Saturday, 3 December 2011

First Reconciliation

Today J made his first reconciliation - that's "confession" to anyone not Catholic. It is much less austere than it sounds and merely involved J having a chat with the lovely FrB about something he wanted to say sorry for.  First though we needed some "getting in the spirit" of things which is where Fr B often comes into his own - and today was no exception!

So we had The Parable of the Lost Sheep and Fr B ever a performer announced to the waiting congregation that he and SrC had gone into buisness together as "sheep farmers"!  Apparently they had a "small flock" of about six sheep in the garden of them kept wandering off.

There then followed a small session with the children suggesting ways in which the sheep could be found before FrB said that in fact the lost sheep was in the church and could the children find it. Everyone looked round and high up on the mezzanine level was a cardboard cut out of a sheep with a sad looking face.  A "shepherd" was dispatched to fetch the sheep back down to rejoin the flock, and by the time it reached the front of the church the "sad face" had been replaced with the attachment of the cheesiest grin you have ever seen - the illustration above is the nearest I can get to it but it tickled J who spent the rest of the service giggling whenever he looked at said sheep.
There then followed discussion about the significance of this story and Jesus being called "The Good Shepherd" who would never turn away anyone or judge them but simply welcome them back.

J's "confession" is private so I won't repeat it here but I know what it is and I am proud of him for finding the strength to talk about it. Last week he had to write down what he wanted to discuss and took this with him to see the Priest. After the children had been up there was a public shredding of all the "confessions" to signify absolution - I guess fire would have been too risky on health and safety grounds.  I like the idea of "getting rid of old problems"and recognising that although they may still be things we need to work on, we can learn from experience and spend time trying to be more mindful.

After J made his first reconciliation I decided to make mine - not being Catholic I have never done this before so it was a first for me too. I had a lovely chat with another Fr who was really great and very sensible regarding what I wanted to share. After this I prayed with him and left feeling much calmer - J was incensed that I had been such a long time - who knew I'd been so bad lol.

Fr B then ended by producing his own confession - an A4 sheet of paper covered with typed comments - he reminded the children that he also got things wrong at times.....then opened up the A4 page to show it covered 5 A4 pages taped together - it was as tall as he is. J thought this was very funny - likewise he was encouraged to shred the "confession" and "let it go" after which he did a lap of honour to great cheers around the church!

It was lovely and I have sent an email to Fr B to say a big Thank You for making it all such fun and appropriate to the ages of the children. I said a special thank you for his understanding of J and accepting that he might need extra support.

Lovely day.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Sense and Sensibility!

Thank you to my lovely GP for her ever so logical advice and support

"No don't resign from your job, it might be the right decision long term but don't do it while you feel like this"
"Get some advice from your Human Resources department about various types of leave".
"No I understand that you don't want to be the person who is always off sick but this is why you need advice from your HR and a look at how you would manage financially if you did leave work for a period of time".
"What you need is some breathing space while you look at your options".
"I think increasing your hours is not something you can commit to given the needs of J for care".

So I came away feeling more settled, she is quite right in saying that NOW is not the time to be making any decision about resigning or not - even if resigning DOES turn out to be the right thing for both J and I.

As far as J goes there have been more difficulties, primarily it seems to boil down to the level of work expected from him now he is in Year 4 and I will have to go in tomorrow morning to have a chat with his lovely LSA who is so good with him to see if we can find a way through this between us all.

It has all been very demanding emotionally  for J and I am starting the process of looking at future schooling once Christmas is out of the way.

The schools I will be looking at initially are the senior school which J's school feeds into, it's mainstream and small for a secondary. If J was to go here then he would attend with many children he already knows. My only concern is that as time goes on he will become socially isolated among his peers.

The other school I will look at is a non mainstream school which has been suggested as suitable for J, this is a special school which takes children who have various forms of learning difficulties. It is smaller than the mainstream school and has a higher staff to pupil ration along with extra input from various professionals which the meainstream schools just don't seem to get.  On the negative side, waiting until Year 6/7 to try and get a space for J is not really an option as it will be oversubscribed by then so if J's future educational and social needs are to be met there then I need to prepare for moving him at the end of Year 4 or 5 and NOT wait until Year 6 when every other child with SEN is also being put forward.

Of course the best preparation for life in mainstream society is a mainstream school, however if J is likely to experience social isolation there then he might well do better attending a special school and building up friendships with children who have similar issues to him.

It's a big decision and until I look round to see where J might best "fit" then I will be mulling it round in my head.

J just keeps saying "I want to go to another school" but this is due to his current difficulties with Maths and I think if we can sort that out then he will be happier again.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Advent and all that....

So we are rapidly approaching Christmas and I am at a crossroads with regard to how I tackle the next year with J. As my recent posts have shown, J is experiencing some real difficulties at the moment and as a result so am I. My depression which was under control has raised it's head once more and keeping a positive outlook is hard. I have reached the stage where somethiong has to give and I suspect that what will give is my job. I only do 15 hours a week anyway but even that seems like just one more thing to achieve on top of being a good enough parent to J and keep a routine for housework going. I have always felt that J shares traits with me and feel I am probably on the autistic spectrum myself. Having said that, I am extremely disorganised (ADD?) and would thrive if I had a routine I could follow religiously every single day. How to get that routine is beyond me though and all I can see as a solution to all this is to stop working and make J and the house my job for a few years while I sort all this out.

I am constantly exhausted with sleepless nights, sleep apnoea when I do manage to sleep and the late nights of J. Consequently finding a way of getting organised into any sort of routine is beyond me much of the time.

I have made a list of the pros and cons of my life with work and without work which was helpful but depressing at the same time. The Pros being that I love my job, that it gives me time to be myself and do something for myself. It also gives me a lease car which is due back in December and the (a negative)refusal of a new vehicle unless I increase my hours which initially I felt I could do. The negative aspects of working are that I am around much less for J in my mind which is already scattered and disorganised. Ironically I am probably worse off financially IN work than I would be out of work. I already find my life hard to organise with J and work is an added stress for me as I worry constantly about missing anything due to my tiredness.

All in all I seem to have made the decision in my head that I will have some time off and am already trying to decide how I will word my resignation letter. I know my manager will not wish to lose me as we are already shortstaffed but I have no desire to be the person "always off sick" either so unless they can agree some parental leave then I am out of there.
How I will cope without a car is scary but I will sell my iPad and start a car fund, as long as I have something to get me from A to B then I can cope.

Tonight I discuss it all with my GP who is logical, sensible and lovely, and at the moment these are the qualities I need.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Annual Review for Statement of SEN

So we had the first annual review today since James' was first given the elusive Statement of Special Educational Need.  There were positives and negatives as I knew there would be and a long discussion about the difficulties James currently faces in school. Academically he has done well and progressed beyond all expectations in both numeracy and literacy. At the age of almost 9 he can now read - hesitantly and with lots of pauses but a world away from where he was a year ago. Thank you Mediknet for the change there.

On a negative note J's Personal, Social and Emotional development has not progressed and his attainment there is still measured in P-scales (recorded when a child is still working towards  National Curriculum level 1). Although this was not a surprise to me given J's recent difficulties, it was still hard to see written in black and white.

We discussed J's ability to remain in mainstream education right the way through his school years and like everything else there are fors and againsts. On a positive note he is achieving academically now and remaining in mainstream education with children who do not have his difficulties will be excellent preparation for life in a mainstream community as an adult.

On a negative note there is the risk that J will become more isolated with time as the gap continues to widen between him and other children of his age. Currently he has many friends in the playground but generally these friends are girls. The girls (and especially his close friend M) tend to mother him and he thrives on this. They also invite him to their parties while the boys do not - this is good but there will come a time when inevitably the girls will cease to invite him as well. If this is to be the case then an education in a non-mainstream school geared up for children with ASD and co-morbid conditions might give J more social contact.

Thankfully it is a year before I will need to really consider this and in the meantime I have been encouraged to visit  the secondary school which J's primary one feeds into and also the two local special schools which would see him through to age 16.

It has all left me feeling both positive and also a little sad. Without a doubt J is struggling at the moment and although I would not swap my lovely, funny and special little boy for anything in the world, there are times when I wish I could take away the difficulties he has, remove the autistic brain which makes his life hard and replace it with a neurotypical brain which would allow him freedom. But then I guess J would not be himself if that was to happen and I love him as he is  -I just wish his life was easier for him, I wish the labels didn't itch, the noises didn't distress, the changes to routine didn't upset. I wish he could settle in the evening and fall asleep with ease but that's just not how it is and all I can do is find the right support to help him cope with these things.

So onwards and upwards, a CAF to be completed, the Aiming High for Disabled Children service to contact and a major strop to be had with the PCT which after a year and a half STILL has no real Occupational Therapy service for autistic children with sensory issues despite letters promising parents that this was being developed.

Watch this space.

Saturday, 19 November 2011


So life continues to be a mixture of fun and stress here in the O&C house. J is continuing to do well on his Mediknet and his reading is now progressing rapidly.

On the other hand some things have not changed - least of all J’s rages which are prolonged and worrying when they occur. I can rationalise the lack of social communication skills but it’s still hard to manage and both J and I are usually exhausted after such incidents have occurred. In addition J is usually very distressed after any rage – he recognises he has lost control and it scares him. We continue to work on this with various resources and have identified the things which most set him off (frustration, fear, anxiety) and are beginning to work on things which might help.  Although I do not believe in second guessing any child I must admit to feeling some trepidation about his teenage years!

J’s rages are not daily occurrences however, I long ago took the view that if what he was doing was not actually harmful to himself, others or property that it was easier to let him get on with it and learn from experience than face the inevitable rage which occurs if he is stopped. This makes it sound like I sit back and allow him massive liberties and maybe to a certain extent I do, but it’s an action designed to help ME cope with his daily needs and to cope with HIM!

On the whole J is well behaved and when medication is used can be quiet and able to focus on an activity for 30mins or more. He has never been badly behaved in school   - to the extent that the teaching staff doubted he had ADHD (prior to diagnosis), however, with medication once he was diagnosed, his level of achievement increased beyond all expectations, he can now read – hesitantly and unsure but it’s a world away academically from where he was a year ago.

It isn’t easy though and there are times when I have to physically remove J from rooms (or physically remove objects from him) when he will not listen or stop what he is doing. Times like this usually end with J stamping upstairs to his bedroom and slamming his door as hard as possible, the door frame is coming away due to this behaviour.  It’s at times like these when I think I cannot cope with the combination of J, with the house, with work and it can all feel overwhelming. Sleep continues to be an issue and despite everything it is still after 11.00pm before J falls asleep at night – on bad nights I can add an hour or two to this.

So, on 31st October J left school and announced we were “going trick or treating”. In actual fact we were NOT doing this as I had a meeting to attend which I could not miss. In addition we have never done the whole “Trick or Treat” thing as the first five years of J’s life were spent in Somerset in a house 2 miles from the nearest town. It’s just not something I ever got into with J and consequently it never crosses my mind. J has never asked to take part in this ritual previously so forgive me for not having thought about it!

J did not take the information that we were not “trick or treating” well and began a massive rage which lasted for the next 2 hours on and off. He screamed, he raged he shouted, he lashed out, he kicked the glove compartment of the car hard and to be honest it was hard to drive safely. In despair and because I was at a loss I drove to my Mum’s for support with J, by the time we got there he had calmed down somewhat but still blew up on and off and indulged in a spot of head banging which he still does from time to time when he can’t cope.

It turned out that the rage had started in school with “tag rugby”, which needs a certain level of coordination which J does not possess, it continued into Maths (new class, new group, different teacher) and even his lovely LSA Sally could not reach him through his mood. I merely added to it when he left school, in his mind we were going trick or treating and Mum was saying “actually not”.

One of the hardest things to know with J is when his behaviours are due to his ASD or if he is simply playing me up.  In an attempt to try and be understanding, I often end up giving him the benefit of the doubt about some actions and he doesn’t always deserve this. So I could accept his frustration and disappointment about NOT “trick or Treating” I could accept that he found it difficult to express these emotions in a more acceptable way and yet part of me felt he was simply behaving very badly.

So – he rages.....and he is getting bigger.....and I am worried...and I am exhausted with the late nights, the lack of sleep and the difficulties in managing J as a single parent. This weekend his Dad is here and I am grateful but they have already clashed. M had said J could sleep in with him but lost all patience with him when he was fidgety and giggling at 10.30pm, the upshot is that J ended up in MY bed once more. Things have to change and I need help with J – proper help and not just a list of local support groups.....

Sunday, 13 November 2011

We all know someone who could work but chooses not to - don't we?

The post below is taken from "Diary of a Benefit Scrounger" and it's powerful stuff so I am reproducing it here

Well, there's that Jim at number 27. Have you seen his garden?? Out there all weathers he is. It's like the bleedin Chelsea Flower Show. Now you can't tell me he couldn't work? 

Jim is 62. He has epilepsy. He was born with it and back in the 50s, most people still thought you were possessed or evil if they saw you having a fit. His mother never used to take him out for fear he would have a seizure in public. He's never been able to drive. He gets "warnings" before the 4 or 5 seizures a week he has, allowing him to get inside to somewhere safe. No-one ever sees his disability - he wouldn't dream of talking about it with a neighbour. He still never leaves his home. The shame he grew up with never really left him. His garden is his life. It gives him joy and purpose. Somewhere beautiful where he never feels lonely or ashamed.

It's just got ridiculous! There's this girl in our village - never done a day's work in her life....and she jogs!! Hours she runs up and down with those earplugs in, round the village, out on the quiet country roads, sometimes she goes out in the morning and she runs til lunchtime!! Why should she get my hard-earned tax money just to do nothing?

Laura is 26. From the age of 6, both her uncle and his friend used to sexually assault her. She never told anyone, they said they would do it to her brother if she did. As she grew up she became more and more withdrawn. Sometimes they hurt her physically and she had to try to hide the bruises away. She never made any friends and ran away from home when she was 15. Living on the streets, people took advantage of her and she soon became a prostitute with a crack habit. At 18, she managed to get a place in a hospice and with the amazing help of mental health workers, counsellors and a safe environment, she got clean. She moved away, moved to a nice safe village, kept working on her past and found solace in running. All the time she runs, music pounding in her ears, she can forget. She feels free and alive. She has managed to start volunteering in a local centre working with other young people who've been through what she went through and hopes that one day, she might be able to make a career of it. She has never spoken to any of her neighbours, she's still too damaged, and she certainly wouldn't tell them about her childhood.

Do you remember Doreen? She never stops that woman, out at work all hours, looking after the kids, running em here and there. And all her husband ever does is lie around on the sofa watching daytime TV! 16 years it is since he worked! The man must have no shame. 

Karl served in the army for years. He lost many good friends. One night, just after midnight, he and his men were taking cover behind an old burnt out coach. A bomb suddenly exploded and every last man but him got blown to pieces. He was taken away and held for days with little food and light. They questioned him at gunpoint until he soiled himself, then left him sitting in the mess. He saw women raped and children left to die at the side of the road, their eyes pleading with him as he marched past. Since then, he's suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He has terrible periods of depression, flashbacks, sweats and night terrors. He can't sleep and when he does he wakes up screaming. He barely pays attention to his family, and though the television might be on, he never sees the programme. He only sees one programme now, running through his mind every minute of every day. He makes Doreen promise she won't ever tell anyone what he goes through. She wouldn't dream of talking about it with her neighbours.


The BBC seems to be running a "Scrounger" season. You are being asked to judge our social security system in a flurry of documentaries, based on anecdote. A GP who "feels" it's unbelievable that we have so many people on sickness benefits, random women in the street who share stories like the ones above. No evidence, for the evidence is most certainly not with the programme makers. Rather they feed into a stereotype that is being used comfortably by all main political parties and the media to push through welfare reforms. We already have one of the toughest welfare systems in the developed world with the toughest sanctions and among the lowest rates of fraud. But you will never hear that from these documentaries. You almost certainly won't believe it now, but it's true. Pesky evidence. No. These "documentaries" ask you to ignore the stories that make up the person and simply judge your neighbour. Nasty eh?

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Chief Litter Picker of Holy Trinity Church

The Badge!

Last week when I attended Mass with J, one of the parishioners noted with irritation that there was a large amount of litter on the field adjoining the church. We chatted for a bit about this when J piped up with "I'll help pick it up" and so off he went with one of the older ladies from the church armed with a rubbish bag and a litter picker/grabber device which Sr C had managed to find..
J and his new found friend returned some 15 minutes later with a bag full of rubbish to great praise and applause. J liked this praise and applause very much and decided to award himself the post of "Chief Litter Picker". Indeed J was so pleased with this title that he told everyone who entered the church and had time to listen that he had "a job at the church, I am the Chief Litter Picker" to great amusement and praise. When Fr B arrived he was also told by J that the church had a new employee - Fr B was suitably impressed and praised J for his enthusiasm. "Yes" said J, "I need to have a manager's badge".
So - this week J and his Daddy went into town where a badge was chosen with the words "Chief Litter Picker, Holy Trinity Church", this cost his Dad £10 - J's Dad was not impressed especially as I have a tendency to lose things!
So this week we went back to church, I have never seen J so eager to attend Mass in my life. There he was with his badge in pride of place eager to do his "work" and he didn't mind who knew it. Off he went with Nanny, a rubbish bag and the rubbish grabber to fill up another rubbish bag.
J wears his badge with pride.

Today we had Fr D on duty who was equally entertained by the church's new employee, especially when J returned once again with a full bag of rubbish collected from around the exterior of the church.
So my Mum decided that as a reward,  J needed his own Rosary beads, (J still refers to them as "Rosemary Beads") and J chose some from the little shop.  Fr D then kindly blessed the Rosary Beads for J and in J's eyes this now makes them very special indeed.  I have suggested that he uses them to say special prayers - just as his Auntie Moonroot uses a magic wand. Not being Catholic the Rosary is still a bit of a mystery to me although I am learning  - so it'll be off to find something age appropriate for J which might also teach me something too!
The "Chief Litter Picker" is now sat watching Robin Hood on the Disney Channel, meanwhile his bedroom resembles a bomb-site but needless to say he does not see his duties extending here so off I will go shortly to make a start on the Lego which is piled on the floor....I may be some time!

The "Rosemary" Beads

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Colchester Zoo

All cats make "looking idle" an art form and these two were no exception to that rule.
This week J and I visited Colchester Zoo with my friend EK and her daughter E plus her Nanny J. We had an absolutely fantastic day and managed to fit in a remarkable amount of feeds and demonstration sessions thatks to the new Colchester Zoo app which pages you 10 mins before any acvtivity you schedule in. As a result we not only managed to see the Penguin feed but also to take part in feeding the Elephants, Giraffes and Wallabies as well as ride the land train to see some of the shyer creatures which inhabit the zoo such as the Black Backed Jackals.
J and E had a fantastic time and all us adults enjoyed ourselves too - of course no trip to the zoo is complete without photos....
Everyone liked the big tortoise..
J enjoys the penguins
I spent "too long Mum" at the sealion enclosure - sorry J but they are just beautiful
E and J are first in the queue for the "Penguin feed"

EK's friend...who blew her kisses.

We covered most of the zoo in the day we spent there and still did not manage a quarter of the information they had to impart. Definitly a place to visit and then visit again, they are doing fantastic conservation work through the zoo and a huge amount of education regarding animal trafficking, animal mistreatment and the loss year on year of our natural wildlife .... sobering stuff.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Love, Faith and Magic Wands..

J has recently returned from a fun week spent with his Daddy, Nanna, Bapa and Aunty in both Somerset and Wales. This has been a good week for both J and I as the break allowed me time to get on with some much needed decorating. In addition it also allowed me to spend time with P and take the first tentative steps into a new relationship. P has been feted as "perfect" for me over several months by a mutual friend....all to no avail as my heart has simply not been ready. This changed at the funeral of my friend's partner Dave when I watched P with Dave's youngest daughter  S- a heartbreaking and lovely little girl of 8 who like her sister and brothers is missing her Daddy terribly.  It is no exageration to say that my heart was touched by how lovely P was with S and so when my friend began her "you are perfect for one another" comments again I agreed to allow her to arrange a meeting of some description, Perhaps I was just ready to move on..... and the break from being Mum for a few days allowed this introduction to I have seen P twice and we are going out tonight again.  Having both had our fingers burned in the past we are proceeding cautiously still but are enjoying each other's company. Time will tell how it will all is short but there is still no rush, if we are meant for one another then it will happen in it's own good time and P has a lot to think about in this as being with me means taking on J as well who is my utter joy in life.

J has now returned from his holiday and I am so happy to have him back at home and in my arms. I am without doubt blessed to have this little boy, especially as he arrived stacked against all the odds of my infertility and the dire prediction of a doctor that I was "unlikely to conceive naturally".  I am happy to have proved them wrong.....

So this morning when I took J to church I said a special prayer of thanks for J's presence in my life and for the daily joy he brings me - even if that joy IS accompanied by a certain amount of stress at times! This would include yesterday when J was in one of his "climbing moods" which culminated in his c limbing 15 feet into a tree before going into utter meltdown when he decided he was stuck up there. Getting through to James and reaching him through these meltdowns is not easy....I am so grateful for the passing dogwalker who had an advantage over me in height! I said a prayer of thanks for him today too!

Towards the end of the church service today, J started talking of "magic wands". Aunty Moonroot has one, he had tried it and what was more, when he is 13 he could use it "if Mummy & Daddy agree otherwise Mum, I have to wait til I am 18". the conversation got quite loud and feeling that talk of  "magic wands" might not be appropriate in a Catholic church I decided to sit outside and continue the conversation with J there.

We had a great chat and J understood that Aunty Moonroot's magic wand was not like the wands he reads about or sees in Harry Potter books and films because she had explained this. We discussed the fact that like his Rosary beads  a wand was used as a focus for positive and reflective prayer and to offer love and support for others.  J seemed happy with this and we further discussed his use of a magic wand at an older age as he was keen to talk about this.  I said to J that if he still wanted to look more at this at 13 then he could do so along with looking at other beliefs in life. Being open minded is a good thing and understanding and respecting different belief systems is an important part of learning to respect others. We might see much more love in society if we all showed more tolerance and understanding for the beliefs of others.

After the service I spoke with Fr B the lovely and good humoured priest for his thoughts - we had a nice chat which ended with Fr B glancing furtively round then leaning in conspiratorially and whispering  "this ere magic wand of Moonroot's - does it work on the Euromillions"?  I suggested this was highly unlikely (I refer Fr B if he is reading this, to my conversation with J regarding Harry Potter and magic wands as above) and I wondered aloud what he would do with such wealth. Fr B had no hesitation "I'd retire" he declared "to live in a beach house in Barbados" .... presumably to live a spiritual life by opening his front door every morning and giving thanks to God for the good fortune and the beautiful beach and sea view in front of him, before relaxing for the rest of the THAT is my kind of priest.  A great understanding of the spiritual but human first and foremost...just brilliant and I have giggled on and off all day recalling this conversation.

So - may I suggest to Aunty Moonroot that she gives Fr B "a lend" of her magic wand - like James before him I suspect he may feel some disappointment in the immediate results - pictures don't fly and in all liklihood the lottery numbers will not magically write themselves down but focusing on prayer while holding any object can give a deeper journey into the soul and to the universe and with THAT kind of power anything might be possible.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Rioting, Reasons and Responsibilities

The UK has recently seen several nights of rioting such as I have not seen since the early 1980s. Shops, businesses, police and family homes have been targeted by the “something for nothing” brigade who have been intent on looting and destruction. These rioters have been filmed with heads covered setting fires, taking high priced electrical goods and assaulting others. They have been a variety of ages from children to adults and I am still trying to shake the gut feeling that some of the children there may have been accompanied by a parent. I hesitate to say parents because without a doubt there will be many of these children who do not have the luxury of two parents at home.

Now  that the rioting and looting appears to be over there are no end of commentators trying to find the “causes” of such behaviour and there have been no end of reasons given from the lack of moral fibre in society to the very liberal “poor, misunderstood and marginalised youth” excuse.

Me? I think that there are many reasons but no excuses, children who grow up with no regular father or male role model in their lives but a variety of “Uncles” who come and go. This affects all children but especially boys who benefit from seeing and being able to learn appropriate behaviour from a significant male role model.

Then there are those who have not ever learned to read or write with any confidence – yes there may be a criticism of education here but it’s not difficult to get support with literacy in this day and age – hell they even provide a creche if the learner is a parent.

I cannot shake the belief that many of these rioters had no good excuses – they were there in force, it was available so they took. Yet without a doubt there are many many other individuals out there with the same difficult upbringing who did NOT take part in the looting and rioting and who ARE trying to make achievements in life.

We have a society with a sense of “entitlement”, this is not confined to the poor or any underclass but goes right through the social spectrum to the very rich who avoid their taxes and see no reason to contribute anything to society if they can avoid doing so.  Too many people know that “these are my rights” but pay no heed to the responsibilities which go with those “rights”.

I have always believed in the Welfare State being there to support those unable to support themselves financially.  In this belief I can accept that there has to be room for those who will never contribute anything and just “take” their whole lives. The key is in keeping those people who will never contribute (and I don’t include those unable to contribute due to illness/disabilities) to a minimum and supporting those who CAN work to do so.

Why then can we not have numeracy and literacy skills being part of a “welfare to work” scheme and becoming a condition of receiving benefits. Part of the responsibility a person claiming benefits should show is how they are making themselves more employable. Obviously there are those claiming benefits who ARE employable and who CAN read, write and who have enough basic numeracy skills to get by. There are far too many though who do not have these skills and unless we tackle this issue,  they will continue to be a drain on society.

Or am I wrong?

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Freedom for a week.

So J has left this morning with his Daddy for a week in Somerset with a possible jaunt into Wales and the home of his grandparents planned too. M has phoned to report their safe arrival and the immediate relaxation of J who had plonked himself down on the big squashy armchair and was flicking through the Sky channels in search of something he wanted to watch.

Me? Well I am actually exhausted today. I think it's called "burning the candle at both ends" with a combination of work, catching up with an old friend and then a night of drunken antics with my friend E, who has recently been bereaved by the sudden death of her partner at the age of 47. E needs a project to keep herself going at the moment, I can only think that I am IT as she has been very keen to match me up with single friends of hers for a while and all to no avail as I have simply not been interested until recently.
Anyhow, this project of hers culminated in Tuesday evening with wine (too much), much laughter and to my dying shame a french maids outfit which exposed far too much cleavage. I was dressed as what my mother would call "a wanton hussy" and so drunk I did not care! Actually that is probably NOT a good combo but there we go...alcohol does funny things to people. What I do know is that I have not enjoyed an evening like that in a long while but I have paid for it with the inevitable hangover and the mortification of knowing that photos of me in said maid's outfit exist. Oh dear, oh dear.....

So to today, 48 hours on I am exhausted, admittedly a trip to and from Heathrow airport in the blazing heat did not help matters here but I actually felt fine yesterday - it is today I have paid. And it has poured down today, I got soaked and all I now want to do is wallow in a deep bath, drink tea and fall asleep on the sofa watching a chick flick - preferable with a warm purring bundle of feline contentedness next to me.

Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday and a weekend off does decorating the wall which E and I covered with lining paper a few weeks ago.....we drank wine while doing so and the result can be seen as you look along the wall and the work got more and more slipshod - oh dear. Good job I plan to cover all the flaws with pictures and a mirror really. Then I tackle the bathroom and J's room all being well, it will be a boring Magnolia for J's room to start with, he has ideas of a Mario  themed room except that getting wall stickers is a nightmare and I may have to get out a pencil, some paint and put on my artistic head....needless to say that bit will NOT get done this week. The bathroom paint is ready and waiting, I just need a few extra bits before I start.

So a free week beckons, but it's packed and I hope to get lots done while J is not here and I will still work but will find time to rest too....somewhere in the schedule.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Hearts, Minds and Feelings

It has been a few years now since M and I separated due to various issues causing hurt on both sides and I have never felt the need to blog about it before.

M and I still maintain a good (if slightly difficult) friendship which is essential for J. He needs to see his Mum and Dad talking civilly to one another without arguments and recriminations. I think on the whole we manage this well and J has had fun times in the company of both parents.

Until last year I had been under the impression that neither of us had been able to move on emotionally. However, I am now aware from M that he has made attempts at dating other women and had one or two lunch dates. On these occasions his feelings were not reciprocated (their loss ) but it is safe to assume that had they been interested in taking things further M would have moved on. I asked him about this last week and he confirmed that this was the case.

So now I am starting to feel a need to move on albeit slowly.  M’s feelings were badly hurt by my leaving Somerset. My feelings were badly hurt by issues which occurred there and which M had never shared with me. It is no exaggeration to say that I felt stunned by what I heard from M regarding one issue and coupled with the other problems it was the final straw. It ruined everything for me with regard to our marriage and I told M this when we went out  one evening to talk at the time. I have never been able to change this...I think our marriage was in effect over at that point.

We limped on for a few months before I succumbed to what can only be termed as a meltdown/nervous breakdown (call it what you will).  Without a doubt this was one of the lowest times of my life and it was also the same for M. We were both hurt, confused and lacked the ability to tackle this together despite still getting on well. M felt rejected by me, I know this, I felt low, depressed and exhausted all the time. The guilt I felt by my perceived rejection of M has never really dissipated and despite his issue (which predated our relationship by some years) I could not help but feel partially responsible. Even worse I was aware that M still loved me but after all that had occurred I could no longer feel the same way.
I guess that’s the way when any marriage breaks down, you have two people who have failed to communicate fairly major issues which if tackled might have kept them together....and in our case M had lied throughout our marriage with regard to a fairly major issue.

So – we are both moving on, M is looking for a new relationship and has been for some time, he expresses self esteem issues when rejected and needs to accept that sometimes people are just not take it on the chin as it were and move on... others will be interested.
Me, well I am moving on finally too – it’s been a few years now and I have not dated, have not wanted to date and felt quite happy with my single status. This is now changing....
I am not going to identify M here, he knows who he is and so do I. I'd like to see him happy in a new relationship and I'd like to see him have more of a liking for himself... nothing is more attractive than someone who realises their worth, it's time M realised his despite the difficulties which led to the breakdown of our marriage.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Autism speak

I love autism speak....J like most children with autism can be very precise and literal in what he says and understands without necessarily getting things quite right. This leads to some hilarious conversations at times - either with J or overheard when J is talking to others.
For example, my mother has practically adopted one of the local priests, he is about my age but has lost both parents. In my Mum's eyes this makes him an orphan in need of adoption - and she wants to adopt! Recently he was invited over to my Mum's house for dinner - an event to which J and I were also invited. All went well - my father referred to the priest as "the parson" (shades of Little House on the Prairie) and also as "the vicar" (actually suspect my Dad may have some autistic tendancies) and J was on his best behaviour.
At around 9.30pm as J, I and the priest left for our respective homes, J shook the priest solomnly by the hand .. "Goodbye Fr B.....and make sure you look after God", and good old Fr B replied with good humour, "Actually J, I am rather hoping God is going to look after me".

A few days later and J's Dad is here with a collection of Dr Who DVDs, now I have a hankering after the ...ahem...talented Christopher Eccleston in the role of Dr Who and requested several episodes from that series including one called "Bad Wolf".  J having sat through a few episodes was agog at the "Bad Wolf" one until he realised after much explanation from both his parents, that there was in fact no wolf and the name of the episode related to something else entirely - J was not impressed and showed it by stomping off in a huff.

So - I have to watch what I say.....a couple of years ago on holiday with some friends who had a dog, we stopped to have a good long walk at Maiden Castle in Dorset - this is very windswept, wild and open and I noted with satisfaction that Sancha (friend's dog) would be in "doggie heaven" here. This throwaway comment drew much distress from J, "she's not really going to heaven is she Mum" and a reassurance that this was "a saying" and not meant to be taken literally.....the conversation went on for some time before J could accept that Sancha was not, in fact about to die, but was rather going to have a long and satisfying walk/run in a wide open space.

So we watch what we say and be prepared to explain when we have to....

"It's raining cats and dogs" = "Where Mum?"
"Kill two birds with one stone" = "What? You're joking aren't you Mum? Mum, is that a joke?"
"An apple a day keeps the Doctor away" = (J raids fruit bowl).

J is literal, not overly so and he is able to recall things so that once heard he may well know the next time "that is just a saying".....sometimes he needs reminders but mostly he gets by.
I am proud of him for being himself and for seeing the world in his own unique way...he is special and I never tire of telling him this. .. and I never tire either of hearing how J has interpreted conversations and events because without a doubt he will have seen something which nobody else has...and sometimes that is magical.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Strive for Five!

J's school has a neat little reward system going where each child is marked out of 5 each half term for a variety of "good" things like attitude, behaviour, politeness and respect for others. At the end of the year the scores are totted up and the points out of 30 is awarded to each child.
Depending on each child's score there is a reward, children earning 28-30 points get a trip to the local activity/adventure park. J has 29 points and I am so pleased with him for showing the world his good behaiour. Who says all children with ADHD are badly behaved ? I'd like to introduce them to my son.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Spiritual stuff and J.

J has attended a Catholic school since we moved to the town when he was aged 5, the school as I reported in my previous post has been amazingly supportive to his special needs. Although the school is a Catholic one with a Catholic ethos it is far from insisting on church attendance or making children enrol for Communion classes. It is just a nice local school which has the needs of its pupils as the focus for everything it does.
Recently J has started to ask about Communion classes as his friend attends and he wants to go to. As a result of this we started going to church and I have discovered that I actually really like doing so. J is less keen but if he wants to attend the Communion classes then the church attendance is pretty much a requirement. In addition he needs to be baptised too so even more reason for attending church.

What J wants to do more than anything though is ..."take the bread" as he sees others doing. I have explained that this is why he will be attending classes as this will be the focus of them. I asked J if he knew what "taking the bread" meant., "yes" he replied confidently.." it means I can eat it" so not quite got a clear understanding of the symbolism behind it then!
I often wonder when I see the children from "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" going off and making their first communion whether they attend any classes or understand the symbolism of what they are doing. It's a big leap of understanding for a child...any child... to have a real understanding of change from  the reality of bread to the symbolic body of Christ. Not easy to explain, even harder to understand when you are small and the world is already a bit confusing.

In addition to this we have J's Dad who does not believe in organized religion  as such and who finds the recent church attendance all a bit of a mystery. J will talk to his Dad about "Jesus being kind" and his Dad will reply that "Jesus was a good man" without going into his belief that Jesus was just that, "a man" and not wrapped up in all the religion as spoken by the Catholic church.  This might be something he will be able to discuss with J when he is older and more able to process difference in belief systems. He knows that his Aunty Moonroot is Pagan or "a witch" as J has heard (he is deeply impressed by this). J also know that his Aunty has a "magic wand"  AND "a broomstick" which she assures him she only flies on at night. So we have discussed the different ways people pray but not differences in who they may pray to. Life is already complicated enough without trying to tackle that one yet.

I am rambling a bit here because without a doubt J is enjoying some aspects of the church and finds others (such as Mass) "very boring" as he openly told the priest one afternoon.  Thankfully the priest was able to say that he also finds " the Mass boring sometimes" - thank Heaven for a human and normal priest.

So - come September J will start his communion classes and sometime next year will be baptised. I will attend the classes with him both to help supervise and also to ensure J understands what is happening.

In the meantime J says regular prayers, some of which are school taught and others  which are ad hoc as he sometimes prays for his hamster who died or for "all the children ill in hospital". I am proud of him for taking it all in his stride, for coping with Mass when the school take him over and for being an angel in Children's Liturgy when it is busy.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Teacher's Strike......

...or rather NOT in the case of J's teacher who does not belong the the union(s) which are taking action today. J is distinctly unimpressed by this as his class is one of just 3 which have to attend school.
Anyhow the strike and the publicity with regard to teachers has got me thinking about things. I am not a teacher and don't think I could be either, to hold a class of up to 30+ children in your care and keep them interested in whatever subject you are trying to share is a skill and talent.

So.... can you put a price on a good teacher? I don't think you can and J's teacher is the epitome of what I would call a "good" teacher. It's not just the knowledge she imparts but the way in which she does so. Teachers don't just coldly "teach" or at least J's teacher does not, In short she is lovely and J has thrived in her care this year.

Below I have listed just some of the ways in which J's teacher AND his Learning Support Assistant have helped J this year.

1. Going out of their way to welcome him into the Junior school and putting him at his ease.

2. Taking the time to get to know him really well in order to identify triggers for distress. These triggers are then minimised.

3. Learning how to use some software which enables J to write social stories using visual symbols. J then brings these stories home so that we can share them again.

4. Attending training to enable them to support J's ASD behaviours in the classroom and really get the best from him.

5. Not being afraid of moving away from the National Curriculum to help J (and other class children) at times. I am thinking here about how they supported J through the loss of Bramble our hamster.  ALL the children had an opportunity to talk about loss and grief. J was then able to choose a flowering plant to put in the school garden. He was encouraged to write his pet's name on a large lolly stick which went in by the plant. Now he has a space in school to remember her.

6. By getting to know J and supporting him they have enabled my very insecure little boy to raise his reading age by 2.5 years over the last 9 months and to go from below national Curriculum level in Maths to achieving virtually on a par with his peers.

7. They have maintained regular contact with me and asked advice where needed about any of J's issues.

8. They have given J his self esteem back - how can you put a price on that? My little boy who always thought he couldn't "do it" when it came to academic work now has the confidence to know he CAN. This is wonderful to see in J and he is definitely easier in other areas as a result.

In short - I LOVE TEACHERS.  They are unsung heroes in my book and this is why I support them today.

So thank you to all good teachers today, whether striking or not I think you are great.

Ditto to good schools where staff pull together as a team to support the children in their care.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

For my Aunties.....

For my Auntie Margaret and Auntie Theresa

Beloved Aunt oh so dear

I wish that you could still be here

To share your sage advice so true

You were always wise and always YOU

Such laughter and fun

We always shared

I know as well that you always cared

I miss you more than I can say

I’d love to spend another day

Laughing and chatting over tea

Being with you inspired me.

Sadness now that you are gone

Without you we have to carry on

I know you are in pain no more

And that’s a blessing I can’t ignore

But I miss my aunt oh so dear

And wish I could still hold her near.

Auntie Theresa with her beloved granddaughter.

Auntie Margaret with Uncle Johnny

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

This post is dedicated to my Auntie Theresa Mary Moir.

Remember me when I am gone away,

gone far away into the silent land;

My Auntie with her silvery blonde hair before
she was afflicted with cancer
when you can no more hold me by the hand,

nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day

you tell me of our future that you planned:

only remember me; you understand

it will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

and afterwards remember, do not grieve:

for if the darkness and corruption leave

a vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

better by far you should forget and smile

than that you should remember and be sad.

--Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

My lovely Auntie on her birthday in May 2011

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Duck Walk!

Following my rather angsty and moaning blog posts of recent I decided to be POSITIVE and get a grip!
So in the belief that sometime all little boys need a walk I took J (and my Mum) for a little trek round Langdon Wildlife Park at the Dunton Plotlands.

This walk is a favourite of J's not least because halfway round there is a pretty impressive lake with many geese, ducks, coots and moorhens who are always pleased to see a human holding a bag of duck feed.
J always has a bag of duck feed when we visit.
As you can see it was a beautiful day yesterday.

J confidently sounds out the words.
J really enjoyed following some of the signs hung in the trees which gave information about the variety of birds who call the nature reserve home.

It was also another opportunity to see how far J's reading skills have progressed since starting his medication.

Yesterday we managed to see Canada Geese, Mallards, Ruddy Ducks, Coots, Moorhens, Magpies and Jays.

I got a real boost from hearing J confidently sound the words out on the cards.

The lake birds realise there is company with FOOD.

J encouraged the birds to come closer so he could get a better look.

Beautiful Basildon (yes "really"?)

 We all had a lovely walk around the lake and enjoyed the nice weather and the countryside views. J really loved seeing the ducks in pairs, the males with their shimmering green heads snuggled up to the warm brown feathers of the females.

The sky was very blue with just soft wispy clouds streaked across the sky - it was a glorious day.
We walked past masses of wild flowers which lit up the paths and verges.

After the walk we went into the wildlife centre for ice lollies and then a wander round the gardens attached. J bought an insect magnifyer and enjoyed capturing, observing and then releasing tiny insects. Meanwhile I spotted an eldery woman on a bench  my Mum relaxing amongst the wild flowers.

Old lady sat on seat (My Mum)

All in all a lovely walk and a beautiful day. It was so good I have found myslef volunteering to go back next week to help when an Infant school visits to do some Pond Dipping. Can't wait... just hope the weather is as good as yesterday.

Monday, 23 May 2011

ADHD Myth and Reality

Since J was diagnosed iwith ADHD (along with ASD, Dyspraxia and Hypermobile joints). I feel I have waged a constant internal war with those who think ADHD is all rubbish and an excuse parents have dreamed up to excuse bad behaviour. "It's a myth", "just an excuse for letting a child run riot", "it's rubbish and about poor parenting", "we didn't have all these children diagnosed like this when I was a child", "it's all about getting extra benefits out of the system", they get their kids labelled and then they claim benefits (amazingly these people think it is THAT easy) etc etc etc.

I have heard all the above and more since J was diagnosed, maybe because I have read about the condition and made myself aware of the history and theories behind it. Sadly the above comments are not restricted to strangers and much to my irritation and sadness have come from members of J's family. And I say "irritation and sadness" because if J does not have his family behind him what hope is there that anyone else will support him.

Other little gems regarding his Dyspraxia and ASD have been "he's not THAT bad", "let's teach him to use a knife and fork right now" (as the Occupational Therapist has struggled I doubt YOU will have greater success) which also blatantly suggests the advisor in question has little opinion of my parenting skills.

But back to ADHD. There appears a concerted effort by the powers that be currently, to label anyone disabled and claiming DLA as a "scrounger sponging off the State". The Daily Mail and The Telegraph are cases in point and in no time you nave those who have swallowed their copy of the Daily Mail for breakfast spouting forth about those with disabilities for daring to claim the benefits they are ENTITLED to.
This is bad enough without getting the same people - and there are now thousands of them, onto the subject of the "hidden" disabilities. Evidently people like me are responsible for fecklessly allowing our children to run riot and we the then "get them labelled" to excuse poor behaviour. They are then full on in their condemnation of such parents "claiming benefits". They completely ignore the fact that many parents claiming DLA for a child might also be working and paying taxes, after all that does not fit with their narrow world view.
If only getting a diagnosis were that simple, in actual fact J was not diagnosed until he was over the age of 7 and even then it took time for the speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, educational psychologists and community medical officers to decide that J would benefit from being assessed by the social communication team. Once he was seen and assessed though the specialist team had no hesitation in diagnosing J with ASD. Getting a diagnosis of ADHD, although this was strongly suspected from the assessments which had already taken place took even longer, and was not formally diagnosed until other assessments had been completed.

So reading the continued propaganda being published by an increasingly Tory controlled press is disheartening,. I can tell myself that they are all arseholes ignorant people with a narrow world view, but this does not take away the fact that there are an awful lot of them with many hundreds of thousands of readers who hold an equally narrow world view. It is the. I feel depressed, it is then I despair, it is then I wonder about J's future life in a world which has decided his disability does not exist. All I can see for him is a future of isolation, an oddball with a made up label according to an increasingly intolerant and selfish population and a future of mental health problems as a result. It is then I want to cry.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The fuzzy wuzzy foggy reality!

Sometimes life is just too overwhelming and I don’t know where to begin. It’s a bit like looking through a smudged glass, all a bit misty and foggy and hard to see the reality. I find it hard to FEEL the reality, that’s what it’s like being me and what it has always been like. I told a counsellor once that my life and head felt like an un-tuned TV – all fussy and noisy without clarity. I don’t think she knew what to make of it or me.

All I can say is “it’s always been like that” because it has and I don’t know how this will ever change.

Some time ago (around 5 years ago) with yet another bout of serious depression I was given a new drug and the dose was increased. It was coupled with a beta blocker for anxiety - another issue which has always plagued me. I took the tablets for a week and then they kicked in.....lovely. For a few blissful days I experienced what it must be like to feel normal, I was alert, wakeful, controlled, calm and able to cope with the world. The disordered eating stopped and I had unending patience with James who I found challenging and difficult in the years before diagnosis explained his odd behaviours. It was wonderful.... and temporary, after around one week I returned to my normality which is foggy and unfocused.

I have had endless discussions with my GP regarding these issues and suggested ADHD/ADD. I have suggested Dyspraxia (which I am certain I fit) all to no avail, she will not refer me anywhere because I am an adult. Not only am I an adult but I am an adult “who has achieved and achieved well”. Yes I am but how much more could I have achieved  or how sooner could I have achieved things if the issues which have plagued me all my life been identified in childhood with a definite diagnosis.  There was lots of vague talk about my brain” working differently to other children”, just what did they mean? Meetings with an Educational Psychologist in childhood placed the blame firmly at my Mum’s door because her marriage had broken down despite the fact that it was my father who had left my mother high and dry. Great! If in doubt blame the mother, thankfully those days are gone.

My argument is that dyspraxic children grow into dyspraxic adults with the same challenges to their day to day lives. Likewise J is not unlike me as a child according to my Mum, let me think how many labels J has....and how much support he receives which was not there for me.

Interestingly I have learned this week that I had delayed speech and language development as well as difficulties with socialisation in school, the child who was bullied because she didn’t understand how to relate to the other children effectively, the child who was scared of flies and balloons which went BANG and left me feeling shaky, the total and utter disorganisation, the dislike of some wools next to my skin, the dislike of lots of background noise, facial blindness  meaning non-recognition if someone was seen out of contaxt and many of these issues remain. Not for no reason am I a tad isolated at times, not for no reason do I find it easier to relate to my cat who is more predictable than I find people to be sometimes.

Sooo... my GP will refer me nowhere and I am not accepting it, I am taking matters into my own hands and have a private appointment with a Clinical Psychologist in July. I want answers to the difficulties I have had all my life and which I still have even though I have learned many coping mechanisms. It will be interesting to see what she comes up with...if anything. Even no answer from her will be an answer of sorts. At the very least I hope it will give me some insight into this feeling of being overwhelmed and foggy.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Music, Medication and Amazing Relatives

I promised to report back on the medication so here it is...... it works. No idea of the how's and why's, just know that J's concentration levels are much improved and the only thing we've done differently is the pills.

A first music lesson has been successful and J learned the notes C, D and E which he has been slowly torturing me with ever since. And the same day as the music lesson J's class did "long jump" practice ... and J won!

Which leads me neatly on to famous relatives. It's a little known fact ( until now) that J has as a fifth cousin ( so very distant then) an athelete by the name of Lynn Davies who in 1964 won an Olympic gold medal for Great Britain in the Long Jump. He managed a distance of 8.23m which has never been equalled by a British athlete since. J wanted to know if Mr Davies aka "Lynn the Leap" had "jumped as far as I did"? My answer of "just a bit further dear" did not impress J who has serious winning "issues".

On the subject of famous relatives J's fourth cousin is the model and actress Lily Cole who is reported to currently be the 6th richest woman in the UK. Would you think me bad if I asked
her to be J's Godmother when he is baptised later this year?

"Yeah I know you've never met us but you were the first person we thought of - honest".

Friday, 29 April 2011

Why I like Sr Clare!

From the Parish magazine on 3rd April 2011.

From Sr Clare...

"Have you ever thought about calling God
When we call God ‘Father’ we are making a real
call to a personal God, but the image in which we
clothe our call is a metaphor. God is not a human
father. Nevertheless ‘Father’ is the nearest we can
get to a true picture, according to our teacher, the
Christ. (Matthew 23:8-10).
But God the Father is not a man, nor is he a male.
‘Mother’ is another picture of God that the
scriptures use, though nothing like as frequently
as ‘Father’. ‘Will a mother forget her child?’ asks
Isaiah. ‘Even if she did, I will never forget you.’
Many children see chiefly in their mother the
characteristics of unquestioning love and endless
faithfulness which we ascribe to God.
Jesus compares himself to a mother hen: ‘O
Jerusalem! How often would I have gathered your
children together as a hen gathers her brood
under her wings, and you would not’ (Matthew
Sometimes it feels good for me to say ‘Our Mother
and Father who art in heaven’!

Isn't that fabulous?  I think she says it beautifully and I find her enthusiasm and approach to life inspiring and open minded. Meant to post this at the time as it struck me when I read it how right Sr Clare was when she wrote these words.  She had said the same several weeks previously at the Journey in Faith course and it was good to hear but even better to see written down in more detail.

Too often we see a crude image of God in the masculine, the proverbial  "old man" flowing beard and all the other manifestations  so beloved of artists and Hollywood. We don't often sit down and think about the reality or the truth behind the patriarchal imagary. Why not a God who is in equal balance between the divine masculine and feminine? Isn't that a more likely and more balanced construct?

Many of us (either identifying as "religious" or not) have forgotten or lost the notion that God the Father was never separate from God the Mother and we have lost that duel aspect of developing a relationship with God in full completeness and balance. Interestingly during the years in which I saw myself as "pagan" I found many more people who DID see the male and female aspects of the divine and were much more accepting of this way of seeing God in balance though not accepting a Christian tradition of God. This balance was something which seemed right to me and was probably one of the reasons I was drawn to the pagan tradition initially. They were also much more aware of the dangers our masculine and technological society was capable of wreaking upon the Earth.

So Sr Clare's thoughts on this divine balance were refreshing to read and affirmed for me that I am now in the right place spiritually.

After several years of identifying with the pagan Goddess it feels right that it should be a woman who showed me that the Catholic Church was not the crusty old place I had imagined or assumed. That it can be pro-active and forward thinking, that the people involved were human and multi-dimensional, that there was an acceptance of more than one way for people to find God in their lives. And they have a successful approach - the church is packed to bursting point on Sundays with the overspill going into the church hall. So successful and busy are the Parish churches that there has just been planning permission granted for an extension to one church to accommodate all who attend. This is something I will bear in mind for the weekly torture session  Childrens Liturgy which it is my happy duty to assist with.