Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The dangers of the internet

If I didn't have such a propensity to research everything to the nth degree on the internet, I would not now be questioning the authority of a priest who I believe to be a good and holy man. I would be accepting his advice, and my conscience would be less troubled than it is now. Who am I, or anyone else, to question what he has told me? Isn't this an unacceptable form of arrogance in me to believe that I know better than him?

New Man and I are still reeling from receiving the news last week that we will almost certainly never be able to conceive naturally. The consultant recommended ICSI. At the moment we're looking into embryo adoption as an alternative.

I'm sorry to say that the pain of our situation is made much greater by what I have read on the internet about the Church's teaching on this issue (despite the priest telling me that we have a medical problem and he believes that, as long as no embryos were destroyed or 'discarded' in the process, ICSI would be an acceptable treatment for that medical problem, since we would be bringing a much-wanted and much-loved child into a Catholic marriage and bringing it up in the Catholic faith), and also by the attitude of some of my friends.

Adoption in the UK these days is a process fraught with difficulty for people like us. We have three major strikes against us in the eyes of social services - namely, that we are middle class, that we're a heterosexual couple who are married to each other, and that we are Catholic. We're just not the sort of people they're looking for. We also have many other problems with the process of adoption here, which I won't go into. Embryo adoption sounds to us like the best solution for all sorts of reasons, but whatever ends up happening, we know we have a hard road ahead of us and are as likely as not to end up having to accept that we will never know the joy of being parents.

I think I'm going to take a break from this blog for a while - maybe for ever - so let me take this opportunity once again of thanking you for your prayers. I hope you'll continue to pray for us as we struggle with this situation we're in.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Please pray for us

New Man and I had some news this week which has really knocked us sideways, and we have some very difficult decisions to make. We'd really appreciate your prayers.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The pendulum swings

After Vatican II, a lot of parishes threw out a lot that was good, beautiful and holy. The process continued throughout the 70s, 80s and even 90s, and many people have grown up knowing nothing of the beauty of the pre-Vatican II Mass, and having learnt very few, if any, hymns that were written before about 1970.

Some post-1970 'hymns' are absolutely dire. Some are trite and meaningless. Some have hopelessly unmelodious tunes. Some are actually heretical.

The pendulum has now begun to swing back, and many people are embracing the beauty and richness of the traditional form of the Mass. In so doing, some are rejecting anything that was written after Vatican II.

Now, I have lived in a number of different parishes - I moved house approximately once a year as a child. My mother is a church organist, and we used to help her to choose the hymns - always with a Missal in front of us to ensure that they fitted with the theme of the Mass. I spent many years as a member of a church choir, and for a large part of that time I was responsible for selecting the hymns for the Mass at which I played. I therefore have quite a wide repertoire of hymns, both new and old, and my favourite hymns include both old and new ones.

My experiences over the years have led me to the following conclusions:

1. What the choir wants to sing is not necessarily always what the congregation wants to hear

2. What the congregation wants to sing is usually what it knows well. Many people who enjoy singing hymns and consider that singing them is an important part of their participation in the Mass will be completely turned off by a Mass in which more than half of the hymns are unfamiliar. This means that music which is new to the congregation needs to be introduced gradually, and certainly not all in one go.

3. An average hymn which is sung by the majority of the congregation can be more meaningful than a beautiful hymn which nobody joins in with.

4. Some of the trite modern hymns are not heretical and express sentiments which actually fit quite well with the readings of a particular Mass. Some are even based on those readings.

5. We don't ban Humpty Dumpty because it's childish, but nor do we expect to hear it performed to an audience of adults at the Royal Albert Hall. There is an important place for 'children's hymns', but the main Sunday Mass of the parish is almost certainly not it.

I have happy memories connected with some modern hymns, and those memories mark some major points in my spiritual maturing (a process which is by no means complete). For instance, I remember learning 'Colours of day' when I was preparing for First Communion, and singing it with my class in a school weekday Mass. I remember the first all-night retreat I ever went on at the age of 15, which culminated in a Mass at dawn during which everyone lustily joined in with 'Our God reigns', and the emotions that this experience stirred in me.

I also remember hymns that I didn't understand at the time I learnt them - for instance, why did it matter that the green hill didn't have a city wall ("There is a green hill far away, without a city wall")?

I suppose what I'm saying (and I'm deliberately not linking to any recent posts I may have read poking fun at modern hymns, because actually a lot of what was said was very funny) is let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. And let's remember that our spiritual journey may not have ended with 'I have seen the golden sunshine', but that might have been an important step along the way, and perhaps we shouldn't be pulling the ladder up behind us and preventing other people from benefiting from the same stepping stones (hmmm, nice mixed metaphor there).

Monday, 8 June 2009

Little green shoots

The homily at yesterday's First Communion Mass was one of the best I've heard. The priest spoke directly to the children, in language that they could understand, but he didn't dumb down his message at all. I can't remember exactly the words he used, but this is the gist of what he said.

You're wearing special clothes today and everyone is celebrating because this is one of the most special days of your lives - you are about to receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord for the first time. This means that the Church thinks you are not babies any more, but are ready to join all the adults in beginning to take responsibility for your own faith and to participate fully in the life of the Church.

Now that you are receiving the Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus is calling you to be more like Him. (He then asked the children for examples of ways in which they could be more like Jesus, and he expanded on each of the examples they gave - generosity, kindness, standing up for what's right and gratitude.)

You need to nourish your faith and let it grow, because if you don't feed it, it will die and you might start to think that you don't need Jesus in your lives. The world often tells us that we don't need Jesus, and sometimes it's difficult to be a Christian.

People might sometimes think you're weak or not cool because you're Christian. Some people think that to be popular at school, you need to bully other people. Some people think that to be first, you need to push other people out of the way. Some people think that to be successful at work, you need to step on other people and make them fail.

We don't live that way, and some people might say you're not successful because you're not doing those things. But if you have faith and you believe in Jesus, you don't need to do all of those things, because your life is successful if you live the way Jesus wants you to live.

There are some pretty difficult messages in that, but the children really listened and seemed to take in what he was saying. At the end of Mass, he reiterated that they need to nourish their faith in order to let it grow. He then gave each child a little tomato plant as a symbol of their faith, and told them to remember to water and nourish that plant.

I had gone into the church with, if anything, slightly negative expectations. The music was absolutely not to my taste, and the church is being refurbished, so the Mass was in the parish hall. But the parish hall has been beautifully set up as a temporary church, and the congregation showed real reverence, as well as joy at the celebration. In particular, when the priest opened the tabernacle before Communion, not just the priest and the altar servers but everybody in the church genuflected until he had closed the tabernacle and carried the chalice to the altar.

My friend told me afterwards that the priest had insisted that not only the children, but also the parents, should be given lessons to prepare for the First Communion. She said she had never thought that someone without children could understand so well the challenges of bringing up a child, and that she had found the preparation very helpful.

The whole event really taught me something about judging by appearances. Yes, we may have 'processed' out to "We are marching in the name of God", with a number of people dancing behind the children, but technically the final blessing had taken place and Mass was over, so why not celebrate at that point? And those children - and their parents - had been beautifully and lovingly prepared for the celebration, and the priest made sure they understood the importance of this event in their lives.

I made my First Communion in 1976 and it still stands out in my memory as one of the most special days of my life. I think in 33 years' time, my godson will remember his First Communion in the same way - and who can ask for more than that?

Thursday, 4 June 2009

New translation

I've had a look at several parts of the new translation of the Mass, and agree that it's more beautiful and closer to the original than the current Novus Ordo effort. In many ways, that has to be a good thing. My brother who lives in South Africa responded very positively when the new translation was introduced in his church last year.

I can see there being objections, though. In fact, I have an objection myself - and petty though it is, it's something that really matters to me.

On the day I made my First Communion in 1976, my grandmother gave me a Missal. I have used that Missal ever since, and it reminds me of my First Communion and of my grandmother.

One of my godsons is making his First Communion this coming Sunday, and I really want to give him a present that he will be able to use on a regular basis and treasure all his life. Knowing that the new translation is due to come into use soon, I know there's no point in giving him a Missal for the current English translation of the Mass. I also know his family are unlikely ever to get into going to the Traditional Rite Mass, so there's no point in getting him a Missal for that.

I almost feel cheated out of being able to give him a meaningful present that will last him a lifetime. I may be influenced in this feeling by my father regularly expressing sadness throughout my childhood that he was unable to use the old Missal that he had received as a present for his First Communion in the late 1940s - he used to get it off the shelf to show it to us, but he couldn't use it in Mass.

On the other hand, at the moment there is no real universality in our Church. Even if I only intended it to last for a short while, I couldn't buy Missals here in the UK for my American or South African nephews and nieces, because there are enough small differences between the US and UK Mass that they would be noticed every week (little things like in the Creed, where we say "became incarnate from the Virgin Mary" and the US says "was born of the Virgin Mary" - I feel like an outsider whenever I stumble over that bit when I'm visiting them), and South Africa is already using the new translation, which is very different.

I'm sad that I can't get a special and lasting present for my godchildren, nephews and nieces, one that will be used regularly and remind them forever of one of the most important days of their lives. I know such nostalgic feelings aren't a reason to block positive progress, and I hope when the new translation is fully brought in the small differences between us and the US will disappear, making the Church feel properly universal again.

But I do think that if the new translation is to be received warmly by the majority of Catholics, it needs to be introduced with great sensitivity and these little feelings need to be acknowledged and not completely swept aside as unimportant.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

A year today

New Man and I have been married a whole year. It's been an amazing year - one with its ups and downs, its difficulties and its unexpected pleasures.

When we married, New Man was 45 and I was 38. We were both used to living on our own, and it wasn't always easy learning to live together. A year on, New Man almost always hangs his towel up properly in the bathroom and rinses the basin after he's shaved and then spread toothpaste everywhere, and I'm getting better at sorting out the mail straight away, shredding the junk mail with our address on, putting the rest of the junk in the recycling and filing the one or two important items rather than just leave everything to pile up over the weeks.

365 times, the last thing we've said to each other before we fall asleep is "I love you", and the first thing we've done in the morning is roll towards each other and kiss good morning.

We eat together, go for walks together, make plans together, laugh together (a lot), enjoy buying each other little presents, and pray together.

The first year of marriage has been great - we're both looking forward to many more.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Long summer evenings

New Man and I have been having a bit of trouble fitting enough exercise into our schedule, but for the moment - at least as long as we have these lovely long summer evenings - I think we've got it cracked.

We live in a very hilly area, and over the last couple of weeks we have started going for a walk after supper every evening. We've got to know parts of the town that we hadn't seen before, slept well after a bit of healthy exercise, and - more than anything - enjoyed just being together and chatting about this and that.

There are so many distractions at home - television and chores to name just the two biggest - and it's easy to sit side by side all evening without ever actually communicating, slaves to the big box in the corner of the room. The distractions that we have on our walks - "Oooh, look at that", "Would you like to live in a house like that?", "What a beautiful sunset" - are things that make us talk to each other more rather than less, and we each spend most of the day looking forward to spending that time together in the evening.

My sister told me that my 2-year-old niece was looking at our wedding album this week at my parents' house, and having great fun pointing out all her relatives and naming them. She came to a picture of New Man and me walking out of the church holding hands and gleefully said our names, then in tones of great satisfaction she said, "They best friends."

I'm glad she noticed, and even gladder that she's right - and at the moment I'm really hoping it stops raining by this evening so I can go on my daily walk with my best friend.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Another whinge, I'm afraid

I've got lots of nice positive things to talk about in the next few weeks, but today I'm feeling miserable. I'm just waiting for the fertility clinic to ring me back so I can make an appointment for some tests - I've been putting it off for ages, but now I just really need some answers. New Man is being very supportive, and he wants this as badly as I do, so we share the feelings of crushing disappointment every 26 days or so, then pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get ready to board the rollercoaster again.

Over the last year (14 lots of 26 days, in case you haven't been counting as obsessively as we have), we've learnt an awful lot - about ourselves and about each other. I've also learnt what sometimes seems like a whole new language as I communicate in abbreviations with other women who are going through the same thing - the internet is a great thing for bringing people together like this. I've had all sorts of needles stuck in me, taken huge quantities of Chinese herbs, and prayed and prayed and prayed.

I know God is listening, but what if motherhood is not part of His plan for me? What if He is actually trying to push me a different way? When do I give up and start listening to what God really wants me to do? I want this so badly, but if God wants me to do something else instead, I need to try to subordinate my will to His.

So now I'm waiting for a phone call, then I'll be waiting probably about four weeks for an appointment, then a bit longer to get all the tests done and hear the results, and then we'll know.

I suppose I'm asking for your prayers again - that we get to be parents, but if that doesn't happen, that we learn to accept it and follow God's Will, whatever that may be.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Still alive...

Well, I suppose Communications Sunday is as good a day as any to try to start posting more regularly again...

So, what's been going on?

Well, Beth has had her beautiful little boy, and John Paul was baptised this weekend. I'm enjoying looking at his pictures and hearing how he and Madeleine and enjoying each other.

I've been praying daily for little Jonah and his family. Jonah is a beautiful little boy who was born in February with a rare genetic skin disorder called Epidermolysis Bullosa. His mother posts regular updates on his condition, and I hope it gives her some comfort to know that there are people all over the world who are praying for her family.

I've also been praying for Faith Hope, who was diagnosed in the womb with anencephaly. Her mother was strongly advised to "terminate" her, and told that she had a 0% chance of survival, but Faith defied the odds and lived for just over three months. Her mother's blog was a wonderfully positive message of love for Faith and for God, and I hope all the photos, videos and memories that Myah has of Faith and the faith that she has in God will be a comfort to her in the weeks and months to come.

Life has been pretty busy here, and I have a few things I hope to blog about if I have time over the next few weeks. I've kept thinking I must get back before I get culled from Mac's blogroll, so I'm off to bed now, but will hopefully be back on here tomorrow.

Night night.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

A stress-free life

In the last week, I've been told by two people - an acupuncturist and a facial massage therapist (yes, I'm living the high life at the moment!) - that my body is exhibiting unusually high levels of stress. It's funny, because most people see me as quite a calm person, but in reality, I'm like a swan - calm and serene on the surface, but paddling like fury under the water.

So, what's causing all this stress? Well, it could be the whole trying-but-not-yet-succeeding-to-make-a-baby thing. Or it could be a problem I've had at work that I've been trying to solve. Or it could be the fact that we haven't had a free weekend for months and little jobs around the house have been neglected. Or it could be a million and one other things.

But I think what all this stress boils down to is that I'm a world champion procrastinator. It's not that I'm lazy. But if I have to write an article and the deadline is in a week's time, I'll spend six days researching and reading round the topic and one day madly trying to get the thing written to meet the deadline. If I have three weeks, the proportion is 20 days' research, one day's panicked writing. And so on... This was manageable when I lived alone, but is a lot harder now that I have to cook for New Man and keep the household ticking over, and I want to spend time with him, and he hates me staying up until 4 in the morning or getting up ridiculously early to work.

A very simple illustration of how I cause myself stress is that I (hang my head in shame as I admit that I) haven't finished my Christmas thank-you letters. I only have one still to write, but if you added up all the time I've spent complaining to New Man that it hasn't been done (he needs to write to the same aunt, and he hasn't done it either), worrying about how rude my aunt will think I am, and adding it to to-do lists, I could have written the blasted thing 86 times over.

I hate being ruled by advertising hype, but I really need to 'Just Do It'. I should get the Nike tick tattooed on my wrist or something, to remind myself to get on with it. But maybe not today...

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Third time lucky?

Or maybe fourth. Or fifth. Or...

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Maybe tomorrow...

I'll get to that post on procrastination soon...

Monday, 2 March 2009


I've got so many posts floating around in my head, and just don't seem to find the time to sit down and write any of them. I've got a good one about procrastination - perhaps I'll write it tomorrow...

Monday, 16 February 2009

Great book for children

One of the things I really miss about living in London is the ability to go to the Catholic Truth Society shop and St Paul's Bookshop by Westminster Cathedral on a regular basis. This weekend, New Man and I were in Bath, where we found a little Catholic bookshop and had a very happy half hour or so browsing (and purchasing).

One of the books we bought was this little book, for my nieces (also available online).

I think it's the best children's Mass book I've seen - it has spaces for the child to write or draw in what the readings are about each week and who and what they're praying for, and is wipe-clean so that it can be used again and again. It has the full text of each of the prayers which are said by the congregation, so that a child who is beginning to read can join in.

But the best bit is that there's no dumbing-down. Here's what it says about the Consecration:
"The priest remembers what Jesus said and did at his Last Supper. He says and does the same...

I will hear a bell at this part of the Mass as it is so important. When the bell rings I will look up at the bread. It is now Jesus, the Bread of Life. Then I will look up at the wine. It is now Jesus, the Cup of Salvation...

The bread and wine have been changed into Jesus. This is the great mystery which we believe in. To show our belief we say one of these prayers."

And at Communion:
"We go to the altar and receive Jesus, the Food and Drink of Life.

Jesus, this is a very special time for us. I love you Jesus. I enjoy this quiet time. I will talk to you in my heart...

The priest and altar servers clear away everything that was used for the Holy Meal. The altar is empty now, but the people in Church are filled with God's special gift of Jesus.

Jesus is with us and we are the Body of Christ."

And then there's the positive message at the end of Mass:
"At the end of Mass there may be a hymn to sing. I will join in joyfully, just as I would at a party.

Mass has ended, but it has made us strong for our work and play during the week.

Thank you for making me kind and loving through this Holy Mass."

The book encourages the child to sit still and listen to the readings, to listen to the Homily or, if the priest is "talking to the grown-ups", to think about the Gospel and imagine he was there. It encourages the child to join in the responses with the congregation and also to say his own prayers at various points throughout the Mass.

Rather than distract the child to stop him from playing up, it explains to him what's going on and involves him in the prayer of the whole community.

My only regret is that we only bought one copy...

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

¡ɹǝɥʇɐǝʍ pɐq ɥʇıʍ ƃuıdoɔ ǝןqnoɹʇ ǝʌɐɥ ʎןןɐǝɹ ǝʍ

¡¡uʍop ǝpısdn pןɹoʍ ɹno suɹnʇ ʎןןɐǝɹ ɹǝɥʇɐǝʍ pɐq ɟo ʇıq ǝןʇʇıן ɐ 'ǝǝs uɐɔ noʎ sɐ 'puɐןƃuǝ uı ǝɹǝɥ ˙ʍous ɟo sǝɥɔuı ʍǝɟ ɐ ɥʇıʍ ǝdoɔ uɐɔ ɥɔıɥʍ sɐǝɹɐ uı ǝʌıן oɥʍ noʎ ɟo ǝsoɥʇ ɹoɟ sıɥʇ ʇsod oʇ pǝʇuɐʍ ʇsnɾ ı ˙ʞɹoʍ ǝɯos ɥʇıʍ uo ʇǝƃ ʇsnɯ ı sɐ 'ʇsod ʞɔınb ʎɹǝʌ ɐ sı sıɥʇ

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Encouraging a child

Here's another great story, which shows the importance of listening to children and encouraging them. Blue Peter was one of my favourite programmes as a child - entertaining, always different, and I was accidentally being educated as I watched it.

This will give you a flavour of the story - follow the link for the rest of it:

At the age of nine few children know what they will go on to do with their lives. But for a scientist involved in one of the most revolutionary medical operations of recent times, his destiny appears to have been spelled out in a letter written 35 years ago, to a BBC children's programme.

It had been a heck of a year for Professor Anthony Hollander. In 2008, after 20 years of research into helping arthritis sufferers he unexpectedly found himself being asked to urgently adapt his skills to help save the life of a woman in Spain.

The groundbreaking treatment, by a team of scientists and surgeons, gave the woman a new windpipe using her own stem cells. He had helped save a dying woman and the successful operation made headlines around the world. It was, by any measure, a career high.

After it was all over Mr Hollander got to thinking, and suddenly made a connection. In 1973, a nine-year-old Anthony Hollander had written to Blue Peter to tell them he had a "strange" belief that he knew how to "make people or animals alive".

The letter, which by his own admission today was "eccentric", went on to ask the programme to help him acquire the necessary materials to carry out these life-saving tasks.

The shopping list included a "model of a heart split in half" and "tools for cutting people open".

Thousands of children wrote to the programme every week, but each one received a personal letter back, and Anthony was no exception.

The response from then editor, Biddy Baxter, was "fundamental" to his future, he now believes. She encouraged him to seek information for his idea from the family doctor.

It was not so much the advice itself that left an impression on the boy. It was that whisper of encouragement that he gleaned from having received a reply at all, and that the letter did not dismiss his idea.

"If her letter had shown any hint of ridicule or disbelief I might perhaps never have trained to become a medical scientist or been driven to achieve the impossible dream, and really make a difference to a human being's life," he says.

You can read the rest of the story here. Oh, and I just looked the guy up, and he's had a lot of success in his research with ADULT stem cells. Just so you know...

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Meera's mother-in-law

Here's a great story I came across the other day (here):

One day Meera woke up and found herself married to the man of her dreams. Although the marriage had been arranged, she discovered within a week of the ceremony that he was the most kind, attentive, supportive and loving husband she could ever have wished for - and it didn't hurt that he was also rich.

Her life would have been wonderful, except for one thing. His mother. She lived with them and tended to think that she was in charge of the household. Not only that, but whatever Meera did, it was never good enough for her son. She carped and complained all day long and made the girl's life a misery - except in the evenings when her son was at home, when ghee wouldn't melt in her mouth.

Every night the girl prayed that she would die, but when the old woman woke up every morning glowing with health and, if anything, getting stronger and healthier as time went by, she decided to take matters into her own hands. In desperation, she visited a man in a nearby village who was renowned for his knowledge of herbs, and she begged him to give her the means to poison the old woman.

At first, he tried to dissuade her. But when he realised she was serious (the clincher being the amount of money she was prepared to pay), he prepared an ointment for her and told her to massage it into the old woman's feet. He promised her that her troubles would be over within a month.

That night, the girl tentatively offered the old woman a foot massage, which was accepted with bad grace and 'suffered' with many a complaint. As it was the next night, and the next. It was only the fact that her husband was so pleased with his wife's kindness towards his mother - and the thought that it was only going to last another 28 days at most - that kept her going.

Soon the foot massage became an evening ritual, and by the end of the first week the old woman had stopped complaining. She accepted the 'homage' the girl was paying her as her right. (Only three weeks to go.)

On the third day of the second week, she said thank you. (Ha! Only two and a half weeks to go.)

At the beginning of the third week, she started telling stories about when she was young. (Two more weeks.)

Then the stories started to include the birth of her son and what he had been like when he was a little boy. Despite herself, the girl wanted to know more.

On the second morning of the fourth week, the girl woke up with a terrible feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach. The old woman was going to die. She herself was going to be a murderess. She was killing the mother of the man she loved. But it was more than that. In the last few days, she had actually enjoyed the evening ritual. She enjoyed the stories. She even enjoyed the soothing feeling of giving the massage. She enjoyed giving pleasure. And now she came to think about it, her mother-in-law hadn't complained about anything for quite a while. Not anything. Yesterday she had asked Meera's advice about which sari she should buy. And, even today, she had promised to teach her the secret recipe of her husband's favourite dish.

As soon as she could leave the house without arousing suspicion, Meera raced to the next village to the house of the old man. He recognised her immediately and smiled as he pointed to a large bowl of ointment sitting on a side table. 'Oh thank you, thank you,' she whispered. 'I'm so ashamed.' Without looking him in the eye, she picked up the bowl and left in its place much more than twice the sum of money she'd given him the first time.

Just as she was leaving, she suddenly stopped and looked back. 'How did you know I would want the antidote?' she asked.

'Antidote?' he replied with a twinkle. 'I don't know what you mean. I just know that I prepare the best foot massage ointment in the world. Everyone always wants more.'

Friday, 23 January 2009


After another rough week, I've been looking into adoption this week. I had previously read that in the UK, they will only approve people to adopt children who are less than 40 years younger than the older adopter. Since New Man is now 46, this would have meant we couldn't adopt a baby or toddler.

I now find that, at least in our area, the maximum age difference is 50 years. You have no idea what a relief it is to read something like that - it means we still have a good couple of years to work on this.

My oldest and best friend was adopted as a baby. When she got married, she decided she wanted to find her birth family, and her parents supported her in this. She found her birth mother, found out a bit about the circumstances of her birth, met her birth sister and got a bit of medical history which was useful when she had children. And that was it. There has never been any question that the people who brought her up from the age of six weeks are her 'real' parents.

I also have two cousins who are adopted. No secret has ever been made of the fact that my uncle and aunt adopted them as babies, and they are as much part of the family as any of the cousins.

These days, adoption in the UK is a little more complicated. For a start, in the majority of cases the adoptive parents are required to maintain some level of contact between the child and its birth family. I don't see how, if my child was regularly visiting or having contact with its birth mother, I could ever feel as though I was its 'real' mother. I would always feel as though I was answerable to someone else on the way I was bringing the child up. My friend's daughter has schoolfriends who are adopted and have contact with their birth families, and it can cause disruption and confusion in their lives.

Also, thanks to a combination of the prevalence of abortion and the UK social services' obsession with keeping children in the most chaotic and abusive households for as long as possible, there are very few babies and toddlers available for adoption in this country, and many of the children who are put forward for adoption have already suffered deep psychological (and often physical) damage.

Because of my experience of working overseas, I have always been interested in the idea of an overseas adoption, and I think this is the route we would go down. In many ways, I would be happy if we could have a birth child and an adopted child (or even more than one of each). We have plenty of love to go round, and would love to give a home to a child that needed it, and become that child's parents.

Unfortunately, from the stuff I was reading last night it seems that it would not be an option for us to try for both at the same time. For both domestic and overseas adoptions, you need first to be approved for adoption by UK social services. One of the criteria for them even to consider a couple for adoption is that they must have completed all infertility investigations and treatment (and have a note signed by their doctor to that effect) before applying to become adoptive parents.

Armed with the knowledge of everything I have read this week, I think we now have a plan. 2009 will be the Year of Trying For A Baby. We'll give it our best shot, and then we'll see - will 2010 be the Year of The Birth? Or will it the Year of The Adoption? Or even both?

Friday, 16 January 2009

A tiny gesture

I think I've mentioned before that my brother in South Africa is divorced and his wife is not Catholic. They take their children to Mass every Sunday, and my sister-in-law often also takes them on weekdays, and since none of them is able to receive Communion, the whole family goes up together for a blessing.

At Christmas, the church was so crowded that the congregation spilled out through every open door. My brother's family spent most of the Mass outside the church. When the time came for Communion, Extraordinary Ministers came to the doors to administer Communion to those who had not been able to get inside. My brother and his family wanted to receive a blessing from the priest, and so they found a way through the crowd and eventually managed to get inside the church, at the far end of the aisle from the altar.

Unfortunately, everyone inside the church had already received Communion, and the priest was on his way back up the altar steps. The family paused briefly, then began to turn and make their way back outside, disappointed that they had not been able to receive their Christmas blessing.

As they began to turn round, the priest noticed them and beckoned them forward. He came back down the altar steps to meet them, and blessed each of them in turn. That simple gesture made their Christmas, and a lifetime of gestures like it from good, holy men is the reason why despite many difficulties, people like my brother remain faithful to the Church.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Oooh, cool - I got an award!

Thank you, Leutgeb! This must mean my number of readers is up to at least five, if not seven!

The rules are:

  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass the award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author and the name of the blog from whom he/she has received the Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display the award on his/her blog, and link to this post, which explains the award.
  • Each Blogger who wins the Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List (scroll down). That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives this prestigious honour!
  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Well, I know Leutgeb got it from Mac, but I'm going to give it to her again anyway - she may be the first Super Scribbler With Bar. Other Super Scribblers I visit regularly in Blogworld are Beth, Colleen and Jen.

Yes, yes, I know that's only four, but I can't choose between the others that I read regularly - if you think you deserve one, consider yourself on my list!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

He knows what He's doing

In 1986, I was devastated when my A level results were not enough to get me into university. I had to go back to school and take my A levels again, and I thought my world was going to end.

Only a year later, I knew that this failure was the best thing that had ever happened to me. It was while I was retaking my exams that I rediscovered a love of learning that I had somehow lost on moving from primary to secondary school but that has shaped my career since then.

In 1991, I had a couple of crushing disappointments. I applied for a scholarship, and everyone was stunned when I didn't get it. I applied for a job, and wept buckets when I didn't get that either.

Six months later, what I got instead was way better than anything I had imagined the previous year, and set me off on a path which led to spiritual and intellectual fulfilment, a stimulating career and some wonderful life-long friendships.

In 2005, I had the worst three months of my life so far. My unhappiness led indirectly to a new career, a new home and ultimately to my meeting my now husband. Although there are day-to-day frustrations in any job, this is my dream job. My house is a real home, and I've made more wonderful new friends in my new neighbours.

Over the last few days, I've been thinking about 2008. The end of the year didn't bring me what I wanted, and I've been quite sad about that.

But my life changed for ever in the middle of the year. I loved the first five months - planning my wedding, looking forward to the day when all the people I loved would be gathered together and I would stand in front of them to profess my love for the kindest, most caring and patient man you could imagine.

And I loved the next seven months, as New Man and I got used to living together, lived through countless new experiences together and looked forward again to many more.

I would have been delighted with a honeymoon baby, but I see now that it wouldn't have been right for us. We're both getting on a bit, and had lived alone for long enough to get set in our ways. We've learnt more about each other and about ourselves in the last seven months than we could ever have done if we'd been preparing for the imminent arrival of a baby.

I often tell people that everything that's happened in my life makes perfect sense - but only in retrospect. And yet here I've been, desperate to move on to the next stage before I was ready. I was bursting with impatience, but God knew the time wasn't right.

I hope and pray that it will happen for us in 2009. I know that each month it doesn't happen, I'll still be disappointed. But I know if it happens, it'll be in God's time, not mine. And at last I think I'm OK with that.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Twelfth Night

New Man and I have just had a wonderful two weeks together. We spent a week celebrating Christmas with my family, topped and tailed with a day at each end with New Man's family. It was my youngest niece's first Christmas, and our first Christmas as man and wife. My father declared it the best Christmas ever - and I'm not going to argue.

We then came back and celebrated New Year with some dear friends, then battened down the hatches and spent four days just relaxing together. We pottered about, doing little jobs around the house, chatting, reading and generally just enjoying each other's company.

We went back to work yesterday, and New Man is working late tonight. I've made some supper, taken down the Christmas decorations, moved the Three Wise Men into the crib and lit the candles in front of the now-complete crib scene.

The crib needs a small amount of explanation. The stable and most of the figures were bought by my brother and his then girlfriend (now my sister-in-law) on a trip to Oberammergau. The figures are all hand-carved, and cost way more than they could afford at the time. The one thing they just couldn't stretch to was the Three Wise Men.

That was about 10 years ago, and ever since then I've been looking out for the Magi to complete the set. Last December, my sister and brother-in-law took me on a surprise trip to Munich, and we went round the Christmas markets there. There is one section of the market which is completely given over to hand-carved crib figures. Unfortunately, this being a surprise trip right at the beginning of December, I hadn't checked my existing figures, and hadn't even seen them since the previous Twelfth Night. I had to guess which figures would go best with the existing set.

Being taller and lighter in colour than all the local characters, I suspect my Wise Men may have come from the North, rather than the East...

I hope all three of my readers had a very happy and blessed Christmas, and wish you a very happy 2009.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Happy Christmas

Not that you'd notice at the moment, but I'm going to be offline for a few days now. Have a very happy and blessed Christmas, and hopefully I'll be back more regularly in the new year.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Struggling on manfully...

This story could have been written about me - except that I haven't quite given in to it yet. In fact, I'm about to go Christmas shopping in Watford on a Saturday, which is bad enough when you're healthy...

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Full brain

I think any woman who has spent several months trying to get pregnant will have had a stage where it was all that she could think about - where it seemed to occupy every waking thought, every hope, every dream and every prayer.

Most women I know in that situation have also had one month where they were absolutely convinced their prayers had been answered. Every little twinge in their body is noticed and interpreted to the nth degree, and the hope and excitement build up until they can hardly bear to wait another day for the confirmation of what they *know* to be true.

The disappointment when it turns out that yet again it hasn't happened is crushing. I don't think anybody who hasn't been through it can understand the feeling of failure and despair, and the fear that it's never going to happen.

So that was my November. The sickness turned out to be a tummy bug, and the exhaustion turned out to be the natural result of the amount of work I've been doing recently.

I know it's only been six months, but this is all I've really wanted out of life since I was a little girl. I'm 39 and desperately afraid that I'm going to be too old soon. I'm afraid to go for tests in case they show up problems other than the one we already know about (and which turned out not to be totally insurmountable after all). I'm afraid that any changes in my body which I attributed to pregnancy last month might actually be down to early menopause. I'm also afraid that I'm turning into an obsessive bore.

So that's why I haven't been blogging - my brain was full. But after the emotional rollercoaster of November, I'm going to try to relax about it in December and think about other stuff. After all, nobody thinks much about children around Christmas time, do they...?

Thursday, 13 November 2008


One of the things we didn't enjoy about our trip to Jersey was the Mass we went to. When we walked into the church, I almost walked straight out again - I wasn't sure if it was actually a Catholic church.

There were huge projector screens each side of the altar, onto which the words of the hymns (with several misspellings - another of my pet peeves) were projected during the Mass. I've only ever seen this in Baptist and Pentecostal churches before, and I've always thought it was because the stuff they were singing was too new and radical to be in the hymn book.

The room was half-full, but from the noise level as we went in you would have thought it was packed to the rafters - I've never heard such a racket before Mass. The seating was on ordinary chairs, and we eventually discovered that if you wanted to kneel down, you were expected to collect a cushion from the back on your way in.

For all their friendliness with each other, I couldn't say the congregation were particularly welcoming to strangers - given that the people on every side of us turned their backs on us and ignored us during the (extremely long, due to the deacon's desire to shake hands with half the congregation) sign of peace.

There was an 'animator' who led the singing, and he leapt up to the microphone before Mass began to introduce his little sideshow. He began by saying that he had received positive feedback on the "more powerful" music that had been sung the previous week and had been asked for more of the same, so was going to make a start... and then he got some sort of silly wig out of his 'prop bag' and put it on, to gales of laughter from the 'audience'. I have seldom seen anything so inappropriate.

The priest wasn't actually allowed much involvement in the Mass - it was mostly taken over by the deacon. The deacon himself seemed mostly preoccupied throughout the Mass with checking that his microphone was on - and after each check, he usually cracked some sort of joke. He gave the homily, and although I tried very hard to concentrate, my mind started to wander once I realised how much of it was about himself.

I did eventually spot the tabernacle, tucked away to the side of the church. It couldn't have been more central, because the central 'stage' was taken up with the two huge projector screens.

I came away with two overriding thoughts.

First, that this was some sort of penance visited on New Man and me because we had looked at the Mass times for the island and chosen to go to the one which gave us the longest lie-in (although to be fair to us, it was also at the Catholic church which was closest to our hotel).

And secondly, I pondered that the problem with the Novus Ordo Mass is that when you're in a parish that's not your own, you have no idea what you're going to get. You could attend a beautiful, reverently celebrated Mass which fills you with peace. You could attend a Mass celebrated by a wise and prayerful priest who speaks to your soul in his sermon and leaves an indelible impression on you.

Or you could go to a Mass like this. And until you get there, you have no idea what you're letting yourself in for.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Weekend away

We spent last weekend in Jersey. Look what fabulous weather we had...

It was a bit breezy by the sea, and the tide was in so that we couldn't walk out to the Corbiere Lighthouse (there's a causeway somewhere under those rolling waves that gets uncovered at low tide).

But the weather was ridiculously warm on Sunday, and we had some lovely walks along the beach - I even took my shoes and socks off and went for a little paddle in the sea.

Life has been very hectic lately - work has been very busy and very stressful, New Man had Man Flu a couple of weeks ago, I had a severe recurrence of back pain from a slipped disc, we've had a lot of social engagements that we couldn't get out of, we're trying to sell New Man's house without much success, and we were both feeling really run down.

Getting away from it all and just taking the chance to be together and talk with no interruptions and no distractions was just bliss. We talked about some big important things and some little trivial things, and just enjoyed each other's company.

In all the rush and hassle of everyday life, it's easy for us to put each other low down on the priority list and not to make time for each other. I think this weekend has been really good for our relationship, and I feel closer to New Man than I have done for a while.

Divorce lawyers often have a bumper crop of new clients after Christmas and other holiday seasons, because couples who don't usually spend much time together see more of each other and don't enjoy what they see. I feel very blessed that the more time I spend with New Man, the more we enjoy each other's company. I hope I never forget that, and remember in future to make more time to be with him when things get tough, and not less.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Remembrance Day


The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

'Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?

'The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
'No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear..
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand.

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.'

Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell.'

Author Unknown

Monday, 10 November 2008

UN petition

I may be a bit behind the game, but I received the following by e-mail today. I have signed the petition, and think this needs to be publicised as widely as possible.

On December 10th, radical pro-abortion groups will present petitions asking the UN General Assembly to make abortion a universally recognized human right.

We have met the challenge and you can help.

We have initiated a petition drive that calls for governments to interpret the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as protecting the unborn child from abortion. Along with a coalition of pro-life groups from around the world, we will present our petitions at a press conference at UN headquarters.

So far, in only three weeks we have generated 46,417 names endorsing our petition; that is 15,000 a week! I now fully expect that we will present 100,000 names on December 10th, the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In order for this to happen, though, I need your help and I need it now.

If you have not signed the petition, do so now HERE or by going directly to http://www.c-fam.org/ and clicking on the icon "UN Petition for the Unborn Child." Then, after you have signed the petition, send this email or one of your own to ALL OF YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS!

If you have already signed the petition, send this email or one of your own to ALL OF YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS and urge them to sign it.

What we are trying to do is create a real global internet campaign that will shock the pro-abortion radicals at the UN on December 10th! To help you, the petition has been translated into 11 different languages and each can be found HERE or by going to http://www.c-fam.org/

So, please act now. Go HERE or here http://www.c-fam.org/ and sign the petition. Then send this message or one of your own to ALL OF YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS.

Yours sincerely,
Austin Ruse

PS We absolutely must submit more names to the UN than the pro-abortion radicals. They are bigger, richer and stronger than we are. So, act now; sign the petition HERE or go here http://www.c-fam.org/. And send this message to everyone you know!

I've looked into this a little bit. The pro-abortion petition is being presented to the UN on 10 December by Marie Stopes International. As far as I can make out, it currently has 632 signatures, compared to over 67,000 on the C-FAM petition. I don't know whether this figure is accurate, though - there is an indication on the C-FAM site that the counter on the Marie Stopes site has been disabled, so we can't necessarily trust that number. Clearly, the more signatures there are on the C-FAM petition, the better the chance of defeating the pro-abortion radicals on 10 December.

Friday, 7 November 2008

What credit crunch?

You know Frasier Crane's father's recliner? Well, New Man had a scruffy old recliner that made that thing look classy. And you know we had that reading from the Book of Ruth at our wedding: "Wherever you go, I will go..."? Well, it turns out that it wasn't about New Man and me. It was about New Man and his recliner. He was not going to be parted from that thing.

Sadly for New Man and his comfy old piece of landfill, a woman has ways of making things happen. I finally managed to convince him that his recliner was too big for the place he wanted to put it. The deal was that I would get him a nice new one of his choice for his birthday, if he would get rid of the old one.

His birthday is now fast approaching. I suggested that we might have to cancel it because of the credit crunch, but I couldn't bear the mournful look on his face. I then suggested that having already had seven more birthdays than I have had, perhaps he should stop being so fanatical about it and let me catch up a bit, but that didn't wash either. So on Saturday we struggled out to Watford to look at recliners.

After much sitting and contentedly sighing in various chairs around the store (and sampling the free freshly-baked cookies a few times - nice touch, Furniture Village!), we finally ended up with this (though not in this colour):

And it's so comfortable that New Man ended up buying me one for Christmas as well, so we'll be reclining in tandem. And I feel we can sit back with a clear conscience, knowing we've done our bit for the local economy in these difficult times...

Thursday, 30 October 2008

It's a while since we had a silly joke...

So, why do Communists always make their tea with a teabag?

Because proper tea is theft.