An affirming April.

April came and went by so fast!

  • Part of this is because two weeks of it was taken up by Easter. I had a lovely time, spent one week at home with Husband and another week at home.
  • Food spend is continuing to be good and we are being very frugal, keeping below our targets. Part of this is because my sister and her family were generous when I visited at Easter and sent with me a lot of meats for the freezer. In addition to this I have managed to continue to go to Foodprint and get bargains. They now have a referral scheme with the Salvation Army foodbank in their area. Customers can donate a sum which they make vouchers out of, and people visiting the Salvation Army can ask for a voucher if they’re in hardship to get food from it.
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    Lots of lovely food bought over two weeks from Foodprint, saving it from the bin. I was especially pleased to find the peanut butter. Where were you when I did my challenge in December, hmmm?

    I have started to keep a very detailed grocery log and depending in how it goes I can perhaps post it in a few month’s time to show how it’s going. Or not, depending.

  • I am thankful for my colleagues this month who have continued to be supportive and kind. One of my colleagues who works a different shift to me normally has been working with us at the weekend. It’s been so nice to catch up with her as we normally don’t get a chance to talk. Two Sundays in a row she has offered me a lift partway home which has saved me a lot of time on my commute on a Sunday night. Last Sunday her generous offer meant I had time to swing by two of the shops while walking home to get these lovely things:
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    Packs of ham, 25p each, wholewheat thins, 21p and some lettuce, 21p.

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    Lovely red peppers from Sainsbury’s, 14p each.
  • We had three full days of glorious, gorgeous, hot weather. It’s gone back to being normal spring weather now, so I have continued to peg the washing out. One night it was so cold, but we managed to resist turning the heating back on.

Things that could have been improved about April are:

  • We are still waiting for a court date for PIP. We are in May now and on the 21st of May it will have been precisely one year since we started the application process for Husband’s PIP claim. The gent who will be representing us has said it may be some time yet. Because of this, it’s holding everything up at the moment. I don’t want to book any flights home or travel until we know when our court date is. Goodness knows what people who don’t have anyone to support them do in the meantime.
  • The higher-ups at my weekday job is continuing to be vague with what will happen to one of the sites I work at on a Monday when we finish for the summer. People who work and teach there have been kind enough to tell us their departments are being moved out to other sites, and by our reasoning they will not need our services there if there isn’t anyone there. However we have about eight weeks to go until we break up for the summer and we have not yet been told officially if we are going to be there when we return in September or not.
  • Logging in to eBay after a long hiatus, I have discovered that all my listings (the unsold ones) have seemingly disappeared!

Plans for May include:

  • Having a local carpenter bespoke cupboards built into the alcoves of our bedroom, one on either side of our bed.
  • Celebrating Husband’s birthday. Still need to fully decide what to get him.
  • Reclaiming the garden.

I also want to let you know something wonderful and precious has happened.

Husband has been offered a job!

I helped him apply for a vacancy in January and spent a considerable amount of time doing it as the application form was quite complicated. At the end of it we got to the dreaded Equality and Diversity questionnaire. Now, every time we get to this, Husband and I have to discuss the nature of the job he is applying for and if it would benefit him or hinder him if we choose to disclose that he has Asperger’s Syndrome.

In our experience, even before he was formally diagnosed, declaring anything did not count in his favour for the great majority of vacancies he applied for and he wouldn’t hear anything back. Even from jobs where we have made it clear through the person spec that he has the right skillset.

But we nevertheless decided to declare it for this job.

January, February and almost all of March passed and we heard nothing. I was a bit upset by it, but mostly resigned, as it’s just something we have come to expect.

Then suddenly at the end of March, Husband had an email, inviting him to interview.

By this time Husband had been getting some good quality support from the Work Health Programme and so they spent an afternoon with him preparing him for the interview and working out good responses to give to questions they may ask. So Husband felt confident and well prepared.

So naturally he thought he’d bombed the interview.
Two people interviewed him and the person taking notes shook their head every time they put the pen to paper. Every time. For the whole duration of the interview. He then had a technical task to do which he did flawlessly and quickly. Nevertheless he left the interview feeling quite cross  and unnerved as he’d felt he had prepared well for it.

We had resigned ourselves to that Husband would get a rejection email but to our immense surprise and joy, he had an email a few days later offering him the position. It’s full time which he wants to try, but there is always the option to ask for a reduction in hours if Husband feels he cannot cope.

At this stage we are waiting for the background check and references to clear, then a contract will be offered. Once this is all done Husband will work his notice at his part-time job before starting.

Of course I, being paranoid and based on the $%^& we have had happen to us over the last year and a half, won’t lower my guard fully until Husband a. has signed a contract and b. passed his probation period.

All the same, I feel hopeful. For the first time, Husband has been offered a job despite (and I am truly sorry to say it like this, but it’s how it feels being rejected all the time) declaring that he has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Husband is overjoyed and has made statements like ‘Now that I’ll be working more, maybe you don’t have to worry so much and I can look after you’ and ‘With me working more, maybe you can work less so we can spend more time together.’

Sure, money is nice, don’t get me wrong.

But what I want above all else is for Husband to have some confidence and faith in himself again, and to be happy.

Here’s to hoping this new start can provide those things.

 

 

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A Fatigued February.

Good grief.

I thought January was tough, but that was seemingly just the warm-up for February.

February has been really tough for us.

  • I spent most of February feeling tired and overwhelmed with everything that is going on with us and our family. This culminated in me crying hysterically for the best part of two days and realizing I need some serious help with supporting Husband as I just felt like I was drowning. This feeling is not as strong now, but I can feel it’s still there, below the surface.
  • While visiting my mother and family back home during half term, we had to have her admitted as she  was very ill and they discovered she had pneumonia. She seems more herself now but is still incredibly weak. I found visiting her quite distressing as she was so confused, and I couldn’t help her or make her comfortable. The three days following it were spent walking around in a fog on autopilot.

At the same time, February had good parts to it as well:

  • Managed to forget to pay the credit card bill for January however the credit card company waived the late fees and interest as a one-off. This saved us £38.
  • The student loans department wrote to me to say we qualified to have the interest paid on my student loan written off for 2014, so that’s £1440 gone from my debt.
  • We were well under on the grocery budget – got some good reduced bargains and food at Foodprint. Also got some freebies through couponing.
  • I got to see my sister and her family, and my brother and his family.
  • My sister and her family very generously gave us a lot of meat and fish to take when I travelled back to the UK, which is helping our grocery budget a lot.
  • I managed to get six hours of free counselling sessions through the employment support hotline at one of the places I work.

Many colleagues and people on the internet have asked me about PIP and if we have got a court date yet – we are still waiting. We are in March now, and we started this process in May last year so it’s been almost a year we have waited for this to be resolved.

 

 

I need some change in my life.

This week has been very mixed.

Monday was very stressful at work, as we were down to two staff and my colleague had done her back in so I had to keep going to help her lift stuff or reach stuff.

As we were due to see the Work Health Programme coach the day after, I went home with a lump in my throat. I’d found some vacancies that could be suitable for Husband but the thought of having to sit and fill them in with him for hours filled me with dread.

Don’t get me wrong. We love each other, and as long as I have the will to live, I will support him and defend him.

But on Monday I just couldn’t.
I couldn’t face even the thought of having to do more work, after just having come home from work. And the day after that. And the day after that.

I broke down once I came home and was a crying wreck for most of the evening and the day after.

I just need some actual support, with supporting, if that makes sense?

If I am to continue going to work six days a week to support us financially, I need help.

I need more help at home keeping the house and I need help supporting Husband; filling in application forms, accompanying him places if he needs that, and so forth.

Naturally my poor mood affected Husband so when we went to the Work and Health Programme on Tuesday I cried for most of the appointment and Husband felt rubbish. As it is only the second appointment we have been to I can imagine what impression that gave of us, as the Wellbeing advisor was quite unkind and said that Husband’s problem is me. Because I work so much to support us and he doesn’t do as many hours and he feels he isn’t contributing.

We were both very upset with how they dealt with this, but will try to attend again as there isn’t anything else. Remploy wouldn’t help us as Husband is already enrolled on the Work Health Programme plus they don’t have an office nearby. The working scheme for people with Asperger’s Syndrome run by the county council can’t take him as he lives within the city limits, and it is just for people living within the county (???).

They suggested Husband applied for ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) and it is something Husband’s mother has suggested as well, it is something he could be eligible for and still keep his job.

If applying for ESA is anything like what we have had to deal with applying for PIP, I will not do it.

Having had to deal with applying for PIP and being told in effect that we are lying has brought out feelings in me I did not even know that I possessed. We started this process in May 2017 and almost a year later we are waiting for it to be resolved.

If someone else helps me fill in the form for it and takes Husband to the assessment, sure.

But I am not prepared to go through something similar on my own. I’m sorry if it makes me sound defeatist.

But it’s making me ill.

Husband bless him must have sensed how desperate I have been feeling this week, as he keeps asking if I am ok, no, if I am really ok, and keeps doing things around the house and saying ‘I’m trying to help.’ He wants to give up his counselling so I can go have some, something I have rejected as he needs it more than me. I have explained to him that the problem is that I have so much work to do, outside of work, that I am beginning to feel like it’s swallowing me up.

I think three things have to change in order to help me feel better, as I am feeling so overwhelmed:

  1. I need much more help around the house than what I am getting now. I cannot go on working as many hours I do and still have more stuff to do at home.
    I suggested a cleaner, to which Husband strongly objected. So we will sit down and go through a list to divide chores more evenly. At the same time I understand that while things might not be done to my standard (Hanging the washing on the line in a lump? Ok then?), it will still be done. I have to let that feeling go.
  2. I need help supporting Husband’s search for a job. This means I will no longer actively look for vacancies for him to apply for, but leave that with him. If he wants to continue looking for work and finds something he needs help applying for, a gent at the WH programme is available on a Thursday and Friday to sit with Husband and help him actually fill in the form and write cover letters. I will support Husband with getting familiar with travelling there so he can make the journey there eventually unaided when he feels confident enough to do it.
  3. I need a release of some kind. A friend told me she goes swimming. I am contemplating perhaps going on a Monday as I finish earlier in the day and the tram takes me to the leisure centre. I went swimming three days a week to be able to even fit into my ruddy wedding dress get in shape before and I thoroughly enjoy it when I go. Maybe that’s something I can do.

I feel more calm now. As in, I don’t feel great, but it’s not all coming out. It’s simmering a bit deeper within me.

The end of the week has been better.

As Thursday was warmer and we had bright sunshine, I took the plunge and hung a load of bedding out to dry on Friday before leaving for work. It had almost dried by the time I got home Friday afternoon and hangs on the airer upstairs in the top floor to just get it completely dry.

I also got some lovely food bargains last week and this week, which helps our budget a lot.

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Got these last week at Lidl; they are pots with a mix of barley, yogurt and juice, reduced from 65p each to 14p. They have been a boon to my lunches this week. On the left are my wraps; I decided to make three days’ worth of lunches in one go and just take them to work, saving me time in the morning. Something I think I’ll continue to do, rather than running around while stashing fruit and bits of bread in my bag in my race to get out the door.
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Got some lovely good food from Foodprint last week. This cost us £5.95 and would have ended up in the bin if they had not snapped it up.
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I managed to visit Foodprint after work on Friday and got these lovely babies. It’s 5 kgs of food we have saved from the bin, and it cost us £5.

Next week is half term and I am flying to Norway to see my family. Coach leaves at 2am on Monday morning for Heathrow (What possessed me to think this was a good idea, as I will be working 2pm to 7pm on Sunday? What?).

Hopefully I will have a chance to relax a bit.

And I will perhaps not feel so lonely.

EDIT: And to add further fuel to my feeling of not coping: Suddenly realized yesterday that I had not let my self-employed work know I am going away tomorrow (they need 2 weeks notice minimum to find cover), so I had better ruddy find a way to do the work while I’m there! And when I came home I’d gotten a letter to say last month’s credit card bill hadn’t been paid – I’d forgotten! Paid it in full immediately of course, but we have accrued £12 in late fees and £26 in interest! AAAAARGH!

 

 

Good riddance, January.

Thank goodness we’ve gotten past January – it seemed to just go on forever.

This last month has been really hard for both of us. It’s just so dark and miserable all the time, coupled with being in limbo, it really doesn’t help. Husband has stuck to his counselling which I am pleased about. We do have an employee support hotline you can ring for free through work so might do that on Tuesday. I am genuinely not quite sure how they can help though, but have promised Husband I will do it.

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The Cat, accurately describing how this month has been.

Good things about January were:

  • We managed to stay under on the grocery budget again which is great. We are continuing to eat the food my sister’s family sent with us when we left at Christmas which is helping a lot. Foodprint and getting reduced bargains have also helped us keep costs down.
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    Managed to get two packs of wraps at 24p each and a cauliflower at 24p from the Sainsbury’s Local in town. Score!

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    Food from Foodprint last week. This cost us £5.95 and it weighed 10 kilos – that’s 10 kilos of food that has not gone in the bin!
  • Husband has stuck with the counselling and says he is feeling better in himself. I am so pleased he was brave enough to go.
  • Husband’s mother went to get some advice about our PIP tribunal at her church as they do a free advice service there and the adviser will see Husband and her next week and go through our application with them. They have also agreed to represent us at the tribunal which will help as they have experience dealing with tribunals.
  • We’ve made some sales on eBay and I got two focus group/food tasting gigs last week, so that £50 in the Travel Fund and £30 in Tesco vouchers I have squirreled away. I also got a train fare refunded due to delay and went and cashed that cheque on Friday.
  • Our mortgage was up for renewal. We wanted to go with Halifax as they give you £500 cashback when you switch your mortgage to them. Buuuut they would only agree to lend us half the sum we needed, so we decided to stay with NatWest. When we got our mortgage the interest rate was 3.19, fixed until March 2018. Our new rate is 2.79, fixed until April 2020. Oh and no product fee either, score!

At the same time, January hasn’t been great either.

  • Had a weird thick envelope from the DWP with all the paperwork they have on Husband and his assessment. Surprised and cross in equal measure that I wasn’t mentioned in their report at all even though I do the most of the support stuff. And that they felt that an indication of Husband’s ability is that he has a pet cat. Note the he. I  was again not mentioned at all.
  • While helping Husband look for work I discovered that his workplace (who told us they didn’t have any hours for him in the summer, because there was no money due to parents not paying their fees) were hiring for two positions. I emailed the UNISON rep and waited over two weeks for a response. I then decided to email the other address we have for the rep and got a response – ‘oh year that email address closed in December’. Really? You have been emailing us regularly from this address, why didn’t you set up a forward on it, or at the very least got messages to bounce back so we’d know they weren’t being read? Anyway what the union has said is that this is the end of the line now. We have exhausted the internal grievance process the employer has, and the UNISON solicitors say we are out of time to take the employer to court.
  • My mother’s health is continuing to decline. My sister has said we need to meet up as a family when I go back in February to discuss what we do now. It may be that we need to take power of attorney now to ensure she gets the care she needs.
  • At my one job we have had an email to say that because they have not enrolled as many students as they had forecast, they are accepting applications from anyone in any department to either reduce their hours or take voluntary redundancy to save money. At my other job HR has informed me I have been overpaid ever since I started my job there and so I now have to choose between staying at my current annual wage but work to make up for it, or work my current hours and lose £336 a year. I contacted my UNISON rep to ask if they had any advice for me but they have not replied and it has been over two weeks. What is even the point of paying our union dues if you aren’t going to respond?
  • Had to refund two eBay purchases as the buyers have stated the items never arrived. 😡

All of this stuff has caused my mood to really dive this month.
I know it takes a while but we started the PIP process in May last year and we are still waiting. I am also very indignant at how, frankly, they lie about Husband and what support he needs. One thing I have done though is read several pages of this web forum done by the UK government on PIP and ESA assessments. Just pages and pages and pages of people who are going to tribunal or who have been incorrectly assessed/had their statements ignored. It is reassuring to know that it’s not us. That it is in fact the DWP who do this to seemingly anyone who dares try to claim PIP. I was also interested to read that Capita, the firm who did Husband’s assessment and processed his PIP claim, have issued a profit warning this week.
We got the union involved with Husband’s workplace in February and after a year of chasing them for this behaviour it just fizzles out. They’ll get away with discriminating against him and bullying him at work.

It makes me wonder why anything is worth it. What’s the point of filling in forms, documenting, giving examples, writing things properly and spending time editing it so it makes sense, and sticking to deadlines, and challenging things, if the answer is just going to be no?

What’s the point in doing anything, ever?

I have got to try and stay positive for Husband’s sake as I can tell that he gets upset when I feel this way and show it. Trying to keep it together and to be calm but it is becoming harder and harder to do every day.

This is the loneliest I have felt in a long time.

 

Last week: Varied.

Last week was a really mixed bag for us.

Husband was accepted onto the Work Health Programme and he has his appointment this week to start this off. It is the new initiative from the government to get more people with disabilities into work. The Jobcentre have sold this to us as something different as it means Husband will get personalised support. Perhaps I am cynical but I am personally doubtful this will be different to anything else we have tried – but still. Must give things a go.

Remploy also contacted us and asked if we needed support; so we will have a phone conversation with them this week.

We saw these on our way to the Jobcentre on Tuesday. It really brightened my day up and I hope it’s a sure sign spring is on its way. We need it!

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Snowdrops!

Husband has gone to another session and they have now signed the confidentiality contract for six sessions of counselling. I’m so pleased he has agreed to go, just for his own sake as 2017 was so rubbish for us. It was done on the proviso that I will go as well when my mother passes away, which I have promised I will do.

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Silver continues to squirrel away. Not bad going, considering we are only in January!

Since Christmas I have continued to squirrel things away for this coming Christmas (and also Husband’s birthday). I was very sad to read before Christmas that ciao.co.uk will no longer pay people to write reviews (even though it says in the FAQ they do, cheeky devils). I may migrate my content to a new site if it even exists, so I have been busy copying down my reviews and the images for them. I have had to do this once before as a website I used to use, dooyoo, had an update and became impossible to use afterwards. I did not expect to have to do this again for ciao.co.uk.

Thursday I had en email from East Midlands Trains, stating they would be refunding us our ticket to Barnsley as we were delayed over an hour going there. Score! We got there on time to find our train being listed on the board as cancelled. I asked at the counter to double check this was the case, and they said to wait for the next train which was leaving an hour later. As the station was very cold Husband and I went for a bite to eat and then came back an hour later – to find the train had not in fact been cancelled but had been and left without us! Thank goodness the conductor saw the funny side and let us use our tickets on the next service. And we’ll be getting a cheque in the post sometime next week for our train fare as well.

Thursday I also came home from work to find two thick brown A4 sized envelopes, both about an inch thick, addressed to Husband and myself from the DWP. I had a look through its contents and while the papers within were interesting to read as they contained all the notes on Husband including what they had recorded during his assessment. I was unsure why they had sent it to us as there was no letter at the front of the first pack, and the second pack had a letter that stated that if we wanted to discuss the appeal we had to contact the court directly.

So I assume we are still going ahead with the tribunal then?

I wonder if it is because the DWP are legally obligated to send us copies of what they send the court in preparation for the appeal. Within the pack was a letter the DWP had sent to the court stating they strongly objected to the appeal and asked them to throw the case out.

With a cup of tea I had a look through the papers and what they had written about Husband. Nothing too inspiring or surprising, bar that I was not mentioned in the report at all. Surprising as we detailed how much support I give Husband and how much I work. Until I got to the last section of the assessor’s notes. Where, under Other factors concerning ability, the assessor had written ‘Redacted owns a pet cat’.

I just felt like headbutting something and crying in frustration. Ended up ordering a pizza for dinner and going to bed at 9pm as feeling very tired and flat. Not great for moneysaving but at least I got cashback on my order – just didn’t have the energy to do anything let alone cook dinner that night as I was feeling so upset.

We have spent a considerable amount of time filling in the form and answering questions at the assessment, and explained what Husband needs support with. First of all, you do know Husband is married right, and lives with yours truly? Yes? No? Maybe? And that we do things together? Like, say, looking after the Cat?

….In fact, do I even exist in PIP land?

And secondly, how in the world is having a pet an indicator of someone’s ability to negotiate dealing with other people and travelling independently?

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The Cat, being a kitty loaf on her box. Who knew she would be so influential?

Friday I just about managed to visit Foodprint before they closed at 5pm. Got myself some lovely bargains and donated £5 to their Paying it Forward Fund so someone else can have a shop if they are struggling.

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My lovely food from Foodprint, being saved from the bin. Cartons of juice, 30p each, loaves of bread, 10p each, jar of pesto, 50p, jar of sweet and sour sauce, 40p. Two packs of Kettle chips, 70p each.

At the weekend I  worked as normal. We were given some books by my lovely in-laws so need to see what I’d like to read and what can go on FleaBay.

Jobs for Tuesday include: Writing and creating listings, taking photographs if I have the will to live. Accompanying Husband to appointment. Taking call from Remploy. Investigating why my life insurance payments haven’t gone out of my bank account, and shopping around for home insurance and broadband as both contracts expire in February.

 

 

 

A Sundry September.

September has been an interesting month.

Good points about September were:

  • We finally had the PIP assessment and grievance meeting for Husband.
  • Husband has become more confident in cooking and is thinking about more and more recipes he wants to try.
  • We got some lovely bargains reduced at the shop.
  • We were under budget on the old grocery shop. No large part due to the meat and food my sister and her family send with us when we were home in August.
  • We sold some things on eBay, everything helps for the Japan/Good-to-Have Fund!

Things that could be improved about September were:

  • Husband still has not been given any hours at the job where the grievance is. And we’ve had two letters from them which are the most unprofessional ‘professional’ letters we have ever seen, so with support of the union we will appeal their decision. This impacts on Husband’s mental health a great deal.
  • PIP still drags on. We rang them on the 10th of May to get this started so it seems to take a long time. DWP sent us their decision letter on the 28th of September. Their decision is to not award Husband PIP, and in each category, they have scored Husband 0 out of 8 or 12 points, meaning they don’t feel he needs support in these areas. I am changing between feeling tearful and incandescent about this. We are having the mandatory reconsideration and then going to tribunal about this. It does make me wonder what happens to people who don’t have anyone to advocate for them.

 

 

 

A Jam-packed June.

Where did June go? It seems to just have whizzed by.

Despite this, June has been a very calm month, which we needed. Calm before the storm methinks, as we have asked the union to send husband’s employer the grievance letter now. Not a moment to soon as his employers continue to be infuriating.

Good things about June has been:

  • The weather has been lovely, meaning we’ve got some gardening on. I was gifted some plants for the garden so will see if I can get those going.
  • We’ve been under budget for the groceries again, which I’m very pleased about. We’ve still got some left of the food my sister’s family gifted us in April and it’s been such a boon to us. I managed to get some lovely reduced food and bargains from the fruit stall near my work. I also managed to snag some freebies with our last shop with Sainsbury’s.
  • Having Sundays free now as term has finished at the uni for the summer. No Sundays at work until October now! Yass!
  • Visiting our friends for a weekend, which was lovely and just what we needed.
  • We managed to list 47 new items on eBay we cleared out from when we did the flooring downstairs, when we had to empty the bookshelves.

Things that could have been improved about June were:

  • Husband’s workplace are still being ridiculous. The second part of his review which was due to happen mid-June was postponed due to a staff meeting and they have not arranged another date. This is the 6th time it has been pushed back. Manager texting husband at midnight to ask if he can work the next day. Husband was pulled to one side this week and was told to get in touch with the union rep as they have been trying to ring them but not getting a reply. They want a meeting arranged so that they can ‘hear what he has been saying to the union about them.’

We’ve had a letter regarding husband’s PIP application to say that Capita will be handling his PIP assessment.

PIP
Hmmmmmm.

Not quite sure how to feel about this.

To finish off, here is a picture of some street art we’ve got at the end of the path by the house:

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I think these are so cool. I especially like the ‘Practice Kindness’ one.