.

Instead, I did reasonably well in my A levels and pursued a degree in Biology. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret going to university one bit. I enjoyed university life, benefitted greatly from my new-found independence and friendships, and I got an alright degree at the end. But I couldn’t get a job in the field, my modules were a pick from several different areas of the subject and the practical skills I obtained were thus also as random. I remain perpetually undecided and still wonder whether I should forget academia and work with animals. I really do recommend following your heart, not your results day transcript. Good luck kids!

Don’t Shop, Foster!

As it is, apparently, World Lion Day, I am taking this opportunity to promote the welfare of our mini domesticated lions. Earlier this week, I decided to foster a rescue cat for the first time.

I have two adopted rescues of my own, pictured below, but the rescue centre I support posted an appeal on their Facebook page stating that they were inundated with cats and kittens right now, and urgently needed foster homes for some of their kitties, in order to be able to take in some of the many more waiting to join them.

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My adopted kitties, Nala and Panda

Since I had room in my house for another fur-baby on a temporary basis, I went along after work and signed myself up as a foster parent. As I already had the necessary home check when I adopted my first cats from there, I jumped the foster queue and was able to take my foster baby, who was actually called ‘Baby’, home that day.

On the first evening of her ‘holiday’, she was very frightened and didn’t move from her hiding place behind the litter tray. Although she was sharing a pen with another cat at the rescue, it also became apparent that she was very scared of my cats. Panda spends most of his time outdoors, whereas Nala only goes outside under supervision. But she was even scared of Nala alone, and Nala is a big baby. Having said that, Nala isn’t too clued up about the socially acceptable ways of meeting a new cat for the first time, and did proceed to walk right up to Baby and give her a good sniff all over, which probably came across as a little forward for a first encounter.

The next morning, however, she greeted me with many meows and demands for food! Clearly she isn’t so shy around humans after all! Especially when there’s food involved. She isn’t so keen on dry food though. What a little diva!

Fostering is not without it’s challenges, particularly when you have your own pets too. But it’s already proving to be very rewarding. Baby is growing in confidence and the rescue have an extra space to fill. I would definitely recommend it if you are in a position to do so. It often also leads to adoption too, which I’m sure isn’t too difficult to imagine 🙂

Baby is still looking for her forever home, and her profile can be viewed HERE.