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.