Separated Reflections

Posted on 29th October 2016 in children/ custody/ debt/ debts/ depression/ divorce/ ex-husband/ family/ money/ only dads/ onlydads

OnlyDadsI’ve been asked to reflect upon the experience of separation, how I handled it and if – upon reflection – I would have done things differently. The whole concept here is along a theme of ‘putting the children first’.

The questions are:

1. What did you do well?

2. What didn’t you do quite so well?

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be?

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today?

I’ve pondered this for a while. It isn’t an easy thing to look back on, and I wanted to be sure that my answers were honest and that I would only go ahead with the post if I felt it could be useful to someone else.

Here’s the thing, when I found myself in this position (out of the blue), I would have been desperate to read this kind of thing, there was literally nothing around at that point to tell me what to do, how to feel, what to think. And although, obviously no one can do any of those things for you, sometimes when you can feel the floor falling away from under you, you just need something, some shred of evidence that someone else has been through this and that they got through it ok.

So, my answers are:

1. What did you do well? Not much I don’t think. I wasn’t in control of my thoughts and so I floundered for a long while, taking advice from people who were ill-equipped to help. I did my level best to put the children first, in terms of caring for them, loving them, trying to retain some normality (some context: the house was being repossessed, my partner of 10 years had run off with someone he’d known for 2 weeks, I uncovered huge amounts of debt, my parter decided he needed to put his new relationship first, i.e. before the children). So retaining normality was hard, I was an emotional wreck with very little (almost zero) support but I tried to keep up with bedtime stories, walks, collecting leaves, play dates (while I sobbed in a supportive friend’s kitchen), and, I tried to facilitate my ex seeing the children. He would make plans, then cancel at the last minute, but I would still allow for new plans the following week and explain to my confused babies as best I could.

Actually, a better answer to question 1 would be:

It isn’t about you. It isn’t about your bruised emotions, your confusion, your pride or your finances, it is about the children. The innocents who need to be protected from as much of the impact as possible.

2. What didn’t you do quite so well? This little question is deceptively hard. I think I’ve touched upon a few things above so I am going to say that I should have sought better legal advice. I had a trainee solicitor who essentially told me I was screwed. She was no help to me emotionally or practically and as such I lost my home, my children lost their home and many possessions and I ended up responsible for a huge amount of debt. I don’t think I’ve heard of many other people who were dealt such a poor hand in this situation.

3. If you were to give one piece of advice to a parent going through separation what would it be? Time is a healer. Have faith that your personal wounds will heal and that the best thing you can do is invest time (not money/gifts etc) but time with your children. Make them feel loved and secured. If your ex is willing to have regular contact with the children, let them! Do not get caught up with petty arguments, point scoring and playing the blame game, let them feel loved by the two people who should love them.

4. How have the decisions you made then affected the life you are living today? I have a great life now but that is no reflection upon things at that time. If I go back say 6 months after he left, it is a very different picture. Then I was homeless, in debt, with very little support, even from the ‘system’. I was offered a, frankly, terrifying B&B (one room for all 3 of us, sharing a bathroom with strangers, you cannot be in the B&B during the day), which was in a completely different town to our old home, the children’s school and friends. At this point I literally couldn’t afford tea bags and toilet roll.

Now, the children don’t hear from him, he hasn’t seen them for at least 6 years (and the last time was for an hour even though he was meant to have been having them overnight). I still find that I beat myself up about the fact they don’t have a relationship with him – which is the main reason it has taken me so long to respond to the request to answer these darn questions!). I have to remind myself that it isn’t my fault he doesn’t see them, I have to remind myself that no matter how reasonably one person acts, no matter how easy they make it for another person to do the right thing, it doesn’t mean that they will. I am not responsible for his lack of responsibility.

One final piece of advice. When I was going through a particularly testing time, I decided that I needed some independent advice. Initially I went online thinking I was looking for a mums support group, or Homestart or Gingerbread, but I soon came to the conclusion that I needed to hear from a MAN. Someone who would be guaranteed not to be biased to my viewpoint, and that (along with being the reason why I am answering these questions) is how I ended up contacting OnlyDads and subsequently received some reasoned, grounded and sensible support from a man called Bob.

 

You Should Visit Wood Green #CharityTuesday

Posted on 27th September 2016 in #charitytuesday/ animal rescue/ animals/ cat/ cat rescue/ poke/ Pokemon/ Pokemon Go

Screen Shot 2016-09-25 at 15.31.05Being as I am a *keen animal lover (*nutty, passionate, talks to animals etc etc), it should come as no surprise to you to learn that I tend to get my pets from rescue centres.

What I want to share with you today is that you shouldn’t just go to your local rescue centre when you are searching for a replacement for Tiddles, rather you should go there as an enjoyable day out and an opportunity to teach children about the amount of care pets need.

20160917_190417My local rescue centre, Wood Green, has really embraced the idea of engaging with visitors and welcomes people onto its wonderful grounds for many reasons.What can you expect to find? In addition to a wide variety of animals hoping to be rehomed (dogs, cats, ferrets, sheep, pigs, horses, chickens, alpacas, mice, gerbils, rats, reptiles etc) you will find a well stocked shop, a friendly cafe with oodles of gluten free items, toilets, free car parking, a memorial garden, beautiful grounds to walk in and even a wedding area!

They also hold regular events in their arena – dog shows, craft fairs etc. Coming up soon they have a sponsored fire walk and they recently held two very successful #PokemonGo evenings, making full use of their 5 pokestops, gym and abundance of Pokemon (including Charmander, Blastoise, Polliwag and Dratini to name but a few).

IMG_20160924_154307So if you fancy somewhere different to take your children, are looking for elusive Pokemon or just somewhere beautiful to enjoy a cup of tea – head over to Wood Green animal shelter.

As for my pets, well I currently have Max and Chopper who both came from Wood Green.

You can read more about Max’s adventures here.
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How To: Change Your Pokemon Go Username

Posted on 31st August 2016 in Games/ Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go MenuYes, you really can change your Pokemon Go username but be warned, you can only change it ONCE so choose very carefully!

It’s dead simple. First you hit the menu button (the red/white ball at the bottom of the screen.)

Then you click on the settings gear (the flower/wheel at the top right of the screen.)

From there you just click to change your name :)

Think carefully, remember, you can only change it ONCE. Try not to include your real name.

Play safe and have fun!

Pokemon Go Settings

 

Can A Peg Cure Your #Migraine?

Posted on 9th June 2016 in health

PegYes, you read that right – a peg. A humble, cheap, readily available peg!

A colleague of mine recently told me of a time when she had to attend an important engagement but awoke with a horrendous migraine with slurred speech and couldn’t even sit up to take her medication. Out of desperation she asked her husband to google ‘magic’ cures and he discovered a claim that placing a peg on your ear lobe will reduce a migraine.

Sure enough, he placed the peg on her ear and within 10 minutes she was able to take her medication and have a shower. She says the migraine hadn’t gone but it had subsided sufficiently to allow her to function. She was able to attend her engagement and attributes this entirely to the peg, which, incidentally, she kept on for the whole day skillfully hidden under her hair!

Another colleague of mine claims that a daith piercing has cured her migraines completely. Prior to having the piercing done she was experiencing daily migraines and the Dr had referred her for a brain scan but since having it done she says that she hasn’t even had a headache, let alone a migraine.

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It’s so simple that it is surely worth trying – can a peg cure your #migraine?

CMS / CSA – Update

Posted on 31st May 2016 in boys/ children/ CSA/ divorce/ ex-husband/ parenting

In February of this year, my case with the CSA was passed on to the new CMS (Child Maintenance Service). This was purported to be the new and improved version of the CSA…

Having still not heard from them, or received any payments, I rang them today for an update. Unsurprisingly, the update is that nothing has happened. You may recall that in March they advised me I would begin receiving payments from the 1 April and that as expected the 1 April came and went without any payment arriving, as did the 1 May and I would imagine the 1 June will be equally devoid of payment.

So today I have phoned them to query what is happening and why they haven’t responded to the two letters I have sent them. The answer is that they sent payment details to my ex and that he hasn’t responded. As to why they’ve ignored my letters, well they ignored that question.

As a result of my phone call the case will now be referred to the direct collections team who will, in their own sweet time, write to my ex again and give him 14 days to respond. They will then write to him again and warn him that if he doesn’t respond with 14 days of this letter that he will be referred to the deduction of earning team.

I can only guess what happens at that point… I would place my bets on it being either a) nothing or b) they write to him and give him 14 days to respond.

So, since transferring to the CMS in February they have established that my ex IS in employment and that he SHOULD be paying but they’ve done nothing to make that happen.

Also, with the CSA a substantial amount of arrears had accrued. When the case was transferred to the CMS I was asked if I wanted the arrears wiped off or if I wanted them transferred to the CMS (yes, I really was asked that question), needless to say I asked for them to be transferred. However, the CMS have no record of the arrears. Apparently they are now a separate issue and will be transferred at some point in the future at which point the CMS will write to my ex and ask him to pay…

Consequently, my advice to anyone who is being transferred to the Child Maintenance Service is to keep on top  of them, set yourself diary reminders to chase them up as they do absolutely nothing without continual prompting.

I am now off to write to the CSA to ask them where the arrears are and why they haven’t been transferred to the CMS!

 

Week 1 with #FitBit

Posted on 6th April 2016 in health

FitBit weekly stats

I was a little dubious about FitBit and whether it was just a fad for which the novelty would soon wear off. However, I bought my partner one in February and he is still obsessed with it, as is a colleague of mine, so I’ve been ever so sheep like and followed suit!

I now have a FitBit Charge HR and have quickly become disturbingly reliant on knowing what my heart rate is Week one statsand how many flights of stairs I’ve done – did you know that if you carry something upstairs then it doesn’t get recorded. (Yes, this has resulted in me then running back down the stairs empty handed so that I can run up them again and get it added to my daily tally…)

FitBit very kindly sends you a weekly roundup of your stats and some of mine for this week are shown on the right.

I have found FitBit to have a sense of humour as every day when I take it off of charge (I charge it while I am in the shower so as not to miss too many valuable steps!) it displays a little message on the screen! So far I have had:

Step Geek

Bon Jour

Hi There

Climb On

Hold Me

Rock On

Also, and it’s worth pointing out here that I haven’t been actively dieting, I have lost 3lb this week which can only be from all the additional steps. I am genuinely impressed to note that I’ve done nearly 50,000 steps and I know that it would probably be half that amount if it weren’t for the #FitBit making me want to hit my daily goals.

 

Child Maintenance Service – not impressed!

Posted on 5th April 2016 in break up/ bullying/ children/ CSA/ debt/ family

money in a binHaving suffered at the hands of the CSA I was actually quite pleased to hear that a new child maintenance service was being set up. Not so naiive as to believe that they’d be able to retrieve any payments from my ex-husband, obviously, but I did feel a glimmer of hope that they might have a more professional approach and greater powers available to them.

I was wrong.

It took an inordinate length of time for me to be able to transfer to the new service. This isn’t optional by the way, they just close your existing CSA case on an arbitrary date and unless you set up a new account with the CMS then that is the end of that and your ex gets away Scott free.

So, I jumped through the various hurdles to set up the new account and was advised during these conversations (it doesn’t take just one phone call, obviously) that they would take over and start afresh. As such I was asked if I wanted the arrears to be carried over or wiped off? Seriously, does anyone elect to wipe them off?!

Anyway, back to now, finally, finally, in March I received notification that they had decided what payments should be made and that I would receive the first payment on April 1 (I know, I know). Needless to say no payment has arrived. So I’ve phoned them today (twice, as the first time I failed their security questions…) and discovered that they felt I should have provided my ex-husband with my bank account details.

I should have given the man who has committed fraudulent acts, left me homeless and in debt, stolen from me and my children and my family, been abusive and has no regard or respect for me or my property – I should have given that man my bank account details?

Besides the fact that they had never asked me to do this and had, in fact, in January advised me that they would not expect me to do this given our history. Which the guy I spoke to today agreed was in the case notes, but said it was wrong and that I should never had been told it.

Their suggestion now is that I open a new bank account purely for receiving CMS payments. I asked if they’d actually had any contact with my ex and had any agreement that he would make payments? No, they said, but we have to give him the chance to.

Because 12 years of dodging payments isn’t enough of chance is it; let’s give the fella one more go huh.

Find Jessie A Home

Posted on 15th November 2015 in cat rescue/ cats
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Beautiful Jessie

Could you offer Jessie the ‘naughty torti’ a loving home?

She is about 18 months old, petite, spayed and very affectionate.

In true torti style though she does like to be an only cat and she does nip so will need to be with an experienced owner.

I have met Jessie myself and found her to be an absolute sweetie, very keen to be stroked, tried to get on my lap and had an intelligent engaging face. She did nip me a few times but it was more playful than aggressive and I think it’s just her way of saying no. She did immediately turn around to be made a fuss of again.

If I didn’t already have 2 cats I would happily have taken her home!

Personally I would say this is all part of her charm and an experienced owner wouldn’t find it a problem at all, however she wouldn’t enjoy being around young children.

She is currently at Peterborough Cat Rescue, do get in touch with them if you think this cheeky girl could be for you. DSC_1113

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Old Smokey 100WCGU Week #174

Posted on 10th November 2015 in #writingworkshop/ 100WCGU
Old Smokey

Old Smokey

Sheila had wept when she saw the damage. However innocently done, the heating engineers had killed her beloved smokebush.

David had planted Old Smokey when they first bought the house back in 1987 but now both he and the plant were gone.

This had been August last year yet still she mourned the loss of the plant, and her husband, each day as she walked past.

Unbeknown to Sheila, today, as the front door closed, an unseasonably warm breeze caused a flutter that gently rifled the leaves of a tiny smokebush sprouting from the ground.

~ ~ ~

Thank you for reading my entry in this week’s 100WCGU – the theme was the photograph that I have named Old Smokey.

To read other entries or to enter yourself, please visit Julia’s blog here.

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