Hello. It’s been a while since I posted. I have been preoccupied lately.
When I started this blog I was full of a new optimism. I had an idea of where I wanted my life to go. No matter what obstacles stood in my way, I would confront them head on. I would face them down with my new-found eternal optimism.
I have failed.
I always believed that by being true to myself and others I could take on all of life’s challenges.
Unfortunately I have been stopped in my tracks by a “perfect storm” of events.
Firstly, I separated from my long-term partner. We had an amiable split and remain good friends. Still, it hurt me. But I picked myself up tried to settle back into single life.
Secondly, I got into debt. Not being used to single life, I spent beyond my means. I buried my head in the sand and hoped that it would go away. Obviously it doesn’t work that way and I have had to deal with creditors. Thankfully, they were understanding to my situation and we have come to an arrangement.
Thirdly, my son. Having not had contact with my son in 10 years and after a long legal battle (which also resulted in huge legal fees which contributed to my debts) I had taken the difficult decision to give up the battle and instead would wait for him to come to me, where I would be waiting with open arms. To anyone that knows me would know that I did not take this decision lightly.
I had an encounter with him recently. I was having lunch in a Belfast cafe. As I was leaving I spotted my son. He was with his grandparents. When his grandfather saw me, he pulled my sons head down under the pretence of playing with him. His real reason for doing this was to prevent me from seeing my own son. I was hurt. I left the cafe.
Two weeks later I received a visit from the police. An allegation of harassment had been made against me. It had been alleged that I had stood at my sons table, I pointed in his face and laughed. Upon hearing this I felt sick. That was the last thing I would do! It got worse.
The allegation had not come from the grandparents as I had thought, it had come from my son.
My son is ten years old. He doesn’t even know what I look like. I know he didn’t see me that day thanks to the effort of his grandfather. It left me with the conclusion that my son was coerced into making that allegation. He was coerced into lying to the police, a criminal act. What example are his so-called guardians setting to him?

I could deal with the first two misfortunes. In fact I was dealing with them, and dealing with them well. But the third has knocked the wind from my sails. The feelings of hurt, anger and helplessness have combined to reignite my depression. I don’t blame my son. He is as much a victim in this as I am.

So I’m sorry. I can’t give you a happy ending this time. I wish I could. Truly.

Cakes & Bakes NI

Hi dear readers,

It’s finally time for my insanely late competition. I did promise a back-to-school comp but as usual time ran away from me and I was sucked into a vortex of work in the batcave and several cakes (which I’ll share with you at some undetermined date in the future) However, I have finally uploaded and edited my pictures and it’s time to unveil some baking goodies for you to win.

I’ve been gathering up bits and pieces for several months. It isn’t worth a fortune in monetary terms but I’ve purchased everything myself and tried to pick a mix of fun and useful items. I think any baker would be happy to have really good measuring spoons and some great cutters along with some colourful sprinkles.

This is everything you can win in all its glory.

Allprizes-new

And some close ups of the goodies:
teatowels-new

Funky, baking themed teatowels.

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I can think of no better thing than spending time with my children. When the opportunity arose to spend extra time with my son, I jumped at the chance.
Taking my son out is never without incident as no doubt any parent of an autistic child will tell you. But I want to give my son the opportunities that all other children get. I don’t want him left out. So I took him to see Santa.
He was all excited when I told him who we were going to see. He couldn’t keep still! We queued in line with the other harassed parents and overexcited children. I was a bit apprehensive about how he would react at facing Santa but he was brilliant! He sat on his knee, told him what he wanted for Christmas and posed for his photograph. And then it happened.
Santa gave my son his present. My son looked at the present and burst into tears. Santa, confused, asked what was the matter. He cried even harder. I took my son aside and tried to calm him down. He was so upset. After getting our pictures and finding a quiet spot, I discovered exactly what was wrong.
My son believed that when he met Santa, he would receive what he had asked for Christmas. So when shopping mall Santa handed him a colouring book and crayons, he was not best pleased.
I have a lot to learn when it comes to dealing with an autistic child. I should have explained to my son beforehand exactly what was going to happen. It may have staved off this tantrum but in the end, tantrum aside, it was a great day out and a learning curve for me.

Have you ever googled yourself? Ever been suprised by what you have found? Well, out of curiosity, I googled myself. Or more precisely, I googled the name i use online, JAGWAL. I got this name from a mixture of my surname and the initials of my three sons and therefore I thought I had created a unique identity. After googling the name recently I discovered that it is in fact a Garhwali word from north-east India.

“Big Deal!” I hear you cry. I am sure if you go far back in history you can find any word of today in an ancient language. What suprised me was that I chose this name at random. I had no idea that it existed in a remote part of India. And what it does this ancient word mean? It means The Long Wait.

What I find remarkable is that I am known for my patience. I am known for not reacting to a situation in a volotile manner but in a calm and reasoned manner. In essence I am prepared to wait a long time for a resolution to my problems rather than jump in and make matters worse.

Jagwal. The Long Wait.

It is truly a small world with co-incidences aplenty. There must be some grand design, some higher power pulling us all in certain directions.

I have only just realised that, even though i am now 31, that this is the first time i have lived alone. Until recently i had always shared a home with parents, housemates or a variety of girlfriends. As someone who loves the company of others, i find it remarkable that i enjoy the solitude of my own place so much. It means that i am able to work a lot more on my writing without the interference of family or worklife. As a result, my attempt at writing a novel in 30 days for NiNoWriMo is actually on track!

I’m not saying what i’ve written so far is good by anyone’s standard. But it is being written and for me that is a huge step on my road to recovery. Every year I promise myself I will attempt this project and every year i give up after one or two days. Living on my own has given me the freedom to dispose of the lifestyle I had become used to and create a new lifestyle where I can work, write, have a social life and spend quality time with my children.

As you know, I tend to try to put a positive spin on all the rubbish life throws at me. This time it feels different. This is more than looking at the brighter side, this is being locked in a darkened room and smashing a hole in the wall to allow the light through!

If opportunity fails to knock, build a door.

I have returned from exile. I have been at a low point in my life and I have at times have considered packing it in. But I have responsibilities. I have a son doing his exams, two young kids whom I adore and a son that needs to know the truth about why I haven’t been in his life.
Rock bottom is a horrible place to be. The only good thing about rock bottom is that you can’t fall any lower. The only way is up! And on my rise to the top I will discard anything and anyone who tries to pull me back into the abyss.
Being on my own is quite liberating. The evenings are now my own and I spend some quality time with my kids at the weekend. I am taking part in this years NINoWriMo, trying to write a novel in one month. I tried it last year but with family life I just didn’t have the time. This year I am determined to finish.
The Phoenix has risen again!

It is becoming harder to stay positive in this world. I am doing my best, but unfortunately fate or God or whoever is in charge must take pleasure in pushing my limits.
My partner has decided that she needs a break away from me. She isn’t leaving. I have to leave. Leave my kids and leave my home. For how long? It’s anyone’s guess. My partner has not stopped me seeing the kids. I am hoping it is only temporary.
Meanwhile, since technically I’m single, it’s time to get my groove on again. I’m looking forward to getting drunk straight after work on a Friday. It has been too long!

Shirley-Anne McMillan

Andrew is a local writer who has self-published his first book for children, The Unseen Chronicles of Amelia Black. I met him on Twitter (Yay Twitter!) and I recently asked if I could do an interview with him as I had been researching self-publishing for an essay I’m writing up at the minute.  He very kindly agreed to the chat, and here it is:

The Unseen Chronicles of Amelia Black is a book that you self-published. Could you say a few words about the book?

Basically it’s an adventure story, in the spirit of classic stories and films I grew up with like Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz/Return to Oz, Labyrinth, and countless other Disney films etc. with a bit of a steampunk, comic book hero twist to it.

Right up my street then! There’s a big debate about traditional publishing Vs self-publishing these days. Why did you…

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Hello Everyone,
As most of you know I am on a mission to get the most out of life by living with a positive mental attitude. No matter how much I try, I am failing to put a positive spin on this weeks events.
At the start of the week my beloved partner badly hurt her back. After a trip to the hospital it was suggested that she got plenty of rest and, being the gentleman that I am, I took a few days off work to look after her and our very demanding children. So I emailed my boss and let him know.
A few days later I returned to work only to discover that I had no wages for the previous week. Why? I wasn’t at work to hand in my time sheet. So now my family are suffering due to lack of money.
Throughout my life I have always strived to do the right thing, only to have it backfire on me. I spent years fighting through the courts to see my son only to end up with no son a d a six grand legal bill. I work for minimum wage and cannot afford to lose any amount of money.
I am hoping that this will be resolved soon and of course I will keep you posted on any developments. Hopefully this just happens to me. I do not want you to stop doing the right thing because of my experiences.

Hello Everyone! Once again I am starting a blog post with an apology. I am sorry that I have not had weekly posts as planned. I have been on a two week holiday and I had intended to update this blog from there. However, I had not counted on holidaying in the only remaining 3G/wifi black spot left on the planet. There are Bedouin tribes in the desert whom have more contact with the outside world than I have had over the past fortnight!
Being disconnected from the web is disconcerting at first. After the panic attacks and uncontrollable shaking had subsided I was able to enjoy a fresh outlook on life. I took my holiday on the Antrim coast. To those who have never seen it, the coastline is one of the most beautiful and scenic vistas on the face of the planet. For two weeks I enjoyed long walks on the beach every morning followed by coffee in glorious sunshine. It was heaven!
My passion for fishing has been re-ignited and I am now able to pass that particular skill on to my sons. That was such fun! Going swimming in the sea with the kids was another highlight. Bonding with my autistic four year old over a small dinghy was undoubtably the happiest I have been in a very long time.
But all good things, as they say, must come to an end. The deepening connection between my kids and me, however, is going from strength to strength. I’m back at work and soon they will be back to school. I am determined to keep the momentum of our relationship going!
In other news I still haven’t taken my driving test even though I am more than ready. Time to get the finger out I think! I have applied for a new job as well. I’m feeling very positive about the future.