4 Nov 2017

But why?

Madi: 'Why do some people swear?'
Me: 'Maybe it makes them feel grown up. Or maybe they're mad and they lose all their other words.'

Madi: 'How come it's always sad when someone dies?'
Me: 'Because you miss having them around and the love has nowhere to go.'

Madi: How come it's always disgusting to pick your nose?'
Me: 'I don't know babe. Some things just always are.'

This was an incredibly lazy response, but I don't actually know this one and the internet caused caused me to stumble upon a disturbing forum for mucus eaters - so I'm not researching further.

Some things just are - and trying to analyse it or explain why leaves you fumbling for words. Or confidently stating words that you later retract. Then maybe reinstate again. (Is Pluto a planet again or what??)

Luckily there was no theory test for parenthood.

And if you can avoid all the alt right, porn, mucus eating and general waffle, the web is full of wonderment like this:





2 Oct 2017

Tidy

I can't blog about the most exciting thing that happened today as I don't have permission from the certain young person involved. So here's the second most exciting thing:

Fig1: Expired products removed from food cupboard. Oldest item had date of June 2014.


Fig2: Plastic clips retrieved from expired food products. Bought some new ones last week as I thought we'd lost them all. Plastic clips now in abundance.









Fig3: Food cupboard now orderly and within date.


Thank you and goodnight.

19 Sep 2017

Old age (part 2)

'The antidote to complaining is thanksgiving' (Pam Hinkelman)

Getting old happens so gradually that most of the time you're completely unaware of it until you try something physical that used to be easy and realise you can't. Or don't even attempt it in the first place in case you break something. The realisation usually arrives slowly - with a vague but growing awareness that things used to be different, but you can't remember EXACTLY what or how they changed. My most recent example of this involves sitting on the floor.

The bit in between is a doddle. I get down there and up again with minimal effort. I can even do those pilates exercises where you stand up from a cross-legged position without using your hands and when you lunge suddenly into a squatting position from a kneeling one by flipping your ankles against the ground. I am a good sitter down and stander upper.

I also really like sitting on the floor, but this is no longer comfortable for long periods of time.

When did this happen? Somewhere in between teaching babies to crawl & sweeping under the table after EVERY meal (circa 2001) and Soul Survivor 2017 - a 4 day youth festival with NO seating in the main arena. The lack of seating arrangements might have been OK if leg room allowed you to wiggle around a bit, but we were crammed in pretty tight. Some people in the crowd had these old people back rest things:



I internally mocked these on day 1. But by the start of day 4, I was wishing I owned one.

But day 4 is the last day! And then I get to sit in a car for 3 and a half hours and drive home. Which will be a welcome relief - even though the whole car smells like something died in there. (I don't know the cause yet, but semi skimmed milk got spilt in the boot during a tip run last week and the car's been parked in direct sunlight with the windows up for most of the time since then).

Between the mysteriously stinking car and the packing and sitting on the floor, I'm not in a place to focus on the worship that's about to happen. I'm feeling empathy for farm animals that spend their whole lives in similar conditions and briefly consider vegetarianism.

Then the guy in front of me shuffles forward slightly giving me more leg room - Hurray!

THEN he immediately lowers his whole upper body back to the floor so I have even less room than I started with. His head brushes against my calf and he doesn't notice or apologise when I move out the way. Annoying.

He's not a small bloke either. I calculate maybe 2 and a half people could sit in the space he's now occupying. Grrrrr.

I watch him lie at my feet. Eyes closed. Completely still. His complexion is quite ruddy, now that I'm studying his face. He looks worn out. His eyes are still closed and he frowns slightly, his lips parting as he breathes in and out. He's maybe 20 years older than me.

I'm suddenly more concerned than annoyed. He's probably fed up with all the floor sitting too.

I nudge his shoulder and ask 'Are you OK?' He opens his eyes and smiles, 'I'm fine thanks. Just praying - I've got such a heart for these young people' (he gestures towards his group).

'Oh - as you were then - and Amen to whatever you're praying!' I say.

Oh. Dear. God. I am an awful person.

The band starts right after this and we're all on our feet. This bloke gets up with a bounce. He is also a good stander upper.

The music is loud and the bass pounds in our chests. The bloke in front of me worships in sign language. I've seen others do this, but have never found it so beautiful. A mix of 8000 teenagers and youth leaders worship together with no distinction.

Thank God for Soul Survivor and the lives that have been affected and changed by it over the years.
Thank God for Mike Pilovachi.
For his humour and sacrifice and willingness to plough into the lives of other people.
Thank God for this bloke in front of me, who loves his youth group.
Thank you that he's given his time to even be here.
Thank you for every sacrifice he's ever made - especially the hidden stuff like sitting on the floor way longer than is comfortable.
Thank God for my own church family.
For all the people we do life with on a regular basis.
For those who love my kids and talk to them when they can't or don't want to talk to me or K.
Thank you that we get to sing and feel alive because we are alive.
Thank you x

2 Sep 2017

Upcycling


This painting of a boat on a lake was in a charity shop last week. There was a tiny splash of light blue emulsion on the right edge just by the bow, which probably triggered the decision to donate it. (You can also see the start of the brown base coat on the left as I only thought of documenting before and after shots after I started). The photo doesn't show it, but round the corner of the canvas some of the picture was rubbed off, like someone tried to work out if the emulsion could be removed and quickly realised yes it can - but only by removing the picture as well.

I pictured the scene in the donor's house: Satisfaction with a newly decorated blue room, irritation at the damaged picture, the ethical dilemma of chucking it in landfill vs donating damaged goods to charity. Arghhhh what to do...?!

Anyway - it ends up in a charity shop near us for £3 as I'm looking for a canvas with ANYthing on it as Jackson wants the Song of Time on his wall and I have spray paint to cover what's already there.
Hurray!! THREE quid - for a fairly decent sized canvas. And the paint splodge doesn't matter as the boat is going as soon as we get home. Here's how (cue How it's Made music...):

Spray paint whole thing dark brown. Let it dry. Position 4 strips of masking tape across canvas (or electical tape if masking tape is currently inaccessible, buried in the garage behind £2K worth of IKEA furniture which we're storing for an event next week).



Spray paint patchy bits of white on next. Hold can almost upside down and press as lightly as you can to get the spatter effect. Stop when you start to get high on paint fumes. 



Peel off electrical/masking tape. Spray paint treble clef from a stencil. Mark out and paint 6 circles in yellow and blue emulsion. Add more spatter by flicking paint off a toothbrush. Find tiny spots of dried blue paint almost 2 meters away several hours later and marvel and the power of a toothbrush.



Cut up 4 triangles and 2 'A's from foam board and spray brown. NB- Stick them down to something first or they'll just fly away with the force of the aerosol.



Print off text in Menlo font.



Stick text, triangles and A's in place and... Da Daaaaaaaah! It's finished. Place on son's wall with command strips. Go and make cup of tea. Drink tea and feel happy that canvas did not go to the tip.



The more I think about it, the more the process has God stuff woven right the way through it: take something that is used and unwanted and transform it into something new and intended. It's totally redemptive.

The Song of Time is different from the boat - the person who donated the canvas would never recognise it now. It's changed beyond what they knew it to be.

But some bits are constant - the canvas is still a canvas. It's still made of the same stuff. The dimensions are still the same. If you look closely, you can still see the drip of emulsion on the side. But it's no longer a flaw. It's part of the design. No one focusses on it anymore.



This is a huge endorsement for recycling - in all senses of the word. We're screwing up the planet and there's always space on the wall. And no matter what a person's life looks like, God is capable of taking it and using it because he upcycles broken things all the time.

Reduce
Reuse
Recycle
Repurpose
Redeem
Ready for the next canvas because making stuff is fun
Really should go to bed though because it's 3am
Ready for school starting again because body clock broken




27 Aug 2017

The morning after


A few months ago I had a really frustrating email exchange that went something like this:

Me: Please #stopfundinghate as it's contrary to your company's ethos and generally a rubbish thing to do.
John Lewis: We fully appreciate the strength of feeling on this issue but we never make an editorial judgement on a particular newspaper.
Me: Why not?
John Lewis: Um... we just don't.
Me: Yes - But why?
John Lewis: If you want to discuss further, please contact head office.
Me: OK - I will. (To head office) Can you #stopfundinghate as it's contrary to your company's ethos and generally a rubbish thing to do?
John Lewis Head Office: We fully appreciate the strength of feeling on this issue but we never make an editorial judgement on a particular newspaper.
Me: Yes - but why is that?
Head Office: We just don't. Thank you and goodbye.
Me: Head Office? Hello....?

A similar scenario happened a few weeks ago with another large corporation but in reverse. A certain high street chemist refused to reduce the price of its morning after pill, triggering a massive PR disaster that went kind of like this:

British Pregnancy Advisory Service: The morning after pill is extortionately expensive compared to prices in Europe. Can you reduce the cost of it?
Superdrug & Tesco: OK, we'll half it from now on. Sorry.
Boots: In our experience the subject of emergency hormonal contraception polarises public opinion and we receive frequent contact from individuals who voice their disapproval of the fact that the company chooses to provide this service. We would not want to be accused of incentivising inappropriate use, and by provoking complaints by significantly reducing the price of this product. 
Lloyds Pharmacy (Shhhh! Give it a week and no one will notice or care that we've ignored this): .....

This didn't play out very well for Boots.

The public: Boots’ justification infantalises women and places a moral judgment on them! Women go to Boots for products, not moral guidance! Sign this petition! Rah Rah Rah. 
Tesco: And come to us for your unplanned emergencies - we now charge only £13.50 to not get knocked up.
Superdrug: Or come to us for only £13.49 - Boo yah Tesco!
Boots (Crap. Crap. Crap...): We didn't mean it! 
Lloyds Pharmacy: ........
The public: Boycott Boots! #justsaynon They're breeching our human rights!
Boots: Pharmacy and care for customers are at the heart of everything we do, and as such we are truly sorry that our poor choice of words in describing our position on emergency hormonal contraception has caused offence and misunderstanding, and we sincerely apologise. We are exploring cheaper options right now. Sorry. So sorry...
The public: Too right! Rah Rah Rah. 

Which is all rather weird and unnerving.

For starters, the drug is free in the UK at Brook centres, NHS walk in clinics and GP surgeries (provided of course that you can get an appointment, but that's an entirely different blog post).

And now everyone's focus has moved from the fact that less than a week ago, every high street chemist was fleecing potentially pregnant women and it took the country's largest abortion provider to shout about it to get any attention. On the surface, their motivation is somewhat confusing: BPAS is apparently trying to reduce demand on its services. If more women having unprotected sex can access cheaper morning after provision, then surely this means less medically induced and surgical abortions later on as they've been prevented at implantation? It's like Terminator2 all over again with pharmacology rather than time travel.

Except for so called risk compensation, which suggests that human beings will alter their behaviour according the perceived level of danger, becoming more careful where they sense greater risk and more reckless if they feel more protected. This phenomenon has been used to explain why laws aimed at increasing road safety can be less effective than predicted and why sky diving fatalities have remained fairly static over the years despite the improvements in equipment design. It also may explain why the BPAS took on the argument - perhaps they know all about risk homeostasis.

But returning to the retailers - these are businesses that exist to make money. Some of them have halved their prices in the last few days and are STILL making a profit on the product. Good old capitalism. Let the one who refuses to cave in to public pressure be swallowed up by the competitor. Who cares?

Except they didn't respond with a fiscal reason.

They responded with a moral one: 'We would not want to be accused of incentivising inappropriate use.'

Uh- oh.... If we're using words like appropriate and inappropriate, someone is making a moral judgement and that's kind of frowned upon round here.

Just say the whole conversation was happening between individuals rather than organisations - what would the scenario look like on the playground? Is there bullying going on? If so, by whom? Do we need to go get a teacher? Who is the teacher? Who decided what the rules were and what everyone is allowed to do and say and think? Because in the age of moral relativism, opinions about the behaviours of others are forbidden. You have been outed Boots. Repent and conform. Learn to think as we do!

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate. (Noam Chowsky)

No wonder John Lewis refused to get involved. They understand the rules in this brave, new playground. Everybody likes them (maybe it's the Xmas ads?) And they probably share a table with Lloyds Pharmacy.



29 May 2017

Theology

M: Are there dogs in heaven?

Me: I don't know. God made dogs and everything else and called them 'good', so-

M: The Bible doesn't actually say though.

Me: No, it doesn't. But it doesn't say there won't be animals in heaven either. And we're told the Earth will be made like new again one day. Put back to the way it should be.

M: I think there SHOULD be dogs in heaven. Especially police dogs that have died while they were working.


27 Apr 2017

T'was the night before Easter...

For the last 3 years I've signed up to the #40acts - a series of daily emails on the 40 days leading up to Easter aimed at encouraging generosity (rather than giving stuff up) for Lent. Each email contains a short blog, a Bible reference and 3 suggested activities depending on how much time / money / skills / courage you have to give. It's fun and it's easier than giving up chocolate. Or alcohol. But it comes around at such a mental time of year for us that I end up doing slightly less than 40 Acts. This year I did three. (Three and a half - if you count the chocolate giveaway which involved some of the chocolate coming right back to me).

Anyway, we live under grace and not the law so I'll focus on the 3 and a half Acts that happened:

#Act3: Roots
We can live somewhere for decades and never really put our roots down there. What does it look like to get more deeply rooted in our home community? Today's act will help you to explore ways of generously investing in your home town.

Action: Joined a gym
This was a complete surprise to me too. I have never joined a gym in my life. I do not consider myself to be a gym type of person. Do you ever wake up from a dream having behaved in a particular way and feel confused because it was SO out of character for you to have done something? That's what this whole thing was like. I mean why pay good money to sweat indoors when you can sweat outdoors for free by walking or jogging anywhere you have the energy to go? Or sweating almost for free in the comfort of your own home to a 2nd hand Davina McCall DVD?

Answer: Because I don't. I need people to sweat alongside me. I am a rubbish solo exerciser. I've literally just realised this. And not wasting money is a great motivator to get me to do anything, so the prospect of paying for a gym membership I never use is worse than joining one in the first place. So there we go - I'm attending 2-3 classes a week, putting down roots and becoming bendier with pilates. 

#Act12: Chocolate Tuesday
Slip a bar of chocolate into someone’s bag with a note saying ‘#40acts’. Or leave a bar or two in your local library, on a park bench or on the train.

Action: Bought chocolate bars to give away
Recipient (husband) shared chocolate with me without prompting. I think that's allowed. He's permitted to be generous too. ✓1/2

#Act24: Stand
It's easy to get weighed down by the injustice and need we see all around us, and to imagine that there's nothing (or very little) we can do about it. Choose not to shy away from a cause today. Lend your voice to the voiceless, stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves, and don't wait for someone else to be the solution.

Action: Standing as a Lib Dem councillor on May 4th
This is in a local safe labour word I am PROMISED I have no chance of winning. It's purely a paper exercise so the party can gauge their support base and perhaps attract protest votes. Although the party has experienced a surge in membership since the snap general election announcement so now I'm a little anxious that a bunch of people may actually vote for me even though we've never leafleted and I'm not really sure what councillors do aside from attend meetings and listen to complaints about hedges. I just got fed up of complaining about the way things are and God clearly said not to wait for someone else to be the token opposition solution. 

#Act33: Hats Off
Matthew 22:34–40: Jesus answered 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Action: Went to a Jehovah's Witness meeting
#act33 arrived in my inbox on the same day as an invitation from the Jehovah Witnesses to attend one of their services. I concluded these 2 events were related and God wanted me to go: These people are my neighbours and I don't know who they are. And that's more my fault than theirs - they knock on my door maybe twice a year and I never knock on theirs. So I went. I explained why I was there to the woman on the door (I'm doing #40acts and you're my neighbour) who excitedly ushered me in and found the woman, Kirstin who had given me the invite. I sat next to her and listened and heard some familiar stuff and some unfamiliar stuff too. We talked for a while and I commented on feeling underdressed in ripped jeans and a hoody (Their church is very suity and dressy. My church is neither of these things). She said that didn't matter and it was nice to see me. She said it was brave of me to come on my own and not know anyone. I said it wasn't really brave because it didn't faze me and I shaved my head 5 months ago for my best mate who was having chemo and raised a grand for charity and lots of people said THAT was brave too, but really it wasn't because that didn't scare me either. We chatted some more and she said, 'I don't get the impression you're here searching for anything.' And I said 'No - I'm not!' Then I left. 

#Act33: Scene 2
Except the Lentish lesson continued.

Kirstin turned up on my doorstep 3 days later on good Friday with another woman from their church and they came in and we had coffee and we chatted for about an hour about the Bible and religion and #Act24 and why they don't ever vote.

And then I didn't sleep properly that night because I'd played Breath of the Wild for about 7 hours that day and watched the kids play for another couple of hours on top of that (they are further ahead than me). THEN I read a load of theology about JW beliefs on my phone in bed which triggered a weird tangle of  BoTW/JW half dreams which involved climbing and gliding and searching all over Hyrule for fragments of truth which made my Sheikah sensor beep like crazy as I approached them, but when I was JUST about to reach them, the beeping would stop. And Kirstin was there, talking to me like she was holding something, but her hand was empty.

At 4am I was still awake and exhausted and lonely and unbelievably SAD because I desperately wanted to talk to Jesus about everything on the one night of the whole year between Good Friday and Easter Sunday when we remember when he wasn't around.

And then I realised what was different. There was a huge undercurrent of expectation and rules in how Kirstin had explained her beliefs to me. The closeness of a father/child relationship was absent. Doctrine had dominated our conversation - and I had gone along with it. 

And now, in the middle of the night on Easter Saturday I was still looking to doctrine to reconcile her theology with my own, but Jesus wasn't there and I realised I was grieving for Him. Like really, proper missing him. Aching because the love had nowhere to go and I was lost in Hyrule with a broken Sheikah slate.

Come back- please.
I never left. I'm right here. 
Oh thank God!! Where did you go?
Nowhere - You were wandering all over the place. I was following you.
I couldn't see you.
I saw you the whole time.
Don't ever leave - please.
I won't - I can't. I love you.
I love you too.
It's 5am. Go to sleep.
OK.




29 Mar 2017

Article 48... Article 49... Article 49 and a half...



As a directionally challenged person who has never been to London alone before, I felt unable to join the 100, 000 strong Unite for Europe march last Saturday in case I never made it home again. I've therefore emailed Donald Tusk instead and asked him to disregard Theresa May's letter triggering Article 50 until we sort ourselves out and decide what we want. What we really, really want.

This is the most recent small gesture in a series of small gestures which have included voting Remain on June 23rd, writing to my MP, signing a few petitions, leaving some comments on a group Facebook page (which I quickly unfollowed as both sides stopped listening and threw insults back and forth instead), joining the Liberal Democrats 4 months ago and offering to stand as local councillor in in a nearby ward at the next local election on the understanding I have no hope of winning it.

I honestly don't know what else to do. Life is busy enough already, you know?

Human beings have lived in times of social and political upheaval before, but social media has made it waay too easy to YELL ABUSE at strangers who happen to disagree with your point of view (regardless of how informed or ill informed that may be). The strength of feeling and rate of escalation in conversations is hugely disturbing, yet a conversation earlier tonight with Spawn X freaked me out even more. It went thusly:

Me: So Theresa May's letter should get there tomorrow and Article 50 will be triggered.
Him: Yeah, I know.
Me: I'm emailing the President of the European Council and telling him I don't agree with her.
Him: That will never work.
Me: Yeah, I know. But I want him to know anyway.
Him: Why? What does it matter? Brexit will happen anyway.
Me: What does it matter? Don't you realise nothing would EVER change if everyone believed nothing ever would?
Him: But we have a democracy - people voted to leave.
Me: People got the vote because other people fought for it - people who lived and died before we got here.
Him: And the people voted and have spoken.
Me: If you're white, male and straight you have nothing left to fight for. Are you too privileged to care about what happens?
Him: No - I just don't think it's worth fighting anything you have no hope of ever winning.
Me: But can't you see that every massive change in society was at one point unwinnable? Don't they teach you about Martin Luther King in school? Ghandi?? Why the conformity?
Him: It's not about conformity - I think that people voted and they should face the consequences of their decision - even if it was a stupid decision.
Me: But... but... You're the one who's going to have to live with it - for longer than me! And your kids. And your grandkids.
Him: That's what democracy means, mum.
Me: Yeah - and it also means that we can protest about it. This isn't North Korea. You disagree with them there and you get carted off and loose your thumbs.
Him: Aaaargh.... You're wasting your time. And you're winding me up.
Me: So you think we should just do NOTHING?
Him (Pulling his hood up over his head and wrapping the cord around his neck in slow motion): I'm. Just. Saying. I. Think. You're. Wrong.
Me (Reality check): Oh my gosh... I'm being like Grandma with anything involving alcohol. Aren't I?
Him (Nodding): Twenty minutes of my life. For ONE joke about beer...
Me: I'm sorry.
(We hug and he goes to bed)

Ah well. Zig-a-zig-ah. Happy Article 50 Day, UK.

12 Jan 2017

System overload


Adulting is exhausting me today. Too many emotions for one tiny shaven head. Ok - we have:

Irritation that the work day has been spent doing lots of things with very little to show for it
Anxiety that the to do list for tomorrow is even longer now 
Relief that the end of financal year almost up 
Happiness with brand new filing system (2 empty folders with pre-labelled dividers)
Disbelief that child X has stumbled upon in-app purchases and spent £450 in last 2 days
Gratitude towards bank who realised there was unusual activity before we did and blocked our card
Anger that X bought pixels without authorisation
Irritated that in-app purchase function wasn't disabled as I had believed it to be
Disappointment that X would even try to buy pixels when you can play the game and get everything in it for free if you waste enough hours of your life playing it
Fascination with gaming currency (gems) vs 'real' money (pounds sterling in this case) and how inter-changeable they both are when there's only ONE swipe between them
Realisation that if I'm struggling with the above, how much more abstract a concept is this to a small/medium sized person who does not yet have a bank card
Annoyed with X for not making the distinction anyway and clicking 'Confirm purchase'
• On 20 separate occasions
Compassion at the level of shame and remorse he is currently demonstrating (he has been crying hot, silent tears and snot into my left thigh for the past hour and shows no signs of stopping)
Anger with the nature of the world and the fact we even need money in the first place
• (This is not new- See here. And here)
Anger at the Clash Royale people for making it so easy to spend large amounts of real money in a short period of time
Admiration of the business model that makes large amounts of real money in a short period of time
• Shame that as an adult, I did not identify the in-app loophole and close it myself
Annoyance at Apple who have taken all our money
• Slight stirrings of Hope that they might not keep it
Growing excitement during online conversation with Apple support who want to investigate and see what they can do
Immense relief at their decision to refund 80% of the bill
Happy dance around living room
Anticipation in telling X the good news
Impatience that X has showered, gone to bed and cried himself to sleep so I can't tell him yet
Overwhelming Love as I watch him sleep 
Gratitude that we get to have him in our lives - despite the complications this can involve
Empathy with the impulsive addicts who get sucked into shallow rewards and loose their homes, marriages or sanity because of lack of control. (Usually because of something far heftier than Clash Royale pixels, but the underlying principle is surely the same)
Gratitude for the people in my life that have shown me grace when I needed it
Delight that we have wine in the cupboard