Thursday, March 31, 2005

Food for Thought

I am currently brooding over the plot line for a book I am considering writing.

I think it has potential, and my DD1 likes the idea too. Considering she writes prolifically over at fanfiction.net, I took that as rather a compliment !

The difficult bit is motivating myself enough to get round to writing it, rather than thinking about it.......
Though finding enough time before DD4 starts school will also be difficult :-)
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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Our Day - or, Why Bother ?

Today was a beautiful sunny day, so DH and I took the two younger children (and their bikes) to the duckpond.
Bad, bad move.

DD3 has been desperate to have the stabilisers (training wheels) of her bike removed, but she does not yet have the required sense of balance to enable to do this safely.

We got to the duck pond without untoward incident, and opened our three bags of diced bread for the ducks.....one for DD3, one for DD4 and one for DH and I to share.

Well, the wretched ducks had obviously had a surfeit of food over the holiday weekend, as we could see bread pieces around the pond, and the ducks treated us and our offering of bread with utter disdain, and swam off in the opposite direction !

So we headed over to the local shop to buy some sweets for the young ones.

Then disaster struck, with one of DD3`s stabilisers breaking off her bike. It proved difficult to ride, so DH took off the other stabiliser in the vain hope that this would improve matters.
Needless to say, it did not, with a major mishap involving the pavement and DD3`s leg, so we gave up and came home, accompanied by much loud and overly dramatic weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. I am giving serious thought to stopping DD3`s drama classes, as she is a notable drama queen already, judging by today`s performance......

To say that it was not a pleasant trip is an understatement.
We were glad to get home, and DD3 was equipped with plasters for her wound whilst DH mended the bike.
Normal service has now been resumed :-)
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Saturday, March 26, 2005

A Sad State Of Affairs

I have been following the news about Terry Schiavo with increasing sadness, disbelief and frank despair, that a supposedly civilised society can allow the torture of a helpless women to death in the most vile way imaginable.

If an ill dog were to be starved of food and water until it died, the owner would be prosecuted and jailed.
An ill woman who needs compassion and care is being abused and with legal sanction, no less.

An elderly person with endstage dementia is still given food and water; helpless newborn babies are fed and cared for.
None of them are able to fend for themselves but they still need care and are given it.

Terry Schiavo still needs care and she is being denied it.
May God mercifully grant her a peaceful end, if at all possible given the vile "treatment " being meted out to her, and grant comfort to her grieving family and friends.

What a wicked society in which we live, when such things can be allowed to happen.
May God have mercy on us all.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The NHS

Philippa asked a very good question about why I still like the NHS, despite recent experiences.

Well, as a midwife, I trained and worked in the NHS and saw many good things. It was a wonderful concept to have medical care free at the point of access, and in common with all my colleagues, we worked really hard to provide a high standard of care to "our" clients. On the whole, we succeeded really well, despite obstacles in our way.

Perhaps it is nostalgia, but I still believe in the dream of the NHS. Unfortunately, the reality is quite different.

I do have to say that I also saw at firsthand the way that even 10 years ago, bureaucracy was beginning to strangle it.
I remember one memorable day, when we had more ward clerks doing clerical work on our ward than we had qualified midwives, and we were looking after women with major complications of pregnancy, women in early labour and postnatal mums and babies......

We were perennially shortstaffed because there was not enough money to employ more staff.
I remember being on my own in charge of a ward with 12 pregnant women , four postnatal women and four babies for an 8 hour shift.
I also remember when there were only two qualified midwives and me (as a student) providing care for a full labour ward, and I was looking after three women on my own simultaneously..
It does beg the question whether I would want a pregnant daughter of mine being cared for under those circumstances, and the answer is a resounding NO !!

On the other hand, we have the superb skills and dedicated care given by many excellent doctors , midwives and nurses, who often face verbal and physical aggression from the very people for whom they provide care. They show enormous courage and determination to provide health care even to people who treat them badly.

We have a system where emergency medical care is on the whole easily available. At our local hospital, I have never has to wait more than one hour to be seen in A&E (the ER for readers across the Pond), although if you are just "unwell", you may face a wait of several days in some parts of the UK. Priority is invariably given to those brought in by ambulance, for obvious reasons.

If you need referral to a hospital consultant, that is where the entire system falls on its knees.
Once I had to wait 14 months for an appointment . There are simply too many patients and not enough doctors to even up supply and demand.

The government sets up all these wonderful guidelines and targets, but it costs money just to publish the wretched things, let alone implement them. Hence a system where lip service is paid to the targets, yet the reality is that people still have to wait just as long. The bureaucracy is becoming more important than patient care, with paperwork taking more time than patient care.

At my daughter`s recent stay in hospital, my mother was appalled to find that any actual nursing was limited to staff doing routine observations and administering medicines.
Not once did nurses observe to see that children were eating and drinking or not, and the overwhelming majority of routine care was expected to be done by the parents- who, of course, are not on the whole, qualified nurses :-)
The nurses were mostly found at the nurses` station, sitting down at the computer terminals and doing paperwork. Not to mention that there were many clerical staff also on the wards.

It can only get worse, I fear, but there aren`t any other options for those who are not lucky enough to work for an employer who subsidises private health cover.
Depressing but true.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Fiddling The Figures

Today I had a follow-up appointment at the hospital with my rheumatologist.

Last time I went, they took 12 vials of blood to test 16 different things, and I was told I would be sent an appointment for three months, which would have been December 2004.

The appointment was actually sent for January 2005, then I had a letter saying my appointment had had to be re-scheduled and I was given 21st March 2005, which is 6 months from the initial visit.....

I am convinced this is the NHS way of complying with Tony Blair`s health service reform criteria. Because I was given a follow-up appointment for 3 months, which obviously wasn`t possible to honour due to the horrendous local waiting lists, the appointment had to be rescheduled for a later date when they could fit me in.
However, because the repeat appointment was originally sent within NHS timeframe guidelines, it is a statistical success.

This has also happened recently with D4`s dental hospital appointments; she was supposed to have been seen in December 2004 to check there were no problems after her surgery, but the appointment was "rescheduled" by the hospital in November 2004 and we are **still** waiting for an appointment date, even though she has since ended up having emergency hospitalisation and surgery for complications resulting from that initial surgery.

Anyway, I digress...........

When I got to the hospital today, I saw one of the junior doctors, who um-ed and ah-ed and said he wasn`t certain what the diagnosis was, but he didn`t think it was Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is what I have been told I have for the last 8 years .........
Most of the blood tests came back normal, except for a very high C Reactive Protein and abnormal Complement 3 and Complement 4, which needed further investigating - ie more blood tests today, and the results will take a month to come back, so I have been given an appintment to return in 4 months.

Sigh.

If I had been given an appointment in Dec, as I was told I should, the complement abnormalities would have been picked up, the repeat tests would have been done and I would have had the results back by now, hopefully with some form of diagnosis. As it is, I will be lucky to get the results back by the end of July- assuming, that is, that the appointment won`t have to be "rescheduled" by the hospital again.
I do believe in the National Health service, heck I worked in it, but this is wearing me down. I think I might take advantage of being on DH`s private health cover, but what about all those folk who don`t have that option ?
It isn`t fair.
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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Kissing Things

Why do we kiss things in church so much ?
I`m sure we have all been asked that question at some time.
What I did not realise is just how much Jews venerate objects too, as part of their religious tradition, and from which much of our Tradition is also derived......

I love this quote so much, and I am so afraid of losing it from my mail Inbox, that I have decided to post it here at The Garden Window :-)
It originally came via the Orthodox Converts list.
Quote comes from "To Pray as a Jew: A Guide to the Prayer book and the Synagogue Service".



Kissing: An Act of Religious Devotion

Kissing is a universal sign of affection. It is an act of love, anexpression of endearment, not only between man and woman, parents andchildren, but is also the expression of one's feelings for the ritual objects and the religious duties associated with them.

There are no religious laws that require us to kiss a ritual or holy object. There is only the force of custom as it develops through the ages.
In varying degrees kissing has become an optional commonplace among the Jews as an expression of religious devotion at the following times:

* The tallit [prayer shawl] is kissed just before putting it on.

* The tefillin [phylacteries] are kissed when taken them out of their bag and before replacing them in the bag.

* The mezuzah on the doorpost is sometimes kissed upon entering orleaving a house. It is done by touching the mezuzah with one's hand and kissing the fingers that made contact with the mezuzah.

* The Torah is kissed when it passes by in the synagogue. Here, too, itis often done by extending a hand to touch the Torah mantle and then kissing the hand. Some touch the Torah with the edge of a tallit and then kiss the tallit.

* The Torah is also kissed before one recites the blessings over it. Here it is done by taking the edge of one's tallit or the sash that is usedto tie the scroll together, touching the outside of the scroll with it, and then kissing the tallit or the sash. Many people place the tallit or sash tothe very words where the reading is about to begin. The sages advised against doing this as it may hasten a wearing away or erasure of the letters.
At best, they recommend touching only the margin area near the linewhere the reading is about to begin. In all instances, one should not touch the Torah parchment with one's bare hand. The custom of not doing so derives from a special edict issued by the sages prohibiting such contact (Shabbat14a: OH 147:1).

* The curtain on the Ark (paokhet) is kissed before one opens it, or after closing it when the Torah is put away.

* A siddur [prayer book] and [C]Humash [Jewish Bible] are kissed before putting them away. These holy books are also kissed if they are accidentally dropped on the floor.
End Quote

It`s nice to know we are not alone in kissing things to express our devotion. I usually kiss my prayer book and my Bible, as well as my icons :-)
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Friday, March 18, 2005

Sobering Reading

Last night, my DH took us to church for the Thursday Canon of St Andrew of Crete.
Wow !

This is the first time in 13 years of being Orthodox that I have ever been able to go, due to my beloved DH working away all week in previous years, and being dependent on non-existent public transport after 6 pm.
Now he has reduced his hours, he is home with the car on Thursday and Friday, so we went last night.

I repeat: Wow.

In order to conserve our unwell Presvytera`s voice for the chanting of the canon proper, Father delegated me as Reader for the Little Compline service.
Now, I have never read out loud before in church, so this was a novel experience for me. My DH assures me that it all went fine, and so does DD1.
It was an amazing and sobering experience, to be doing something *for* the Church by helping to lead the prayers. Presvytera stood near me and showed me what I needed to do, and when.
I cannot believe I did it, and I am glad it was sprung on me literally less than a minute before the service started, so I had no time to panic or to make an excuse to avoid it, which is what I would normally have thought about doing.
It truly was a sobering yet joyful responsibility to do the reading

I even survived the prostrations, but oh my ! This morning I felt like my back had been kicked by a mule. I am so stiff it is not true. :-)
How you all feel if you have been to the canon each evening this week, I cannot imagine....
I salute you !

Spiritual aerobics....wonderful stuff for body and soul.

Sure beats just exercise for the body !!
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Limbo

I tried to post this repeatedly on Wednesday, but Blogger wouldn`t let me.....
So here it is now :-)

I don`t know about you, but I feel as if I am in Limbo.
Great Lent has begun, I am attempting to fast, and failing frequently, but at least I am still trying and I haven`t yet given up in disgust at my pathetic lack of self-control and self-discipline.
I just feel....hollow.
Empty.
Waiting .
I am doing more spirtual reading, and am starting St John of Kronstadt`s "My Life in Christ".
I am making a point of consciously pausing and making the sign of the Cross each time I pass by my icon corner, which is on the way to the kitchen, instead of just breezing past with my mind full of thoughts.
I have realised how much my life is dominated by food, and now in the Fast so many food stuffs are off the menu, I find myself wondering what I should eat instead.
Instead of just grabbing the nearest food item and munching, I am probably giving food much more thought now than normal, which I find really ironic :-)
Nevertheless, food is not the centre of my being at the moment, and it feels kind of strange to have this gap where "obsession with food" normally is.
The gap, the Limbo, needs to be filled with love of Christ and of all those made in the image of God.
Pray for me, a sinner.
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Monday, March 14, 2005

Forgiveness Sunday

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I ask all of you for your forgiveness if I have offended you or caused you pain in any way.......
May we all have a blessed and spiritually profitable Great Lent, and a joyous Pascha !!
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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Modern Anglicanism

I have just read an interesting article in the UK Sunday Times, available online at
Church, Our Sunday Secret

It made sobering reading, and reminded me once again of why I had left Anglicanism myself 13 years ago.

The writer comments thus:-
"The Church of England has divided into extreme camps; overhead-projecting evangelicals, queenie high Anglicans, and the rest. I can quite understand why they exert such appeal, because they demand dedication and commitment. It’s the wishy-washy centre, nonetheless, that represents the true spirit of the C of E: broad, inclusive and never too doctrinaire. "

The comment about the divide is unfortunately all too true, but it all stems from the desire of the C of E to be all things to all men.....

I started reading Orthodox theology at age 13 (Thanks for the loan of the books, Fr John !! May God bless you !) My beliefs were completely Orthodox, I remained steadfastly mute whilst the rest of the congregation said the "filioque" during the Nicene Creed, and I was physically worshipping with priests whose beliefs varied from extremely fundamentalist to pre- Vatican 2 Roman Catholic . Yet we were all Anglicans.

In other words, hey, you can believe whatever you like and that`s OK with us. This is how the C of E has had Bishops who do not even believe in the Resurrection of Christ, and have stated so publicly.
When you have leadership like this, pity help the followers.
Eventually , after 14 years , I gave up on the Church of England when they started to ordain women priests, and I became Orthodox.

Quote :
"Well, quite. When Damian tried pressing me on what it is I actually believe, I felt uncomfortable. Sure I must have some kind of faith or I wouldn’t say my prayers or be able to take communion. Further than that, though, I prefer not to analyse, which is another thing I like about the C of E: it allows you to appreciate the numinous while never quite having to lose your grip on the rational.
In this, Anglicanism remains the perfect religion for the British — or the English, as we once used to call ourselves. It appeals to our instinctive scepticism of enthusiasm. It’s a nicely balanced combination of reason, tradition and scripture. It gives a shape and purpose to our lives, while never threatening to overwhelm them. It’s religion with most of the difficult bits taken out. "
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

But surely, if you take the difficult bits out, you lose the very point and essence !
If religion does not affect and change your life for the better, driving you onwards in the pursuit of theosis, you have not only lost the plot, but you find yourself in the wrong theatre, on the wrong stage with the wrong script, playing to an empty auditorium, with no applause when you struggle and get things right, and no catcalls or shouts of "Boo, get off the stage !" when you mess up......rather a pointless exercise, in fact.

Just think of the enthusiasm and devotion of the early Christians and of the Saints.
Just think of those who endured martyrdom for their steadfast belief in Christ !

If we complain about giving God say, oooh, all of 90 minutes of our time in Church each week, why bother going at all.........
Surely we should be giving God our whole lives, to do with as He sees fit ?

If we don`t love Christ enough to allow and indeed want Him to change and transform our lives, are we Christians ?
Who on earth would allow themselves to be martyred for a watered-down faith ?

Just for the record, I do not mean to be in any way critical of the author of the Sunday Times article. He is undoubtedly a good man trying to do his best for his children.
One of my favourite cartoons shows a Judge about to pass sentence on a prisoner, with the caption " If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you ?"
I ma ashamed to say that in my case, the answer would undoubtedly be No.

I am Orthodox, but I fail miserably many times a day to display my Christianity or even to *begin* to allow God to change my comfortable life. Even after 13 years, I have barely truly dipped my toe in the great and blessed sea of living an Orthodox life.
Please God, I will try harder this Great Lent to live my life as a Christian should live.
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Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Tyranny of Self-Importance

I was brought down to earth with a very big bang this week.
Not before time, either, members of my family might well add :-)

After my youngest daughter and I had finished her session at playgroup on Tuesday, we went to the supermarket to replenish the foodstocks which my four hungry children had majorly depleted since the last food shop on Friday........

For a change, I seemed to have won the eternal lottery of picking the right supermarket checkout in which to queue. Things were going well, D4 was behaving well and I was thinking that we were just going to be in time to walk slowly to the bus stop to catch our bus home, laden with shopping, when BAM !

The elderly gentleman in front of me was slowly packing his groceries into plastic bags. No problem about that. When the cashier told him how much he needed to pay, he took out his wallet very slowly , turned to our queue, smiled and said loudly to the cashier,
"Now I am going to make you all wait !"

I was really surprised, as I didn`t think I was looking impatient. He went on to tell the cashier that he had been at a shop the previous day, and had been hurried by staff and waiting customers, with the result that as he was trying to put his wallet away, he dropped it and all his money, credit and debit cards came out.

He ended with the line "And because of that, I decided I wasn`t going to let anyone rush me again and risk losing my money. And so you can all wait while I take my time ! "

My first reaction ?
Shoot, I`m going to miss my bus, and then we will have to hang around on a bitterly cold day, laden with shopping, for half an hour.

My second reaction ?
Miserable old codger, why does he think he has the right to take out his prior bad experience on the rest of us, who have done nothing to him? It`s not fair :-(
And he`s going to make us miss our bus....

I kept my mouth shut, tried very hard not to keep looking at the clock on the wall, and rushed my transaction through as quickly as possible.

We strode purposefully to the bus stop, to see a queue of people and no bus.
Ah.
Either the bus is late, or we have missed it and this queue is for the next bus to a different destination, which just happens to share the same bus stop.........

I stood there, quietly fuming, and blaming the old man for making me miss the bus.
I had to wait for all of ten minutes, and then the right bus pulls up at the stop and we get on gratefully.

Once I got home, I had to pass the icon corner to get to the kitchen (Yes, there *is* method in my madness !) and I got to thinking about my encounter with the old man.
I had fretted and fumed and maligned this old man in my heart, blaming him for daring to make me miss my bus, as though I was more important than he was - which of course I am not.

And of course, I had not even missed the bus anyway.

Just who did - and do - I think I am , anyway ?

Would it have been such a hardship to have missed a bus, if it had enabled a vulnerable elderly gentleman to finish his shopping with his wallet, money, cards and pride intact, instead of him feeling anxious, worried and flustered ?

My sense of self-importance, convenience and my wishes have become a petty demi-god, colouring my attitude to those around me, and it is high time that I was brought to earth with a bump.
I will remember that elderly man in my prayers :-)

And I thank God for the closeness of Forgiveness Sunday and Great Lent, when the things that are truly important come into sharp focus...... I just wish I could ask that man`s forgiveness for my harsh thoughts about him :-(
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Time Flies.....

I cannot believe it has been a week since I last posted !

My stepfather came home on Thursday evening, because he was doing so very well after his operation.

As neither of them drive, we did a heap of food shopping for them on Thursday for essentials before they arrived home, and again yesterday so they have lots of food etc for the weekend.

Gordon is looking well. He feels very tired, which is hardly surprising after a quadruple bypass operation , but his skin is pink again - which it hasn`t been for over a year, when he had a series of heart attacks.

It is really good to have him home again; we have missed him :-)
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DD3 in a pensive moment, cuddling her Boobah doll. Posted by Hello
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DD3 in traditional Welsh costume (except for the pink coat!) for St David`s Day, March 1st Posted by Hello
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Sunday, March 06, 2005

Hospital News

I have had a message from my mum to say that my step-father is doing really well after his surgery today.
He is now off the ventilator, and talking :-)

Mum is relieved and so are we.
I have at last been able to eat something, and it is now 9.00 pm !
Glory to God for all things......
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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Updates

Thank you all for your prayers....Zoe was released from hospital Thursday afternoon, Glory to God !
She is recovering well.

My much-loved stepfather, Gordon, has gone into hospital today for his long-awaited quadruple coronary artery bypass operation.
He will be going to the operating theatre for his 5 hour long operation on Saturday morning.

We have been warned that there is a distinct chance he may not survive the operation due to his age and general infirmity, yet the operation is necessary.
If you can spare him a prayer, I would be so very grateful......

Praying for God`s blessing on you all :-)
love from Elizabeth
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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Requesting Prayers

Dear friends, I am asking your prayers for Zoe, our youngest daughter`s godmother.
Zoe was rushed into hospital Tuesday night and she is very unwell.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon your handmaiden Zoe, and her family !!
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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

St David`s Day

++++++++++++++A very happy St David`s Day to you all ! +++++++++++++

Today we have celebrated the feast day of our great national saint and patron, Dewi Sant , who was elevated to the episcopate at Jerusalem....a tremendous journey to undertake from Wales, in the 6th century !

St David was famous for his oft-repeated maxim,
"Be joyful, brothers and sisters. Keep your faith and do the little things.”
A most Orthodox sentiment :-)

The life of our great saint is nicely described here .

A great resource site about St David , particularly for teachers, can be found here .

The hymns for the Feast are :-

Troparion of St David Tone l
Having worked miracles in thy youth, founded monasteries and converted the pagans/ who had sought to destroy thee, O Father David,/ Christ our God blessed thee to receive the episcopate at the place of His Resurrection./ Intercede for us, that our lives may be blessed and our souls may be saved.

Kontakion of St David Tone 6
The living waters of godly discipline encompassed thee/ and the saving waters of faith flowed through thy teaching/ O Hierarch and Waterman David./ Symbolizing the baptism of Wales in thy life, thou art worthy of all praise,/ wherefore we keep festival in thy honour,/ glorifying thy eternal memory.
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Tuesday, March 01, 2005