Thursday, 27 December 2018

What a decade!

To say that the last 10 years has been eventful sounds dramatic, but I mean it, it really has been:

December 2008 we had to cancel my 40th birthday trip to Prague with my husband as we had my 36 year old sister's funeral the day after my birthday.

January 2009 we help move my (maternal side) grand-mother to the midlands and sell her house in Surrey.  She was moved into a home as her dementia was deteriorating after a brief physical illness.

May 2009 we took in my 12 year old niece to live with us as my parents could no longer manage her behaviour.  My children at the time were 8 and 9 1/2 years old.  Over the next two years there were legal implications that resulted from her father completely disowning her which led to tribunals and court cases.

July 2009 I had surgery on both of my knees (the result of my rheumatoid and oesteo arthritis).

January 2010 my 65 year old father had a stroke, he was at this time the main carer for my mother who was suffering from a complete mental breakdown following the death of my sister and not being able to manage her grand daughter.

March 2010 we finally started to get some mental health support for our niece as her school work and behaviour were all deteriorating very quickly.

April 2010 my father appeared to have physically recovered from his stroke however it left a significant cognitive impairment, which turned this incredibly laid back and un flustered man to become a persistent worrier.  

September 2010 my Dad managed to convince my mum to downsize to a bigger house!!!!! (Why did we not question this move more).they were still in the same town in the midlands a little further away from my brother.  He was convinced that getting her out of a house that needed work doing to it and was full of memories of my sister would do her good.  It didn't.

February 2011 my niece made her first suicide attempt, we woke up to the sound of her being ill in the night and managed to find out what she had taken and get her to hospital in time.

May 2011 we could no longer manage my nieces behaviour and she was taken into the care of social services.  After several failed foster placements (some only managing 1 day) she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. For the next two years she was in and out of various hospitals before being admitted long term to a unit 200 miles away from us. I also had to cope with her accusing my father of sexually abusing her (something she did later retract) but fractured my relationship with her and him non the less.

October 2011 my father unexpectedly died from an dissected aortic aneurysm. My mothers mental health deteriorated to the point of having to be hospitalised near us (she was staying with us at the time).

January 2012 we moved my mum into rented accommodation near us on the south coast.  She needed constant mental health service support over the proceeding year.

February 2012 my Grandmother died.

June 2012 I had to give up my part time job as I couldn't cope mentally or physically with home life demands.

January 2013 my mother succeeded in taking her own life.

2014 was quite uneventful except for the continued caring for my niece.  I was still the only person that kept in regular contact with her ( sometimes up to 4 phone calls a day from her mental health unit).

May 2015 we noticed that my youngest daughter was not eating much.  By the time we realised it was serious she was already dangerously under weight. We were immediately offered help which was difficult to accept at the beginning having had so many negative experiences with my niece.

September 2016 my daughter was admitted to a mental health eating disorder unit.  She stayed here for almost 6 months.

March 2017 my eldest child then 17 told me that they knew they were trans gender - I knew they were troubled but didn't realise this was the case.  We were asked not to tell anyone except the gp so that we could get a gender clinic referral.

May 2017 my youngest daughter was discharged and a week later started her GCSE exams at school. She managed to pass them all except one and was able to enrol into sixth form college.

September 2017 we were told by our vet that our dear dog Pippin was very ill and might just have weeks left not months.  We were so blessed to have her for another 9 months after this.

May 2018 our world was completely rocked to the core.  We discovered a deception that meant contact could no longer be kept with my niece. This story belongs to my youngest daughter if and when she decides to tell the world.
June 2018 my eldest daughter finally felt able to publicly transition to female, she had chosen her new name and was ready in her self to go forwards.  We also lost my darling dog, Pippin.

September 2018 we finally had  NHS appointment for my eldest at the gender clinic, we had already started on treatment privately and are still waiting on the NHS to take over this.

October 2018 my eldest daughter moved to York to start her degree course in maths.

Which takes us to my birthday this year, yes it was the big 50.  I had a lovely intimate party with just a few friends ( I don't cope well with big gatherings anymore).  I was totally spoilt rotten by friends and my small family.  We had got our puppy just a week before hand called Merry by my youngest  and my eldest daughter was home from university (which she is loving).

I felt very much that God was saying it was time to put this decade behind me.  Within a week of my 50's my youngest daughter was accepted into a London music conservatoire to study saxophone performance.  She also got a distinction in her Grade 8 exam.  To top even that we then found she had been awarded a reasonably substantial scholarship which would help to fund a London placement!

So I am excited about 2019, I am learning to leave the feeling of dread of what will come next behind me.  There is still a long way to go for healing for all four of us but it actually now feels as though this healing is attainable and there actually might be a time of great blessing from all these bad times.

Friday, 9 November 2018


Last Saturday my other half and I went to Stourhead to look at the beautiful Autumn colours in the trees there.  Yesterday as dear other half is off work sick at the moment I took him to the Hillier Gardens to see the colours there as well. The long dry summer and very mild autumn weather seems to have fuelled the trees into bearing the most spectacular show of colours this year.  We are due a lot of rain and wind tonight so this spectacle may be at its end.

 It feels like we are entering into a new season in our lives together.

We are running around a bit like headless chickens getting my youngest daughter to auditions, rehearsals and the like but we know that after December 12th goes by (her last audition and grade 8 saxophone exam) this will quieten down.

Slow down is whisper that I hear when I'm able to steady myself.  Slow Down.

I'm trying to listen to this more and more.  I am currently letting go of several roles that I have had in our church for sometime.  Not everything but enough to allow others to come and explore their gifts for serving.

So this new season that we are entering is definitely going to involve dear husband and I spending good quality time together, it's so easy to forget how much fun you can have when you are able to put in the time and energy to nurture relationships.

The other very exciting change that is coming for us is the imminent arrival of this gorgeous little bundle of fluff ....

Merry will be coming to join us on the 27th November.  We could have her on the 21st but with a little thought and Divine prompting we are going to wait until 27th as this will be the 10 year anniversary of my little sisters unexpected death.  It feels like a decade is long enough to be remembering this anniversary sombrely and so from this year on it will be Merry's forever homecoming anniversary.  We are all very excited.  Let the new season usher itself in with much fun and great memory making.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Tangled Emotions.

Do you ever wonder why you react to some situations as you do?  I have had a really hard time adjusting to my eldest child going off to university.  Now I know that I am not the first mother to feel loss in this situation.  However this feeling has been troubling me as much as the loss!  I was fortunate to go and visit her for the last few days but the journey home today has been extremely long and very emotional.

So I've had plenty of thinking time!

Every loss you experience changes the way you grieve.  This isn't always a negative thing, though I think in my case it does make me appear a little hard, especially when older people who have had the opportunity to experience a long life die.  I am not trying to imply that the grief people who lose an elderly relative or friend is any less worthy,  it is simply my reaction to the loss that I sometimes feel a little embarrassed by.  What I have discovered though is when I experience another loss in my life my emotions end up so tangled that it can take me some time to understand what is really the issue.

My beautiful first born is loving university life.  The only thing she doesn't really like at all is doing her laundry! (Though she was doing it when I arrived).  She appears to be adapting really well, making new friends, joining in with new groups, finding the studying interesting (how on earth does anyone find Maths interesting!).  She was interested to ask what was going on at home and in our area but it is was very obvious to me that she is not homesick at all.

So I have been giving myself a hard time because I have wanted her to be homesick!  I knew this was not how I really wanted to feel but have been a little bewildered by why these feelings are there.  So I have been wrestling with all this and I think I am starting to understand where all these feelings are mixed up.  I left home as soon as I could, by 18 I was working and had my own rented room (I really cannot ever say it was a proper home) and I was never homesick, if anything I just couldn't wait to be away from my family.  So what I think I have been doing is thinking that because I didn't get homesick that my daughter isn't for the same reason.  Now for those of you that know even just a little of what the last 10 years have been like in our home you might understand where this tangle has come from.

Enough!!!!! Can I try and start believing that my dear husband and I have just done a good job getting our eldest ready for leaving home?  I hope we can and that she continue to flourish as she journeys into adulthood.  She did tell me she misses me when I said I missed her, to which I did obviously reply "thank you, that was the right answer".

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Access Denied.

There is one thing that really makes me cross (truthfully there is more than one thing!!!), when public buildings are inaccessible for people with mobility problems.

I was summoned to jury service, great, the last time I was called up I was working and was running a course at the same time, my boss wrote to have it deferred and instead they just cancelled it.  So when this came through in the summer it felt good that I was going to get another opportunity.  I returned all my forms, they have a space to add any personal requirements, so I shared my mobility issues and needs.  I then had a phone call from our local courts asking if I would like a pre-court visit to check accessibility for me.

Today I went only to discover that the place is totally inaccessible for anyone needed to use a chair or scooter.  How can this be!!!!  Why should I be disabled by a building?  Now just to add insult to injury, I was then told that I had to phone the main jury office and ask them to find me a more accessible court within reasonable distance from my home.  I did this only to be told I needed to write an email detailing exactly what the problems were.

Surely I am not the first person with mobility issues they have had to deal with.  Surely when they read my needs they must have known straight away that I would not be able to do all the stairs required to get into the court and down to the deliberating room.  Apparently there is full access to the public gallery - great, I can watch people in the jury box but not be one.

I know it is not the end of the world but sometimes when you are having a crap week and then have to spend what little energy you have doing something that is completely fruitless I get cross and a little frustrated.

So that's it, my rant is over.  I have written the email, I've had an automated reply to say that they have received it but it may take them 5 working days to get back to me.  So now my only job is to not let it get me down any more.  Fortunately I have lots of other pressing needs that need my attention!!

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Transgender myths.

I am a parent of a transgender women, who came out to us at the age of 17. This catapulted my husband and I into a whole new world that I had previously given very little thought to. For 18 months now, we have read articles, talked to others whose lives have been touched by trans issues.

I have never heard any transgender person or family member say they are so happy to discover they or those they love are transgender.  I have heard relief expressed and I think we had some of that.  We knew for years that there was something simmering inside her but until she was ready she didn't feel she could say anything.

This week I have seen two news articles that have really moved me.  The first one is about a young lady who could not cope with the reality of being gay.  She was brought up in a Christian family and felt that her sexual orientation was not accepted.  It so happens that I have a friend whose children were at this girls school and the sadness has been reverberating for them.  The most heart warming part of this article is this:

"Since then her church, St James in Didsbury, Manchester, and its sister church Emmanuel, has formally become an inclusive church - embracing everyone, regardless of gender, race, disability or sexuality.

Lizzie's parents believe embracing inclusion could help save the lives of other teenagers."

It is just so sad that it took a tragedy for those in this young girls church to choose to inform themselves with the reality of how it feels to have issues with your gender and/or sexuality.  There are so many people who have written or talked about their  LGBTQ+ issues.  There is so much information out there for those that might be in influential relationships with young people that there really isn't a good excuse for anyone to be ill-informed. 

This week there has been a news article about a new girl guiding policy which two members (who were leaders) could not accept and therefore they have been excluded from the organisation.  I had originally read that the two had left of their own accord but I cannot find that source.  Which ever it was I am so proud of the Girl Guiding Organisation for the new policy of inclusivity that they have endorsed.

One of the biggest myths that I keep hearing from peoples mouths and in articles like the girl guiding one is that of the safety of women with regards to using toilets.  This myth is so prevalent it is the epitome of so called "fake news".  There have been no recordings of any abuse being dealt by a transgender woman (one who is transitioning from assigned birth gender male to female) in a bathroom environment.

So think about this for a moment.  You are taking hormones, breast are beginning to show, your dressed as a female and are absolutely terrified that you are not passable as female. Now imagine yourself having to walk into male toilets.  What sort of emotions and feelings do you think you might have?

Unisex toilets are one great option, a disabled toilet is also an option (though you will have those with issues that are visible, looking at you as if you are stealing 'their toilet' and I know this having a disability that isn't always obvious).

However the two suggestions above are not always available.  Sometimes those with disabilities have their needs met in binary gendered toilets (male/female) which means you are stuck.

There are some good transgender myth busting in this article here.

I'm sorry this sounds a bit ranty but my experience of watching the pain and angst that my dear daughter has had to endure with both the issues that I have mentioned are making me so passionate.  Even if you have no desire to learn anything about the experience of transgender people please try not to form opinions based on myths or fake news.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Essential Pain

A friend who is travelling along her own grief journey posted this video about Grief on facebook.  Its an animation by an amazing lady called Megan Devine, you can find much more about her and her story over on her website Refuge in Grief. 

I am sure I have shared before about the complexities of grief.  My journey into trying to understand and feel grief started after the death of my 36 year old sister in 2008.  In fact this blog was started just a few weeks after at the beginning of 2009 when I realised that something inside me was just 'not right'!

I grew up in an atmosphere where I was not encouraged (in fact actually discouraged) to feel emotions.  My mum's life had been a struggle for survival in a world where she felt (and was regularly told in actions and words) she did not belong and her 'feelings' were not valid.  No real surprise then that in her parenting of me there was something missing!!

The grief experiences that I was having were so alien it took a long time and eventually some specialist help to try and understand why I reacted to situations as I did (and still do occassionaly).  Discovering that I had real emotions that affected my behaviour and relationships also made me realise that I was in dire risk of passing on my emotional numbness to my children.

As a society I'm hoping we are moving on from having 'the British Stiff Upper Lip'.  However I can see that we still have far to go in acknowledging our emotions, accepting them in order that we can then continue on our journeys of self-discovery and maturity.  That is what this video made me think about this morning.  How many times have I tried to cheer someone up when all they needed me to do was be along side them.  How many times have I tried to encourage others to 'look on the bright side'? For those that know me well, I think you would agree that I am generally a 'sunny side up' person, my glass is usually half full not half empty.  This is a part of my nature and I really would not like to have to give it up.  It always has and I would like to think that it always will be a saving Grace on more than the odd occassion, helping me to keep my sanity.  What I do need to remember though is that when others are experiencing deep sadness, it is not my job to try and pull them out of it.  They have just as much right to feel their own emotions, just as I have mine.

After my mum died by suicide in 2013, I remember crying out in those raw messy moments following her last breath "I tried so hard to make her life worth living" to the deaf ears of my now estranged brother. The cold flat truth is, we can not make people feel the emotions we want them to feel.  I am now learning that in fact by allowing those we love to express, wrangle and own their feelings and emotions is the most precious (and helpful) gift we can be a part of. 

This video talks about acknowledgement, if you try and acknowledge how someone is feeling you may discover that you are not understanding them at all. That's also okay and might lead to a conversation, moment of better understanding, or even helping someone identify how they are feeling.

So  how can we practically help those who are grieving? I would like to add just a few suggestions of my own that I have felt to be helpful, it's okay to say:

  • "I'm so sorry you feel so bad right now".  
  • "Is there anything I can do to help you right this moment, a hug, a distraction, a walk, etc" - make sure you only offer what you can give!
  • "Would you like to talk?"
  • "Would you like some company?"
  • "Can I bring a meal over for you?" - as long as you make it clear that you are not going to come over and sit and watch them eat it, reassure them it can be put in the fridge or freezer to eat when they are ready.
Of course, these things can be so hard to put into practise when we cannot predict how a person may react to us. This is the risk we have to take if we really want to show how much they mean to us.

Another story I found some years ago was a middle eastern tale -

A man was out with friends when he entered a river and started to panic, his friends kept reaching out to him shouting "give me your hand".  The troubled friend could not do this and the situation got even more dangerous.  A wise man saw a commotion and went to see what was going on.  He heard these friends shouting at their friend and told them to be quiet.  He reached out his hand and said to the troubled man "Take my hand". The troubled man took the hand offered to him and he was safe.  The moral of the story is, don't ask a drowning/troubled man to GIVE you anything, instead offer them something to TAKE.

Thanks for reading my ramblings, have you had any experiences that have helped you through emotionally tough times?

Jane x

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Keeping It Real

Oh how I would love to tell you that I've had another week full of blessings!  Actually it did start rather well.  I realised last Sunday that I was going to be on jury service the week my eldest daughter goes off to university for the first time.  I was so cross that it had me up half the night moaning and whinging to God that it wasn't fair.  I was still sad in the morning but knew I could do nothing about it.  However that God who can do immeasurably more than we can imagine intervened by sorting it all out with the jury service system Himself.  I had a phone call mid morning as I was up to my eyeballs in ironing, it was a very nice man from the courts asking me if I could postpone my jury service until November.  It was so funny, I actually ended up explaining what an answer to prayer his call was! The smile on my face was broad and I felt quite excited to discover what else God was going to do with me this week.

Then Tuesday happened.  Chronic health problems really do suck, they are very rarely simple and it can feel like you are being run ragged trying to find solutions to a very complex situation.  So Tuesday was full of Why questions (and maybe just a little raging):
  • Why isn't my youngest daughter's physical health getting better?  
  • Why hasn't God intervened already?
  • Why is God answering some prayers so amazingly and then seemingly forgetting the other prayers that I have been praying for so long?
  • Why do I feel like all the fight in me has got up and gone away?
  • Why do I need to spend so much time sleeping to still wake up and not feel refreshed? 
I'm sure there were more but I'm too tired to think about them.

The last two days have involved medical appointments for both my girls. One far more positive than the other.  So does that mean God is blessing one of them more than the other?  It sure can feel that way. I know that at times like this I have to hold on tight to the hand of God.  I need to remember that He never lets go of my hand but my grumbling, moaning and self pity certainly make me lose my grip on Him.

Choosing joy and counting blessings are sometimes just harder to do than other times.  Life is often messy.  Maybe this week I have to just accept that the stumbling I have felt this week, is part of a much bigger picture being painted by a God who does care and who is able to do immeasurably more than I can possibly imagine.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

All Tyred Out

Well hello out there, yes it's little old me! Finally opening up my laptop rather than than just playing away with another game of solitaire (and Candy Crush) on my little tablet.  I am actually quite amazed that this laptop has agreed to be turned on, let alone patiently wait while it updated just about everything which took all afternoon.  So I have decided that I can't just switch it back off again but will thank it's trust in me by writing a little about where we are at.

My last post was at a very bad time, my mental health was taking an absolute battering. My youngest daughter was an in patient at a (thankfully local) mental health unit being treated for anorexia, anxiety and depression.  The good news is she was able to leave after 6 months and though we still have a way to go, progress is gently being made towards recovery.  The not so good news is that her physical health has taken a battering and we are now in the throes of trying to get that sorted out.  Little did I know that the following month from that last post I would be told that my eldest child had been keeping something under wraps unable to talk about it with us for going on 7 years.  Thank fully since opening up I can now embrace my new daughter and we can share the burden that was burying her.  I may write more on our journey through the transgender highway another time.

So did the picture give you a clue about what has been on my mind?  It is actually a real picture, taken by my youngest daughter last bank holiday Monday.  My faith as you can imagine has been taking a real battering through our many trials.  However many years ago when I started blogging I used to love reading blogs by Ann Voskamp about counting your blessings.  I ended up with quite a lot of bed bound time after getting home from an unforgettable journey and blessings began to pour out in my prayers for just how 'blessed' my daughter and I had been.

The picture shows my poor little car stranded between the first lane and the grass verge on the southbound carriage way of the A34.  Moments before I had been doing 70mph on the M40, after coming off and onto the A34 it felt like I was loosing a little power with the accelerator but that seemed to pass and I was soon cruising through at about 60mph, then in a blink there was an odd noise, followed by a clunk and suddenly my steering wheel was desperately trying to shake me off.
I had to hold the steering wheel so hard that I was suddenly slowing down and aware that I needed to let the drivers around me know that I was in trouble.  "Emergency lights" was all I was able to shout to my daughter, the correct term of putting on your hazard lights completely failing to come out.  My passenger side front tyre had blown.  For anyone that knows the A34 it is a horrible road,  prone to some of the most serious accidents as there is no hard shoulder but it feels like a motorway in this particular stretch.  I quickly was able to tell my daughter to get out and behind the crash barrier that was on her side.  Realising that there was far to much traffic for me to try and get out the drivers door I got my very stiff and ailing body to clamber over to the passenger seat grabbing my phone and also getting behind the barrier.  Now here comes the first of my blessings:
  • The day before I had met up with friends and left my car lights on while we went in a tea shop and for a little walk at a favourite beauty spot.  When I returned to the car my battery was as dead as it could be.  It took me 30 minutes to find out which emergency breakdown service we now belonged to - but got sorted and thanks to amazing friends were able to carry on our family visiting and get back to our next hotel stop with hardly any delay.  So where's the blessing you might add - if all this hadn't happened.  I would have been standing in the cold (not wet as it had been the day before - another blessing!!) on the side of a very busy road trying to find out which emergency service we belonged to.  As it was I could go onto my phones log and ring the right one straight away.
Now my youngest daughter is learning to drive at the moment.  She has only had a few lessons but likes to talk about it and mention what the speed limit is quite regularly! Now her beloved saxophone was in the car along with my mobility scooter (okay so she trumps me, her saxophone is worth more) she was getting more and more anxious about it as we watched many HGV's hurtling pass my tiny little car.  She was desperate to get it out but I had to be STRICT mommy, she was not to pass over the safety barrier for anything other than living persons.  Everything else all though terribly important  was covered by insurance!  So along came another blessing:

  • The police contacted me to check we were keeping safe.  They got to us before the breakdown recovery van.  They stopped the whole southband traffic so that we could safely come over the barrier, completely validating my insistence that we did NOT cross over the barrier for anything in the car.  Yes we were cold but we were safe.
My daughter got to ride in the police car with blue lights flashing, keeping the traffic behind him while I sat in the passenger seat of my car and the lovely policelady drove my injured vehicle to the next parking layby, there was my next blessing:

  • The layby was out of sight but really not that far so my inner wheel was not damaged by being driven on with a completely flat falling off tyre.
 Just as we were pulling into the layby the next blessing was rushing to get in:
  • The breakdown recovery man phoned to say he was very close.  This meant two blessings really, the police could go and continue their great work on our streets and roads AND we didn't have to wait long to be recovered .
So you would think that was the end of the story ....... however it was not.  The lovely recovery man asked me if I had a spare tyre and I was certain I did not, remembering seeing a can of the gunk that is supposed to make do for a spare as most cars have these days.  He did some ringing round to find a tyre place open on bank holiday Monday then proceeded to go take my wheel off to take it away to get it fixed.  He needed a key, I had no idea what he was talking about, just that he needed something to get my tyre off.  So along came the next blessing:
  •  I could not think where I would have such a thing stored other than under the floor of my boot where I kept an emergency blanket, etc.  He opened the back up, we had to take some of my scooter bits out which thankfully my husband had put in, in pieces so that I could get it out (another blessing!) under the floor was a tray which made the recovery man do a 'hang on a minute' noise.  He lifted the tray and there snuggled like a babe in a rocker was my spare tyre. This of course meant no trip to get a very expensive bank holiday tyre replaced, instead we were back on the road with 30 minutes.
The life lessons for us both were obvious the rest of the journey home.  My daughter learnt lots about road safety, she was very sobered to see that if we had broken down just a few miles further on there was no safety barrier and we would have had to try and climb (with my poor old body) up an embankment to be safe.  I now have the peace of mind, knowing that she will know exactly what she needs to do if every caught in a similar situation.

Now you would think that one tyre related incident would be quite enough for one family.  However just a few weeks earlier my husband and I had a near miss with a lorry losing a pair of tyres which we watched bounce across the motorway to hit the central reservation so hard that they then bounced back in front of us and UP a slip road.  Despite feeling quite jet lagged having just come off a night flight my hero of a husband kept his cool and we got home in one piece.

So that's all I am going to say about TYRES, except to reiterate that enough is enough, could all tyres just stay on their vehicles for the foreseeable future please!!