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Barleylands Fun Walk (Year 3!)

Yes, that’s right, we are at it again!

This year the event falls on the 22nd of May, and whilst I am excited to announce that it is our third year doing it to raise money for St Luke’s Hospice, it sadly means three years have passed since Oliver lost his father.

Those who know us personally already know our story, but for those who don’t I will briefly explain: in 2012 I got together with a friend, I had just come out of depression and had gained a significant amount of weight, and he had a brain tumour. We both considered ourselves a bit broken. We were good friends who knew each other well, we knew each others flaws but were happy in one another’s company. Then I fell pregnant. I was faced with heartbreaking news that he had kept from me, the prognosis would see him live no longer than a year to eighteen months; our unborn baby would not know his father. Despite advice to terminate and judgemental friends worried for my future, I decided to keep our baby and we would just plan well and try to sort out as much as possible. I am glad I did.

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Look at him now! (Gorgeous, right?)
Oliver entered the world 4 weeks early at 5lb 15oz and although he needed a week in special care, he was okay. Within the space of four months, Oliver lost his Nanny and his Father, but during those months a great deal of support came from St Luke’s Hospice – especially for myself. Phonecalls to staff if I needed someone to talk to, infact simply just knowing they were there was an incredible comfort to myself – this is without all of the prior work they did supporting my late partner and mother in law, in hospital and at home.

So where are we now, three years on? Well I am back working, I have my dream job. Oliver is three and can read and write, he has very particular interests such as letter formation and phonic segmenting and blending, he loves Thomas and can recite lines from his favourite films during play. He has started pretending to “call daddy”, as it is something he sees peers doing and thinks he should be doing, but as far as he is concerned “Daddy lives with the stars and the moon” (although recently he reminded me people live in houses and Daddy can’t live in a star or a moon, so must be on an aeroplane!).

The most important thing is, he is happy (most of the time!).

So as always, we will be doing to Barleylands Fun Walk to raise money for St Luke’s Hospice and to remember Chris. This year however will be a little bit more special because it will be the first year Oliver knows he had a Daddy and that he was too poorly to stay with him, it will be Oliver’s first year of doing it to remember his Daddy. We chose this event because it’s fun, there’s no pressure to run several kilometres that will undoubtedly cause me pain, and we can do it together!

We do have a justgiving page, if you’re able to sponsor Oliver, that would be incredible – if not simply sharing my page and our story being told, I would be grateful for.

OUR JUSTGIVING PAGE!

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2015.

Wow, what a year.

I spent the first 6 months miserable and self-loathing. I was a size 14, which is really quite big for me when prior to pregnancy I sat at a size 8; and I was physically unfit. I could barely walk to the end of the road without getting a stitch and being out of breath – when you have a toddler this is not an option! I also felt as though being the widowed single Mum had run it’s course, friends and family tapered off and stopped asking if I was alright or how I was doing. I mean, I’m grateful that I’m not constantly being checked up on, but it felt like a little nudge as if to say “suck it up and move on!”.

So I needed to better myself. I looked in the mirror and hated myself. I probably have a mild case of body dismorphia, and that’s recognised, but I have a line of acceptability and I am able to be realistic. I decided to cut out sugar (bad sugars, not the natural ones!), and increase the fats and protein, and after 4 months of walking lots and being really mindful of my eating and my tendency to over indulge; I am now a size 10 and weight nearly 2 stone less than I did before..

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A massive achievement for me and I am really proud of myself because I have very little willpower to stick to something long term and it was harder than when I quit smoking, but I got there!

Halfway through my weightloss challenge I decided that after Christmas I would apply for jobs, but that I would keep an eye out on the local council/schools page for vacancies; working in a school was the ideal job for me as it would make childcare much easier, I was thinking along the lines of administration or lunch assistant jobs; and then my dream job came up. Armed with nothing but transferable skills and good penmanship, I went for it. I didn’t expect an interview but I got one. The job was filled internally but I was offered the applicants old position, which was just a few less hours! Childcare has been a massive hurdle and the distance is a little far (meaning I work 16hrs but my son is in childcare for 30+hrs) but it is SO worth it, I have a future ahead of me that Oliver might one day be proud of.

From those two things alone I have gained happiness, positivity, strength and I feel like me again! I am no longer on benefits (which doesn’t define a human being but it really bummed me out because people pre-judged me) and financially I can afford to treat both of us a little more, as well as friends and family who have supported us throughout (there’s nothing more humiliating than not being being able to offer to pay the bill when a group of you go out for lunch!).

Although the first 6 months were what I would call a right-off, I have spent lots of time this year with good friends and people that I love. I have met new little humans this year and I have said goodbye to an old friend. I have watched some hearts break whilst others made complete. I have spent the last few days of 2015 with my beautiful godson and goddaughter; and the icing on the cake for me was seeing my best friend yesterday for the first time in 18 months. I felt reassured that it doesn’t matter how long you go without seeing someone, you never stop caring, and it doesn’t erase the years and good times prior.

I can enter 2016 truly happy.

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Coming off of benefits (and an open letter to Iain Duncan Smith)

£30,576.

That is the sum of money I have received from the pocket of the taxpayer. Do I have any regrets being on benefits? Well I didn’t actually have a choice (although one person at the local council offices suggested I should have terminated my pregnancy). I tried to apply for widowed parents allowance, but was refused on the grounds that myself and Chris weren’t married. If I had been awarded this ‘benefit’, which is infact NI contribution based and is what would have been Chris’ state pension, not a taxpayer funded benefit; I would have been able to return to work when Oliver was 1. The £400 odd per month would have covered childcare and travel costs for the year, until which time his 2 year funding came into play (and at which point anything extra was a bonus for Oliver, whom it is intended for).

I actually spoke with the local MP about this matter, who in turn was as useful as a chocolate teapot, but he did write to Iain Duncan Smith regarding my questions, which are as follows;

Why is Oliver not entitled to the money based solely on us not being married? We live in a modern world where we are accepting more and more into our daily lives, but the hand down of a man’s pension once he dies still relies on holy matrimony. Now I believe that every man and woman should support their children equally, but for argument sake, men are made to pay for children of whom they often don’t have contact with, some with zero parental rights by law – but my son; who’s father is on his birth certificate, who provided for him and loved him until his untimely death, doesn’t get widowed parents allowance because our government are still playing out ancient traditions to advantage themselves. Which leads me to my next question…

Where have Chris’ NI contributions gone? No one has inherited them so the government have gained out of mine and my son’s loss.
And another way they used our loss to their advantage, when I first applied for housing benefit (upon his death the house became his ex wife’s, so she technically was my landlord), I was told that I couldn’t claim and live in that house because it once belonged my son’s father and it was too close a connection.

So, Iain Duncan Smith, explain to me this, why are you and your government on one hand acknowledging Chris as my son’s father, when it means you don’t have to pay out housing benefit, and then in the next breath denying their relationship when again, it means you don’t have to pay out?

I know you responded to the MP, and I’m grateful (in my best sarcastic tone) for all of your time, but a copy and paste of your gov.uk page is the biggest load of crap I’ve ever received through the post (and I live in an advantageous cold calling area). You don’t answer my questions. You don’t explain why your government has contradicted itself on two occasions when it has come to receiving money I’m entitled to claim for.

I hope you are happy with yourself, sir, because for stealing Chris’ pension you have stung the taxpayer with a bill of over £30k for me to sit on my backside for two years.

I have found a job, a career, now that my son receives 15 funded hours; but know this, I have struggled for two years, I have lost my social life and my self confidence. Not all single Mum’s have parents to palm their kids off on. That extra £400 would have given me my life and soul back after I cruelly lost the man I loved when our son was 4 months old. I understand that a line has to be drawn somewhere, I accept that; I understand that there will always be a minority you cannot “group” or attend to, but that doesn’t justify stealing a man’s hard earnt pension! I would be intrigued to know just how much there was, how much Oliver has missed out on.

Let’s do some math!

Current rate of WPA is £112.55 per week. It is paid until the child is 16 years of age, that would be £5852.60 per year – a total of £93641.60.
That is A LOT of money, but more importantly, it is money that Chris has paid into the system, not the taxpayers.
Instead, in just TWO YEARS I have cost all of you hard working people out there over £30,000!!

Where is the sense in that?

So, thank you to every tax payer out there who has helped me when I so desperately needed it, thank you for supporting me and my son, for keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table. To the government and tax man who stole from my partner and his little boy, shame on you. I will never forgive you for taking my soul and confidence and squashing it between your greedy little hands.

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Soul mates.

“A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master…”  

―Elizabeth Gilbert