Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Don't look back in anger

Horrible news here and a horrible few days. Goldilocks has had an awful accident in her care home and is now in intensive care, critically ill. Due to the nature of her injury she is not in our local hospital but in a specialist unit a long way away. The unit does not allow children to visit, so unless I can find carers for Mog and the Little Fish I am unable to visit her. Thankfully I do have care in place to go and see her for the next few days and we will see what happens after that.

This was an accident. It was a horrific accident, I know everyone who knows the details is shocked and sickened by it. But, it was a genuine accident. Everyone involved is devastated, and investigations are going on to find out exactly how it happened and more importantly, how to be sure it never happens again.

My post is about people's reactions. I have been overwhelmed by the love and support I have received over the past couple of days and when Goldilocks is able to receive cuddles again then I will pass them all on to her. But I'm posting to ask people to stop bringing me their anger. I am not angry about what happened here - I'm desolated by it but I am not angry about it. Please, I cannot carry your anger whilst I am carrying everything else for Goldilocks and trying to juggle being here with the little ones and spending time with Goldy too.

Anger isn't helpful in this situation. It doesn't change what has happened, it can't turn back the clock, it can't undo the past. What it does do is take energy, and I need all that energy for the days ahead. Finding someone to blame isn't helpful either - yes, there were specific people on duty at the time and perhaps you'd like to blame them? Or perhaps you'd like to involve the people who trained them? Or who recruited them? Why stop there - if you are going to start the blame game then why not blame the people who commissioned the place, or how about blaming me for deciding to entrust her to their care? I can't cope with your anger at this situation.

As a side note, I know that you are all upset and I know how much you love Goldilocks. It has been wonderful to see the outpourings of love, I am so touched. But again, I am going to ask, please don't phone me just to tell me how upset you are. You cannot possibly be more upset than I am, and I cannot comfort you. At the moment the phone is ringing off the hook all day long, sometimes it's the hospital, sometimes it's other professionals, other times it's friends and family. Thank you for phoning, it means a lot to me that you do care. But please, don't ask me the why, how, who, questions. Don't phone me and weep at me. It may sound selfish, but if I am not actually at the hospital (or on my way to the hospital) then I am trying to bring some semblance of normality back to the little ones. I can't do that with people weeping or ranting at me down the phone.

Please, don't worry about me - or don't worry about me to me. Please do pray for us all, pray that I will manage to rest when I have the opportunity, drive safely, and juggle everything that needs to be juggled. As well as obviously praying for healing for Goldy. For those who are concerned - yes, I am eating and drinking and sleeping. Yes, I am hugely stressed. I promise you, if I need to cry on your shoulder I will ring you and do just that. If I haven't called you to cry with you it is because someone else is supporting me in that way. I do appreciate all your concerns but if I don't want to "go there" during a phonecall with you it is probably because I have just done that with someone else. The little ones need me to be reasonably functional, at least part of the time - you could pray for them too, giving thanks for the carers who can come in and praying that they will feel happy and safe with them. These are carers who are well-known to us, but they will be with the girls for a lot longer than usual, I'm praying that it is not too much of a change for the girls.

Goldilocks is going to be in hospital for a long time. Healing is going to be a long, slow, process. And that's the best possible outcome and the one we are praying for. When I explain that it is going to be long and slow please don't try to comfort me by reassuring me that it will be fast and painless. It won't be and it can't be. Frankly, the alternative to a long slow healing process is death, and I'm not ready to pray for that yet. She is seriously unwell, she is not stable and won't be for some time.

I know that she is in God's hands and she could not possibly be in a safer place. No, I don't know why or how this accident was allowed to happen, but I do know that for every bit of pain she is suffering and for every tear that we are shedding on her behalf, God is sitting there beside her and has felt it all and has wept it all with us.

Thank you for your love and your support and your prayers.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Sunday best

Sunday today and I woke up to a beautiful clear blue sky. For some reason this always makes me want to be dainty and floral and feminine, so I leapt out of bed creaked my way up off the floor and jumped into the shower heaved myself into the bathroom to make myself beautiful get myself into a state which hopefully wouldn't cause the dogs to howl too loudly as we passed them on the street.

It being a very sunny day I decided to wear my skirt for a change. This is not, I promise you, a regular occurrence. However this particular skirt is my favourite and travels everywhere with me. It's my emergency skirt, and squashes up into a teeny tiny pocket so can be carried around wherever I go. I'm struggling to think what might count as a skirt emergency, but someone kindly reminded me of my wrong pair of trousers adventure from a couple of weeks ago and I have to admit, this skirt would have helped out then!

So skirt nicely unsquashed I decided to make an extra big effort and find a blouse too. This involves ironing. Folks, I do not like to iron. I have no ironing board, my ironing is done on the kitchen table on a strictly as and when absolutely necessary basis. Tshirts do not get ironed, nor do jeans. I live my life in Tshirts and jeans.

But ok, for once, let's be the smart family at church rather than the scruffbags. Mog was up good and early so I found a dress for her, and a nearly matching on for little fish. OK, pile of ironing ready, iron located, loaded and ready to run. I am halfway through ironing my blouse when I notice something dripping against my leg. Yes folks, I had somehow managed to dip the unironed half of my blouse into the fish water (I have a bucket of water standing under the kitchen table to top up the fish tank). Marvellous. No problem, the iron is hot, I'll simply run it over the sleeve a few times and steam it dry. Do not try this at home - or if you do, do not try this on the kitchen table. Hot, sustained steam does not do good things to a laminated table top. Ooops.

Moving the rest of the ironing to a cooler patch on the table I finished up and looked at the ruins of my blouse. Not actually ruined it turns out, a little wet around the cuff but otherwise ok. It's a hot day, the dampness will have worn off by the time I get to church, and in any case our carer is now due any minute so I throw my clothes on quickly and pop the girls' dresses back in their rooms - anyone who didn't know us would think I had gone around last night and carefully set out our clothes for the following day as recommended by any organised housewife. However, our carer does know us very well and was not fooled.

Less than enthralled by all my early morning activities Mog has decided to go back to sleep. Once Mog is asleep she has to be allowed to wake up naturally; if she is disturbed then she will have seizures. Little Fish has had a disturbed night, and is also still fast asleep. So I am all dressed up and nothing to do.

Carer arrives and we sit and have a cup of coffee. Nice, but not really what she's here for. Thankfully Mog does wake up, and carer gets her up and dressed. This is a process which normally takes an hour, longer if we try to do anything particularly complex to her hair. Thanks to her lie-in and our coffee, we now have just 30 minutes. Little Fish slumbers on.

We discard splints and unnecessary items of clothing, compromise on a simple plait for the hairdo, manage to wake Little Fish, throw some breakfast into her, and, amazingly, we are all absolutely ready to leave the house before the service is ready to start.

We wheel our way over to church, and for once hit no dog mess, no cars send sheets of water to drown us, we aren't polluted by passing birds, the wind does not turn my hair from its usual coiffed elegance rats nest into something more closely resembling a haystack, nor does it cause my skirt to flip up over my head, Mog doesn't kick her shoes off revealing odd socks. On arrival at church there is space for us right down at the front, in one of the few spots where wheelchair users can blend in rather than blocking the aisle. So we sit, we greet, I accept compliments on how nice the girls look and preen myself on how well-organised we have been.

It is at this point that I look down and realise my skirt is inside out...


Saturday, 25 August 2007

The Kite Runner

When we were at Guide Camp last month, the girls made kites from plastic bags and an old bamboo blind. As I watched them all flutter in the breeze, I started to remember the last time I had gone kite flying.

It was a beautifully windy day in early spring. I was fostering a very active little boy, giving his family a much needed break. A friend of mine was visiting, and needed some distraction from a difficult life situation. So we decided to head up to the hills and burn off some energy.

We had great fun with the kite and then decided to go for a walk before heading home again. As we got over the crest of the hill, my little fosling shouted "Byeeeee" and ran off. And disappeared! By the time we reached where he had been standing he was absolutely nowhere to be seen. There were a couple of other families, a handful of sheep, and some wintery desolated trees, but that was it. We walked around the hill, calling out for him but no joy.

Since he was fostered, I called the emergency duty social work team (EDT) to ask for help. Whilst the EDT isn't exactly emergency services, it does provide 24 hour crisis support for difficult social situations including all sorts of fostering related problems ("help, my teenage fosterchild has just been arrested/burnt down the garage/overdosed" are some of the more common calls on their time). So I was expecting the phone to be answered fairly quickly. However after what felt like hours the phone clicked to an answerphone message giving details of another telephone to call. I called that number, to reach another answerphone message giving yet another telephone number. Eventually I reached the on call SW who listened to my frantic call "I've lost a child, a developmentally disabled child, help". And seemed totally completely uninterested.

So, for the first time ever, I called 999 and asked for police rather than our more usual ambulance request. I also rallied some other friends; my poor distressed-in-need-of-distraction friend was so relieved to be able to hand me over to someone else and lead a search and rescue party - he does not do damsels in distress! The police arrived in double quick time and organised a search party. They called up their helicopter and started searching the woods with an infra-red search thingy (I'm so technical). They found badgers and courting couples, but no signs of any absent child.

Towards the end of the longest three hours of my life, they began making noises about dredging the lakes. Heart stopping time for me, as I tried to imagine what I could possibly say to the boy's mother or to the authorities that had entrusted him to me. Then, finally, the police had a call from a very nice man living in a village three miles away, who had found a boy wondering through his garden looking a little confused. 2 minutes after this phonecall, one of the search parties found an abandoned wellie on the bank of the pond. I will be forever grateful to God that this boot was found AFTER the boy had been located; I really don't know how I would have coped if it had been the other way around.

What an amazing boy - he had run three whole miles with only one boot on! What a wonderful man to have noticed something amiss with the lad and to have brought him into his house and kept him there with crisps and coke whilst calling the police. What wonderful friends to have dropped everything and come to my aid.

That was a Saturday, the next day at church those same friends rallied around and sat either side of us to ensure the boy could not escape from our pew. Afterwards, drinking coffee and chatting I kept hold of his hand as he munched on a biscuit and drank some squash. He was, thankfully, completely unphased by his adventure; I don't think it registered on his "important events radar" one jot. My aunt however noticed how tense things were "Tia, you should loosen your grip when his hand goes black"!

I dropped him back at home that evening and waited in dread for the phonecalls on the Monday when I would have to confess to my linkworker that I had lost him. When the phone rang and I told her what had happened she was devastated for me, so apologetic about having put me in that situation, not one word of reproach passed her lips. I was so thankful, so suprised, so amazed. This was within the first few months of my adventures in fostering, and I had come from a previous job where if anything had gone wrong, the most important thing was to find someone to blame and shame. What a difference!

I wouldn't choose to go through that experience again but it taught me so much. It reminded me that I do have limits and that I should listen to my gut feelings when discussing possible foslings - I cannot take every child and to take a child who isn't a good match could potentially do harm to the child and to myself. It showed me that my previous workplace's attitude was not universal, that it was possible to work and serve and to be supported and appreciated, not scapegoated. It showed me how good God can be, for protecting others from my mistakes, by providing strangers willing to go that extra mile for us, by forgiving freely and allowing me to learn from my mistakes.

That lad was a rather different Kite Runner from the one in the book, a very different life too. But like Khaled's Kite Runner some of my foslings have been in dire need of protection and support. There are so many different children both here and across the world in situations which are unimaginably awful; I really have lived a sheltered life. I can't help each and every child and if I tried then I would end up helping no one at all. But I can make a big difference to a very few children, and I'm thankful for that. I didn't feel as though I helped this lad very much at all - how is losing him helpful after all? - but it turns out that this was helpful, it showed that the lad really did have some big needs and not all down to his family situation - which was in itself enough to enable the family to access more support. I suspect God didn't plan it that way, but it's nice to see how He turns our mistakes around nevertheless.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

The Wrong Pair of Trousers

It's hot, hot, HOT here this weekend. We got back from Guide Camp on Friday afternoon and collapsed in a woodsmoke-scented heap, emerging at intervals to throw another load of washing into the machine. Now I'm drowning in clean laundry, and the woodsmoke is gradually diminishing for another year.

Saturday morning the heat drove us out of bed early, but apathy led us to stay in PJs until finally caffeine withdrawal drove me to Tesco's. I hate running out of coffee. My morning cup of coffee wakes me up and kickstarts my brain; without it I find myself walking from room to room forgetting what I was supposed to be doing and hunting desperately for clues. Picture the scene. Mog has been calling out for a while, hinting that it's time to get up. I go to her, open up the side of her bed, turn around for clothing and realise everything she posesses is in the laundry mountain in the sunroom. Meander over to the sunroom, pick up ribbons, put them back in the cupboard, throw another pile of laundry off the clothes horse onto the mountain, stroll back into the kitchen and look longingly at the kettle. A gentle hint from Mog and I'm back in her room, investigate the wardrobe, return to the sunroom, sift through the laundry mountain and find a set of clothes for her. Drape it on her wheelchair in the kitchen, go through the cupboard (again) in the desperate hope of finding more coffee. Mog gives a less gentle hint that she's still waiting to be dressed. Grab her clothes, head back to her room, change her nappy and take the wet one into the bathroom. Throw it away and find myself brushing my own teeth and hair, washing the shower bench, listening out for Little Fish until finally Mog makes it very clear that my job is to GET HER IN HER CHAIR RIGHT NOW. Which I finally manage to do, before repeating the process for Little Fish, her own morning routine taking three times as long as usual as I manage to forget her tube feed, do her feed but forget her medicines, manage her medicines but lose the syringe, brush her hair but lose her glasses, and so on.

Finally time to throw clothes on myself and we're off. Unable to face sifting the laundry mountain for a third time this morning, I instead reach for the cluster of rejected clothing at the back of my wardrobe and am somewhat suprised to discover a relatively new pair of trousers and a Tshirt which doesn't clash horribly and also doesn't need ironing (I am such an elegant dresser). Clean underwear also miraculously appears, not quite sure what it's doing on Mog's standing frame rather than in the cupboard but hey, it's clean, it fits, I'm dressed.

So, about 3 hours after waking up we are finally ready to hit Tesco's. By now it's nearly lunchtime, and the entire world appears to have had the same idea. Busy does not describe it. Not that I'm complaining, on this the hottest weekend of the year so far, Tesco's is air conditioned and so the longer it takes us to go round the better. But first we need to unload the van. As I bend down to unfold our ramp, I notice an unexpected breeze between my legs. Looking down I realise that the reason my trousers were lying in the reject pile was a nice 2 inch rip in the crotch seam. Fetching. I adjust my Tshirt in the hope it'll hide it, and kneel down to unclamp Mog's wheelchair. Rrrrripppppp and 2 inches has become 4. Nevermind; I'll walk carefully - if we go home again without coffee there's a strong possibility I'll become so mindless we'll never manage to coordinate leaving the house again.

So, Mog in her chair, Little Fish planted in a shopping trolley, we do the Push-one,pull-one shuffle across the carpark and into the shop. Ah blessed breeze and finally we can breathe properly. We manage to prolong the shop by hunting through the sales rails where I find some wellies and sandals for Little Fish and some pullovers for both girls. A little dress for Little Fish completes our clothing haul and we head for the shop proper. Mog is deeply unimpressed about the lack of new shoes in her size, and spends the next 20 minutes kicking her socks off in protest. After they are returned by the 4th passerby I give up, whip them off her feet and let her wiggle her toes in the breeze. She spends the rest of the shop trying to knock the displays over and kicking fellow shoppers. Toad. Little Fish contributes her mite by grabbing random items from our trolley and feeding them into any passing trolley she can reach. Marvellous.

Coffee aisle at last, I stock up on a couple of jars and some decent filter coffee (Cafe Direct Machu Picchu if you're interested) and can finally relax into the rest of the shop. I relax too much, bend down to pick up the latest item Little Fish has reorganised onto the floor, and rrippppp again, 4 inch hole is now 8 inches and I'm forced to walk as though I've wet my pants for the rest of the shop. Not unnaturally, this proves somewhat distracting, and on going through the checkout I realise I have forgotten most of the things we need whilst at the same time for some reason managing to fill the trolley with non-essential yummies; doughnuts, potato skins and chicken fajitas. Ah well, at least I have the coffee.

We waddle back to the carpark, Little Fish doing her level best to empty the trolley completely whilst Mog tries her hardest to set car alarms off by kicking out as I push her past them. OK van open, CLANG and the ramp is down, trundle trundle trundle and Mog is inside and clamped in, screech screech screech and Little Fish is also strapped down, protesting all the way. Shopping thrown in behind them, I bend down to fold the ramp back up again and Rrrippppp the hole is now right down to my knee. Definitely time to go home!



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