About Me

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I am a special education teacher in England, working in a mainstream academy with a centre for children with learning difficulties. I teach a class of 7 students of secondary age with profound and multiple learning difficulties. These include autism, visual impairment and sensory integration disorder. I love love love my job. It inspires ,enthuses .and lifts me and I never intend to retire. :)

Sunday, 19 June 2011

My Dad , Neil Gaiman and lifes story tellers

I was recently reading M is for Magic by the wonderful Neil Gaiman and in his introduction he states " Stories you read when you're the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them and what the story was called .Sometimes you'll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit" This resonated with me strongly .

Stories have always been to a big part of my life , due in a large part to my Dad who was a great story teller . From a very young age I remember him telling stories to myself and my brother . Each night he told me a story about little yellow night gown . As she went to bed every night there would be a tap tap tap on the window and some great dream like character would take her out into the night sky and an adventure . One night it was the seven stars in the sky who took her to the man in the moon and another night for a change it was a tap tap tap on the door revealing a hot CROSS bun with a grumpy face . Maybe its a sign of how very young I was that I never realised that Little Yellow Nightgown was me :)
My brothers stories were about life on the common [near where we lived ] and involved Pixie and slowcoach who was a snail and others I've forgotten.

As we grew older my Dad read us stories rather than inventing them . My love of books was fostered in the evenings where we sat round Dad after tea and he read the Narnia series , Lord of the Rings, Five children and It ,Henriettas house and so much more . He had an amazing ability to bring stories to life with a different voice for each character and just the right amount of emotion and drama . We had no TV so this was our family time . Dad always ended the evening on a cliff hanger and asked for eg " how would Frodo deal with this news? Where was Gandalf and why was he not where he said he would be? Find out ,in the next thrilling episode of LORD OF THE RINGS !,He followed this with a little theme tune .

Being read to in no way took the place of my own reading. I used to read while I was meant to be in bed asleep, behind the curtains , trying to grab the last bit of daylight until my eyes were straining too much in the fading light. There is no point in trying to remember all the books I loved but there were definitely some that touched and stayed with me. The Armourers house : I read that book at least 10 times about a young girl with a star crossed love for the sea and boats. As my life with stories started in the realms of fantasy I read every fantasy book I could lay hands on and the Laura Ingalls Wilder books about her life growing up in America with a pioneering Father really captured my imagination , maybe because it was real life [ and nothing at all like that dreadful TV programme Little House on the Prairie which was based on her book ]
Little Woman of course and Young Wives like many girls were my favourites at one point but the one I read 10 times in that series was Little Men. I always did like to see what happened next.

As I was exploring my relationship with God I read many autobiographies by people who God had touched and changed . The Cross and the Switchblade was so exciting to me that I read it not 10 times but 20 or more. When older , as a christian and chronologically I read Hinds Feet in High Places that has had an enormous life changing effect on me . I love the way stories don't stay within the pages of a book but become part of your own story .

Neil Gaiman , the master of fantasy . He has that ability to creatively and imaginatively suck you in and put you there,in the story , feeling what the characters are feeling and hoping their hopes . He writes stories that leave you with a feeling of loss that its ended although you inevitably finish it at 3am because just couldn't stop turning the pages . The first of his stories I read was Neverwhere , which I finished in the middle of the night and then my boyfriend read it and finished it in the middle of the night too.

So thankyou to all those wonderful story tellers and writers who have used their talents for our benefit . Its an art that I admire more than any other and am most grateful for . And thankyou to my lovely Dad who gave me and fostered in me a love of stories that has never left me and I have tried in turn to give to my own children .

I can't finish without mentioning the book I am reading now ; The Shack . Not reading but devouring in fact. I have cried and laughed , nodded in agreement and had my heart warmed by the truths in it . Its reminded me tearfully of my life's pain but has given me hope at the same time. Its a long time since a book has moved me so very much and I've had the impression I'm not just reading but the story has become intertwined with my story and at the end there won't be that sense of loss as the story will continue in my life and that of others I come in to contact with. I can't begin to describe it or explain how amazing it is ........please just read it !

If anyone wants to share their own favorite stories or suggest one I might read I would be delighted . The world is full of unread books waiting for me .I'd love for you to comment .

Monday, 2 May 2011

Changing Landscapes

Changing landscapes was the title of the Easter workshop weekend that I have just attended. Easter has has always been my absolutely favorite time of the year buthttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif this last one has to be up there with the best .
It was called that as we were to explore where we've been as a community , the changes we are involved in and the future we look forward to. Its about the story of the community since its beginning and our ongoing story as it unfolds and we write it, together and as individuals . It was actually not AT ALL the kind of workshop I would have chosen having recently tried to live very much in the present. Looking back causes too much anguish and looking forward causes too much fear.But perhaps I haven't been living in the present, actually simply existing would be a more honest assessment.
I think God has decided to change that

I have , as described by one good friend ,been dealt a near fatal wound and for the last two years have become a recluse, never going out, never really engaging with anyone , and feeling a complete lack of energy or oomph. I've let friendships slip and good intentions disappear out of the window. I've stopped feeling hurt in that raw, anguished way but have actually stopped feeling anything at all much.

So I arrived at a morning of creativity and found I would explore the changing landscapes of my own life! Let me try and explain how this was done as it was a very useful and I'm sure most people would benefit in some way from doing this too.
Firstly think of the points of your life that were turning points, eg leaving home, getting married or it could be something as seemingly insignificant as something someone said that made you reevaluate your outlook or reading a life changing book .
Think of 10 to 12 such points throughout your life and draw them as waymarks across your paper.
Next , the space between two waymarks is a chapter of your life . Think of a title for that chapter and draw a landscape that descibes it. Eg mine included chapters called age of innocence, a lonely road, yahoo and shatter red dreams and the landscapes varied from a garden and a beatiful lake to a rubbish dump and a steep rocky mountain side. I found that things that at the time seemed like the end of everything didn't feature at all, and that times in my life that seemed dark actually were good overall. Best of all it revealed Gods hand on my life throughout, even when I didn't know it .The God" in whom we live and move and have our being" has had his loving hand firmly on me, even when I was doing my best to ignore him!
Next you draw your whole life in the form of landscapes joined together so you can see the overview.

I have done this sort of thing before and was entirely unemotional until the end. I had drawn the last two years as a hole in the ground. God has been in the hole with me but I had not raised my head above ground all this time. I suddenly realised that I couldn't envision any landscape at all for the future without my children. Without them there was a shut gate and nothing else. At that point we were called to midday prayer and I sat through it with tears streaming hoping no one had noticed

Later I talked to a lovely gentle friend about the experience. I explained the hole and don't feel guilty about it as its where I have needed to be. However I am a people person and one with a gift of feeling others pain and being with them in it.This is the way God has made me, its my way of being and its how God uses me to help others. I'm a "mercy person" . If you are interested read Andy Raine's wonderful book "Given for life" which you can get from the Cloisters part of the community website. It will show you how God intended you to be too. I also explained how I have felt more irritation than compassion lately and was very aware of how selfish I had become. My friend felt that I had a "blocked artery" due to the wounds I've suffered . My mercy blood has been unable to flow as I've too frightened of being hurt again.

The weekend continued with a growing awareness of The Almighty God's control over all our stories and the wonderful way He works out our future. Also the Easter message of the intertwining of pain and joy, of despair and hope of defeat and ultimate victory. The worst event in history, the death of Jesus Christ became the pivotal point of all restoration and victory for all mankind. As the joy rose in my I lost it to a terrible feeling of guilt, pain and fear. What was going on! I realised it was not my own feelings but those of a close friend I was feeling, a friend the Lord wanted me to pray for and love and listen to . I ran over to my friend who counselled me and cried " Hes unblocked the artery!" .

So I don't know what God has in store but its time to get out of the hole and start living again. I don't know the next chapter of my story or the landscape it will be BUT God and I will write it together and hopefully it will be something beautiful .