A Bitter/Sweet Fathers Day

‘Happy Fathers Day Dads! AND to all those who take on the role. Have a fab day x’

 ‘Laid in the bath thinking about ‘fatherhood’. Wonder if my biological male parent even remember he has children any more. Thankful tho that I get to have lunch today with the person who IS my dad, and who does all the things a Dad should, and none of the thing they shouldn’t.’

My biological father was and probably still is (who knows) a violently abusive person, and the kind that makes me pleased divorce exists.’

Above are the tweets I tweeted today, regarding ‘Fathers Day’. For non UK readers, we have days that celebrate ‘fathers’. (We also have a ‘Mothers day, but that is usually in April).
So, today, – it is still today as I write but by the time I press publish it will be well into the next day – , today is the 17th June 2012. Fathers Day. The 27th Fathers Day I have been alive for.
And as always, it is a bitter sweet day. In years past, it was often a bitter day … in as much as it was always an unhappy one. As the years went by, they became a mix of emotion, half and half off bitterness/sweetness, and then over the last few years, the days have been filled more with sweetness than the bitter, but still they are always always tinged with a little bit of sadness somewhere.
(side note: i use the word ‘bitter’ loosely, to describe a huge amount of emotions. So when I write that word, i mean unhappiness, sadness, pain, hurt, anger and more … not necessarily ‘bitter’ per se, but I am just coining the phrase)
As the clocked ticked over into today, I was awake, as per usual at this time of night, and my first thought was to wish those of you on twitter who are dads a ‘happy fathers day’. And as always, I include those who take on that role. I truly believe you don’t have to be a biological father to someone to be their ‘dad’. You don’t even have to be a ‘step parent’. You just need to be that person who plays a fatherly role in the life of someone. Someone who need’s it. Which is why I always always think it is so important, that if, as some churches do, your giving out ‘presents’ in large groups to people who are ‘fathers’ you don’t make it exclusive to those who have biologically connected children. Anyway, so my first tweet was one of celebration. I went to bed thinking about the attributes of a Father. The attributes I would pray any man I ever had children with would have. The attributes that anyone who is in a position or role of being a father figure should have.
(The most profound Fathers Day sermon I ever have heard was a few years ago, and I don’t even remember where it was now, but it encouraged ALL the men in the room to stand and be counted. It encouraged ALL men to be fathers. It said that you don’t have to donate your sperm to be a role model, to be involved in the life of someone who so needs it, to be that person who can teach someone about life, to be that person who is fatherly. I remember being tearful watching the men around me stand and be counted)
So, I stand by my first tweet. I wished and still do wish that anyone who is a Dad, biologically or not, had a wonderful day.
When I got up this morning, I went and laid in the bath, for a long time. A very long time. In fact far too long, however i dont suppose you really need to know that do you? as usual, I had filled the bath with lots of bubbles, and had taken a book into the bathroom with me. As usual I got deeply distracted by my phone (one day i’ll end up dropping it) …
So there I laid, in the bath, reading twitter on my phone … and there were the most profound tweets being tweeted. By what seemed like everyone. My whole timeline seemed full of tweets about Fathers Day. What an array of messages. What an array of varied messages. Some beautiful, heartfelt and meant ones, wishing their dads, and those who take on that role a great day. And some messages and tweets acknowledging and reminding people, that actually, for some, today, this day is hard. Painful. Tough. Emotional.
I am not alone in having a biological father, who wasn’t all that he should have been. Although sometimes I wonder if i even know what that ‘should have been’ even means. I used to dread Fathers Day. Especially, when as a younger child, there was a unsaid rule that I was to ‘buy and send’ a card. Or when in primary school, we were expecting to ‘make’ a card. I would do it, but then throw it in the bin on the way home, if possible. I am not alone in finding today tough in so so many ways. Up until a few years ago, I used to dread it. The expectation of having to do something/send something/think something I didnt mean was tough.
Every year Fathers Day means something different to me. It brings up different thoughts. This mornings was ‘I wonder if my biological father even remembers i exist. All the signs over the last couple of years would suggest he does not. Or that he chooses not to. Choose not to entertain the fact he has children. Two of them. I guess thats his choice. There is not anything I can do about it. And however much I try not to dwell on it, and I try very hard, it hurts. It really hurts. Even though he was violent. And abusive. And I am glad my mum divorced him. I know that, especially in christian communities it can be a controversial topic. I dont care.
As one of my tweets today says … ‘My biological father was and probably still is (who knows) a violently abusive person, and the kind that makes me pleased divorce exists.’
 I am glad they divorced. If things were bad while the were married, and while I had to as a child growing up endure ‘visits’ approved by courts during holidays, they would have been even worse if they remained married. I dread to think.
 I am glad that he moved to a different country, and that I don’t have much to do with him, or that i have to ‘pretend’ to even like him, however much i pretend that I am ok with the fact he is not in my life, actually, being brutally honest, it stings. Sometimes it still stings that he thinks so little of his children that he would be happy to have no contact.
A day like today rises up the issues of pain, anger, hurt and much more. That he would treat us the way he did. That he would behave the way he did, and that he would still behave the way he does, even though it obviously is in a much less physical way.
The way my biological father behaved towards my brother and I, brutally harmed the way we see ‘fatherhood’. The way we relate to men. The way we accept love. I’m often not sure what my father has done for apart from assist in my birth, but actually, one thing I am sure of that he did was ruin our perceptions of the things a father should do/be.
I could write on for a long time about the impact of my fathers actions on my life, and the life of my brother. But you may get bored. Suffice to say, its impacted me, largely. And so I guess you get a glimpse of some of the destruction that he has strewn into our lives by reading my blog and getting to know me.
Although, it is fair to say, and I want to make this clear, I have come a long way with dealing with some of those issues. Dont get me wrong, they sometimes dwell in my mind, sometimes in a big way, sometimes in a small way, but i’m on a journey of working through it, and have come a heck of a long way …
Anyway, moving on … because this is not meant to be a blog just about my woefully inadequate biological father. I mentioned the bitter/sweet thing. And I guess the above addresses the bitter bit. The sad bit. The painful bit. But there is a ‘sweet’ part. And over the years I have become more and more able to recognise that and celebrate that with others who have known nothing other than family joy on a day celebrating fathers.
‘Thankful tho that I get to have lunch today with the person who IS my dad, and who does all the things a Dad should, and none of the thing they shouldn’t.’
the above is the second part of the tweet i wrote whilst laid in the bath contemplating.
As the years go by, and as I get older, and as I am able to process my childhood/past experienced more effectively, and as I learn what was wrong, and as i deal with that, I also get closer and closer to the person in my life who represents ‘Dad’.
I know I am extrememly blessed. At the same time as remembering that hasnt always been the case, and isnt the case for many many people.
I AM lucky, and fortunate that many years ago, my mother remarried. She married someone she loves deeply, and who deeply loves her. And us. Someone, who despite being an affirmed bathchlor until he was 50 took on 2 children, one a wayward teenager and one about to enter that stage. No mean feat. Fair to say he went grey haired very quickly! Over the years, as I’ve learned to deal with my issues, as the ‘bitterness’ has slowly faded my love for my ‘step’ has grown.
Yes he drives me mad sometimes. I reckon I drive him mad too. But I reckon that is pretty normal …
My step is someone who does all the things that a ‘Father’ should do, and none of the things they shouldnt. He does not abuse me. He does do any of the horrors that should not happen. He DOES turn up in the middle of the night when I ring ‘home’ to tell them I cant breathe. He does turn up at the house with bags of shopping every now and then. He has helped me pay for driving lessons. He has paid for a hotel room so I could join him and my mum on a long weekend away with them. He has done many many other things. I could write forever about them.
Im thankful, that despite his eccentricities, I was able to go for lunch with him today, and give him a little present, which expresses my gratitude and love for him. I hope he realises the verses in the card are meant, so much.
I hope I have managed to stay on topic, somehow. And somehow explain why I used the ‘bitter/sweet’ phrase as a title for this blog.
I hope it sums up a little bit of why, for me, today is bittersweet. It always is. Maybe it always will be. It is a day of such overwhelming emotion, happy and sad. Bitter and sweet.
Anyway … enough of me rambling on …
IF today has been a day of rejoicing, celebration, happiness and gladness, that I am glad. If you have a Dad, a biological one, or one who takes on the role, as a step, or as a role model, or as a male figure in your life, I hope you have been able to/have enjoyed spending time with them/or celebrating them in some way. I join you in wishing those people Happy Fathers Day. In fact I wish my own stepdad, and one or two other very special people in my life Happy Fathers Day.
IF today has been a day of remembering loved and lost ones, then I hope in your grief you have been able to remember the good times.
IF today has been a day of pain, hurt, sadness, anger, darkness or any other negative emotion and IF today has done nothing but remind of someone you have never had, or of someone who has hurt you beyond your wildest dreams then I am sorry.
I have been thinking of you today.
Love Fragz

‘not JUST a Care Assistant …’

Ever been in one of those situations, be it a social one, or some other kind where you are meeting new people … and after the weather, marriage status and a few other small talk topics, the big one of ‘what do you do for work’ comes up …?

Yeah? Me too …

Ever been in the situation, where you asked the question first … ‘So, what is it you do …?’. And the responses vary. ‘I’m a teacher/doctor/lawyer/estate agent/youth worker/fireman (the list could go on) … what about you, what do you do?’.

There, theres ‘that’ moment … the moment where they ask the question back. So you squirm, stutter a bit and whisper out ‘Well, erm, I’m just a care assistant in a nursing home”

Ever been you? Maybe or maybe not … I don’t always know who reads this blog, so therefor I don’t know what kind of job roles are covered by us all but I’m pretty sure we’re not all Care Assistants.

In fact, as I write this now, I am currently not a ‘Care Assistant’ although I still work within the care/nursing home care system as an Activities/Pastoral Co-ordinator.  I have however, for the last 5 years been a Care Assistant, and before I went to live in London for the time I was there, I also was involved in care (with adults with Learning Disabilities).

When I worked as a Care Assistant, I held the view that all I was was ‘JUST’ a carer. As I said above, it is what I would mutter to people when asked what I did. And the responses I got would vary. Mostly the responses were ones that made you realise people did not really understand what the job you did entailed. And also, you would get the impression it didnt hold much in their eyes. After all, in general terms, thats what society see’s you as … ‘JUST a care assistant’. In fact, more often or not (I will point out here before everyone jumps on me and says I am being stereotypical, there are some exceptions, a few) it is what even alot of Managers/Care Home owners/top people of the big corporate companies who own alot of homes around the country, think of their staff. They are ‘just’ the care assistants. Its is fair to say that working conditions and pay certainly reflect that attitude.

However, as I climbed the ladder slightly, and became a Senior Care Leader and part of the Senior Care Management Team I began to feel the responsibility of building up my staff seriously. Having been in their shoes, having worked the floor, having done the shifts they do, and having dealt with the things they do on a daily basis, I KNEW they were not ‘JUST’ anything. They were and are not ‘JUST’ Care Assistants. I didn’t want my staff doing what I did. Seeing them selves as ‘Just’ this … because they were and are more than that. They ARE Care Assistants. They assist people with their care. What a huge thing to do?!

They are the people who turn up to work their shift early in the morning, in the middle of the day, and late at night. They are the people who through the night, through the bank holidays, through special days such as Christmas and Easter (without so much as an extra bonus/or extra pay for doing so).

They are the people who work often in crap conditions, with crap pay – most Care Assistants earn no more than the minimum wage all year round. No pension. No sick pay (except for Stat Sick Pay) – (I’d like to point out at this point, that I am talking about Care Assistants who work for the Private Healthcare Companies that own most of the Nursing Homes/Care Homes in this country). I’m sure/know people who work for other national organisations and complain about its conditions/pay/pensions etc, but I see them as lucky for being paid above min wage, for having a pension and for getting paid if sick)

Care Assistants are the people who often drop what ever it is they are doing on their day off to go into work when they get the phone call.

Care Assistants are the people that the residents/patients see first thing in the morning, and last thing at night.

They are the people who assist people who need it, in their every living need. From getting out of bed in the morning, often using heavy equipment (if accessible) for those who need it, to holding hands with the person who needs gentle encouragement to get up.

They are the people who assist said residents/patients in getting washed. Top to toe, including assisting them to the bathroom or with their personal hygiene needs. They are the people who comb hair, brush teeth/dentures and put them in, shave the men (with either an electric razor or a wet shave!), assist ladies in putting on their lipstick, do up buttons of shirts, get out matching clothes for the resident/patient, make beds, ensure rooms are tidy. They are the people who ensure the patient/resident is well dressed, clean, tidy and comfortable/settled and happy.

Care Assistants are the people who do that very thing for multiple people in the space of a very short time, whilst still trying to make it person centred, focussed on the individual and not rushing, despite the fact they know they have x amount of other residents to also get up/assist with all the above before breakfast.

They are the people who still have to carry out the same role and duties whether they have the correct amount of staff on, or whether they are short staffed which is often the case.

Then comes breakfast. Care Assistants are the people who assist those who cannot eat and drink by them selves to eat and drink. (This includes breakfast but also mid morning drinks/snacks, lunch, mid afternoon snacks/drinks, tea, and evening snacks and drinks. And if they are not assisting a resident to actually eat or drink then they are taking out the trolleys and trays to other residents who can eat and drink themselves but who need their meals/drinks taking to them wherever they are, be it the dining room, lounge or their bedrooms.)

After breakfast Care Assistants are the people who then continue to assist multiple people to get up … right up until lunch time. Some people choose to get up late. Some stay in bed all the time, and so are assisted with personal cares throughout the morning.

During the time between breakfast and lunch, as well as continuing to get residents up/washed/dressed/cared for personally, they are also making beds, making sure things are tidy, and trying to carry out the ‘bath’ rota. This means thats each and every resident is assisted in having a bath. On a regular basis. Some are residents who can go in a bath, with the aid of hoists, and some need to be ‘bed bathed’. This can take any thing up to 30 mins to an hour for one resident, depending on their needs.

Did I mention the bells? Maybe not … but now is a good time. Each and every resident has a call bell system, which enables them to ‘call’ a member of staff at any time they need one. And each member of staff has a bleep, that alerts them to the fact that ‘Mr Z’ in Room 100097453 is ringing for assistance. Who knows what Mr Z needs … maybe he would like to go to bathroom, maybe he would like a cup of tea, maybe he would like to make a phone call, maybe he would like to chat. Maybe he would like assistance in some other shape or form. Or maybe he has fallen or is feeling unwell. Care Assistants are the people who, at the same time as bathing other residents, at the same time as assisting people to eat their meals, at the same time as making beds and trying to assist people to get up, have to also answer these bells, as and when they ring, as quickly as they possibly can. And ring they can. On a very very regular basis.

Care Assistants, are the people, whom after lunch carry on with the ‘routine’ of assisting people with bathing and personal care. Assisting people the toilet, ensure people are settled, comfortable and clean and dry.

Care Assistants are the people who have to ensure very poorly residents are ‘turned’ (for people who are in bed all of the time) on a regular basis, often an hourly one.

Care Assistants are the people who have to take the clinical waste outside at the end of a shift, sort out the laundry accumulated throughout the day, sign books, ensure records from the day are up to date.

Care Assistants have to make sure at all times that every health and safety issue is carefully observed. They are the people who have to make sure lounges and corridors are tidy and clear of obstruction. They are the people who are called upon by other staff such as the domestics to unblock toilets if need be, or to pick up other things that may have been found around that others wont touch.

They are the people who answer the phone when the nurse/manager is not around, and they are the people who have to answer the door bell every time it rings. They are the people who have to offer visitors drinks (then go make the drinks), and show people who have never been in the building before around.

Care Assistants are the people who escort residents to appointments, be it doctors, dentists, opticians or the hospital. Sometimes they are the people who take a resident into town because the want to do some shopping.

Care Assistants are the people who care for patients and residents as they are dying. They try and deal with every need possible that needs dealing with, for all residents, dying or not, from personal care to emotional care. However when someone is in their last days, they often need much more intense assistance.

Care Assistants are the people who talk with and build relationships with the residents/and their families. They are the people who sit with them as they die (although, in my particular place there are some dedicated members of staff who do this so Care Assistants dont have to, however if those dedicated staff members are off on holidays, sick, days off, it is the Care Assistants who pick up that role).

Care Assistants are the people who provide what is seen as the last possible care available to someone who has died. They spend time with the deceased person, washing them, ensuring they are comfortable, for family to visit if they want, if not, ready for the undertakers to arrive.

Care Assistants are the people who sometimes sit in stunned silence in the staff room or the office when someone has died, pondering what it means to be alive, what it means to die, and what it means to do the job we do. They are the people who shed a tear, or a few, but behind closed doors, so when they go back on to the ‘floor’ they are smiling.

Care Assistants are the people who work a job role that is not exhaustive. There is no end to it. No end to the list that is their ‘job description’.  They are expected to and do anything that is required of them to ensure the ‘running’ of the home they are working in, and to ensure residents/patients are cared for.

I could sit and write all night of the different jobs a Care Assistant may find themselves faced with, but I hope I have managed to highlight just a few above.

Care Assistants are the people whose role is very often not understood. They are people who others often think are ‘JUST’ Care Assistants. I can promise you they are not. They are people working a job that is often very badly misrepresented. Misrepresented by the media/the press. You hear/see the bad stories, yes, and I don’t deny that those people need to be bought to justice, however it can often paint a target on the back of those who genuinely care. I’ve gotten into several twitter debates with people keen to tar us all with the same brush. I don’t deny the problems. They do exist. But often those problems stem not from the Care Assistants, but from what has become ‘private healthcare’ where profit is often more important than care.

I can assure you, for every bad penny in the care industry, there are thousands and thousands of people who work a job that they don’t do for the money (you can get paid much more working as a shelf stacker in a supermarket, not to mention pensions and sick pay) but the do for love of the job. For love of the people they care for. For love of wanting to try and make a difference in the lives of those who are not able to care for themselves. For the love of loving other people.

And having worked the role for many years, and now, although I am currently one stepped removed, I’m still very close to the role and the people who work it, I cant express enough how much respect I have for those people who ARE Care Assistants.

You are not JUST anything. You are valued. By the people you care for. By me.

Fragmentz @ Spring Harvest 2012 (Part 1)

I had the real privilege of being able to attend Spring Harvest 2012. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve become a proper Spring Harvester (whatever one of them is – I was recently informed by a ‘regular’ that this is what I’ve become) … I’ve been converted to Christian conferences. Well, this one at least.

You may have read some of my blog, written last year about my experience at SH 2011. It was interesting, and one I was not expecting whatsoever. I had gone on the back of a drunken bet, ready for a fight, and ready to find it mind blowingly frustating and annoying. In fact, I actually had secretly hoped it was, because it meant I could spend the next few months moaning about ‘typical’ Christians, who like to spend a week in a bubble wrap and spend time exploring everything that is not relevant to life today. So, believe me how surprised I was to find myself experiencing something so very different. To read more about last years SH do check out this link, where you’ll find the relevant part midway through that blog – another year has gone-goodbye-2011-hello-2012

So, anyway, back to 2012. I went to Spring Harvest at Skegness again. This time, it was not on the back of a bet, drunken or sober. No bet at all. I actually wanted to go. Really wanted to. I remember tweeting someone the week before sometime, while I was washing up one day, standing at the sink reflecting on how the same time last year I was dreading it, whereas this time round I was actively looking forwards to going.

What a surprise eh? Well, it sure was for me!

One of the things I had hoped to do, while at Spring Harvest was blog. And I did. Twice. Not quite as many times as planned.

See the links for the two blogs I did manage to publish while there … its been exactly 4-years since i tried to die and a few thoughts on church labels and 18-30s

Thing is, when I am writing I can sometimes spend hours typing, and then going over what I’ve written, and then wondering if its ‘good enough’ before I publish. The other thing is, I always write from what I have going on inside my head. Inside of me. And so, what I write about tend to be things that I could talk about naturally, or that I’m passionate about, or have got laid on my heart to put into words. I often write about things I have been thinking about for sometime. I often write about things that have affected me, or that do affect me, my life, the lives of people around me, and issues that affect our world. But they have to be things that I have processed.

And so, I quickly decided that actually, although I really wanted to blog about my Spring Harvest 2012 experience, it would have to be done after the event. Maybe months after (like this post in fact). Because, I needed to be able to just spend the week there. Experience the meetings, the teaching, the seminars, meet people, have those coffees, sit on the beach, chill and do all the things that people do when they are away for the week at a Christian conference.

And then, most importantly I needed to go away, and process. Think about the stuff I heard. Think about the stuff I saw, felt and experienced. Think about the people I met, and the things they said to me. The things we talked about. Think about my experience of God that week, and life in general.

Having laid all the above out, brings me to the point now, where I’m starting to be able to put down in blogs about the week.

The week of huge privilege meeting some amazing people. Hearing some amazing stuff. And spending some amazing time with God.

Early on in the week, in fact the very first full day of Spring Harvest, I wrote the blog ‘its been exactly 4 years sinceI tried to die …’. It was quite emotional actually, sitting in the coffee shop, on site, writing a blog about how 4 years ago to the very day, I took an overdose with the full intention of wanting to die. Some people think it is a bit morbid to think about it. But I see it as a celebration of life. Because although things did not immediately get better, it was that day that life, my life hung in the balance, and for some reason it was meant to be kept going. I was kept going. I did not die. And, now, 4 years on I am so glad I didn’t. So that is what I mark. That is what I celebrate.

But it is important to me to remember where I was. Those days when I could not get out of bed. When I could not get showered, or dressed, or go to work. Or do anything. The days when all I sit was sit and smoke, self harm or dream about the day when I died. Because remembering those days keeps it real. It does not mean I ‘dwell’ on it as such, but it just means I can recognise how life was back then, and then how different it is today.

Its important to remember those days, and then think about the fact that 4 years on, I have been so so blessed to have had some amazing people put into my life, who have loved me, cared for, and who still do love and care for me. If only I can be even half the blessing to other people that these folks have been in my life, then that’d be cool. They are immense people that I am so thankful for. And that, even now, amazing people, who really inspire me, are being put into my life. And I’m thankful for that too!

My week at Spring Harvest 2012 was so varied, from dropping hot chocolate and swearing loudly in front of the coffee shop staff (who found it firstly astonishing a Christian at SH would swear, but then ending up in a great convo) to bumping randomly into a woman I know from my town, who burst in tears on me, and then spent 3 hours in said coffee shop (I became a regular that week) talking about life and the entire universe, where we both laugh, and cried. From meeting people who were leading seminars and main stage talks who inspired me immensely, to sitting in the Skyline at midnight chatting to an old time friend I’d managed to catch up with. From sitting in lectures that were so relevant to life in 2012 (so much so I ordered the entire teaching on USB – I know, I know, that really IS keen isn’t it?!) to supping wine late at night with my lovely chalet buddy who I had never met before SH. From upsetting old ladies in the toilet queue by talking about my habit of using the mens when the Q’s are too long and tattoo’s to experiencing God in a huge huge quiet and gentle but immense way. And so much more.

One of the many things I came away with from SH 2012 was this:

Despite my weirdness, and my quirks, and I have plenty of those. Despite my mess. Despite the screw up that my life has been and often is, despite my inadequateness and my insecurities I can be me. I can be who I am, and still belong and be loved by God and His people. And that however unworthy and small it is, I can and do play a part in His Kingdom.

I dont quite know how that plays out … right now, but I am assured that somehow I am playing a part in His Kingdom. I am His child. He does love me. And that even though I still have some working out to do, I do love Him.

Maybe my faith is ‘child-like’. But thats ok. I might not be good at the ‘deep’ theology, or the big facts. My bible knowledge may be poor. I might not be as clever as some of the people I have met, but thats ok, because I am me. Not them. And thats good. The world needs them. But perhaps it needs me too.

I am reminded of Jeremiah 29, verse 11. Where it talks about the hope and the future God has for us. For each and every one of us. Including me. So although, I don’t know what the future holds right now, what I do know is, I have one. And that excites me.

And thats how I left Spring Harvest 2012, after a few days, with excitement. About God, life and the future.

(I’m leaving this there for now, as I have said all I want to, but I’m hoping to write more about some of the things I’ve touched on in this blog and some of the experiences at SH more in depth, so they will come in time )