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“Father Figure”

Growing up my Dad was my hero. He was the centre of my universe. Full of wisdom and keen to encourage us to be creative and questioning of the world around us.

He was firm but loving in his parenting approach. Always took time to listen no matter how insignificant the issue was, because if it was inportant to us, then it was to him too.

He made sure we knew that we were loved, giving us cuddles and telling us that he loved us.

So when he died, my world came crashing down as I was lost without him in my life.

Then along came another man into my Mum’s life. At first it was hard not to compare him to our Dad or to find fault.

Gradually I came to love and respect my Step Dad as mine for he show love and affection towards us even when it must have seem an impossible task.

Two men totally different in personalities, skills and knowledge. But both strong wise men with hearts full of love wanting the best for their family.

I was told once by a friend that I was lucky because I had two great father figures in my life which for some people they never get. My friend is right, I was and am blessed with having known and loved two men who cared for me as their child.  They both played an important role in shaping and defining who I am today. Without them my life may have well been different today. 

I am a parent now myself and I watch my children with their father. I see so many of the qualities of my own Dad and Step Dad in him that it makes me smile knowing that I choose to be with a man who reflects the best of both of my fathers. I can only hope that my children will recognise and know that they too are blessed with a loving father who takes time to invest in them because he cares deeply about them.

“Sorting The Wheat From The Chaff.”


Unless you’ve been burying your head in the sand you’ll know that Election Day is almost upon us.

It can be confusing to know where to place your cross in the voting booth when having been bombarded with so much information from various political parties that your head is reeling.  The difficulty comes in sorting the wheat from the chaff, knowing what is a solid promise and not one built upon lies or unlikely to come to fruitation. 

So how do we make a choice knowing that our vote will make a difference. Note I said make a difference when so many out there say they don’t vote as it won’t make a difference. Every single vote made does make a difference. Your vote could be the one to swing the vote in favour of an MP in a closely contested seat.  Your vote will make a difference not only locally but nationally in the decisions and policies made.

When you vote consider the following factors; how will it impact on me if this MP/Party is in power? How will it impact on my family and friends? How will it impact on my local area? How will it impact nationally not just in the short term but long term? 

Think about whether the candidates up for election in your area will be proactive in listening to you/the local community, providing support and taking action that is of benefit to the wider community both in the short and long term. They will be your voice and vote for the next few years in Parliament, so don’t be waylaid by what political party they are in, or their Leader because at the end of the day it is them that speak and act for you in Parliament.

So use your vote wisely, weigh up the pros and cons, making sure that you make your vote count by putting a cross in the box of the candidate that you feel will work in the interests of those that voted for them, rather than toe the party line or to prioritise their own view/interests above everyone else.

“The Choice”

Last night many parents dropped off their excited kids off at a concert in Manchester smiling and telling them to have a good time. 

A few hours later their world was shattered by one person who decided in his warped view that he had the right to destroy life for his cause.

Those left behind have to pick up the pieces of their lives without their loved one. Most will torture themselves with the question “Why did I let them go?” all because of one person’s action. If he hasn’t chosen to act the way he did, those kids would be home safe with their families. Instead their parents are having to sit by their beds willing them to win their battle against injury or worst still having to do the unimaginable planning a funeral.

Already there is a backlash against anyone seen as “foreign” or from sharing the same religion. These people are no different from you or I. They did not carry out this senseless action. 

The only person our anger should be directed at is the person who deliberately carried out this action. He made that choice. He didn’t have to but choose to do so. 

Your average person regardless of race, age, gender or beliefs does not make choices to kill others. We all have the choice to make good and bad decisions in our lives that may impact on others. The responsibility of that lies solely with us and we should not be blaming or taking out our anger on those who have nothing to do with this.

“Giving to others.”

Yesterday I saw a post that our local food bank was making an appeal for donations as stocks are running very low due to increase requests for help.

Usually when I go shopping, I always buy extra to donate and drop off at local collection point. It’s just something I have done for the last couple of years as a way of regularly giving back to those in need.

It was clear from the post that they urgently needed more supplies. I figured that it couldn’t wait until my next food shop for me to be able to contribute, so decided to raid my cupboards for items. I managed to put together a large bag of items to donate.

This morning I took the bag down to the local Food Bank who were very grateful to receive the items. I was shown around, and I could see for myself how bare the shelves were.

When I asked why they have faced increase numbers asking for help, I was told that the recent changes in benefits to universal tax credits has had a huge impact on many people. People are having to wait several weeks for their claims to be processed and backdated. That’s at least six weeks without any money coming in to pay the bills or to feed the family.

Some folk are trapped in low earning jobs or irregular jobs that vary in payment made. They struggle to progress further in finding better paid jobs as simply do not have the means or funding to do the training that would enable them to do this.

Some people end up needing help due to unfortunate circumstances. One such person was someone who had recently started a new job and then was injured in an accident. Wasn’t able to claim sick pay and lost his job. 

What struck me was how easily that person could be you or I if we had a change in our circumstances.

How many of us overspend in the shops, buying too much stuff and sometimes throwing stuff away? What if instead of cramming our cupboards full, we reduce it by sharing with others in need? Think just how much of an impact we could have in changing the lives of those around us by regularly giving to ensure that they aren’t having to worry about where their next meal is coming from, or having to make a choice between paying to keep a roof over the heads or feed their children?

I challenge you to open your cupboards, fill a bag of goods, take it to your nearest food bank and not be moved when you hear the stories of why people have to swallow their pride and ask for help to feed their families.

“Three years of breastfeeding…”

Today we have reached the milestone of breastfeeding until age three years.

I didn’t intend to breastfeed this long. It has just sort of happened.

At the beginning of our journey my baby fed and fed for over an hour that the MIdwives had to wait to do their checks as he refused to stop feeding and got distressed if removal was attempted!

He had a strong suck and this made breastfeeding painful for the first few weeks. Eventually we figured it out and things settled down. At times such as when he was teething we faced challenges again, and it was hard to resist the urge to jack it all in. I’m so glad we persisted as he’s growing up to be a secure healthy child full of confidence and joy.

How long will we continue for, that I don’t know, as he is gradually reducing his feeds. What I do know is that I’ll enjoy those moments whilst we have them because one of these days he’ll stop just as nature intended, having being fully nurtured by my body.

“Left Behind…”

A couple of years ago we lost some family members, though not in the usual tragic way that you would think of. We lost them because they made a decision to walk away and disappear, without an explanation.

For those left behind, we have experienced a range of emotions since they disappeared. It’s almost like grieving a loss, but without actually having a reason why.

I don’t know if they still think of us, or if it has affected them the same way it has affected those of us left behind. 

I don’t think there’s been a day gone by, where not one of us has thought about them, wondering if they are ok, or caught a fleeting glance of someone in a crowd and pondered for a few seconds if it could possibly be them.

It’s hard to explain to our children why we can’t see these family members any more, or get in touch. To them it doesn’t make sense at all, how people can just be there one day and then chose to walk out the next.

It’s heartbreaking hearing our children grieve for those they have lost, and expressing their fears that they are beginning to forget what they look like with such raw pain.

This is the reality that we have to live with, and is echoed all over the land when people choose to walk away from their families and friends.

I don’t know if we’ll ever see them again, or find out the reason why, but this I do know; they will never be forgotten and the hope will always burn fiercely in our hearts that one day maybe they will make the choice to reconnect with us.

“Memories”

It’s funny isn’t it, how you can just be simply pottering along and suddenly WHAM you get hit with a memory, because you catch sight of, or smell something that takes you back.

Last year we took my eldest to a camp that is held every summer.  Just being there brought back all kind of memories for me, because as a child I too had attended that camp.  Looking at the stream that ran through the camp made me grin at the memory of catching a bigger fish than a boy who boasted that no girl could fish, and I proved him wrong. Then when wandering pass the campfire catching a whiff of burnt wood, I recalled many a happy night singing campfire songs, and seeing my first shooting star as we slept out under the stars.

After we left my eldest child at camp, I persuaded my husband to drive through the old village where I had spent a large chunk of my childhood. We stopped outside the village church, and I left my husband with our remaining offsprings in the car. Slowly I walked down the path taking in the sight of that familiar old building, breathing in the smell of grass and musty graves.  The memories came tumbling out, as I slowly trekked around the church, looking at the grave yard and church hall as I passed.  I stood there in the quiet, reflecting on the past, emotions overwhelming me.  It was painful being there, yet at the same time comforting because this place was at the centre of my world in my childhood, before we moved and subquently experienced the loss of my Daddy to cancer.

Fast forwarding to the present day I find myself smiling when sorting through long outgrown baby clothes, remembering what my children were like at that age.  I have a vast collection of photographs from my youth, and I cringe at my fashion sense when I look at these, but also chuckle when I recall the antics that my friends and I got up to.

Time marches on, and we take it for granted that we’ll always have “the memories”, so it is sad when we encounter those losing their memories, due to illness. The elderly aunt who told long rambling tales, when seeing an image or smelling something, whom we all rolled eyes at, no longer remembers.  How we would give anything now to hear her stories again. Instead we are having to gently remind her who people are, and tell her about places that she knows, yet no longer recognises.

Some memories are easier to live with than others, some make us cry, others make us laugh, but all of these come from moments in our lives that help to shape who we are as individuals. 

“What can you do?”

The other week I observed my oldest child slip away from her group of friends in town, going into a local food shop and bringing out food to a homeless person she had seen sat in a nearby doorway.  It was a moment that made me feel proud, that my child has performed an unselfish act, showing empathy, compassion and awareness towards someone else in need.  She needn’t have done this, but she did.

I recall doing something similar as a young teen, out with a group of people who were purplexed as to why I would stop to talk to, and offer a little something to someone whom I had no connection with.  I recall being asked why I bothered by one person, and replying that I cared, because that person needed someone to acknowledge them, to show that they weren’t insignificant and that they matter.  I still think about that homeless girl who didn’t look much older than myself, and wonder if she ever managed to make it back off the streets. 

There are a number of situations we close our eyes to, but if each of us stop for a minute and consider how we ourselves could make a difference to someone else, then life would be very different.  I’m not just talking about the homeless here, I’m including those living on their own with no family or friends, those struggling to keep a roof over their heads, or to feed their families and those fleeing from their homeland due to war and conflict.  What can we as individuals do, so that these people know that they matter?  What can you do?

It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, it could be something simple as buying a hot drink for someone in need. Or you could add a few extra items to your shopping basket to pass on to the local food bank.  Maybe you could invite someone round for a brew, or to join you for a meal?  Or you could pass on items that you no longer have use for such as clothing, toys and other household items to an indivual or a charity that can pass it on to those in need.

What can you do to make a difference, and to let those in need know that they matter?

“The Loss of my Hero.”

When I was eleven years old my world fell apart, as I witness my Dad dying of cancer, and then he succumbed to death.

For a child it was hard to watch the man who was my hero become frail and weak.

Initially my parents tried to protect us by playing things down, but you cannot hide everything from curious children. The throwing up randomly and frequently made us wonder what was going on. Then he got taken away to hospital in a private ambulance at the end of the summer, the day before I started secondary school.

Then at some point, I can’t recall whether it was a few days later or weeks my Mum told us the news that our Dad was dying. I recall that moment well, sat in a little side room at the hospital eating a packet of mini Chedder crisps, and not knowing what to say or do, other than to eat my crisps.

My Dad stayed in hospital for a few more weeks, then came home. At first he was able to take part in activities at home, even if he did tire easily, but then he became more weak and spent much of his time in bed.

I recall going into my parents’ bedroom after school to chat and tell him about my day. I don’t know if he knew that I struggled at school, and would sometimes have to leave lessons because I couldn’t cope with being there, knowing my Dad was dying.

Not long before my Dad died, I recall breaking down in class as someone said that another of my family had gone home, and I instantly thought the worst has happened. My teacher a lovely kind and gentle man took me aside, allowed me to cry and then asked me would I rather my Dad live in pain, or die. I recall saying that I didn’t want him to die, and I would rather he was alive and not in pain. But my teacher shook his head sadly and said that wasn’t going to happen, and that my Dad would either live in pain or die. He went on to share his own personal experience of losing a family member, and said that he understood exactly how I was feeling. 

That teacher was the first adult to be totally honest with me and not attempt to tell me that it was all going to work out fine. He helped me to acknowledge what was going to happen, and didn’t sugar coat it.

A few days later on Monday 7th December 1987 my Dad died at home. We were in the room when he died. I recall him taking his last deep breath, and all of a sudden it seemed really quiet. You could have heard a pin drop, it was that quiet, and so peaceful. One minute he was there, the next gone.

At first none of us were sure if he was really dead. It seems absurdly comical now when I look back, but we were trying to watch him to see if he was breathing, until one of the family hit on the idea of using a mirror to see if his breath would make it foggy. Tea got burnt and we ended up having a chip tea, not that any of us were very hungry.

In the days, weeks, months and years afterwards it took time for me to recover from the loss of my Dad. Even now I get the odd moment where I feel such a sense of loss and sadness. But what I do know is that my Dad loved us, and that he was strong in spirit right to the bitter end. He instill in each of us his passion for life and a stubborn spirit. He shared his wisdom with us, and created memories which cannot be taken away, but cherished forever.

My Dad died, but he lives on in spirit in each of his children, and we pass on what we learnt from him onwards to the next generation.

“Parenting through the mess”

As a parent you spend a lot of time sorting out your family, making sure that their every needs are met. It can be hard to switch off and relax.

So often you are busy thinking ahead to try and ensure things go smoothly. For example I could be sat relaxing, reading a book or watching tv in the evening after finally having wrestle the toddler into their pyjamas, sent the child back to bed several times and told the Tweenie to put away her mobile and go to sleep, when all of a sudden a random thought will pop into my head, and I think uh oh must sort before I forget! So I still don’t get time to myself even when the children are in bed because I find myself doing little tasks now, in case I forget to do it in the morning.

I am like the majority of my friends very self conscious about the state of my house, as it seems no matter how much you tidy up, there always seem to be a child untidying behind you! So I find myself apologising for the state of my house when friends called round. Which is daft really as the majority have houses in similar state to mine! There are the odd exceptions to this, and I look at their houses wondering where they find the time and energy to keep on top of it all.

I recall a few years ago feeling that I was failing as a mother, as I was struggling to juggle the demands of caring for a very young family alongside maintaining the house. Then a card arrived through the door from a friend. The timing of that card couldn’t have been any better and the message behind it was so apt in reminding me that no one was perfect, and that life with children is not mess free. What is important at the end of the day is that our children are loved and nurtured, not whether their clothes are wrinkled free and the floor clear of toys.