Thursday, 29 December 2011

Recently I had reason to ask Mum for the date of my baptism. The conversation went something along these lines:
"Can you remember the date of my baptism?"
"Oh er...sometime in August 1980...I think. You were born on 6 July 1980 in Manygates hospital and..."
"yes Mum I know that bit"
"I know I am just trying to work it out...So... You were born on..." etc etc

Imagine my surprise when the same vague parent arrived for Christmas, not only had she remembered the date but also passed into my possession a copy of the original order of service, in which I am mentioned by name twice.

I sat down and read the typewritten order of service cover to cover, and I am not ashamed to say I shed a tear or two of joy. Three of my favourite hymns, particularly Be Thou My Vision, which I chose 22 years later for our wedding.

At the end of the service sheet is typed:
"Please take this service sheet home with you. Please study the Baptismal service and remember that YOU are pledged to the same promises for the whole of your life. It applies to us all.....
Christ's soldiers and servants to the end of our life. Let us never forget our duties of PRIVATE PRAYER, PUBLIC WORSHIP, EXAMPLE, AND WITNESS. Let us ever seek to grow in our knowledge and love of God and the Faith and in support for His Church.

God always keeps his promises. We must keep ours.

Renew Your Church, O Lord, beginning with me!"


For those even vaguely interested: 24 August 1980 Altofts Parish Church.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Expecting a King

I have spent some time reflecting on St. Mary, today. I am currently on a journey of discovery with God, I am currently both elated and terrified by all the possibilities ahead and so it is quite right that Mary springs to mind.

The Mary, porcelain skinned meek and mild doll of the images, for whom the image in my head is quite different.

I see a girl, barely a woman, of bravery none can measure and strength none can know. I see a girl of faith and trust. A girl that God has lifted from her lowliness, and who carried in her womb the very nature of God's redemption of the world.


Thursday, 17 November 2011

Four Years Ago

4 years ago today our lives changed.

4 years ago to so did the lives of another family, and another.

4 years ago my Little Bear came into contact with his 3rd family, Us.

4 years ago today my house filled with toys and nappies and baby gear and my heart filled with love.

Little Bear, then and now, cute toddler or complicated little boy, for better and for worse, I will love you.

Not flesh of my flesh nor bone of my bone but still, miraculously my own.

Monday, 7 November 2011

We will remember them

I watched Gareth Malone's latest choir tonight. I love choral music and I have loved his previous choirs but this one touched me, in a different and altogether appropriate way.

It's the season of remembrance, and in a way the All Souls remembrance is (for me personally) the easiest, or should that be the simplest of them all.
It's relatively straightforward to remember and pay tribute publicly to those whom one has known personally, one knows the backstory.

On Remembrance Day we give thanks for the lives and the sacrificial nature of the deaths of those I personally have had no human contact with .

Tonight, on Gareth Malone's programme I had that contact. I saw wives and partners who were left to wonder, left waiting for the knock at the door which would rip apart their very world. I shed many tears during the programme.

Afterwards, quietly I remembered those who were not there. I prayed fervently for those widowed and in particular remembered those who had been widowed during the World Wars, and conflicts since.

Tonight I realised that before Gareth Malone was a happy thought for his parents there had been military wives receiving news of the fallen.

We will remember them.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Without adoption...

~ I would be free from little bits of plastic.
~ I would spend a lot more on toys and clothes for me.
~ I would have two families to understand, the one I was born into and the one into which I married.
~ I would have less discussions about childhood special needs, attachment, trauma and loss.
~ I would have experienced less judgement about children and their behaviour.
~ I would be child-less. Not child-free in my case but child-less.

With adoption...
~ I continue to experience new and exciting toys and games without embarrassment.
~ I get to buy cool miniture clothes and marvel at the speed a child can grow at the same time.
~ I am aware of my connection through my son, to another family. Our ties are broader and have more depth. I ask questions about him in the light of them.
~ I am aware of the obstacles, the children who are different. Not odd, not wonky, not weird, just different. I accept my son's complexities and work with them. I feel empathy towards other parents with different children.
~ My shoulders are broader, I take criticism less personally, and I have become a tiger protector for my son. I am his strongest, loudest and most persistant advocate.
~ I have a person in my life who offers me so much joy, love and appreciation, alongside a healthy (for us) dose of defiant, obstinate behaviour.
~ I am a Mum, not super Mum, wonder Mum, uber Mum or yummy Mum - just Mummy.

In the wonderful words of Todd Parr:
"We belong together because you needed a home and we had one to share. Now we are a family"

National Adoption Week 2011

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Lost and Found

Today I have been reminded of how much those of us who love pets, really do love them.

Don't misunderstand me. I have dogs and rats and a solitary goldfish and I have affection for all of them to varying degrees but it is not a humanising affection at all. I love them for what they are and how they make me feel.

Today my 6 month old puppy Bobby had two "Firsts". He has not earned a degree in dogness - I refer more milestones of puppyhood. Bobby has reached that adolescent dog stage marked physically by cocking his leg against a tree for the first time today. He also got temporarily lost on a walk. One of these milestones made me think "Aww he's growing up", the other brought me to the verge of tears.

Whilst on a walk with 2 adult human friends, one human in a pushchair and one extra hound, Bobby took it upon himself to get lost. I suspect he chased off after Monty couldn't catch up and at the same time realised he had no idea where he was. Monty re-appeared without Bobby. Then a panic ensued. Whilst I stood frozen to the spot with every worse case scenario rushing through my head (stolen, lost for ever, abducted by aliens etc etc) and being comforted by my dear friend. My other dear friend went on a dog hunt and eventually found a very sensible Bobby had returned to the car. Bobby was reunited with a frantic me, and by this time an equally frantic Monty, and we continued our walk without incident.

The possibility that I had lost my dog filled me with such sadness that I bit back tears. The anguish I felt at having explain to Little Bear that he was no longer here took over from that, and the blessed relief to see his little self come skipping back up the path to meet me was indescribable.

I return home to find the sad news from David that their cat has died,
and after a quick prayer to thank God for all Stimpy brought to the Cloakes and Cloakettes, and for the loving home Stimpy enjoyed on earth. I gave my dogs a cuddle...and a sharp warning to Bobby never to run off like that again!

I don't think most of us animal lovers make our pets more human. I think the cat, dog, rat, rabbit, hamster, make US more human.

RIP Stimpy

Saturday, 17 September 2011

What do you hide?

I am reading a novel at the moment which is giving me pause for thought in many ways as it is written using the inner monologue. It's fascinating, shocking and sometimes unsettling to read these fictional characters innermost thoughts.

It is also a little frustrating to read because I can see how what they are thinking and what they are saying are so very different at times. This works in some ways as they do the sensible thing of speaking once their brain is engaged, and fails when they misjudge the other person's response and keep silent when they should speak out. All very human indeed.

I then started reflecting on the idea of the inner monologue. If my inner monologue was recorded for all to read, how would I feel?

I once swore as a child. Take a deep breath and prepare yourself for the words I uttered at a mere 14 years old in the presence of my God-mother. If you think you will be able to cope read on, for I said:

"Oh Sugar!"

The response to this deeply disturbing utterance was:

"Watch your language! I know what you were thinking."

My Godmother was probably right, I can't remember, but there is a shorter word being with S I tend to favour in adulthood. What was supprising for me was the suggestion that I needed to be admonished for even thinking a bad word let alone saying it.

That utterance is certainly not all that I would wish to keep to myself, I am sure that I have thought far more shameful things in my 31 years on this earth. I have certainly said a lot worse.

It is good to be reminded of my inner self, the thoughts that pass through my head but are never aired. I find when I come to repentance, it is the things that are left unsaid that are larger in number. Thanks be to God for forgiveness.

For I may not have my inner monologue written in a bestselling novel for the world to read but far more importantly in the words of Psalm 69:5

O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.

Memories and Confessions

I have just read an article in today's Guardian entitled "When IVF fails".

I realise when I described our journey to adoption I glossed over our decision to abandon IVF/ICSI and thought I would revisit it.

On May 5th 2005, we made our way through the hospital past the maternity wing, the balloons proclaiming "It's a girl" and the new parents with their precious car-seated cargo, into the office of the registrar to receive the results of our many and varied tests. As I was sat closest to the desk and staring pleadingly at the doctor in front of me, she in turn addressed all the findings to me. In a nutshell, we were told we had a 5% chance of a natural conception. ICSI was recommended and a 2 year waiting list for one cycle was offered, in desperation I asked how much the treatment would cost privately (we could never afford it anyway) and took away a breakdown of costs. We agreed in the office to go on the list, and we agreed in principle then and there to consider donor sperm as the best chance of conception. Then for the first time during the consultation she turned to my husband and said:
"If you wish to consider ICSI you need to go downstairs and give blood now, so that we can rule out chromasonal abnormailities." We thanked her politely and left the office, walking in silence to the clinic to have a blood test. As I sat and waited on the plastic chairs outside the clinic, I wept, I wept bitterly. A passing nurse asked "What have they done to you down there?" in a jokey fashion and I didn't respond, I had no words.

The one cycle was in front of us, if we could bear the wait and the weight. The wait for a cycle and the weight of expectation - would this be our pregnancy, our baby? We cried and talked and debated, we expressed hope in our 5% chance at least it wasn't 0%. Finally we decided that we couldn't go ahead.

The experience would be too draining, too clinical. We worried for our infant marriage and our states of mind. The chance of failure were high even with ICSI and donor sperm we would still only have a 25% chance of success. I decided my need for a pregnancy was not more important than my husband's desire to be a father - we didn't want to use donor sperm. Eventually the need in me became less for a pregnancy and a baby and more about never having a family and watching it grow and blossom as a unit.

For all the pain and heartache we once endured, I have never once regreted our outcome. Thankfully God's grace was our guide and as long as I trust in him it all (in the words of a family friend) "comes alright eventually".

Now is confession time. This month this all became pertinent again. My normally clockwork cycle was no longer clockwork and along with other symptoms, I had cause to stop and think. What would Little Bear do? How would he feel? He do I feel? Of course it was all my body playing tricks on me, and of course because I never really believed it, there was no great crushing disappointment like there had been all those years ago. It's funny though as I look back on this paragraph there is a word that is absent, and that is because it is a word that despite all that has passed under the bridge, I do not, cannot and will never associate with myself. Thanks be to God that this realisation does not bring with it tears but a sense of closure.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go - 9/11 10 years on

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that foll’west all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

A very well chosen hymn from this morning's service - which I also happen to have on my Ipod as it is just so beautiful.

George Matheson's words from 1882 are as relevant for a the tenth anniversary of 9/11 for any Christian as they were when they were written.

Christian hope and God's astounding Grace abound, and the words form a comforting blanket a reminder of God's presence always.

No more of my words are needed.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Happy Sunday

This morning at 6.40am I wished my Twitter followers an Happy Sunday! I thought it would be good to reflect on what that short phrase has meant for me over th years. This is where it all began:
St Lawrence in the Square, Winchester. This church was my spiritual home during my first few years away from home - the university years. I used to call home every Sunday and wish my Mum and Dad a Happy Sunday after worshipping at St Lawrence in the morning and my only decent meal of the week, a pub roast! Sundays were for me then at least, a time of joy and sadness. I loved to worship at St Lawrence' but I was at my most homesick on a Sunday too. Occasionally after having been deep in prayer I would glance up towards the altar and be surprised to see it was not Dad presiding. I would enjoy a pub meal with friends but actually would have preferred to be at home at my parent's table. So with the advent of mobile phones, Happy Sunday was easier. Instead of waiting untill after worship and lunch to queue for the payphone and call my parents I could send a text. As Mum and I continued to do long after the Winchester part of my life had been completed. So Happy Sunday one and all, whether you are presiding, leading, serving, reading, interceeding, singing, playing music, worshipping in the congregation. Happy Sunday also to those whose Sunday does not involve a time of worship.

A prayer for all those who are off to university, and leaving their 'home' church behind for a time:
God of all, Protect and stengthen all those who are at transitional phases in their lives, Be with those new adults who are venturing into the world alone, May they find a spiritual home from home, and feel your presence with them, May all their Sundays be happy ones! In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

"I was in the bathroom and I noticed there was water in the bath."

We have a problem with our cold tap at the moment. If someone requires a bath they need to run it hot a couple of hours before it's needed and leave it to cool. My husband fancied a bath this evening so once our son was in bed, he ran a bath. Fast forward half an hour and Little Bear takes a trip to the loo. The above statement was shouted down the stairs at a ridiculous volume. What Little Bear really meant from that statement was a question.

"Why is there water in the bath and more importantly is the bath for me?"

This illustrates a vital point that our eloquent 5 year old has yet to grasp. If you have a question which needs answering, say what you mean!

I have regularly been in the presence of people who say a lot but rarely what they mean to say. It is frustrating. One feels that they should always be using their psychic ability (or lack of it) to determine what is going on behind the bluster. It's very tiring.

So for the love of all things earthly, please Little Bear and everyone else, say what you mean and mean what you say. Alternatively you could try an interpreter, sub-titles, morse code, or psychic Sally - because I am no bloody use at all.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Hairy Scary

I hadn't realised until today, dear reader, I have been cultivating a moustache. If I had known I may have fashioned it into a handle bar and made it a feature.

A chance to shop alone is a glorious thing, and a cheap boost to my self esteem is to combine a (window)shop with an eyebrow shape. I am not a girly girl but I do have genetically wayward eyebrows and the chance to force them to conform is readily accepted.

I sat down, in full view of the assembled shoppers, and said "Eyebrow shape please". The lady charged with fuzz taming responded readily to the challenge and bid me be seated. She then said unto me "Upper lip also?"

"YOU WHAT?!?!?!" is what I would have said if I wasn't so horrified that I was growing a moustache so obvious that the threading lady pointed it out!

What I really said was "Oh..erm...does it really need it?" "Oh yes!" she emphatically responded! Gutted.

Then followed pain like I have never experienced before. She brought tears to my eyes which rolled down my cheeks! Her response to my emotion was "Have you not had this done before?!" in an incredulous tone. May I repeat - gutted!

Eventually she finished and began my eyebrows and they look wonderful. I probably wont use that particular beautician again though... her chair-side manner needs work. My pride is rather bashed!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Complicated Change

The school holidays have begun in earnest and for the last couple of days Little Bear has been testing the water. I would say that he is 50% emotional and defiant and 50% bloomin' lovely. Change doesn't suit Little Bear at all.

We are back to square one with the "good thinking", he is conveniently deaf and conveniently mute at times, and when all else fails he bursts into tears!

In between the drama, he is brilliant. He showcases all his newly developed talents. Intricately drawn lizards and dinosaurs, imaginative stories about made-up adventures involving his teachers, hugs and kisses and gentleness with the animals.

Heres to another 5 and a half weeks of unpredicatable brilliance with my Little Bear!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Tattoos - Love 'em or hate 'em?

I was on my favourite forum this evening and got drawn into a discussion about tattoos. Love them or loathe them.

There seemed to be an array of opinions:

I hate them, they look horrible, trashy, cheap, always wanted more, small and subtle only, cool design then, would no doubt be a little bit shit now, I love them, could never decide what to have, etc, etc.

For me the last one is the most important. I love my tattoos. I like the idea of a half sleeve floral design but wouldn't have it meant something to me.

My first tattoo is the least fashionable or indeed exciting as a piece of art. I chose AΩ because at the time I felt a cross was a Christian symbol misused by fashion. I wanted a sign of faith rather than the possiblity that the cross would be misinterpreted as just decoration. I was reading my husband's study bible and in it he had a bookmark with the design on it. I looked up the passage. "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending." Yes, I thought that is my faith! I popped across the road to the tattooist and 15 mins later there it was on my arm. With the benefit of hindsight, I realised that when I had been shown it in the mirror I was so nervous he could have tattooed anything and I wouldn't have noticed! The tat was really lower down my arm than I would have liked, nevertheless I was very proud of it and still am. It has been the trigger for numerous convesations about faith and that was my aim.

My second is my husband's name on my shoulder. Not long after our infertility was diagnosed, he bought me my eternity ring. I wanted to return the favour and give him another lasting symbol of my love. I realise to some it appears cheap and tacky (and I have been told this) and I really, quite honestly COULDN'T GIVE A SH*T, because that doesn't change the meaning to me or to my husband.

Then when little bear arrived, I didn't want to add his name. Only because I felt more than one name on me and would read like a war memorial! We used to read a series of books to him at bedtime, and these books had a recognisable character - Little Bear. I decided to have Little Bear added to my other shoulder.

My fourth tattoo is by far the best designed and most visually attractive, it's Dad's memorial. I spent alot more on this and went to a great artist. When had my first tattoo, Dad's only comment was "Oh, if I had one I would've had a shamrock". So I had the cross I didn't want the first time around, and inside it a shamrock. As another link to my Dad's Irish identity I added "le gra go deo" underneath or "with love forever" in English.

They are my tattoo stories and have deep meanings for me. So when I am older and my arms are not what they were I shall not be showing them off, but neither shall I be ashamed of my tattoos. As age will not diminish the reasons behind each one of them.

Friday, 22 July 2011

We made it!

I have reflected on Reception already so this post is just a last day of term offering, of top tips. Tips for ensuring your child (particularly if that child is not neurotypical) has a good year at school.

Tip 1: Preparation is the key - visual calenders marking down the days to the next change. Talking about school, talking about expectations positively (even when you know deep down there may be some difficulty in achieving them).

Tip 2: Work with the school - if they are great and helpful co-operate. Ask what you can do, offer ideas from home. If they are not so helpful... well, this is a situation that sadly many people struggle with but I am not qualified to offer advice as Little Bear's school have fallen over themselves to be accomodating.

Tip 3: Broad shoulders - easier said than done. Cultivate the broadest shoulders you can manage. It is hard to hear people criticise you or your child because of their behaviour. It becomes a problem when you are taking the criticism onto yourself personally. This leads to some level of resentment towards your child, and a vicious cycle begins. They do know when you are embarrassed and ashamed of their behaviour, and for a child like Little Bear the shame was a hideous knock to his self-esteem.

Tip 4 The only way for me personally to manage the above, was to leave all problems at school. No recriminations at home for behaviour in school. School had disciplined and apart from a brief relaxed converstaion so that he knew we were aware and had the same expectations, what happened at school stayed at school. The following day was always "another day".

Tip 5 Have a sense of humour. My sense of humour is rather silly, I don't mind admitting. It helps me not to take myself or any hard knocks too seriously.

Tip 6 Now I realise for this one, a person needs to be keen on the God fella to be comfortable but I am and these are my tips! So tough! :) Prayer! Never forget to pray, as I walked away from the school each morning after drop off, I prayed that God would be with Little Bear that day. This is not something reserved for kids with difficulties either. Everyone could do with a few arrow prayers on their behalf at the start of a busy day. Myself included.

So we have come to the end of my no means exhaustive and very personal list of tips. Thank you to all who remembered Little Bear and indeed my family as a whole in their prayers this year. We hope for a happy transition into Year 1 for my bear and school have certainly been working with him to help achieve this.

My thoughts and prayers are with all those in transitional periods of their lives. Particularly thinking of new schools, new year groups and new teachers.

Have a lovely summer!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Friends or Acquaintances

Technology is great! I like the information available at my fingertips, I like the easy connectivity of social networking, I like being able to show pictures of my dogs or holidays to my friends in an instant.

I used to be regular of Facebook, but these days I use it mainly as a photo sharing website and to publicise my blog.

I use Twitter in a far different way, as a daily communication, a means of accessing the outside world. I read opinion on the issues of the day, I offer and receive prayer from twitter contacts who share a connection with this God chap. It causes me to stop and think, on a fairly regular basis.

Now there is Google+ and with this the option to place all contacts into different circles, almost a ranking system. This ensures that certain people see certain feeds and therefore others do not. This has been cause for debate on the nature of friendship. What does it take for a person to be in the friend group rather than in the acquaintances group? How is my relationship with these people different?

In the world outside the internet, otherwise known as 'real life' I have few personal friends. Before you go all soft and worry about lonely old me, allow me to qualify that statement. I have few personal friends because in order for me to classify someone as a friend I have to have made a serious emotional connection with them. On the other hand I have many very lovely and special acquaintances. I care about all the people I am in contact with in this mortal life, they are in my prayers, I wish them well, I enjoy their company, this does not necessarily mean that they are all therefore my closest friends.

I recently had a look at my facebook friends list, and after having a look, I decided that it was time to do some reordering. There was no point having people on my list to 'make up the numbers' a sort of popularity parade left over from teenage years, if they were on the list and they never interacted with me nor I with them then they were removed. At present 99.9% of facebook contacts, are people I have met in real life. However the percentage of those who fit into the friend category as I see it, is very very much smaller.

My twitter accont is very different, the vast majority of people I follow and/or am followed by I have never met in the flesh. However, I appreciate their tweets, I am challenged, comforted, and entertained by them and I get to know people just that little bit better through reading their tweeting.

Google+ is only in its infancy - I barely understand the mechanisms of it, and at the moment in my account, like facebook, everyone is a friend. I am not sure whether a new social network would add anything to my online existance and am only tentatively involved. To separate everyone (I only have about 5 contacts at the moment anyway) into groups seems rather lacking in point. I don't feel it is appropriate to talk about sensitive subjects (i.e. subjects one is not comfortable sharing with anyone other than their closest friends) in great depth on a social networking website. I also value transparency, bitching behind other's backs belongs in the playground. So for these reasons my friends and acquaintances will be remaining mixed. As they are on Facebook and Twitter. If I don't trust them - I wont add them. Simple.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Fragrant or just plain smelly?

What's your favourite smell I wonder?
Smell is such a big thing for us all, we can be drawn to or repulsed by smells. We can find them comforting or concerning, attractive or not so attractive. Each person has a different view of the same smell.
Fresh coffee, roast dinners, the smell of the grass after it has rained; these are all appealing to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if they also feature on many other people’s lists too. They may make me smile, or salivate but they don't comfort and console. The smells which have this affect on me are less likely to be shared with another living soul.
When I was a child I had a cuddly bunny rabbit who had very long ears. I used to take this toy to bed, and with my thumb firmly fixed in my mouth, my two first fingers would hold her ears to my nose. Yellow bunny’s smell comforted and reassured me, and for a long time I would continue this ritual at night (and occasionally in the day if poorly or sad) . The rabbit sniffing continued way longer than the thumb sucking, and although I never suck my thumb these days I don’t mind admitting that a cuddly rabbit’s ears still get the occasional sniff!
Another very homely smell for me is that of a church. Now, before you call in the medics and have me assessed, may I just point out that I do not actively sniff anything. I merely step into a church and the deeply familiar smell makes it feel like a homecoming. This applies to any church, large or small, medieval or modern, cathedral or kirk, incense or none (although the lingering smell of incense is an added bonus for me).
When I was a child we sang the odd worship song, I mean odd as in occasional but one could also apply that word to some of the lyrical content. The Graham Kendrick track, May the Fragrance of Jesus used to make me titter. What is Jesus’ smell? We would ask ourselves. If we don’t know the answer to this, how will we know when it fills this place?
As far as I am concerned, for me an aspect of the fragrance of Jesus is the smell of home-coming. The smell I encounter when I step on Holy ground, and Jesus draws me to him and says “S, you are mine, you are safe and I love you” This is not the only place to experience this love, and so experience the fragrance of Jesus, in many ways for me it is the most obvious. It is also only one of my God given senses at work in it.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Reflecting on Reception

Last week seemed to be the time for school reports and Little Bear was no exception. A truly fabulous school report, which highlighted all the wonderful progress made this year. I am proud of his achievements in one year, proud of the staff at his school, and relieved that I feel so much more confident about the coming September than at this time last year!

Today is Day 2 of 2 taster sessions for the new Reception intake. I remember taking Little Bear in for this session (he had missed the first one thanks to chicken pox), he was nervous, I was nervous, it was a bundle of nerves. We were met by the smiling lovely face of Miss P the teaching assistant, who assessed the situation in one glance and guided Little Bear in to his first activity. Then I went home, worried for a couple of hours, and went back for lunch with LB in the school hall. He wriggled on his seat, ate very little and we had seats to spare all around us. I was relieved to take him home after lunch.

On the way out of the playground that first time, the conversation went as follows:
Me: "Did you like school"
LB: "It's better than nursery, Mummy, they are going to help me to be good."

They have certainly done just that, but more importantly they have shown him that he is worth the effort, and that there is more to him than the difficult behaviours he sometimes exhibits.

As a parent, I am aware that he is a big mixture of personality, extra needs and complicated history. He is wonderful, intelligent, perceptive, loyal, kind, difficult, obstinate, impulsive, cuddly but most importantly of all he is who he is Little Bear.

As he practised the "good thinking" he was taught, he made friends, and his self-esteem was boosted once again.

So this post is dedicated to teachers, teaching assistants, and other support staff. They are to be treasured, cherished and appreciated. In an ideal world they would offer all children no matter who they are, where they are from, and how they behave the same treatment as Little Bear. Academic learning is so important but for some children a greater need, particularly in their Reception year is the emotional support they receive which enables them to perform to the best of their ability.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Voyage

This song is one of our songs. It never fails to make me cry (in a nice happy way). Enjoy :)

"Life is an ocean and love is a boat
In troubled water that keeps us afloat
When we started the voyage, there was just me and you
Now gathered round us, we have our own crew"
On our wedding anniversary, I give thanks for our journey so far, pray for the voyage to come, and celebrate with great joy, that with Little Bear and the dogs, the Curate and I continue on with our "own crew". 

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Beanbag on your head!

A tall, athletic teacher leads he group of gangly Year 6 children out on to the field. For Miss P this is one of the highlights of the teaching year, a chance to demonstate her P.E. prowess, to show how well her class can perform on the field.

In that class is a tall gangly 10 year old, one of the youngest in the class and still head and shoulders taller than them all. She walks on to the field looking down at her P.E. pumps, and out of the corner of her eye straining to see if her mum is there to watch. She sits down on the damp grass and waits her turn, her turn to demonstrate how she hasn't really gained enough contol of her longer than average limbs yet. Her little self esteem ready to take another knock when she yet again comes last.

Soon it is time to line up on the start, may as well get it over with. She looks over to the table of medals and trophies and would dearly love to win one herself. Off they go! She runs and runs as if her legs depended on it, but of course the egg falls off the spoon, the skipping rope tangles and she is always last. No medal for her again this year, Miss P shakes her head, but at least it's over.

Now this girl has become the Mum watching on the sidelines. Anxious, and experiencing the same sense of dread and doom as she did over 20 years ago. This time it's different, the child is a boy for a start. He walks out confidently on to the field, waving. He giggles excitedly and wiggles about because he can never stand still,. It's noisy and out of routine and he sits with his house not with his class. His turn arrives and he lines up ready. Off they go! He runs and runs but like his Mum his gangly limbs aren't athletic just yet and like his Mum he is last. Last but happy, a hug from an older child and a sticker for particpating for everyone (winner gets house points). His Mum sheds tears of joy and pride.

Then it's time to exercise some demons. The Mums race is announced and now is the time to say goodbye to memories of Miss P and school sports days of old and bring it back into the now. A tennis racket is produced and a ball to balance on it, oh and a beanbag for her head. Off they go! She runs and balances and comes in last behind the sporty mums and their trainers and shorts. She did it! It was fun! Most importantly her smiley boy was pleased she had tried.

More dog tales...

Thanks to Vic the Vicar for his comment on yesterday's blog post. It is always great to read comments, indeed reading other people's reactions to my ramblings is often more fun than the rambling itself!

I wasn't planning on blogging this morning but as Blogger has seen fit to repeatedly refuse to let me respond to comments, I thought I would write another dog related post in response.

We have ended up (by chance rather than by design - although I think God is more likely than chance personally) with two very amusing and slightly dotty dogs. We adore them both even though their actions are sometimes beyond our understanding. Bobby is only 9 weeks old, he is forgiven for chewing, mouthing, weeing in the wrong places, etc. These are not personality quirks they are just the behaviours of a puppy. Monty on the other hand is, at least physically, an adult dog. He has many idiosyncrasies (although we do not deny our part in creating them as we have raised him).

To answer Vic's question, Monty does indeed sleep upside down. This is his favourite and most relaxed position - a position he rarely adopts when we are in new and unfamiliar surroundings. It is a little off putting, especially to guests or when one is eating, as in this position all modesty is lost and his "gentleman's area" is displayed in its limited glory.

In answer to the question about opening doors, no we haven't witnessed Monty open a door. He has been known to move the table we use to block the stairs when we are all in bed. The reason the table is there in the first place is due to Monty being completely incapable on letting us know when he needs to go to the toilet. If he is desperate he will push past and go downstairs to leave a puddle by the back door. These days I have become accustomed to this, and so like a parent alert for their child's cry, even the slightest movement makes me leap out of bed and rush downstairs to open the door for him. Very relaxing....NOT.

Many years ago, when I lived at home, we did have a problem with animals opening doors, but even then it was discovered the cat and dogs were working as a team. The cat threw himself on the door handle to release it and the dogs pushed, and all hell broke loose! Mum asked a friend to help, and for years all our door handles were vertical!

Monty loves to run off the lead and has brilliant recall, if we happen to have a ball. He would play fetch all day given the choice. He is occasionally distracted by squirrels or rabbits and careers off after them at speed only to return minus the ball which he has dropped in his excitement. Then some frantic searching later and we can continue on our way!

He loves to swim and is now quite accomplished and he doesn't chase the ducks (unlike one of my parents labs). However he hates the bath!

Monty sleeps on the floor in our bedroom on his mat, and at the first sign of us stirring he jumps up on the bed and goes back to sleep. He's very fond of sleep.

Monty is an accomplished thief, although again I have met worse. These days he is only likely to steal if he feels neglected. The kitchen sides have to be completely cleared before we can go out and leave him otherwise he will clear them for us. We came back from church one Sunday morning to find he had chewed and spread all over the floor a very large pack of filter coffee - it was everywhere! He is also partial to sponge scoureres, tea towels and the odd plastic dinosaur. The first time he ate a marble I was very nervous untill it passed safely through - and no Mother I did not disinfect it and return it to the child!!!

He has reeked some damage in the study as a puppy, but only destroying an old chair. No cloak eating here! A childhood dog once ate my Dad's Parson's Pocketbook - He caused weeks and weeks of confusion and phone calls to funeral directors and wedding couples which included the phrase "Sorry, the dog ate my, he did really eat my diary!" We have got off lightly so far.

I hope you enjoy the dog antics, no doubt I will have more as Bobby grows - it's double trouble now!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Greedy Pup

We have treated him well, and made many mistakes along the way no doubt, but at 2 yrs old Monty the doodle is the softest dog in the world...ever! I show only the smallest bias! He barely barks, even more rarely loses his temper and cannot bear to be more than 6 feet away from us at all times - dream dog you may think. Well, really so do we. He is a gorgeous dog with the softest temprament.

Now young Bobby has come to join the pack.

Monty has taken to Bobby very well, he has issued a few warning growls when he is disturbed from the important business of sleeping by a bouncy puppy, but hasn't snapped at him at all.

Over the last couple of days Monty and Bobby have become very friendly, and engage in rough and tumble play, at one point last night Monty had Bobby's whole nose and face in his mouth! Although this is typical dog behaviour and quite happy, we are a little nervous because of the size difference. Yet Monty appears to be aware of Bobby's dimunitive stature and avoids landing on him. Bobby has no such qualms about Monty and runs around trying to hang on to the fur around Monty's chin.

The only point when I wish Monty would stand his ground a bit more is feeding time. When I was growing up, if one of the other dogs dared to put his nose anywhere near his elder's dish there would first be a warning growl, and then a snap. It's just good dog manners. I am not talking here about food related aggression at all, if we tried to remove the bowl mid eating that would be tolerated, but another dog sniffing around it would certainly not do! However gentle Monty just relents and lets Bobby take over until we forcibly move him away to his own dish and encourage Monty to continue. As I said, he is very very soft.

So I shall be frequenting online pet retailers to find an elevated bowl for Monty, and a bowl to slow Bobby down. Otherwise I will be forced to restrain Bobby at meal times, or do what I did last night, and hold Monty's bowl up for him just out of reach.

Bobby the Labrador X Daschund certainly takes after his Labrador ancesters when it comes to greed!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Catalogue of Errors

I think I may be a little tired this afternoon:

  • Whilst preparing food for the dogs, I turned to mix one dish and dropped the big dish on the floor sending half its content across the tiles. Bobby the puppy then proceeded to hoover it - great you may be thinking, problem solved. This was not the case, the food was for the adult dog Monty who allowed his food to be snatched up by littlest.
  • Then whilst washing up I picked up quickly what I thought was an empty bowl and send the dogs water across the floor creating an impromptu paddling pool.
  • Whilst I was distracted clearing up the mess, the puppy did his business on his rug in the corner.
  • I cleared this up and put the rug, and my slippers he had attacked earlier into the washing machine, and whilst attempting to poor stain remover into the little plastic thingy, I managed to spill it across the top of the washing machine. This required a bowl of water to clean up as it is the gel stain stuff.
  • On the way up to read stories with my lovely little boy, I turned into my bedroom too early and walked into the wall.
  • On the way in to kiss said child goodnight, the belt loop of my jeans caught on the door handle bringing the door back at speed into my arm.
So you can see why I am quite nervous to leave the safe confines of my sofa this evening - just in case I walk into, trip over, slosh about anything else.

This is why I am a laughing stock within my extended family and my brother refers to me by the nickname "Unco" as in unco-ordinated.

I will stay safely here for now then.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Why now?

I finally felt inspiration for a title - only took 12 hours. Good job I am not a novelist!

I was alerted to some very interesting statistics via The Ugley Vicar and  Maggi Dawn which pose an equally if not more interesting question. Why is God calling younger men and older women? I urge you to read the blogs above for a more eloquent response to this question, however I thought I post this as my personal point of view. As if it is God's will I may be part of similar statistics at some point.

To make this topic personal I need to ask the question a little differently: Why did I get to thirty without exploring my sense of call in any serious way (despite the fact that I have sensed God wanting to use me for His service in some way since I was mid to late teens)?

  • I was always aware of my need for God, I was unaware of his love for me until mid-twenties. When I say unaware, of course knew God cares how I lived and behaved and my need to confess my misdemeanors and receive absolution of them. I was aware of a loving God but it didn't hit me that God LOVES me.
  • I never knew what I wanted to do with my life. Although acutely aware (usually after the event) of God's presence in each and every part of my life good and bad, I was waiting for that final push. A bolt of lightening and the national lottery "It's You!" advert happening directly to me. I focused on making enough money to live on but never career driven at all, hated the cut-throat aspects of business and could never be an apprentice for Lord Sugar. I focused on doing the task I was given to the best of my ability whilst simultaneously trying to make it as straight forward for everyone as possible. A stressful approach in retail but one I consciously chose. I also spent as much if not more of my time helping volunteers who worked with me and my paid colleagues with their personal problems/difficulties  as I did my actual work. I wanted to help. I wanted them to have some idea of this unfailing love and acceptance I had found in God through me.
  • I had many many great clergy role models, people for whom Christ really shines through, but only a couple of these were female and all were a couple of generations (at least) ahead of me. Although both my parents supported the ordination of women the actual lack of evidence of women as priests in my day to day church life had an impact on the discernment of my own calling.
  • As a clergy child, I also spent most of my time worshpping in churches where the president at the Eucharist was my Dad, that also affected my idea of the CofE and my place in it, both positively and negatively.
  • Times and circumstances. I married young with the full intention of starting a family and continuing to produce children until we felt our family complete. By the time we realised we were going to be going down a different route to children my darling husband was actively discerning his own call. I talked a lot during that time about supporting his journey (including to the DDO) and it was privately difficult for me to talk about "him" and God all the time but not even the Curate knew that. My support was and is sincere in the truest possible sense, but I am no longer limited by it. I do not need to keep quiet for fear of "stealing his thunder" in some way. However as things stand I am aware that I will continue to play "second fiddle" to a certain extent and I am content with that. I wish to add as a response to the comments posts that second fiddle in this context is not meant to be negative. If it is God's will I would wish for a joint ministry in which my husband and I could offer our own unique gifts. I feel that the Church of England is still getting to grips with married couples in ministry and suspect a reasonable amount of give and take will be required for us to fullfil joint and individual callings. This is in no way suggesting that it should be so for all/any other clergy couples. Neither does it suggest that men should automatically take the lead. However as God has seen fit to lead us to one another and we gave ourselves to each other in marriage, I would see fit to defer to the sure and constant guide for the next stage of my journey.
  • I needed a nudge, a direct nudge from God that was too difficult to ignore. No lightning bolts or pointing fingers though, just God saying "You are good enough, I want you." On Maundy Thursday this year I heard that and have seen our Vicar and the DDO.
This seems a bit long and rambly and probably of limited use. We shall see, and if so I shall edit! :-)

Saturday, 25 June 2011

History Repeating Itself

One October night 15 years ago we had a special delivery. Seven puppies arrived in their crate. They were small and perfectly formed and looked like funny coloured miniature dachshunds to begin with.  They had come into rescue after an accident between a newly formed couple and their non- neutered Labrador and Dachshund. 15 year old me was overwhelmed with joy, they were perfect. Our two Labradors Katie who was about 11 at the time, and Bruce aged 9 years, were not as keen but they coped! The little bundles of fun chased the cat, chewed everything they could get their paws on, and used Bruce and Katie as live dog beds. For a time, we had 9 dogs in the house! It was truly crazy.

Jack was the only completely blond one, and we named him after the Leeds United legend Jack Charlton, he was going to stay in our family. Eventually the others were re-homed and it was Bruce, Katie and Jack (and Johnie the cat).

Jack was a prolific chewer, aluminium saucepan lids were no obstacle, kitchen lino was mere paper to his super sharp teeth. When he ate Dad's diary, I had to remove him from the house for his own safety! The diary was the straw that broke the camel's back. However he was still a joy and a delight and lovely to be around.

We moved when Jack was 4 years old, by this time elderly Katie had been put to sleep, and Bruce was slowing down measurably but Jack was full of life! He loved Bruce deeply and was his little blond shadow at all times, when Bruce died, he was very distressed.

Then when Jack was 9 my Dad became very ill and spent long periods in and out of hospital including a long stint at Kings College London. Mum decided that a friend of hers who dogsitted could take Jack on permanently. Her son re-homed Jack and he went to live with Dino another big dog friend until Dino's death a couple of years ago. Jack remains with his new owner, he is slowing down now as he is nearly 15. Mum sees him regularly though and delights in informing us of his exploits!

The other day I was browsing the Internet for no other reason than boredom, I looked up puppies for sale in this area. The third advert caught my eye. Labrador Dachshund Cross puppies born on the day of the royal wedding. I gave the lady a call, and sure enough her show Labrador had been in season, kept safely away from the other pedigree labs as a litter was not desired, and the household's pet daschund had managed the impossible! I of course, knew that this was by no means impossible!

So after wanted a second dog for a long time, on Monday we are collecting a new Labrador Dachshund cross who shall be called Bobby in homage to the other Charlton named Dachsador, from my previous life! I can't wait!!!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Health Scares Can Seriously Damage Your Health

The media loves a good health scare to attempt to worry the nation into a frenzy. Tell me please Mr Newspaper, what may I eat, drink, smell, see today which may kill me? If they all are to be believed we would be existing on a diet of brown rice, (cooked in water from a bottle which wont leak chemicals) from a saucepan which wont leak metallic particles into our boring culinary experience. Ok so I may be being a little sarcastic here, just a tincy wincy little bit.

There was a very amusing discussion about the latest of these scares this morning at coffee after the 9.30 service. Half a dozen of our congregation were sharing the news that over 65s should limit their alcohol consumption drastically. A number in the group were debating whether they should guzzle merrily this year because they would soon turn the magic age of 65, when the would need to cut back on their alcohol consumption! Many more were sharing stories of elderly people they new who got through tankers of Guinness a week and followed that with a whisky chaser as a night-cap and yet lived to their eighth or ninth decade. Interestingly when I googled the story, the top two reports were from the Daily Mail (that well known medical journal). On closer inspection it appears that the suggested intake of 1.5 units for men and 1 for women over 65 has come about because of a concern about 'hidden addicts', over 65s with alcohol dependency issues. This is surely a whole other topic, guidelines don't cure addicts!

Anyway, I and many others will no doubt continue to take the media's scares with a large pinch of low sodium salt, and use common sense, medical advise and the world health organisation to help each and every one of us decide our own risk factors. 

Saturday, 18 June 2011


It's Father's Day tomorrow and I have been unsurprisingly thinking about my Dad again.

Dad's hands were very special (obviously the rest of him was quite nice too). Mum apparently "fell for his hands". They were always soft, and beautifully proportioned (unlike Mums). Right into adulthood I would hold Dad's hands when we were out and about. Mum on one side of Dad, yours truly on t'other. I spent many hours holding his hand in various ICU units over the years, and held his still warm hands just after he died as I said goodbye. So I wrote a little poem I have dedicated to Daddy's lovely hands. It's not perfect but it pleases me so I shall share it with you.

Sending Father's Day wishes to Dads who are still here with us in this life (including my lovely Father in Law David and my God-father Kenneth) and those who are already with their Heavenly Father.

The long slender fingers of hands
that hold their perfect fit, firmly,
holding close.

The gentle grip of hands, hold a baby
hold safely, and nervously, new father
rocking his daughter.

The secure hands that hold an evening pipe
and tap down the baccy, holding the bowl
smoking slowly.

The hand that grips his daughter's tightly
as he walks her down the aisle to wed
shaking gently.

The hands that hold aloft the Host,
Raised in blessing, anoiting with oil,
sharing peace.

The hands his daughter strokes gently,
Kisses the bruising and swelling
wounding needle.

The hands awaiting one last kiss,
Mother caresses, daughter holds them,
kissing goodbye.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Reflecting on Birthdays

Little Bear is 5 today, a time of great excitement for him and great joy at the extra attention and presents he receives and rightly so. He asked this morning if he had any more birthdays this year, and it was explained that we all have one birthday celebration - it is on the day we were born. This was accepted and he continued to admire his presents pile. This is the only birthday which Little Bear has celebrated with us, which has passed (so far) without any behaviour meltdowns, and for a child who is adopted this aspect of birthdays is not unusual, so therefore I have lots more reason personally to celebrate this year.

It did get me thinking about what a birthday celebration means, and I would like to share my own personal thoughts.

As a child a birthday was to celebrate getting a year older, I counted through the year in fractions until the day dawned and the postman arrived with my lovely cards. That was it.

As a adult a birthday still means another year older, but that isn't greeted with as much relish as those childhood birthdays. A birthday also offers me a chance to look back nostalgicly to my own birth, and root through my photographs of babyhood giving thanks for the people who helped (giving God some credit there) to give me life.

As a married woman my birthday is also my wedding anniversary and I get the chance to admire the wedding video (in private). Two doses of nostalgia for the price of one!

As a Mum, and particularly as an adoptive Mum, my child's birthday is a real source of mixed emotions. I am proud of the person my Little Bear is growing into, and of the great changes that occured in the preceeding year. I rightly celebrate his excitement, and do not shirk from explaining the meaning of the day to him, even when I was not a factor in that part of his life. Equally, whilst baking his cake this morning, I shed a tear for the woman who gave him life, and in whose womb he was formed. I thought about her, and whether she was thinking of Little Bear, and feeling sadness. I thought of the siblings he has and whether they are thinking of him, and in a brief prayer I joined my thoughts with theirs. "Tell them he is safe Lord, he is happy, he knows the love him and think of him."

Lastly in a moment of purely selfish emotion I shed a tear for me, when I went to use the bathroom and discovered that on this day, the day we celebrate our darling son emerging safely from 38 weeks in his mother's womb, I have started my monthly bleed. My womb will not ever help to bring a child to birth.

The last paragraph is in many ways irrelevant, it is a glimpse into a private pain which although long since reconciled, still has occasion to move me. It's irrelevant because I have the joy and pleasure of seeing Little Bear grow into a very special child, for whom both sets of parents should be rightly very proud. He grew under his mother's heart, and in mine.

Happy Birthday Little Bear.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

My child, my choice?

"Sarah Burge has boasted how she gave a voucher for the procedure to her daughter, Poppy, to use when she is 16.
The 50-year-old, whose comments come in the week ministers vowed to crack down on the sexualisation of children, said her girl ‘squealed with delight’ when given the £6,000 gift.
Poppy said: ‘I wanted a new computer, a holiday and a voucher for surgery. When I got it all, it was a dream come true. I can’t wait to be like mummy with big boobs.’
Her mother, from St Neots, Cambridgeshire, has spent more than £500,000 on her own surgery so she looks like Barbie.
She hit the headlines last year when she revealed she was giving Poppy pole-dancing lessons."

Read more:

Needless to say, the £6,000 would have been better placed in a bond for Poppy to do with as she saw fit when she herself becomes an adult. However the issue here is not the money spent but the gifts on which the mother saw fit to spend it.

Sarah is well within her rights to spend her money on her daughter what parent wouldn't wish to indulge their child on their birthday, but by giving Poppy this gift, in my opinion she undermines her love for her daughter. She has sent a clear message to her 7 year old, not that she should be proud of who she is and how she has been created, but rather she should be confident in her mother's ability to provide the money to fund any alterations.

I truly feel sad for Sarah and young Poppy, they can't possibly understand the words of Psalm 139 verse 14:

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well."
Earlier in the week, I got involved in the Radio 2 debate via Twitter on the sexualisation of children by clothing retailers. I made a naive and foolish comment.

"The best way to stop this is for parents to take control - Don't buy the clothes! "

Foolish and naive I realise because, for some parents, these clothes are exactly what they wish to buy! If they are available there will be a market for them, just as a voucher for a boob job can be bought for a 7 year old girl.

Suddenly I feel very old.

I was completely out of the loop regarding sex education until at least senior school, I wouldn't have ever been bought a figure hugging top or micro mini by my parents at any time. Neither were my friends or acquaintances at primary school (I would have remembered as Mum would have complained voiciferously and embarrassingly). Experimentation with make-up, skirt lengths, push up bras etc all happened at senior school  in those rights of passage years. I left primary school only 20 years ago. When did it suddenly become fashionable to tart up your toddler if you are so inclined? I don't remember. However I am very glad that organisations such as Mother's Union, and Mumsnet, are continuing to put pressure on the government and retailers with their campaigns. 


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Assembly Joy

'We wish you many happy returns of the day, we hope you will be healthy and strong all the way, strong to do right, slow to do wrong, and thoughtful for others all they day long'
The same song was sung by my primary school to children with birthdays coming up, and the words are as appropriate today as they were 26 years ago when I heard it for the first time.

Today was Little Bear's birthday assembly, and we were invited to be there to celebrate it with him, (and the other reception child who had a recent birthday). As all the children were gathering in the hall, a stage whisper was heard from the gathered reception children "This is sooooooooo exciting!". The next noise was Little Bear's teacher attempting to stifle her giggles.

My beautiful boy stood up proudly with the teacher in front of the whole of Key Stage One and answered her questions without fear or over excited silliness. I am so pleased with him, and for him, he was beaming with pride all the way through. He then sat quietly whilst the teacher went through the other birthday and a few certificates and other achievements.
For a child who started Reception with very low self esteem and an inibility to be still at any point, this was quite an achievement... I am not going to mention the rest of the assembly was spent rolling the piece of blutack his class teacher provides for these occasions, on the hall floor.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

I have an itchy chin... really I have an itchy chin!

This is the third recurrence of little blister like spots all over my hands, neck and face - particularly my chin.

The first occurrence was the worst really, extreme bad timing. I started with the spots 2 weeks before our wedding, by a week before I had open sores on my neck which I kept covered with a cotton scarf when out and about because it really hurt when they got aired, but I knew they needed the air to dry out and heal. In what can only be described as an answer to prayer they healed up and I was spot free for my wedding.

The second time was after exposure to sun on holiday last year, I treated with antihistamine cream and a fortnight later it was almost gone.

This time, it BLOODY ITCHES!!!! I am treating with antihistamine cream, as well as my daily hay fever meds. It still woke me up in the night for an hour of trying to restrain myself from pulling my skin off!

Still no clue what IT is...

Pharmacist thought an allergy rash but so rare that I have ruled that out, unless a heat allergy. I was brought up by a former nurse and therefore don't want to waste the docs time with an itchy rash that eventually clears up by itself - it's hard to remember that when you need to wear scratch mitts to go to sleep aged 30!!

Friday, 3 June 2011

A Lovely Holiday

I have just come back from my 2nd holiday of the year (I am a very fortunate girl this year). This holiday was different, as it was just The Curate, Little Bear and Myself. No extended family, not even the gorgeous and extremely lovable Monty the doodle.

Little Bear was very well behaved and in control on the journey down to my mum's (from here on in known as Nanna) house. We had a lunch which Nanna had lovingly prepared, and LB went to check out his room, and make sure all the toys Nanna keeps there were present and correct. He came down and announced "Nanna's house will always be the same." which is Little Bear speak for "I feel safe and secure knowing that Nanna has these things she keeps for me." Over lunch, Little Bear quizzed Nanna on whether she was "lonely being here on your own?" Wise words from my almost 5 year old. He was over joyed when he asked whether Nanna missed Monty dog and she replied "I miss you!" though.

We left Monty dog at Mums and went on our way to our holiday accommodation, a caravan, compact and bijoux on a Bunns Leisure holiday park. Now, I think holiday parks are extremely under-rated. The caravan was big enough for us 3 (although would have been tight with the maximum 6 plus luggage allowed). The children's funfair had well priced and sensible speed rides for a 'children's funfair'. The Go Karts were reasonably priced and entertaining - although much fun  was had (by LB and I) watching the Curate try on every single helmet in the place before settling on one which fitted but left a red welt on his forehead after. The boys had a great time on crazy golf (Little Bear's favourite activity). It was worth the sheer hell of the noisy overcrowded changing rooms to see LBs smiling face beaming with enjoyment the whole time we were in the pool. We flew a kite on the beach and had a quiet afternoon of watching LB paddle in the sea.

I have sung the praises of a park based caravan holiday so for balance some of the irksome bits.

Little Bear hardly slept (usual on a first night on hols but lasted all week this time) the noise, the light evenings (which the holiday camp can't help with I know), and the narrow caravan bed, all resulted in seriously diminished sleep for LB. I slept fine, the Curate tells me nights were noisy!

Being just the three of us meant evening entertainment was limited to the 4 channels on the tiny telly, and twitter on our phones. Although the programme at the pubs and bars looked good...

Seriously though...

The holiday was fab! Good fun, just the three of us, and Nanna had Monty for company - everyone's a winner. Although Monty may disagree, at 2 years old he had never had a professional groom - until Nanna got involved!!

He looks even more gorgeous though!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Lock The Locks - In honour of my little brother and his new life.

I have just bought  Computers and Blues by The Streets, I know I am a bit late but somehow the fact that there had been a new album by Mike Skinner et al had escaped me until now.

The very last song bears the same title as this post. It is a realisation by the artist that it is time to move on and follow his heart. This is expressed beautifully by the lyric:

" Even though to most it looked random
My heart had left I was just going in tandem"

On very first hearing I thought of my brother, who is soon to emigrate to Switzerland. His fiancee has already moved over and begun her new job and my brother is left behind to "lock the locks" so to speak, to finish off at work and then continue to Geneva. In my brother's case his heart (Lauren) has physically already left of course.

My brother and I are like chalk and cheese, and fought like cat and dog for most of our childhoods. He is a 6 feet tall 16 stone rugby playing naughty boy, and I am a 6 feet tall weakling who does a good line in fooling folk that I am a goody two shoes (or so I like to think). However I would like to get this down in writing for all the world to see:

 I love you Bro!

I am immensely proud of you all all you have accomplished so far, and wish you both all the very best in Geneva. You go with my thoughts and prayers and buckets of love. xxx

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Reflections on the Quiet Evening

At the Quiet Evening last night (and very successful it was too) I started to think and read and pray. The quiet gave me the opportunity to encounter God and let Him lead my thinking and reading, and communicate with Him through prayer.

Written in the journal I use for this purpose was a quotation from Francis Dewar's book Called or Collared, which I have been reflecting on over the past few weeks:

"We need to be constantly seeking to transcend our our search for the living God, and in opening ourselves to be searched by God."
Now, I don't know about you, but for me the easier part of that quote is the part that requires me to search for God, the tricky bit comes when I recognise that in order to achieve maturity as a Christian, I need to allow God to search me. Why is this tricky? Well, all of us, without question have the "dark places of soul" which the poet Patrick Kavannagh described. The area of our inner self which remain hidden from view. The aspects of our personality which we do our level best to hide from our neighbour and certainly do not want to reveal to God.

The thing is, there is no point attempting to hide anything from God, no matter how much we would like to. God already knows.

My favourite Psalm says:

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139
 God's omnipresence is not to be feared. His grace is freely given, and his forgiveness offered to me and to everyone else who seeks it. He stands like the father of the prodigal son, with his arms open wide to welcome us home, as his arms were open wide once for all upon the cross.

"God help us to find our confession... Lead us into the darkness that we may find what lies concealed; That we may confess it towards the light; that we may carry our truth in the centre of our heart; That we may carry our cross wisely and bring harmony into our life and our world. Amen" Michael Leunig

So that was some of my conversations with God, last night, I hope you found it useful. A little note for anyone who read last night's blog entry - we got a cup of coffee and it was indeed lukewarm!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A Quiet Evening

This evening I am off to Polesworth Abbey with a group from our church Mother's Union branch and a few extras for a Quiet Evening.

The lady who has organised it has, to my great pleasure, asked some of the mums of our Father Freddie children's group attendees and they have accepted the invitation. All great so far...

On the school run this morning I was chatting to one of these mums, who asked the big question: "So, what does this evening involve then?"

To me,  a Quiet Evening doesn't need to be defined. It's like a Quiet Day but in the evening and therefore a shortened form, I assume. I expect a talk (It is a led event), some time for prayer and meditation, and maybe some worship to close. If we are very well behaved we might even get a cup of lukewarm instant coffee.

However to someone who has never been immersed in church life, the words Quiet Day and Quiet Evening conjure up all sorts of different images. As I have a very limited social calendar I have many quiet evenings at home myself!

It got me thinking both about the importance of a personal invitation to these sort of occasions, and also the language we use in church. If these people had not been directly invited, would they have shown any interest in the event described as a Quiet Evening on the notice sheet, despite the fact that once the have experienced one they know the name is perfectly appropriate.

Friday, 20 May 2011

"There's a fine line between funny and offensive"

So said a Curate of my acquaintance tonight.

I agree with him, it's tricky. One person's amusing is often another's offensive. One person's harmless is a cause of great concern for another person and so on. The boundaries are constantly changing as society develops and understands more of the world, and the people with whom they share it.

The phrase often heard is "S/he took it too far..." Jeremy Clarkson, Frankie Boyle, are two television personalities who have been accused (rightly in my opinion) of doing this.

As a Christian with a reasonably developed sense of humour, I feel that certain things are clearer than others. For instance this is the t-shirt that inspired this blog post, and this made me respond with a big fat "Ewwwww". Not good. Along with the classic Nice Legs - What time do they open? Somebody somewhere finds this amusing - the aforementioned Nice Legs t-shirt has sold out.  "The Vicar's Wife" has actually witnessed one of these high quality t-shirts on an actual human. Now, seeing women as sexual objects who open their legs automatically on the orders of a stupid t-shirt has crossed the line with me I'm afraid.

Friday, 13 May 2011

An Ode to Blogging

We wrote our poetry and our prose
and anguished over the words we chose
One morning we woke and they had gone
Our writings lost - well that's not on!
Our blogs are here for you

Our blogs have function and a form
To cause a laugh or just inform
and when our world is in a wobble
a massive row or just a squabble
Our blogs are here for you

Now we breathe again my friend
You have read the ode I penned (Technically typed but that didn't rhyme with friend!)
I waffle away again with ease
Hope it's good (I try to please!)
Our blogs are here to stay!

 This post is dedicated to DC, HR and EM :D

Thursday, 12 May 2011


I was taught to pray using the acronym ACTS.
Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, Supplication.

Although to be completely truthful my prayer often end ups heavy on the S and light on the T. I bombard God with a list of demands and pause occasionally to marvel in His greatness and apologise for my weaknesses, but as for giving thanks...

I wouldn't dream of missing out the many thank yous to people in my day. Thank you to my husband for making the coffee at breakfast, thank you to my son for putting his school uniform on without a fuss, thank you to the lady who held the door open for me at the shops, thank you to the bus driver as I disembarked and so the list goes on. It is so natural, it's like breathing. So why does are the most important thank yous missed out so often? Why do I take God for granted?

So to even the score this evening:

Praise be to the God of all, who formed me in my mother's womb and knows me best of all.
I confess the things that I have done and said which have caused you pain, and lay myself open before you.
Thank you for all the blessings of this life, that I may never cease to recognise and appreciate the blessings you have given me.
Tonight I pray for all those on my heart and place them safely into your hands.

Lord in your mercy...

Monday, 9 May 2011

Keeping it personal

When I was a child, one of the most exciting things that could possibly happen was to receive visitors to our house. My brother and I would make signs saying "Welcome" for any overnight guests and lovingly decorate them with our felt tip pens. I would very nearly implode with excitement when the moment arrived and the doorbell rang...and then I would freeze.

The terrifying moment would overwhelm me. I loved having guests to visit, and I loved the attention they gave us while they stayed with us, but I absolutely hated being kissed and cuddled by them in greeting or as a goodbye ritual.

It's quite strange really, I have no idea why I reacted in such a way. My parents were very good at showing affection and I was happy to held and kissed by my parents, and they were responsive to us children. In adulthood I have a loving demonstrative relationship with my husband and son. I am still uncomfortable with showing physical affection to anyone other than my immediate family. Although I recognise that there are times when other people would appreciate a hug and that this action, for them, speaks louder than any words. Anyone who knows me well, knows also that there are times when I have very much appreciated the physical show of affection, and I wish to thank them for their support at those times.

As a general rule my personal space is indeed personal. Now I am an adult I can choose who to keep at arms length and when. Thank goodness. I will always require my own son to be polite and respectful, but I will never insist he shows affection physically to anyone. If you are in receipt of a hug from my son or myself, you are highly favoured. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

"Calm Down Dear"

I wondered if this was a joke news story, but then discovered that David Cameron actually told the shadow chief secretary, Angela Eagle, to "calm down, dear" at prime minister's questions.

Apparently, according to Cameron, a reference to the Michael Winner advertising campaign, therefore all the more reason in my humble opinion for the outcry! One of the most annoying advertising campaigns I have ever had the misfortune to stumble across, an exception being the Lelli-Kelly adverts. They make my ears bleed!

Anyway going back to the story. David Cameron really used this phrase to an adult female at PM Questions!

My husband only ever calls me dear as a wind up, he knows that the only 'pet name' to make me see red is that one! The only person who would get away with calling me "dear" would be a lady many many years my senior, and then I would smile through gritted teeth!

Silly man!

There now I am being condescending as well.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

What's wealth?

As I type, my specific Curate is sitting next to me, absorbed in the Saturday paper. As it is Holy Saturday his church duties were completed after Morning Prayer, and begin again this evening, so Saturday afternoon has some in built rest time.

I just glanced over at the paper, and noticed a full page advert for Barclays Wealth. The special section of the bank reserved for those with so much money that they need specific advise in how to manage it.

Well, we wont be requiring their services. However I am not standing in judgement in this post over those people who do. Although I suspect Barclays enjoy helping them to spend their money as well as save it, and will more than likely charge a packet for their help too!

I feel very wealthy. I have a home, food, clothing, access to clean water, sanitation, and more importantly a loving family who are a blessing to me. Most importantly, I have God. God who loves me so much he offered up his life. In this I am extremely wealthy!

Have a Holy Saturday.

Friday, 22 April 2011

The Veil of the Temple

This part of Good Friday has always been one which deeply affected me.

When I was a child we went to some of the three hour liturgy at the cross on Good Friday, normally the last hour. One year as we were leaving church the earth appeared split in two, there was a massive thunderstorm and the sky went very dark. It felt so dramatic and symbolic, and was one of my earliest memories of a physical presence of God with us. I was about 8 years old.

This has stayed with me to this day, and although there have been other occasions when the sky has turned grey on Good Friday, none have stayed in my mind as clearly as that time in childhood. I put the washing on the line this morning and despite the blue sky interspersed with white fluffy clouds, I wondered whether my washing would get wet at 3pm!

The veil of the temple torn, and the guard realising Jesus as Son of God are such powerful images. God himself is no longer hidden behind the curtain, only to be accessed by the High Priest. God is accessible to all who put their trust in Him. Also, the way one accesses the Lord God, has been opened up, no longer are the old rituals the way to Him.

I have blogged about how much God loves us, and how much I have renewed my love for Him this Holy Week, this image for me is one of God's power. Christ died and even before his glorious victory, he had opened the way to God the Father. At the moment of death, when Jesus was weakest, God torn down the temple veil.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
I have passed the riven veil,
Where the glories never fail,
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
I am living in the presence of the King
(Charles P. Jones in Songs of Pentecostal Power)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

I adore Thee

I have been really touched/effected/moved by the words of Stainer's Crucifixion this week.
It has challenged and comforted in equal measure.
I cannot fully describe the feeling inside me as I listened to the hymn below on my Ipod this afternoon. I have highlighted the parts that speak particularly to me this Holy Week.

I Adore Thee, I adore Thee!
Glorious ere the world began;
Yet more wonderful Thou shinest,
Though divine, yet still divinest
In Thy dying love for man.

I Adore Thee, I adore Thee!
Thankful at Thy feet to be;
I have heard Thy accent thrilling,
Lo! I come, for Thou art willing
Me to pardon, even me.

I Adore Thee, I adore Thee!
Born of woman, yet Divine:
Stained with sins I kneel before Thee,
Sweetest Jesu, I implore Thee,
Make me ever only Thine.

"Me to pardon, even me." Thanks be to God for this and this alone. Amen

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Thank you for the cross my friend

"And once again I look upon the cross where You died, I'm humbled by Your mercy and I'm broken inside."
Matt Redman: Jesus Christ (Once Again)

I have blogged on worship songs before, and this one touches my innermost being much more than most. Even though this is only Palm Sunday, Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, I am already conscious of the cross.

I suppose this is because on Palm Sunday the church joins in and cries "Hosanna" with the crowds of the day. The church waves her palm branches, and parades around the grounds singing "All Glory Laud and Honour" (badly!). It's so easy to join in the crowds welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem. It's so much harder for me to accept that I betray, deny, and scream out "crucify" with the same crowds later in the week.

Holy Week moves me to tears. I am truly "broken inside" as I stand at the foot of the cross on Good Friday.

Even though this year, with a child who is too young to cope with most of the Holy Week liturgy, my only observation comes through singing Stainer's Crucifixition on Good Friday, the cross is uppermost in my mind this week. 

It was during the vigil on Maundy Thursday 15 years ago that I claimed this faith as my own and truly said "Yes Lord, I believe". Not "I believe because that's how I have been brought up" or even "I believe because I trust my parents to decide for me" Purely and simply "This is my faith, Yes Lord I believe"

So my question this Holy Week comes from Stainer's Crucifixion

"Behold Me and see: pierced thro' and thro' with countless sorrows, and all is for you;
For you I suffer, for you I die.
Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?"

Saturday, 16 April 2011

To be honest...

I have just read a thread on a parenting forum which amused me and I thought I would share my thoughts here, and see what you think.

The thread began with a question, quite a bizarre one in my humble opinion. It went a little something like this:

"What should I say to my friend who has just had a baby, and given the child a name which I don't like?"
Ok... Now is it only me but I didn't understand the question. Especially when the person asking it added that she "obviously wouldn't say anything mean" and just needed some sound-bites ready for when she met the baby so she didn't say anything "tact-less".
I don't think there is a question here at all really. Surely as an adult she is aware that her opinion is subjective and not relevant at all in this situation. The friend has a beautiful new baby she will have a friend with her sharing in her joy, and the friend's negative opinion of the name is not relevant to the situation at all (if she wishes to continue this friendship).
It is one thing to discuss names with a friend when a child is in the womb, but once this real person has been given the name the discussion is closed and Baby X is Baby X, someone's beloved child who (as far as anyone else is aware) has a name which was chosen just for them be it William, Katherine or little Lelli-Kelly!
This then lead me on to a more generalised thought about being "honest" about one's opinion. If a person starts a sentence with the phrase "To be honest..." these days I have a momentary panic. Does this mean that the person concerned is going to go thrashing in with an opinion which they are of course entitled to hold but is possibly not being expressed with as much charity as they could reasonably muster.
The thing is one person's trivial is another's deep felt thought.
I like to think I am Captain Cautious on this matter. I hate the possibility of causing offense and because of this I only speak up when it feels right to do so, when the issue is so huge that I feel I would be being cowardly not to.
I work by the old maxim of "If you haven't anything kind to say, don't say anything at all". I am of course as prone to misjudged comment as the next person though and there have been moments when my foot has been so far in my mouth that standing has been tricky... we all try

Sunday, 20 March 2011

O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed...

....Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee, we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
Tonight I went to Evensong, a service which I am very familiar with, but have been away from for a very long time. Yet in the manner one meets an old friend one hasn't seen for a long time, I settled quickly back into the familiar routine, with its familiar words, it's familiar comforts.

The Second Collect has always resounded with me. It has brought me comfort in times of trial and 'earthed' my feelings of loss and aloneness.
Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give
God's peace is reachable. It is as accessible to us in the world in 2011 as it was in 1662 through these words above.

At this service a certain priest, not so far away from me, preached on the subject of finding who God wants us to be, and not being defined by our possessions. This line then jumped out, over and over again. God gives us peace, a peace that this world can not and will not give.

I don't know about you...but when I am worried about something this panicky feeling is not just emotional it is physical. I shake, I sweat, I cannot settle. God's peace is the only way to calm this. To say "Yes God, help me, I need you!"

I love evensong, whether sung by some world-class choir in a cathedral, said alone, sung in church with 2 or 3 gathered together, I would still love the essence of evensong. God's people gathered in penitence and praise.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

On this day in 1994

On the 12th March 1994 the first women were ordained priests in the Church of England.

I was a mere 13 years old, a young female Christian for whom this news was joyous! I was confirmed at the tender age of 10 and took a full part in the life of the church. I was by this point, a member of the church choir, I had read lessons, and I had just started to lead intercessions under Dad's watchful gaze.

There had been a Deaconess in one of Dad's previous parishes, but I was too young to realise that these women were anything other than a usual part of parishes all over the country, or indeed to recognise the lack of ordained ministry for women.

By 1995, I was attending my first Eucharist celebrated by a woman. This woman was the Anglican chaplain at the Royal Berks Hospital, her husband was the Methodist chaplain. Dad had been invited to her first Eucharist and Mum and I also attended.

It was a wonderful occasion in that little college chapel. I felt the hairs on my back stand on end as she raised the Host during the consecration. I felt tears in my eyes as she gave us God's blessing. Words cannot fully explain how this felt for me, as a teenage girl, to be part of a Eucharist celebrated by a woman for the very first time, I cannot ever imagine how that would feel for the lady who presided.

In the car on the way home Dad turned to me and said "Now you could be a priest."

I have discovered today to my great joy that one of the ladies who was ordained on that glorious day in 1994 baptised our son in 2008. She is just one of the many wonderful priests, I have had the privilege to meet.  Male/Female the great ones are really great! God has given all these wonderful people a calling, male or female and I for one am so glad that they are all able to live out that calling within the Church of England.