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.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Conversations with the ones I (mostly) love.

So tomorrow is Prince and Princesses day at school courtesy of Wills and Kate’s wedding on Friday which co-incidentally will also be 11 years to the day since I tied the knot with M who is J’s Dad.

J will not hear of just plain clothes for the day and so a trip is made into town to buy a readymade crown and a metre of gold fabric which can be twisted into a cloak without too much hassle.

J informs me that he would like several fancy buttons and adornments sewn onto the cloak. I inform J that I am crap at needlework and short on time so he will have the outfit which involves the least possible effort on my part but which looks as though I have gone the whole hog.

Back home J tries on the fancy crown and material cloak – Skype is up and running so I suggest we Skype Daddy to show him the costume which goes down a storm.

While in conversation with M I mention a plan to attend a silent retreat in October this year. M does not even pretend to hide his amusement but does agree to have J for the weekend as long as he can have a silent retreat in a Pub on my return. M then disappears from the screen saying “just a mo”.

The phone rings and it’s my Mum – M returns to the screen with guitar singing “Shine Jesus Shine” and generally takes the piss, he then suggests that if I am attending a silent retreat I also take my mother.

My mother asks if M is here and I say he is on Skype. My mother suggests I turn M off until he can behave.

M then begins to play out the role of “some poor monk who took a vow of silence in 1945 but then came across you two”.

I think it safe to say M is off the Xmas card list this year.

Meanwhile J is dressed not as a prince but “as a King” apparently and is beginning to enjoy ordering me around.

The cat is yowling in the kitchen because she has suddenly taken an abject dislike to the fancy overpriced spoilt animal cat food which starving cats in other places would be glad of. As the years progress she is rapidly becoming like our last cat Grace who was , according to M “the most pampered animal that God ever put breath into”. All signs are that Drusilla is headed the same way in the pampered animal stakes.

Oh and M is taking me out for dinner next week (oh yes you are dear – and I like my wine to be white, chilled and dry).

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Musically my heart belongs to Kate.

Kate Bush. The Hounds of Love album cover

I have loved the voice and music of Kate Bush ever since I was a teenager... listening to her music both then AND now is almost a spiritual experience.  Her voice, lyrics and music speak to my soul and it's always moving.  The music is beautiful, quirky, experimental and sometimes just downright odd  - Aerial Tal for example where inexplicably Kate has recorded her voice over the top of a singing blackbird.
I started with The Kick Inside with Wuthering Heights among other fabulous tracks. The album was a commerical success and written by a girl not yet out of her teenage years.  EMI having heard some early work when Kate was younger were quick to issue a "development contract" allowing her to hone her writing and dance skills.  It knew a good thing and fired by the success of the first album encouraged Kate to rapidly release a second album Lionheart which, while it sold well was not the commerical success of the first one. When you consider that Kate released her first album in 1978 and her second album just 10 months later it seems amazing that both should have been well received.

The third album The Dreaming  which was Kate's first sole produced album, was a commercial flop and Kate retreated for three years before returning  in 1985 with arguably the best album of the decade in The Hounds of Love which was a massive commercial success.

The Hounds Of Love also experimented for the first time with a secondary insert - The Ninth Wave which looked at the fear of someone stuck in deep water right until the last moment with The Morning Fog and the light but is the person alive and rescued or reborn in a new life beyond death. Kate doesn't explain and I don't need her to - it's lovely as it is. I also love The Jig of Life with it's Irish influences - a nod to Kate's mother who was Irish.

Kate with the Trio Bulgarka
The Sensual World with its inclusion of the the fabulous Trio Bulgarka - a Bulgarian Folk Trio who sang Bulgarian Folk music and who were heard beautifully on Rockets Tail is another favourite. Rocket's Tail ? Well it's about her cat of course.

The Red Shoes which was scarcely out of the CD player when I first got it with another track about her Mum in Moments of Pleasure.

All albums which were welcomed and loved for varying reasons. All which spoke to me in different ways and which were played a different times.

Several years ago it appeared that Kate had stopped writing music and no new work was going to be forthcoming. Over that period of time I heard rumours and snippets of gossip... Kate was now a recluse..... Kate had had a baby.... there was never going to be another album. And then suddenly in 2005 there WAS a new album - Aerial.  I had known for several months the album was on it's way and eagerly anticipated the new and long awaited music.  While this is not a review for the album  (apart from to say I LOVE IT) I have to say that there is some beautiful stuff on there. Music and lyrics which dealt with some parts of Kate's life such as "The Coral Room" which touched on Kate's memories and sadness about the death of her mother. The lyrics were both beautiful and devastating as a tribute to her Mum. It used metaphors about planes crashing down not as discussion of war but to describe the awful feelings which accompany the sudden death of a much loved relative. I think you would have to be fairly hard not to be moved by the lyrics " Mother, and her little brown jug, it held her milk and now it holds our memories".

Then back to happy times with Bertie - Kate's tribute to her son. And oh I am right there with her, really feeling and understanding the sentiments she describes... "here comes the sunshine.... here comes this son of mine.... here comes the everything". Oh yes Kate I am with you on that one. J is an utter ray of sunshine with "truly the most fantastic smile I've ever seen" and he is indeed my "everything".
His bright and shining eyes as he describes a Lego creation to me, the imaginative and creative thought processes which are manifested in whatever Lego rocket he has built are amazing. And then at bedtime when J absolutely does not wish to succumb to sleep I am with Kate again as J becomes "the most wilful" and yet "the most beautiful" child who can wrap his mother around his little finger.

And the good news - on May 3rd a new Kate offering is released. - Deeper Understanding. It's a rehash of some of her older stuff with new interpretations - it will be odd, quirky, loved and hated in equal measure - I have already pre-ordered my copy. Even better Kate is rumoured to be working on new stuff.... I can't wait.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

It's possibly too soon to cheer but.......

Medikinet capsule - I hide the contents in cereal.

I attended a meeting in London with J yesterday and he sat through two hours of discussion and was an angel. He talked incessantly (nothing new there) but he concentrated on his Lego, his DS Lite and on a mini Etch-a-Sketch. Despite all the noise and distractions J sat and concentrated. I cannot put intop words how big a deal this is. Is it the medication? Probably too soon to say but it's an improvement.
When we got home J totally spontaneously took a book from his book bag, sat down and read it to me from start to finish - another first. Wow!

And on a positive note the ConDems have decided NOT to make any changes to children's DLA for the present time. I reckon the Tax Credit premium is ripe for picking though.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

DLA and Despair

Fifteen months ago I massively decreased my hours at work to support J emotionally and psychologically. More and more problems were surfacing at school and I had a child whose self esteem was rock bottom. The decrease in hours coincided with a move to a council property which was all I could afford on my lower income so was very welcome despite being on the local sink estate.

Despite the decreased rent my finances were in dire straits as I was limited once the rent and council tax plus other bills were paid. It was a hard time financially and at times I wondered if I had done the right thing. J was obviously benefitting from having me around much more though and even better I was able to sort out issues which had occurred in school there and then at home time.

In March 2010 James was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Learning Difficulties, ADHD, Dyspraxia and Hyper mobility. With the diagnosis came a better understanding of J’s quirks and an affirmation that I had made the right decision regarding work hours. I was introduced to a local special needs centre where J could attend a variety of groups to help his social communication skills and my reduced work hours meant I could attend them.

The consultant told me to apply for Disability Living Allowance for J as she said I would need the extra income to pay for attendance at the centre (non-profit making) and extra petrol costs which given the increase in prices has made me realise how true this is. I applied and was relieved to be successful for J – J receives the middle rate care component and lower rate mobility. He doesn’t get a car or a blue badge with these rates and nor does he need them. He is more than capable of walking but requires constant adult supervision outside by roads as he is very distractible, impulsive and still not able to always remember that cars travel on both sides of the road. An instruction to “look both ways before you cross” can still have J looking both ways as instructed but not actually seeing the cars and stepping out. He has on those occasions obeyed the instruction quite literally and “looked both ways” but not made the connection that he needs to wait if cars are coming. Thankfully this IS improving slowly but J is still not reliable and I would fear for him if left to his own devices.

The middle rate care component relates to J’s hyper mobility and dyspraxia which make it hard for him to manage normal everyday tasks which others take for granted. For example using a knife and fork remains a closed book despite input from me and limited input from Occupational Therapy. In addition J needs routine and instruction to manage day to day tasks, dressing himself takes a long time (so I end up often doing it for him on school days), he needs step by step instructions for some tasks, becomes upset with change to his routine and displays much more challenging behaviour when this occurs. Added to this are constipation and withholding (a vicious cycle) and the odd 2.00am bath to settle J when he has stomach ache or has wet the bed (many nights of the week), additional washing, soft cotton clothing which is seamless to stop him feeling irritated under his uniform as well as being aware of certain noises which can upset him and you can see how life can be unsettled but interesting with J.

With DLA came an increase in Tax Credits and for the first time since my hours were dropped I was able to manage financially again without panic and worry. It was a relief which I cannot describe but it made me feel secure. I was able to support J’s physical, mental and emotional needs by working part-time and I was no longer falling behind with bills and that gave me much more peace of mind.

J’s DLA is due for renewal next March 2012 and although I am tempted to write “still autistic” across the top of the form I am guessing in the current climate this will not pass muster.

So – to yhe current time and the plans of this new government for DLA which will see it being halved for children like J with higher functioning autistic spectrum disorder. Along with this cut will be the decrease in the tax credit premium and all in all there will be less money for children like J who need additional support which isn’t always obvious visibly.  J can walk, run, jump albeit fairly clumsily, he can be taken shopping (he is the “odd child” who walks rapidly up and down the aisles clapping, spinning, talking to himself and generally being very autistic). He can go to school with one to one support, he can build Lego and he can play with other children.

What he cannot do is understand social communication, the need to take turns, the fact that sometimes you lose in a game and that other people have feelings when he is in conflict with them. James finds conflict especially hard and his feelings of frustration can manifest themselves in physically hitting other children (thankfully rarely). At home it takes the form of stamping, slamming doors and shouting although this has decreased with work on anger and feelings. This is work I happily do with J and which helps him to see things from the point of view of others. It works especially well when worded as a question such as,  “how did X feel when this or that happened” so that J has to try and put himself in the other person’s skin – not easy for him due to his ASD.

So I am anxious about the plans for DLA – I cannot honestly say that J will be fine without my additional input at present, therefore increasing my hours to increase my income if J is refused DLA or it is massively decreased is not an option presently. Sadly I am thinking ahead to the possibility of a future without work. A colleague at work told me that the Govt needed to look at DLA “because of all the fraud”. When I pointed out that DLA has one of the lowest rates of fraud (just 0.5% of claims) she said that these fraudsters make it bad for everybody. Yes they do but it would make more sense to me to go after these fraudsters rather than plunge people caring for children or adults with a disability into a financial nightmare of anxiety.  I could go on and on about other issues as well, for example those with children who have severe physical disabilities and need continence pads - apparently only 4 nappies/pads a day are allowed regardless of need - something David Cameron promised he would tackle if he was elected.

The Government say that existing claimants will be protected – of course all existing claimants will need to renew their claims at some point at which time the new measures will come into force. But hey – “We’re All In This Together” – right Dave?