The last leg of our journey together…

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Sophie-cat and I are on a particular journey together at this time. She doesn’t know it, but these are her last days, possibly weeks and most definitely (unless something miraculous happens) these are her last months. We found out this Monday that Sophie has a large mass growing in her abdomen (which is probably cancerous), early onset kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. As she’s between 16 and 18 years old (and most cat lives until they are 21) we’ve decided not to go down the route of surgery and chemotherapy – as we don’t feel she should be put through this. With her Hyperthyroidism, her heart has been weakened – and even though daily medication has brought down her heart-rate, I still feel surgery with the anesthetic needed would be too risky. So, in consultation with our Vet, she is now on a course of steroid tablets to reduce the swelling, help her feel more comfortable and have a quality of life until the time when we see that she is struggling again – and then we’ll probably have to let her go.

I am frustrated by the shocking prices which have prevented me from even being able to know exactly what my precious cat is suffering from (an ultra-sound and x-rays would cost over £450!) as we cannot afford this, or follow up tests. Just blood tests, an anti-sickness jab and the consultant fee came to £158. Yet all her symptoms (vomiting food, then not eating at all, eating copious grass, the blood test results and distancing herself from us) are pointing in the direction of her being very ill.

So, now that she’s feeling a little better (it will be a temporary improvement due to the steroid tablets – which won’t improve her life expectancy, but help reduce inflammation) and the initial shock of the diagnosis (as much as they are able to tell us) I have found myself in a place of coming to terms with this short period of time being the end of my cat’s life. Every day there are new discoveries, and thoughts – so being a writer, I thought I’d blog about it. Perhaps these posts might help you or someone you know who is going through something similar? Maybe they are just a way of expressing my thoughts and feelings….

It’s coming up to three years since my Mum passed into the next world – on the 11th December. I’ve thought about death, the next world, life, grief, loss, detachment, acceptance, the interconnection between this world and the next and other related thoughts a lot since then. When Mum was growing weaker (She had breast cancer which spread into her arm, then her bones and her liver) I never once thought ‘My Mum is dying’. Even the final 10 days of her life, which were spent in her bedroom – this thought of ‘dying’ didn’t enter my mind. I was so focused on Mum’s soul moving from this world to the spiritual worlds of God, that I saw it as a birth – rather than a death.

Yes I cried a lot when I wasn’t caring for her, yes it was painful and shocking to think of her not being with us physically anymore, but my mind was living day by day. Dad and I – and near the end, Leila too – spent our time thinking of her needs hour by hour. I also felt excited for her, hopeful for a release from her ill body. I remember feeling full-up (from head to toe) with love for my Mum – almost obsessed with this love I felt. She was my entire responsibility and charge. I felt Dad and I were her spiritual mid-wives, ushering her gently into the next world. Later, I felt wave after wave of loss flow through me, something I have only recently felt has grown calmer.

Now, with my little cat, it’s a very different experience – yet the process of letting go is similar but also very different. I guess I want to figure this out through writing about it. I want to explore what it means to be faced with the death of a loved one – how people process this, accept it or deny it.Yes it’s very different to lose a human family member than a pet family member – and not everyone will understand how I could even equate one with the other. I also don’t (well try not to) anthropomorphize the actions of my cat as I know she doesn’t think, feel or have the consciousness of a human being. But she does have instinctual actions, she does have animal feelings and there are always reasons why she does things. So I’m learning how to see life from her perspective (for example living in the moment, rather than feeling sorry for what she’s experienced in the past) as well as accepting my own human feelings about my attachment to her.

So let’s see how this journey goes. I don’t know how much time we have left with her, but it’s going to be full of love and care. Writing about it will help me, so thank you for reading my scrabblings…

 

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Proactive husband makes Carer-wife happy

 

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Being married to your Carer must be really annoying. But, I never give up on my husband, I believe in his capacity to progress and develop, even if there are times when he doesn’t believe in himself. I also refuse to accept that a life sat passively in front of the TV without any contribution to the happiness of other people is a good thing. Yes we all love to veg out in front of a good programme,  (‘Cuckoo’, ‘Death in Paradise’ and ‘The Night Manager’ are my current favorites) but this must be in balance with other activities. Today this balance was achieved – I felt so proud of my husband, just for little things but important steps forward.

One of the virtues we have been discussing a lot recently is being ‘proactive’ – and today I could see this shining through his whole being. I think this quality be a tough one when you have an ongoing condition to cope with. Because of his MS some days Ramin’s legs ache so much that he sleeps for a few hours in the afternoon or goes to bed at 8 or 9pm. It’s hard to think  what clothes need to be washed, or a script idea, or what friend would love a visit when you are in pain. Also Ramin has short-term memory problems, so we can consult the day before (or the week before) and he’ll agreed to do more of this or that, but it can just disappear into the ether, again not because of a lack of willingness but because he just didn’t remember! And there’s no point writing things down if you can’t read your own handwriting!

You see, another MS symptom, that Ramin is learning to overcome, is a disturbance in hand-eye coordination. When Ramin was very ill back in 2003 and spent months recovering in a rehabilitation clinic, one of the skills he seemed to lose  was the ability to write legibly (and remember Ramin achieved a 2:1 Degree in Film and Television from Aberystwyth University in 2001) and so in the past few months, we have been focused on developing this  – so that he can write notes to help him remember things, as well as to be able to write down creative ideas.

My Dad wasn’t feeling well last night and we had stayed overnight in his home the night before. I had planned on going home in the afternoon and then visiting a friend in the evening. As the day went by, my Dad’s condition worsened (not a serious illness by the way, he’s recovering from a tooth abscess and the awful effect antibiotics had on his system) and I realized he just needed me to be there for longer. Yet we have a cat at home who needed to be fed. I consulted with Ramin and he immediately suggested that he get the bus home, feed Sophie and then come back over, by bus, in the morning. His legs were aching and it was a cold night – but without a thought for himself, he allowed me to stay with Dad while the responsibility of our cat was taken care of. Two minutes later he was walking down the road and I started to make Dad his dinner.

This morning, Dad felt brighter, so he drove me back home (after my German Skype lesson) and Ramin had already done a few bits of housework and as soon as lunch was over, washed up all the dishes. Amazing! It’s not that he was lazy before, just that due to his feeling tired a lot of the time – both mentally and physically (these are typical MS symptoms) it is often  difficult for him to see what needs to be done at home without constant reminders.

Also, without my asking him, he sat down and read 12 pages of his current novel (‘A Drink Before the War’ by Dennie Lehane, the fifth book he has ever read – this has been a long process starting with reading a page a day about three years ago!) and told me he was really getting into it.

So today, the first day of ‘Ayyam-i-Ha’ (Bahá’í intercalary days) was a day of celebration, not in the usual sense of balloons, parties and cake – but in the celebration of thinking and doing for your own self and for the well-being of others. Its a long journey for us both, but it’s well worth the proactive effort.

Be thou strong and firm. Be thou resolute and steadfast. When the tree is firmly rooted, it will bear fruit….Be thou not discouraged. The trials of God are many, but if man remains firm and steadfast, test itself is a stepping stone for the progress of humanity.” ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

 

How I became a Plant-based Missaghian (part two)

Sweet potato & black bean enchiladas with avocado-cilantro cream sauce from: //ohsheglows.com

 Pilot project – to eat a plant-based diet for 3 weeks.

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My love, my support, my Ramin

If it wasn’t for Ramin’s support in that first week, I’m not sure I could have made the step myself. I find cooking two kinds of meals quite tiring and the delicious smell of cooking meat has always weakened my desire to stop eating it. So Ramin’s support (and my Dad’s acceptance that I would be serving up only Vegan meals in this time) to try a plant-based diet for three weeks gave me free reign to experiment see if that desire could be strengthened into commitment. I knew Ramin wasn’t going to become Vegan, in fact I’m not even putting that pressure on myself. I can’t operate that way actually, I find if I can’t have something then that’s ALL I want! I was sure there would be a shift, but I wanted to have an experience and then reflect on long term changes, not set myself up to fail or feel guilty.

On the first day, I had breakfast with my lovely friend Yas, who was super-supportive about our plan and even treated me to a Vegan cooked breakfast – which was yummy! Ramin and I went to a Vegetarian café in Cardiff called ‘Milgis’ and had the most delicious coconut based bowl of veggies while proudly announcing to the Waitress that we were Day One Vegans!

We enjoyed soy lattes in the city and I bought the Jamie Oliver book ‘Everyday Superfood’ (many great Vegetarian and Vegan recipes in there), spending the next few days making really tasty meals – slightly complicated, but well worth the effort.

soy latte in Costa

Yummy soy latte!

We ate a plant-based diet for 16 days (As well as Jamie’s ideas, I tried recipes from the wonderful Vegan book ‘Oh She Glows’ and various internet searches) before I had a really low day accompanied by a massive chicken craving. I gave in, and we ate chicken for a few days and I did feel better physically, yet sad about eating the meat. My Vegetarian friend assured me, along with hilarious chicken-noises, that I was in the process of making a transition, and not to be too hard on myself.

The Monday after the low-point-chicken-fest came along and Ramin decided two weeks was enough, he’d still happily eat any plant-based meals I prepared but he really loves cow’s milk in his coffee and was missing meat. This was totally fine by me, in fact I find it troublesome when couples get upset about their partner’s eating choices as who are we to dictate what someone else should or shouldn’t do? I’ve come to my decision through a lot of thought and knowledge from my research and interest in this subject, but Ramin hasn’t and I’m not going to impose it on him either. He has enough to deal with having MS as it is. Also through this pilot project he ate very tasty plant-based meals and has significantly reduced the amount of meat he now eats – so he is doing really well.

Oh She Glows: //ohsheglows.com

Delicata squash salad with lemon-tahini dressing

Weird aches

I found all the milk alternatives were giving me stomach ache, and when I went back to goats milk after the two weeks these aches went away! I wondered if I was detoxing or my body was reacting to something in the long-life process of these milks (I’ve read this can be the case)… then I considered this could something to do with my female workings and nothing to do with the food? Hard to know! The aches were consistent and I had a real lack of energy as well as feeling low. Was it hormones or digestion?

At the Doctors I had an examination and found out that I have a ‘female condition’ (I’ll spare you the details) – a yeast infection caused by Candida, a type of internal fungus. Of course the GP didn’t tell me this (as most GPs in my experience (not all, Ashley and Nirvana!!) make no connection between ill health and food), but the information allowed me to research the cause and then it all made sense. No wonder I had been feeling low, with stomach aches and cravings. My body was overrun with bad bacteria! I also realised, looking back at other symptoms and female examinations, that I’ve had this condition for over a year and it could be one of the main reasons why I’ve had a lack of energy on a regular basis.

I took the GP’s medicine and I also bought a jar of strong probiotics, started taking cider vinegar (with ‘the mother’ – i.e. another form of probiotics that helps the body become alkaline) daily and have since stopped eating anything off the list that can cause the bad bacteria to grow such as white bread tortillas, sugar, cheese and mushrooms. It’s as if my body knew I didn’t need cheese from the beginning. My body wants to be plant-based more than my mind does perhaps? The stomach aches stopped and my energy levels increased! I made a delicious sugar, gluten and dairy Vegan raw cake from Caramelia Cakery and a little bit every day has been enough to satisfy my chocolate desires!

Orange peanut raw cake – Caramelia Cakery: Buy the e-book here for only £5

Some other personal, immediate results you might be interested in

I’m sleeping better, only needing the loo once in the middle of the night, often sleeping all the way through the night (I used to need the loo 2-5 times a night!). I wake up around 7.30am (often earlier) feeling wide awake, when before I felt sluggish and only really felt ‘normal’ around 11.30am. Other toilet habits are great – daily – and easy. My sinuses are clearer (this is fantastic for my singing!), I don’t feel hungry between meals any more (I used to be a terrible snacker) and I’ve lost about 3 kilos since mid September. Another cool thing is that our shopping bill has been reduced by about a third! It only starts getting expensive when I buy ready-made Vegan foods. If I cook from scratch, it’s way cheaper to eat plant-based meals and of course much healthier too.

Pilot project over, what have I decided?

So on reflection, I have decided to commit to a Vegetarian diet with the option to have meat if I ever feel an overwhelming urge for it. I’m also going to try to eat foods that will satisfy any such cravings first, rather than just lunging for the meat. I’m taking a B12 sublingual supplement and a few teaspoons of Feroglobin daily (to ward off anaemia which runs in my family) as well as my usual probiotics and Vitamin C supplements. I read online that many see Vegan as the goal and Vegetarian as the cut off point. I like that. It feels realistic to me and something I can stick with.

The Vegan/Plant-Based friends of mine who have influenced and inspired me have done so through love, a down-to-earth approach and detachment from my or anyone else’s choices (thank you Natasha and Gareth!). I’ve loved how much they love food, making me realize I can still love food as much as I do – just make different tasty choices.

Harissa roasted aubergine – Jamie Oliver (Everyday Superfood)

Becoming Vegetarian is a huge change for me as I used to eat meat or fish every day, for lunch and dinner. If I can sustain this way of eating I have accomplished something so important – as the will of my soul (the rider) has reined in the will of my body (the horse) and oh that rounded-bellied horse loved to run, well eat!

I always buy free-range eggs and I don’t really see any harm in eating them to be honest, the chickens don’t suffer! The same is with honey. Goat’s milk and my stomach are friends and for now, I’m happy with that. Recently found coconut milk is fab too. I will phase the milk out (as I don’t want to be responsible for the slaughter of young billy goats), but I’m being kind to myself with this one…. I’m giving it longer to make the transition. I can still see myself becoming Vegan in the future. It’s a lot closer now than it was 3 weeks ago.

Motivation

I decided to have a go at a plant-based diet in the first place, not only because I want my life choices to not cause suffering to other creatures, but also to be able to prevent serious illness like the Cancer my Mum eventually lost her battle with. I’m not afraid of death and I believe we are eternal beings, taking everything we have learned with us into the next world. We are what we have made of our souls. Yet I want to live this life with health, energy, positive feelings about my actions and their consequences and to be of service to others. I wish Mum and I had both had a go at this many years ago – as maybe she’d then still be with us?

After Mum passed I had a dream I was asleep on my bed and received a huge delivery of huge boxes of fruit and vegetables, with a note asking us to share these with people in our community. I felt this was an impossible task as I didn’t have a car, and wondered if Ramin and I should just keep them for ourselves? I interpreted this dream to mean that I needed to share with people the spiritual fruits of my Mum’s life and as a result Dad and I called the newspapers who ran a big story on the life of my Mum. We all began walking around the house joyously shouting ‘Share the fruits!’

Yet I also think my Mum was sending me a message in this dream, to literally eat fruit and vegetables and to share this knowledge with others. Mum Kalim and Fleur 2013My determination to eat a plant-based diet has developed more strongly within me in the last year than ever before and I think this is because my Mum is assisting me from the spiritual worlds of God. Health, happiness and strength to any of you lovely ones out there, making efforts to improve your lives and your impact on the world around you. And please, let’s be kind to one another, whatever is on our plate as we are all on different paths and it’s only love that changes anything, not judgement. As Ghandi so beautifully said, ‘Be the change you want to see’.

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Tofu stir-fry with peanut sauce

How I became a Plant-based Missaghian (Part One)

“The food of the future will be fruit and grains. The time will come when meat will no longer be eaten.

Medical science is only in its infancy, yet it has shown that our natural food is that which grows out of the ground.”
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, from Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, page 102)

I used to be a Vegetarian

When I was a teen, my love for animals as well as my need to be cool and different meant that I became Vegetarian, which lasted about two years. Then one day I remember it was the smell of bacon and the taste of chicken which weakened my defences. Ever since then, I have imagined there would be a day in the future when I would go back to being a Vegetarian. But the thought of restricting myself from yet another thing in this world (when I don’t drink alcohol, smoke, do drugs, didn’t have sex before marriage and don’t even go out dancing any more (mainly to do with not wanting to be a part of that sweaty, lusty, fake scene, than for any religious reason, as I do dance at home!)) prevented me from going back to being a Vegetarian, as did of course my cravings for bacon, sausages and chicken in particular.

Too much cheese

Another of the strange mental barriers to my being Vegetarian (which should have been a sign) was that whenever you go out to a restaurant or eat at the home of friends who don’t usually cook Vegetarian food, but are kindly having a go to accommodate you – everything is smothered in cheese! I do like cheese generally, but too much melted cheese where the fat is running off the surface just makes me feel ill. For many years this was the excuse that skipped through my brain, distracting me from my sadness about eating animals or the need to eat vegetables and fruits for health!

My memories are all about food

A factor that also had a huge impact on my food decisions (including a steady impact on the size of my belly!) was just how much I LOVE food and how much pleasure I get from eating. The main thing I remember about my year living in China, back in 1998-99 is how much I either loved the food (aubergine and potato fried goodness or red rice with spicy chicken)or didn’t like the food (think chicken’s feet and worm-like slimy noodles!). There my love of all Asian food was born, as well as my (thank God now erased) near obsession with MacDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken, as both those places were times of mutual sanctuary to my fellow Western English Teachers when Chinese food became too much, or when we literally wanted a taste of home. I remember the amazing food my Nana (who was a professional Cook) made us every weekend, and particularly her glorious 5 course Christmas menus! I particularly remember the Bahá’í 19 day Feasts in the homes of Persian friends because their fragrant and rich food was amazing – much better than the biscuits and cake served in other homes. Basically if the food was good, that memory has lasted and lasted. Some people think in colour or remember particular emotions – whereas I think in food!

Loving food just a little too much

Apparently as a child I would go to a party and eat so much food that I’d throw up when I came home. I remember going on a school trip and buying my sister a large stick of rock as a present and then eating half of it on the way home on the bus. On another school trip to Paris, when I was about 14, I ate chips on the Ferry over, threw up over myself and another friend, fell asleep and woke up with us both covered in vomit! Yes it’s good to like food, one of this world’s pleasures and a daily necessity – but I have to admit, my love of food went beyond the bounds of constraint.

Starting College – no exercise – got fatter

When I was 16, I passed my GCSE’s and left School to go to the local Tertiary College to study A-levels. This had an almost immediate impact on my weight – as previously I had walked the mile to school every morning, and back again in the afternoon, I was a member of the school Hockey Team and enjoyed PE during the school timetable. I would run around every break time, playing tag, British Bulldog, skipping or hopscotch. I was a very active child so that even though I ate a lot, I was slim and muscular. Also our food at home was generally healthy and we were not allowed to eat a lot of sweet foods.

The College was a bus-ride away however and there was no PE or playing around like a child in the break times! I felt cool and sophisticated as I no longer had to wear a school uniform, I could wear my own clothes and present my style to the world! I wore make-up and earrings and even began to find boys interesting and funny, rather than annoying and stupid as all the boys in school had been. I could buy my own lunch and revelled in chocolate bars and bags of pick-a-mix. Yes it was great that Fleur, the woman, was emerging, but when I look back I am shocked how I completely stopped any exercise and ate so much rubbish (sorry Mum!). And of course the weight began to pile on. Oh, and that was when I stopped my Vegetarian diet also.

When the interest in nutrition began

Between then and now, my eating habits have dramatically shifted. In part this is to do with taking notice of how eating different foods affect my body and in part to do with educating myself through my strong interest in health and healing. Actually this all began when my brother’s eczema noticeably reduced (as a toddler) when his diet was restricted; when my Mum, Rita, had breast cancer and went into remission purely through focusing a healthy diet with daily fresh juices and healthy foods for ten years and then when my husband was diagnosed with MS back in 2003. I wanted to figure out how our actions create or reduce illness and what we can do to heal ourselves.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 21.39.10My friend, Vicky, wrote a wonderful book in this time called ‘I’ll have the fruits and grains please!’ exploring the Bahá’í Writings on food and healing which she kindly dedicated to Ramin and myself. In fact, even though I was living in Germany and Vicky was in England, we worked together to produce an online monthly magazine for a year (a whole year!) called ‘Little Guru’ – featuring articles from fellow writers and friends interested in the subject of health and healing for the mind, body and soul. This monthly commitment to produce read-worthy articles that would assist people’s healing was the first time I had focused on nutrition – and it began to change my own habits. I ate more fruit and added more vegetables to our daily meals, I reduced my bread intake (oh gorgeous German bread!) and tried out new kinds of cheese rather than eating sausage and cold meats for breakfast.

A particular book that shifted my mind-set enormously was the bookEat to Live’ by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. I realised that it was not a lack of will power which had prevented me from eating healthily, but a lack of knowledge. I learned so much from Dr Fuhrman and I still go back and read that amazing book every now and then, to remind myself of the principles and practical actions needed to live a healthy life. The really cool thing is that reading this book changed my focus from losing weight to losing bad health and learning to enjoy food for it’s healthful benefits, not just it’s taste.

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One of the main messages I received from ‘Eat to Live’ was the effect sugar has on our bodies. I used to eat so much sugar, it’s a wonder I am not obese. Yes I’m overweight (it’s slowly shifting now!) but I thank my body for effectively dealing with the excess sugar I fed it and I’m so grateful (and kind of astounded) that I don’t have type 2 diabetes. My sugar intake is so low in comparison to when I was a teen and a young woman due to reading this book as well as support from friends, Vicky in particular. Dr Fuhrman explains clearly, that ‘Refined foods cause a swift and excessive rise in blood sugar, which in turn triggers insulin surges to drive the sugar out of the blood and into our cells. Unfortunately, insulin also promotes the storage of fat on the body and encourages your fat cells to swell.’ The thought of my body sending out a hormone to deal with the sugar and that being responsible for the fat on my body really changed my mind-set and I became far better at controlling how much sugar I ate.

The change began with goats milk

About five years ago, I began to make the correlation between eating dairy products (milk in particular) and stomach aches as well as other anti-social side effects. In fact it became so obvious – like a continual low-grade period pain – that I really had to make a change. My sister had recently swapped to goats milk, and found she gained masses of energy and didn’t feel the listlessness that used to overcome her anymore; my Dad had swapped to soya milk after suffering from persistent stomach problems and my brother, Kalim who has severe eczema, had only ever drunk soya milk. So I too swapped to goats milk (the thought of soya milk made me retch at the time!) and even though the slightly bitter taste took a bit of getting used to, in a few months I could drink it straight and even preferred the taste. Clearly lactose intolerance runs in my family – but it took me about 30 years to realise this! Changing my milk from cows to goats milk was a first step towards independence from the societal norms and I realised I began to start caring less, if at all, about what other people thought. Yes goats milk tastes funky (the American version) to many people, but I liked it and I didn’t have stomach problems with it – so whatever other people’s reaction, I knew what was good for me.

Why are animals food? It just feels wrong.

In these last few years I have felt a yearning to let go of eating animals but really didn’t have, what I felt, was the emotional strength. I knew I could never kill an animal to eat it and I also found that as time went by I became more aware of the bones and muscles of the chicken, or the veins in the prawns, or the connective tissue in lamb and had to work on not thinking about the slice of meat on my fork and the fact that slice used to be a part of a living animal. The reality that this food had once been a living, breathing creature and wasn’t just a slab of ‘food’ you bought in a supermarket began to hit home. Looking back I wonder how it took me so long, but it’s amazing how blind we can be to a truth when, for example, the power of taste is so strong.

I kept yearning for beans, this was so strong that when I went to Nandos (a famous chicken restaurant) I wanted to eat the bean burger more than the chicken! I would still choose the chicken, because it tasted so good – but then would wonder if this chicken had lived a good life, would look at the wing and think of the feathers that had been plucked from it. In fact it’s quite weird to me how long it has taken me to stop eating meat, when I’ve been having these quiet thoughts and inner battle for years! I always thought I wasn’t strong enough to give up meat and fish, even though all I wanted to eat was beans!

Forks Over Knives

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 21.40.17I heard about the film, ‘Forks over Knives from my friend Della, while teaching singing at a Bahá’í Summer School in Romania last year. She was trying a plant-based diet (quite a brave thing to do in Romania) after being inspired by this film. Back in the UK another friend told me about the film, and then – still having not seen it (resisting, maybe?) I joined a Facebook group which friends of mine had set up, exploring and learning about plant-based diets and I was impressed by the articles, videos and thoughts shared. I felt particularly inspired by the knowledge and gentle responses of my friends, Ronnie and Rosie and I began to experiment with different vegetables and beans and herbs and spices. I really began to consider that if I did give up eating animals, I would still have tasty meals. I even began to entertain the thought that; so what if my meals were not as tasty as before, why was I letting my taste-buds – that temporary mouthful – influence me so deeply and overrun my conscience?

So, a few weeks ago I sat down one afternoon and watched the entire film, ‘Forks over Knives’ with Ramin (this was the second time for me, as I’d watched it last year with Kalim). Suddenly (and this didn’t happen the first time I watched the movie) I was blown away by the extensive studies which showed clearly the negative effect meat and dairy have upon our bodies – so much so, that for the sake of our health and as a pilot project (my Mum loved those!) we decided to try a plant-based diet for 3 weeks then see how we felt……..

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

How often do we sit down and pray ardently for our friends? Do we sacrifice our time and energy in prayer for others? Or do we just pray for ourselves and what we want out of life? Going through some challenges at home, I realised I needed some Divine assistance. A few friends of mine were also going though difficulties, so I thought I’d make a prayer list. The following blog post are my thoughts on the experience of doing a 9 day prayer plan. I put out a request on Facebook;

“I am going to start a 9 day prayer plan next week from the 16th September to the 24th September. If there is anyone who would like me to include them on my prayer lists – healing/marriage/tests/new challenges/ guidance etc – please message me and I will be honoured to do so. If anyone would like to join me in prayer, that would be great too! I’m happy to pray for friends of all faiths or no faiths – so this message isn’t just for Bahá’ís!”

Then on the 16th I also said this:

“Day One of my 9 day prayer plan starts today. I have about 25 people on my list. Any more takers? Last chance – after today you’ll either need to wait until the next prayer plan, start your own plan or ask someone else to pray for you! :)”

I was overwhelmed with responses – message after message flooded in. Ten people also joined me on the 9 day prayer plan – two dear friends (one in the UK and one in Minnesota, USA) also synching the timing of their prayers with mine.

Just before 8pm, another few people quickly contacted me – one literally as I was turning off my phone – and I added them to the list. On day two another dear friend asked if I could remember her son and of course I agreed.

So the 9 days have now come to an end and I’m reflecting on the experience.

Overall I feel honoured and moved that a large group of people asked me to pray for them. It felt like I was standing outside a sacred temple, with over 100 people who all entrusted me with their hopes, fears, concerns and pleas. I heard their voices, embraced them virtually and then walked into the temple, offering my desire for my friend’s healing and guidance and asking for God’s Will to be done. Walking beside me, adding my voice to theirs were the ten people I mentioned before as well as my father and my husband who joined me most nights.

It would have been too arduous a task to think of all the people every night – so I read the names of the people on the list out-loud before saying the first prayer, placing them in the care of a higher power, a greater memory. It’s interesting that I had over 100 people on my final list and over ten people who prayed with me – maybe I should have given each praying friend the names of ten friends from the list each? That’s an idea for next time.

Most nights I said either The Long Healing Prayer or The Fire Tablet from the Baha’i writings. There were a few nights when I said 9 ‘Remover of Difficulties’ instead, as I was just too tired to say a longer prayer – and there was one day when I just plain forgot and so said prayers the next morning.

I realised a few things:

I believe in the power of prayer for transformation, for shifting obstacles and for placing one’s life in God’s hands. I always feel much stronger after saying prayers, I have a greater focus and can handle challenges from a place of calm rather than panic. When I put out a call for people who needed prayers too I was quite surprised just how many friends responded. I thought about 20 people would respond. Receiving over 100 requests, this makes me wonder if we need to be asking friends if they need prayers more often!

In the West, we tend to hide our faces away when life gets tough, and suffer in silence a lot, thinking we are the only ones having such a hard time. Yes it’s good to not burden others with our worries, but asking a friend to pray for you throughout a particular challenge is a way your friend can help, it might be the only way sometimes.   Even if someone doesn’t believe in God, in a next world, in the soul – it actually doesn’t matter. The fact that I am sitting down over a period of time to think of my friend with love in my heart and asking a Higher Power (whatever that means to me or you) to help that friend – is a beautiful thing for the intention is pure. So let’s do it more often!

I’ve been brought up to pray my way through difficulties. It’s always been a part of family life. They used to call it ‘knocking on heaven’s door’. I remember my parents ardently praying through periods of time when we were involved in sharing the healing message of Baha’u’lláh with new people. I remember repeating healing prayers over and over again when my brother was a small child with terrible weeping excema to help him fall asleep and to calm myself down because his cries were so distressing. I remember saying the Long Healing Prayer day after day by Ramin’s raised bed when he was sleeping, thin and vulnerable because his relapses were rushing him to hospital month after month.  I remember saying the same prayer as above every day of the last few months of my Mother’s life – not for her Cancer to be taken away, but for her to move into the next part of her eternal existence peacefully and for us all to have the strength to let her go. I do not know how anyone copes with life’s huge ups and downs without prayer.

I think we need to talk about this subject more. We need to say less ‘token’ offerings and more heartfelt yearnings. I certainly want to immerse myself in the ocean of prayer and gain strength from it’s force and ceaseless movement, its healing power.

On Baha’i.org the way we pray together as Bahá’ís around the world is beautifully described,

“Devotional meetings spring up naturally in a community where a conversation about the spiritual dimension of human existence is growing. In diverse settings, Bahá’ís and their friends and families unite with one another in prayer. There are no rituals; no one individual has any special role. Meetings consist largely of reading prayers and passages from the Bahá’í sacred texts in an informal yet respectful atmosphere. A spirit of communal worship is generated by these simple gatherings, and this spirit begins to permeate the community’s collective endeavours.”

Something very special happens when you remember people in prayer. Its like all the external differences just melt away and you feel a pure connection. In these 9 days, I felt so much love! About prayer —‘Abdu’l-Baha says,

“Praise be to God, thy heart is engaged in the commemoration of God, thy soul is gladdened by the glad tidings of God and thou art absorbed in prayer. The state of prayer is the best of conditions…”

So in these 9 days when I said a special prayer for my friends, my soul was ‘gladdened by the glad tidings of God’.  I am thankful that my friends gave me the opportunity to be in ‘the best of conditions’. Praying is truly an example of these insightful words, ‘to sacrifice is to receive a gift’.

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Why I will never have a BFF (Best Friend Forever)

I used to have a ‘best friend’, but not anymore. There was no falling out, no melt down as we stormed away, never to speak again. In fact a certain much loved friend of mine and I grew closer when we both made the clear decision  that being ‘best friends’  was both an inadequate way to describe our connection and an exclusive barrier which made us compare our particular friendship with that of our other friends. So yes, I do have a friend who I feel very close to, but I also have another bunch of friends who I love dearly – so how can I say just one person is my ‘best’ friend when all friendships are different, irreplaceable, wonderful and unlike any other?

Previous to this I remember telling my husband that I was about to call my best friend. His response was purely, ‘Am I not your best friend?’ At the time I decided that no, he was my husband and my best friend was a different kind of friendship entirely. Which of course, it is in crucial ways, but in many ways, not.

When Ramin’s ability to talk with me was severely disrupted by his multiple relapses, I went through a heartbreaking period of grief where I felt I had lost my husband. We couldn’t chat together, consult about decisions, read the holy Baha’i writings and discuss them together, let alone say prayers. A huge part of what I had considered as exclusive to marriage had been paused, and stayed paused for many years. Going through this experience, made me turn to my parents, my sister, my friends and Ramin’s family for support, particularly in figuring out how to manage our lives and emotions. Ramin spent months in hospital and then rehabilitation, learning to walk again, to feed himself and so on.

I felt desperately sad for him, but also devastated that the Ramin I had fallen in love with, chatty, outgoing, attentive, creative, protecting, expressive Ramin – was severely damaged. I didn’t know if he’d ever get back to who he had been again.

Over time I learned that all Ramin and I needed to do was love each other, expressed in the simplest of ways at first – sitting out in the sunshine, holding hands / my pushing him in a wheelchair to a simple church in the hospital grounds in Duesseldorf Uniklinik where I could sing prayers out loud for him (and he’d join in with a weak, yearning voice that teared my heart apart) / cuddling on the hospital bed, not caring about people walking around us. We didn’t need grand gestures or even deep and meaningful conversations. We just needed to be there for each other.

This difficult experience taught me that I had to redefine my understanding of what a relationship is. Not only in my marriage, but also with my friends and family members. Sometimes we expect people – especially our spouses – to be our everything! We have to fit completely to be right for each other! We have to be physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually compatible, or the marriage just isn’t going to last! This kind of expectation puts a huge strain on the relationship as it asks both people to be ‘perfect for each other’ when actually no one is perfect and we all make mistakes. In marriage you learn to grow together through facing life’s tests and trials (more than the happy times!) with unity and mutual support. Ramin and I managed to do this because he just loved me all the time and continues to love me through all the ups and downs we experience in life.

So when I talk to the many friends I love dearly, when I visit them, laugh, chat, eat, cry, pray, serve, watch films with, discuss spiritual principles in action or just am quiet with – I don’t focus on whether this friend feels closer to me than another, I just love them and feel loved by them. Yes there are some friends I spend more time with than others, and some I’m in more contact with than others – but it’s not about a holding on to one or another relationship. That’s a kind of material attachment which doesn’t recognise the eternity of love, right?

In the next world we will always be connected to the people we love as the spiritual worlds of God are made from love Through love (as well as all the other sparkling beautiful spiritual qualities that we develop in this next world such as trustworthiness, honesty, patience and kindness) we will experience a true reality, removed forever from this physical body and all it’s limitations. How utterly glorious!

So, you may think it’s sad that I don’t have a best friend forever, but I think it’s just awesome – as I love my friends and family dearly, but my expectations of them are not limited to this world, are not all heaped upon one person and I don’t have to keep proving to myself, to them or the rest of the world that we care for each other. It also means that others are not excluded from my friendships. The only person you can’t share ‘some’ things with, is my beautiful husband – and that’s a sacred relationship, unique to us alone, thank God!

If you are my friend, you know that I love you. So that’s enough.

The 10 Reasons why I Deactivated Facebook (And 5 Reasons why I Went Back)

Recently I deactivated my Facebook Account for about a month and here are the reasons why:

1. BABY PHOTOS Every time I saw a baby photo or cute kids photo/video it hurt my heart. I found myself involuntarily comparing my life to the person’s life – especially the mother – and for a moment I just felt bad about the path my life has taken. I don’t feel like this when I see a friend’s baby in real life as I can build a relationship with the child which is good and full of love. I feel privileged to have had all my life’s experiences and grateful that I have a Faith that sustains me daily, I wrote more about coping with this part of my life in my blog post ‘A Child-Full Couple‘ during my month long break from FB.

2. OVER-SCROLL vs CREATIVITY I spend waaay too much time scrolling and could be doing something (writing, singing or composing in my case) creative instead.  I don’t need FB as a distraction on my phone or my computer (which is also my place of work). (Since my break, I am much more detached from scrolling, I have curbed my natural slide into procrastination, feel less distracted and I am being waaaay more creative.

3. JUNK MAIL If I’m honest, I’m just not interested in people’s weight loss, football score opinions, posters telling me I’m eating a burger wrong, videos about animal cruelty, petitions to end this or that war (like they really have an influence??!! It’s just another  way of gaining email addresses), games to tell me what spirit animal I am or what religion I should be and so on… It’s like I am letting a pile of junk mail flow through my brain every time  – just to see if there is any nugget of interest hidden in there. Apart from the cat videos of course 🙂

4. I AM HAPPY BEING ME WITHOUT YOUR APPROVAL
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FB can feel like a big bowl of white pasta that has very little nutritional value and can put you into a stupor as you let trivial information flow uncontrolled into your mind. I don’t want people to know where I am all the time, what my feelings are or what my opinion is on a Pop Star’s love life, what holiday I had or the size of my house. These things do not reflect my reality. I am a spiritual being having a physical experience and my time here is precious, not to be killed off in trivia.

5. THE OVER-POSTERS People constantly over-post where you get ten posts all about more or less the same thing. We don’t hijack conversations in real life so that we can obsess about one subject do we?! And we don’t dump a random series of information into people’s laps hoping they’ll ‘like’ us – so why do we think this is effective on social media as a way of connecting people?

6.  LACK OF TRUE INTERACTION  I have a large number of friends on FB yet keep seeing the same 20 people’s posts over and over again. Yes I love these friends but I feel the process of connecting to many people isn’t actually what happens. We are promised diversity and interaction yet in reality we are stuck in the same room as the same people every day. Yet the people in my room are different to the people in your room and different again to all the people present – so it’s like there are 20 people all on the phone to 20 different people having brief conversations when they could just put down their phones, hop on a bus (or get on Skype) and talk to each other face to face for an hour. Cuppa tea?

7. ADDICTIVE I don’t like the pull of something when I know it’s not good for me – a pattern of behaviour that demands certain responses. I want to have a day much freer to be able to do, say, comment, respond, interact on a deeper level. This is also why I don’t drink alcohol, smoke or do drugs. I also can’t play video games for long – they suck me in and suck my time away.

8. QUICK JUDGEMENTS FB has the power to train our brains to make quick comments and thoughts (and judgements –  like knee jerk reactions) and I feel this form of social media can trivialise the important stuff. Over a long period of time where connections are always brief and immediate, it could damage human relations to an irreparable extent. Surely we should be promoting self-reflection, deeper interactions as conversations are raised higher than the mundane – reflecting how humanity is a noble creation of God?

9. PSEUDO-SPIRITUAL MEMES
pseudo 10. CHARITABLE STATUS GAMES Here’s an excellent article which explains why much better than I could: Breast Cancer is not a Facebook Status game.

And the reasons I came back to Facebook are:

1. MY CONTACTS

With the Flynns in Dormagen

Ramin with the Flynns in Dormagen

I now have a large group of friends who mainly communicate via Facebook Messenger, there are also many for whom the only contact details I have for them are on Facebook and if I want to stay in contact with them, then I’ll have to stay here. 2015-03-23-1427132139-7726406-IMG_1862.JPG

If I’m really serious about leaving FB forever, then I need to invest the time to transfer all their contact details into my ‘phonebook’ or email contact list. Also, I do love chatting with friends who live across the pond. Makes the world seem smaller.

2. SHARING Facebook is an amazing way to share information. I was overwhelmed when I saw how many times one of my blog posts had been read, shared and responded to. Many women wrote to me, to tell me their stories and to let me know that the article has helped them. Without Facebook, this wouldn’t have been possible.

3. IN THE LOOP I found out WEEKS later that two lovely young friends of mine are getting married this summer. Yes, maybe I need to be more patient, but this was hard! I didn’t like being out of the loop!

4. GOOD NEWS TV The News on TV mainly reports negativity and in the UK predominantly focuses on the economy (almost every story is driven by the economic benefit or deficit of an event). My friends on FB do a great job of sharing good news, exciting projects, new music and film as well as news of a more personal nature. Yes, I do filter out those who complain, moan and share horrible things – apologies if you are one of them!

5. HUMANS OF NEW YORK

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 16.41.13 So, now that I am back on the book of faces after my break – I don’t scroll as much, click on every survey or quiz and I’m more proactive in chatting with people to make sure our friendships are not  trivialised by short bursts. I recommend taking a few weeks out, as it helped me prioritise my creativity, gave me time to reflect on how to use my time effectively, rather than merely moving through habit. Habits can be dangerous when they are unconsciously formed by following the trend. I can see myself coming off completely some time in the future. Or at least having more breaks. Perhaps we all need to communicate more and scroll less.  And the baby photos are ok, I guess….but cat videos, oh we need more of those!

p.s. Here’s one just in case you felt you were missing out:

Journey through Patience

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A game my sister, Leila, and I used to play with my Mum is called ‘Journey through Europe’. It’s a board game where you have a large fold-out map of Europe (the board part) and you are given nine cities to travel to and through (on nine cards), departing from and arriving back at the original city. The most complicated part of the game is planning your journey as you navigate a restricted flight path, sea-crossings and travel routes as well as finding cities you’ve never seen the names of before on the map itself.

Ramin and I now play this game, as well as Scrabble, Monopoly and Memory as part of his brain training sessions. When Ramin was first recovering from his year of relapses, he had Ergo-therapy in Germany where he and his therapist worked through various exercises together, including games. So when I officially became Ramin’s Carer a few years ago, we decided together that for the two days a week when he is not Volunteering in Oxfam, we would play such games, and do our best to have the patience to complete them without killing each other!

You see, the challenge for Ramin and I is often my lack of patience with Ramin’s slower pace and his lack of patience with the benefit he is meant to be receiving from playing any of these games. Also, if we’re totally honest here, he would much prefer to leave his current neural paths as they are and watch a comedy show on TV, or listen to music, or sleep (all passive activities) than have to think and plan, remember details and work towards a goal. Yeah, I know people without MS have difficulties with being pro-active too – in fact many of my female friends get frustrated with their passive male partners and it is helpful for me to realize that sometimes its not an MS thing I’m dealing with, but a female-male thing!

For me, it’s the hardest quality to learn. I think quickly, proactively. I’m a problem solver, a creative thinker. I like to analyse, consult, discuss options and figure out a new way of making something happen. Because of his particular journey with MS (the experiences can be very different) Ramin has been slowed down by an illness that took away his independence for a long time. Relapse-free, he is now in the slow but steady fight to recover and he gets frustrated with himself, with me and his body, his mind. Yes you can be patient in the moment, but what about staying patient year in, year out where you know you are progressing, but in the actual moment it’s just a struggle, an exhausting struggle with a terrier-like wife next to you who won’t let go?

So how can we stay patient, when working with our loved ones on a task? Can we do this alone? Or do we need to ask for a higher power to assist us?

In the Baha’i writings, Baha’u’lláh says, “He, verily, shall increase the reward of them that endure with patience.”

My Dad often reminds of of this teaching. It’s helpful to me because I know that sometimes Ramin and I are both just enduring – keep going – don’t give up – yes, its tiring – yes, it’s annoying – yes, it makes me angry -yes, it frustrates me – but endure with patience. And why? Well because of this:

Baha’ulláh also says, “The steed in the Valley of Search is patience; without patience the wayfarer on this journey will reach nowhere and attain no goal.

So for Ramin and I to achieve our goal of his increasing independence we have to ride the horse of patience, through the game of Journey through Europe, through all the ins and outs of our marriage and through the way we react and respond to each other. This also says to me that on our particular life’s path, staying patient as we suffer through (endure!) brain-training exercises while speaking lovingly with each other (and accepting our different capabilities) is also part of the development of our souls. It’s not just brain-training for Ramin – both our higher natures strengthen as we grow closer to each other and ultimately, closer to God.

We play Scrabble for brain training

We play Scrabble for brain training

Read more about the struggle for patience from another Bahá’i blogger: http://onebahai.blogspot.com/2010/02/its-virtue.html#ixzz3USGHgO9A

 

A Child-full Couple

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Ramin and I are now categorised as ‘A childless couple’. We have tried to get pregnant naturally for many years and finally went through a gruelling round of In-vitro-fertilisation (IVF) last Autumn and yet, for reasons still largely unknown, we conceived 3 embryos, yet did not stay pregnant. One round was enough for me. I asked God the question and received my answer. Previous to trying IVF we actually went through a year long process of applying to become Adoptive parents, yet sadly this route was closed to us. We could fight it. We could try somewhere else, but at the moment – this path is exhausted (and exhausting). We’ve now accepted that – unless a miracle happens – we will not be parents, and are moving on.

It’s tough for us both.

Coming to terms with this has been a longer process for Ramin than myself. Perhaps because my IVF experience was so physical. It’s another test related to MS that we both have to cope with, and it does often feel like the hardest part. It’s all the ‘what ifs…’ which play sad tunes on our heart strings.

Yet when I coo at and hold a baby in my arms, I instantly feel happy for the parents and joyful to be in the presence of a tiny soul. I don’t feel resentful or sad at not having kids myself. Here is another little person I can love, and it’s beautiful. Its the same when a friend announces she is pregnant! Wahoo! Another one of life’s miracles!

Today, I want to challenge that phrase ‘A childless couple’ as I think it’s misleading, comes from a materialistic view of life and annoys me because it assumes Ramin and I are missing out.

We live in a time when the quest for possessions, status and fame is well and truly up there with the quest for enlightenment. This influences the way we talk about and describe life’s achievements or failures. We all know that money and objects and fame does not make anyone happy in the long-term. In this society we are insidiously groomed to spend our whole lives aiming for spiritually empty-calorie goals and think less and less about feeding our soul spiritual food that would enrich us beyond measure. So a couple who do not have children are described as ‘A Childless Couple’ in the same way that a single woman is called ‘A Spinster’. Many people have ‘successful careers’ yet cannot stay faithful to their wives or husbands. So many famous movie stars, musicians and artists have died young through alcohol abuse or drug-overdoses (Oh River Phoenix!), yet we still envy their successes and wish we were more like them. The state of our soul is not as important as the estate we leave behind and then we enter the next world in a state of complete spiritual poverty. Yeah, that’s successful.

One of my favourite quotes from the Baha’i writings is this;

The soul of man is the sun by which his body is illumined,                                                          and from which it draweth it’s sustenance. (Baha’u’lláh)

So, in the light of this teaching, I choose to re-examine our societies’ established assumptions and judgements. A change in our perspective from materialistic to spiritually focused is not just a philosophical exercise, it’s a foundation for happiness.

‘A Childless Couple’ as a phrase annoys me, because of the word ‘less’. We don’t go around saying ‘An Abuse-less Couple’ for married couples who are loving to each other or ‘A Meat-less Couple’ for a married people who are Vegetarians do we? Also the phrase is just plain wrong and misleading!

Ramin and I both have sisters who have children, 3 on one side and 4 on the other. We love these kids. We talk about them all the time. I see elements of myself in the Welsh ones and elements of Ramin in the German ones. Spending time with them is joyful, rewarding and sometimes a bit too noisy (due to our own home being quieter), but I look forward to having their company and I feel I am in exactly the right place at the right time when we are with them.

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Our dear friends Vicky and Tom have two girls, who call us Aunty Fleur and Uncle Ramin. We love them and will always be there for them. I was living with V & T just before their first daughter was born and I have many wonderful memories of carrying her, going for walks with her in a sling and playing with her as a little one. Their second daughter is a joy and together the girls are so exuberantly loving!

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I have many friends with children, some live nearby, some live an hour away, some many hours away. When I see them, I enjoy the children’s company as much as their parents – and I always wonder at the different personalities, physical attributes, enthusiasms for this and that subject in life. I work on how I can be there for them as a trustworthy, spiritually minded adult. Or sometimes I just read stories before bed or sing silly songs to make them giggle.

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I have my own Aunties and Uncles who gave me time and attention, who loved me as a child and who I feel very close to today. One couple in particular, Des and Cynthia, who currently live in China, do not have their own children  – yet this never bothered me as a child. Des is an artist and I remember him painting with me as a child, chatting about life and having long deep conversations with my parents. My impression of him is that he is a laid-back Cowboy who has hung up his boots (even though his family are Irish/English) and I always found him fascinating to be around. When Des and Cynthia come to the UK, they often stay with us for a few days and the connection is just as strong.

The African proverb,  “It takes a village to raise a child” is as relevant now as it was generations ago. In fact I would say even more so in a time when so many loud voices clamour for our attention such as the Media, the passion for Celebrity, the ever-increasing competitive nature of work, play, status and the incredible ability we have to access knowledge. Children need positive examples in their lives, people who can guide them to have spiritual values and overcome tests through inner strength. Aunts and Uncles can be of great support to parents in this capacity. So I see it, as a Aunt that its my responsibility to help every child I come into contact with to shine their light, not only for their own happiness but also for the sake of the whole world. If we don’t help fan the bright flames into life, then we are assured (and can see the evidence in the news) the same capacity for bringing light will be diverted into a capacity for reflecting the lack of light, the darkness.

“Every child is potentially the light of the world,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would argue, “and at the same time its darkness.”

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“Training in morals and good conduct is far more important than book learning,” he said. “The child who conducts himself well, even though he be ignorant, is of benefit to others, while an ill-natured, ill-behaved child is corrupted and harmful to others, even though he be learned.” Of course, he commented, instilling both moral education and book learning in children would be preferable.

“Give them the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote on the subject of child rearing. “Let them share in every new and rare and wondrous craft and art.” Yet he wasn’t suggesting a life of indulgence. “Bring them up to work and strive,” he added, “accustom them to hardship. Teach them to dedicate their lives to matters of great import, and inspire them to undertake studies that will benefit mankind.”

(From 239 Days in America. Click here to read more)

Not being able to have children has perhaps given me a deeper understanding of parental love in that reaching out beyond the immediate family (of my marriage) has caused me to reflect on how every person, with children or not (married or single) has an important part to play in the health and happiness of the village – which in this time in the history of mankind is now the whole world, a global village.  When we broaden the circle of love to the children in the neighbourhood or the region, the country or the continent and finally the whole planet, there are children all around us! Its all a matter of perspective. And just imagine what would transform if we all thought globally, saw every child as our own, loved every child as a member of our family.

So yes, Ramin and I have no children, but we are not childless. It’s our choice about how much we engage with the children that determines how much love we feel and receive back. Of course friends and family who are parents have a more engaged and intimate and I am sure more rewarding as well as testing relationships with their children than we do as Aunty Fleur and Uncle Ramin. Yet our related and non-related nieces and nephews are a very precious part of our lives. And when I think back to all the children who have been part of my drama classes over the years in Scotland or in Sherman Cymru, or who sang in whole-school assemblies with me in Primary Schools in Northamptonshire, or who learned beat-boxing and step-dance with my brother and I in Mien Yang in China, or who learned to be confident and sing their hearts out at the Summer School last year in Romania, I have to ask myself, am I childless? No, I’m child-full.

We are a child-full couple.

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Oh… and we sleep really well every night 😉

Sparkles and Musical stirrings

After encouragement from my friends Vicky and Stephen, my Dad and my husband – I’m back on the ole writing horse and will be posting my thoughts, stories and ramblings here once again. I can’t believe its been an actual whole year since my last post! Time does go past waaaay too fast. Talking about ‘fast’ – it’s The Fast again, the most holy month in the Bahá’i calendar. I always see this time of year as a spiritual and physical re-boot. I find fasting tough but the dawn prayers beautiful and invigorating, I get cold and tired – but also stop and think, pondering where my life is at and what I want to change, develop, transform. I’ve been ill since Monday, so as I’m feeling more or less okay today – I am going to attempt fasting tomorrow and hopefully continue on then until the 20th. I’ll let you know how I get on. Part of me wonders why I’m sharing my thoughts about fasting yet again. Surely I should keep quiet and not tell people if I’ve fasted or not? They would then assume I am fasting rather than being fully aware of my up and down relationship with this Bahá’i law.

However, I think being real with people, especially when it comes to spiritual practices, is important and maybe my experiences will help someone connect to the Fast in a different way, or will at least show that struggling  and staying in the fight, rather than just giving up at the starting post is an important part of the journey.

So it’s now a year and nearly 3 months since my Mum passed into the next world. It’s still an incomprehensible occurrence to me. How can this vibrant, enthusiastic, ever-loving and ever-present woman be dead? Well, of course, she isn’t dead.  She hasn’t stopped, or disappeared or entered a nothingness. She’s very much alive and present, just in another form. I imagine she is like the image at the top of this post, full of vibrant energy and free to be, to go, to do, to embrace, to surround, to sparkle.

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I dream of Mum a lot; she’s always by my Dad’s side and she’s always well (no disabilities) and full of energy. It’s great! I often feel my dream world is more real to me than the conscious reality. It’s like I visit Mum (or she visits me) in my dreams, then I spend time with my Dad when I’m awake.  In fact a lot like that amazing TV programme, ‘Awake‘ with Jason Isaacs (I wish they’d make a second series!) which I found fascinating. Here’s a bit about it from Wikipedia:

“Michael (Jason Isaacs) lives in two separate realities after a car accident. In one reality (where he wears a red wristband), his wife Hannah (Laura Allen) survives the accident; in the other reality (where he wears a green wristband), his sonRex (Dylan Minnette) survives. Michael does not know which reality is “real” and uses the wristbands to differentiate the two….At work, Michael’s erratic behavior triggers clashes with his team; they do not know about Michael’s uncanny ability to solve crimes using details from both realities.”

That’s just the kind of idea I wish I had had, for my book! Such a cool idea.

Anyway… a few things happening in my life right now;

I managed to tidy my study so that it (finally!) works out as a study and a dining area. Only took, what….3 years? Both my violin and my guitar are unpacked and looking at me – hopefully they’ll inspire some music out of me.

Talking about music, I’m now part of a close-harmony singing group with my beautiful friends Kerry and Tessa – we are called ‘Songbirds’ and we’re happy with that name, thank you very much. It will make sense when you hear us. We rehearse more or less every two weeks and are practising for the Naw-Ruz party in Newport on the 22nd March.

Still talking about music, Ramin and I have joined the UK Bahá’i Choir and will take a trip up to Edinburgh, which is very exciting! We are now in the process of learning the songs, slow work for dear Ramin – but great (GREAT) brain-training for him, and excellent patience training for me. If there is anyone out there who would like to join the choir (from any or no faith) then click here and get started! They are still looking for many more members. It’s great fun and singing together is just the best feeling.

Oki-doki, more next time. Hope you are all well – and feel free to add your thoughts and responses to my ramblings. Have a lovely day!

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