Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thank you for waiting

OK so large gaps between posts is not an unusual thing for me. This is largely because I have never completely worked out what this blog is FOR. I supposed, as someone who writes, that having a blog would be a good discipline - but obviously not, given my infrequent posting; and that it would be an outlet for some of the stuff going round my head, and far cheaper than therapy.

But the truth is that, once you haven't blogged for a while, it seems an odd thing to go back to. Because life has very much gone on; or rather, it's got itself stuck in a cycle of being ill, taking the tablets, getting better for a while then repeat. Since Christmas I have been in hospital twice, and am facing a third admission thanks to rather twitchy lupus. I've spent around 5 months on high dose steroids, and am on my third new medication in an effort to restore circulation to my feet. I've had many tests performed and tubes stuck in me. But if you wanted to know about what that's like you could go to a patient forum or you would already know because you would be one of the friends supporting me.

There's been good stuff too - excellent exam results for the girls; a wonderful holiday in California; our 25th wedding anniversary. Many silly moments that, in a better year, I would have blogged about in a manner that would have elicited a few smiles from some. But it's weird to blog about the shining moments when there's illness and limitation as the background to everything.

A sense of perspective is something that I would guess every sick person person struggles with. Time telescopes when you are ill. Two weeks can seem an eternity. Pain overwhelms all other thoughts. The trip to the kitchen to make a cup of tea seems a mountain to climb. The facts - that there is food on the table, a warm and comfortable home and medical care that is caring and efficient (even if a little flummoxed at times) - and a family who love me - become eclipsed by anxiety for the future, both immediate and distant.

Yesterday I came across this video:

It spoke to me of how, even in the mess of life and the seeming chaos, ugliness and brokenness of illness there is order and beauty to be found - it all depends on a point of view.

As a Christian, I believe that God's perspective on my brokenness is one that sees me as beautiful, whole and unlimited.

Thank you for waiting for further posts: I'll get back to you. Soon.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Testing Times

It's been a long old haul, but we're nearly there.

The PET (pre-exam tension) started around 10 weeks ago, when daughter no1 came home from Uni and spent her 5 week vacation with her head in the books, in preparation for her part one exams. Not to be outdone, daughter no2 also began her GCSE revision. We now have 2 more weeks until the whole batch of exams is over. During this prolonged period we have encouraged, cajoled, suggested, tested, mopped up the tears, and encouraged some more. I have produced two 'exam kits' - stuffed with chocolate, amusing quotes and helpful things to do ('go to bed early', 'take a short walk listening to happy music' and 'throw your RE notes in the bin', for example). We have dusted off our English grammar, our periodic table and our between-the-wars history. Fortunately The Man has forgotten nothing useful from his maths degree, and is A* material for RE (good job seeing as he teaches it); and I have biology pretty much covered. I read Of Mice and Men (no hardship; even if only to annoy Mr Gove). We read some good and some questionable poetry together.

I don't remember anything like this level of involvement from my parents. That's not a criticism in any way; I think it was a different time then, when parents' main functions were to gaze in awe at their children's supposed wonderfulness and to make sure they ate their greens. Now the pressure is on, for us as well as the kids. And it's exhausting.

Taking a quick look at the advice offered to parents, our roles are many and varied. We should be life coaches - encouraging them to fix their eyes on their goals. We should be boot-camp leaders, driving them to work hard (but not nagging, and drawing attention to failures; it's a fine line. We must also be trapeze artists). Psychological support plays a major role, along with motivational speaking. In addition we should be nutritionists (making sure they eat healthily), TV and internet police, personal trainers ensuring regular exercise, stationery suppliers, and role models.We should offer direction; inspiration; incentives; and refreshments. We must be prepared to catch them when they fall. We should become a combination of pilot, co-pilot, cabin crew and landing staff. And all the time the same stuff is happening in our own lives - the same jobs, the same health issues, the same ailing parents, the same financial concerns.

So thanks for the advice that I must be prepared to offer "useful equipment, a positive home environment and unconditional love". Well done for telling me that "in the run-up to exams, (I should) try to be at home as much as possible to share a break and a chat together." And ta very much for mentioning that I am "the expert on (my) own child and have always been her most important

Now I really do feel worried. If either of them fail, it's All My Fault.

Yes I know parental involvement is important. And given our wide range of interests and areas studied, we as parents are better placed than many to help (did I mention that The Man used to be a mathematician? I know what if feels to have a subject where I would be of no help whatsoever, and am very relieved to be off the hook). But boy oh boy is it ever hard work. And after they've finished, what do we get? They have the long summer to relax, enjoy friends, sleep, catch up. We have gnawed fingernails and a headache. And we just keep going.

It's been a long old haul. Pass the gin.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Be like children

I'm aware that I haven't blogged for a while; I've been writing, but not blogging. Some months are like that, especially when the criteria for what makes a good blog post is a So here's something I prepared earlier - last week, in fact - which formed part of our worship yesterday at our 9am service. The theme was 'children' - I thought it would be good to have a 5-minute meditation on what it means to be a child, from age 0 to 18. And of course, the sub-text is - what did Jesus mean when he told us to receive the Kingdom like children?

(Oh - and yes - that is me. Nice romper suit, eh?)

Being a Child

The gaze of an infant is uncanny: all wobbly-headed, wide-eyed wonder. They stare at the shapes and colours around them, such a contrast to the watery darkness of their recent home, as they coalesce into familiarity. Faces fascinate: especially those beloved, as the child learns to link the ever-changing expressions to those voices heard and learned from within the womb.

This fascination continues into childhood. The toddler’s journey from A to B is never straightforward: it is punctuated by a hundred moments of astonishment – at a leaf, a slug, a stone, each requiring careful examination. They squat down in the mud to trace the patterns with a stick. They gaze at the shapes forming in the clouds; and are amazed at the capacity of the moon to follow them wherever they go. Sound is remarkable. They babble, booble, shout, scream. They begin to form the same sounds as their parents, and are satisfied to find that communication becomes more precise. Some words are more satisfying than others. ‘No!’ and ‘More!’, said emphatically, sends a thrill of self-assertiveness through every fibre of their being. Crying still gets results too, if done right – ending in comfort, in holding, in help. They are not embarrassed to ask.

Beyond home is exciting, and wondrous, and terrifying. They make sense of it all through stories. Cars become dragons; treat with caution. Strangers are wicked witches, until introduced properly. All food is suspect – the tale of the poison apple leaves its mark.

Each small triumph is celebrated, then quickly built upon. They crawl, then walk, then run, then leap, They write their name, the alphabet, a story. Sometimes learning becomes restrictive: at first they paint freely, wildly, covering the paper, ground and themselves with every colour in the palette. Later, patterns and figures emerge, and they realize their lack of technique: they become disheartened. They try harder, given the right teacher; or they give up.

They wander away from the rules and norms of home and school. They spend time on the naughty step; outside the head’s office; in their room. Each decision is costly, but strangely satisfying, as it brings them a sense of themselves. They know what they like; and what they don’t. They assert themselves, and their passions and talents start to shine. They try new things, love new people. Falling in love is exquisitely painful; an overwhelming agony of pleasure. Their friends are for life, closer than blood.

They become who they are to be: almost fully formed. Still with so much new to experience, but themselves, not copies of their parents but able to draw on the good
and the bad of all they have known and been taught. They see the world distinctly, see each complex problem and are able to prescribe its cure. They feel the weight of it, and care deeply. They are scathing of adults’ failure to solve anything, their apathy in the face of so much wrong.

They still find time to gaze at the heavens and find them extraordinary.