Just Zoë, Just Life

Category Archives: Living a Better Life

Just Zoë, Just Life is going on sabbatical. If you would like to get in touch in the meantime, you can contact me here justzoejustlife (at) gmail (dot) com.


  • Exposing children to sexual content before they are of an age to understand is abusive.
  • It is forbidden in schools and colleges, yet your local shop will happily have sexualised images in full view.
  • As the years go by, the pictures are becoming more and more explicit.
  • Exposing children to sexualised content makes vulnerable children more open to exploitation and teaches boys to view the opposite sex as objects.

Click the link to sign the petition. Let’s get explicit ‘Lads Mags’ covered with a modesty wrap.

Incidentally, if you think ‘it does no harm’, that’s exactly what they said in the 70s, when the Paedophile Information Exchange (yes, such a thing existed openly!) got together with the NCCL (now Liberty) to propose that images of childhood sexual abuse were harmless unless it was proven to be causing damage to a child. You may be surprised to learn that this campaign was promoted by none other than Harriet Harman!

While I keep my political inclinations private, this report from The Telegraph  recently was just as shocking as the Savile revelations:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/jimmy-savile/9614516/Jimmy-Savile-Labour-faces-embarrassment-over-former-child-sex-claims.html

You can read more about Harriet Harman and Liberty’s past association with paedophiles here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paedophile_Information_Exchange


The children are away for the week, with my parents. Did you know that the day has twice as many hours in it when there are no children around? Remarkable! 

 

You may have noticed my new facebook page. I left facebook just over a year ago. I was going through a rough patch. Really, all I wanted and needed were real friends. Not fakebook friends.

 

Every time I was on facebook, I would see someone’s post about how light and lovely their life was, or how successful they were in their chosen sphere, or how wonderfully blessed they had been, ‘hallelujah’ (sometimes true, but sometimes boasting). Or it would be utterly, godforsaken, inane babble about whether Bob is going to choose fish ‘n’ chips or curry for tea, or  Betty’s endless posts about kittens doing Awww! Cutesy-wutesy kitteny stuff. Or the posts from Kelly about shoes and being a ‘yummy mummy’ to a perfect baby. Lots of people vying to compare themselves with one another.

 

Then there was the time I was bullied on facebook by classmates while studying for my Access to H.E. Diploma. These were adults resorting to playground bullying. Before I’d even had the chance to say anything, someone had reported it to the college. The would-be bullies were jealous because I’d scored distinction. Pathetic. On another occasion, someone I’d never even met started posting vile things about me. She had mental health problems, which she used as an excuse to be vicious, and expected people to be ok with that because of her ‘illness’ (and many were not only ok, but jumping on the bandwagon). No flippin’ way, José! I spent a decade doing that for the ex-husband and his ‘illness’.

 

Nowadays, some of my real friends are on facebook, but because they’re already my friends, we stay in touch in other ways. And people who were my ‘friends’ on facebook but who made little effort to know me in real life were probably quite relieved when I disappeared. It was a lifeline when I was an isolated single mother with a hyperactive autistic child, but other than that… well, if you like fakebook, good for you, but you get my drift. I left, and I have not looked back.

 

Anyway, today, while revising something on the Just Zoë, Just Life facebook page, I made a mortal error. I began looking up people I used to know, and used to be ‘friends’ with on facebook. Bad move. Even though I couldn’t see people’s ‘timelines’, there was the ‘I got such-and-such a degree at such-and-such a university’, ‘I went to such-and-such school’, ‘I work for such-and-such’. To someone like me, it’s rubbing my nose in how awesome everyone else’s life is, and how mine just hasn’t been, and still isn’t (though it’s a lot better). Even when it’s not how ‘awesome’ someone’s life is, just the fact they’ve had it fairly normal is enough to make me feel unworthy. I haven’t had the chance to do a lot – most – of those things. My youth, my dreams, are long gone, sacrificed through coercion to motherhood (NB my children come first, whether I chose to be a mother or not). Negative thoughts, feelings of envy and ‘why me?’ and ‘I’m different’ began to surface.

 

But I sighed and clicked the little red cross in the top right corner. Because I have learned that I have choices. I don’t choose to continually put myself up for display, ready to be admired or scorned, or anything. I’m just doing my best to be me.

 

Paul, at the end of his letter to the church at Philippi, says, ‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things… And the God of peace will be with you.’  Philippians 4:8,9

 

That’s what I’ve held onto since I left facebook, and it’s done wonders.

 

People seem to exist for the sake of labels sometimes. And for the labelling of those different from themselves. Facebook is the epitome of this! Some labels are helpful, for example my son’s diagnosis of autism. Most are not. They try to control the world by putting people into boxes.

 

The box I struggle with most often is the ‘What a Woman Should Be’ box. This box is everywhere, and filled with a different idea every time (facebook is overflowing with boxes)! There are cultural boxes that say I should work, and that housewives are leeching scum, misogynistic boxes that say all women must be sexually available at all times and should look like Barbie (have you seen the number of young women who look so similar they’re like plastic Barbie clones?), and supposedly-biblical boxes that say I must be a godly woman, who is genetically programmed to enjoy baking, sewing and housework. Either way, the labels on the boxes insist I must be the best woman that I can be.

 

But… I don’t want to bethe best woman that I can be.

 

I want to be the best me that I can be.

 

More importantly, the best me that God made me to be. If God’s the one who dishes out talents, I trust Him to get that right.

 

God made me. And He has given me loads of stuff that I’m good at, and I like doing. I don’t care about shoes (shoes? aren’t they something you wear on your feet so they don’t get cold and wet?) or make-up. I don’t particularly like baking. I don’t like needlework. I really don’t get any satisfaction from housework. I do it because I do it, but I never chose to be a housewife. Being a grown-up means getting on with it. My mother seems a natural housewife, which is great, but it’s not me. I find small-talk a challenge. It bores the pants off me. FlyLady, and a compassionate heart, are the reasons I have success at this job. There’s nothing innate in my DNA.

 

I’m just not a very girly girl. I like maths, music, writing, reading, experimenting with creating natural cleaning products (with a view to beginning a business one day), historical engineering, theology, science fiction… I love talking about big ideas. I really enjoyed the few chances I’ve had to preach, and I know I was good at it. I’ve discovered abilities in myself by way of leadership that I never knew I had. Strengths, a sense of ‘this is where I belong’ and ‘I need to follow this’.

 

I owe it to God, and I owe it to myself, to be the best me that I can be. 

 

What about you? Do you feel that you are the best you that you can be, or are you jumping into boxes because you think you should?


I have just had an interesting encounter with some more of our <ahem> delightful new neighbours. A woman banged on our front door at half past ten at night and loudly demanded that I move my car, “Because it’s blocking the road and no one can get past!”

I was very puzzled by this. When I had parked my car, my dad, who is visiting, dropped the children off from his car and drove straight past me. And his is a big car, so there was definitely room. I walked outside and saw that no, my car remained as it had been, but some great lummocking car had parked right beside mine on the opposite side, effectively blocking the street.

Shouty Lady demanded I move my car. I said I had parked my car before the other one. How long had I lived on the street, she asked, “because everyone knows you don’t park there – it’s illegal!” (indicating my car). I replied, calmly but firmly, that how long I had lived there didn’t matter. I had parked first. I had not parked illegally. Shouty Lady threatened to call the police. I said, still calm but firm, ok, call the police then.

Then another lady, who is the only neighbour to have actually spoken to us since we arrived, came over to me. I don’t know if she was there all along. She spoke gently to Shouty Lady in my defence saying it wasn’t my fault, that the other person had parked wrongly. Shouty Lady continued to threaten to call the police. Kind Lady looked worried, and walked over to knock on another front door, saying to me, “It’s just… they’re not answering.”

“I didn’t park blocking the road.” I said, “I wouldn’t do that.”

“I know you wouldn’t.” Kind Lady said to me.

Grateful for this much, and desiring to stop Shouty Lady from being more and more Shouty, I agreed to move my car. I fetched my keys and pulled away. Shouty Lady stopped threatening to call the police, got into her car and pulled away. As it is a one-way street, at the end I turned right so I could double back on myself. Shouty Lady turned left.

By the time I got back to our street, there was nowhere left to park. My anxious husband was stood outside waiting. I wound down the window and said crossly, “I’ve moved out the way, and now they’ve buggered off all gone – but where am I supposed to park? The only space is two-minutes walk away and it’s dark and I’m not walking on my own in the dark!”

My dear Frank, in his wonderful, gentle way, said, “I’ll lock the door. We’ll only be a few minutes.”

So we hurried round the corner and onto the next street, where I had seen a parking space as I drove past. I hated leaving the children in the house for even a few minutes. If HRH had discovered us gone he might have panicked. He didn’t. We were back in no time. All’s grace, to quote Ann Voskamp.

And funnily enough, all is grace. I had been listening to some wonderful Taizé music just prior to all this. I confess if they’d caught me earlier in the day I may not have been so yielding. So I thanked God for His goodness (I had the Taizé echoing through my head the whole time) and puzzled over the very obvious lesson that had just been demonstrated to me.

I smiled and asked God, “What was that all about?”

And I think I understand the answer. It’s a very pertinent answer to some very pointed questions I have been asking lately. Questions that get right to the heart of what Looking Like Jesus is really like. Here goes:

As Christians, some of us are very good at demanding we are in the right (e.g. the recent petition against the changing of the definition of marriage). The letter of the law backs us up in this belief.

But we forget about kindness.

We forget about mercy. We forget that, although we meet at this point in time, the other person has travelled a very different path in life to ours, even if, right at this moment, they are there, in the same place, at the same time. What was that American Indian expression – something about ‘walking a mile in another man’s moccasins’? Jesus himself says ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’. Am I getting too esoteric here? I’ll try to stay straightforward!

Jesus, when He interacted with people, never let mercy and compassion be overruled by the letter of the law. He knew that none of us – ever – manages to stay sinless. He was the only one. And yet, the One who was always sinless does not act in condemnation and wrath to the sinners he meets, he shows them kindness, warmth, mercy, even the gift of friendship.*

If you are a Christian, consider, for a moment, do you spend more time being right, or doing right?

Can you walk away, even when you know that technically you are not the one in the wrong, because being kind matters more?

 *If you’re wondering who it was Jesus was telling off (because he did go round telling some people off in no-nonsense terms) – it was those who had the outward appearance of godliness, or those in positions of authority, who were not living up to these outward appearances, though they were making sure those lower than themselves were made to pay for wrongs, or their situation in life. I won’t stick myriad bible verses in here – it’s all right there in black and white. If you haven’t read any gospels before, I’d suggest beginning with the Gospel of John, maybe using The Message version, because it is easily accessible http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1&version=MSG.

 

Be blessed 🙂

 

29/10/12

Addendum: After discussion with a trusted friend and Frank, we decided that maybe The Good News Translation is easier to read than The Message, and that the Gospel of Mark, being the most compact, might be better for anyone new to the bible. So here’s a link: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+1&version=GNT


God took a hurting little boy, broken and abused, and made him a hero, saving not just the lives of millions of children, but their hearts too.

It is my deep desire to help change the lives of ever more children. As a Follower of Jesus I believe loving children is just the beginning of the journey.

Compassion is unique in its approach, focusing on the needs of each sponsored child as an individual. You too can be a hero, and change the life of a child. Sponsorship costs less than £5 a week. Click the link to find out more http://www.compassionuk.org/


The boy has been off school for nearly a month. I have been fobbed off again and again by the LA regarding any alternative provision, or any respite. Meanwhile, the Royal ‘Panel’ sit in their magnificent castle, away from the likes of us mere peasants, and occasionally have ‘meetings’ where they get to feel magnanimous as they discuss the fate of Special Needs children. The Royal Panel meet again on Friday when, with enormous largesse,  they may deign to grant my dear boy a place at the local special school. Or they may instruct their handmaid – the caseworker – to fob me off yet again, telling me they have to have another ‘meeting’ to decide to send him somewhere else.

That’s if we last that long. 

It is doing HRH no good to be stuck at home all the time, and it is doing me no good either. I have been valiantly trying to help him learn, while also trying to sort boxes, make the endless moving-house phonecalls, and keep up with the daily treadmill of housework (I hate housework with a passion) but, dear God, the last conversation about carbon monoxide made me almost wish for a faulty boiler.

I lost my temper, though I did not shout. I just said, through slightly gritted teeth, “Ok! Ok! Enough! No more questions about carbon monoxide, or carbon dioxide, or whether it’s going to kill anyone, or whether or not grown-ups are going to talk about you when you’re not in the room. I will talk about you sometimes. I’m your mother. Get used to it. No, I am not going to tell you each and every time I do. The boiler has been checked. We will get a carbon monoxide alarm, but WE ARE NOT GOING TO KEEP HAVING THIS CONVERSATION.”

I paused. Knowing that by heck I needed some time out even if he didn’t, I offered him twenty minutes on his precious wii (which turned into forty). The characters of Animal Crossing don’t mind if he asks the same question over and over and over. I do.

I am also waiting for a phonecall from the police officer investigating my case this morning. That is probably not helping my stress levels either. And I read someone’s lovely blog post about when she had her babies, and it made me want to cry, or smash something – I’m not sure – because I never had any of that. I don’t even have any photographs, because the ex-husband had stored the (innocent) photographs of my babies, my children, with the indecent images. At least, I assume he did because the police, during that investigation, took all the disks and I never got any back. Still makes me nauseated.

Why does this stuff come all at once? 

So I have turned to my Julian of Norwich book, which happened to be sitting beside me, open at the page of one of my favourite passages:

‘He showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, in the palm of my hand, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with my mind’s eye and I thought, “What can this be?” And answer came, “It is all that is made.” I marvelled that it could last, for I thought it might have crumbled to nothing, it was so small. And the answer came into my mind, “It lasts, and ever shall, because God loves it.” And all things have being through the love of God.

In this little thing, I saw three truths: the first is that God made it. The second is that God loves it. The third is that God looks after it.

What is he indeed that is maker and lover and keeper? I cannot find words to tell. For until I am one with him I can never have true rest nor peace. I can never know it until I am held so close to him that there is nothing in between.’

Julian of Norwich, c.1400. From the book Enfolded in Love, containing modern English translations by Sheila Upjohn from Julian’s book Revelations of Divine Love.

My thoughts exactly


I am like this picture this morning. Poor HRH says he doesn’t feel well so has gone back to bed.

The neighbours didn’t shut up until nearly 1am, for the second night in a row, when they were stood in the street outside chattering like monkeys before some of them climbed into cars and drove away (why stand outside, where the sound carries and disturbs even more people than when you’re indoors?). I don’t think they’re exactly partying, or doing anything illicit (which means, in plain English, that they don’t look like chavs, but I don’t want to sound judgemental).

They’re just noisy and it’s doing my head in.

Just a tad.

 

Short of having my own Mr. T., I composed the following. I shan’t send it yet. I need to reflect on whether it says enough, too much, or too little. Any thoughts?

 

Dear Neighbours,

We don’t know your names as we have not had the pleasure of an introduction in the nearly four weeks we have lived here so far, so we can’t apply a better title to this letter. Yet it is almost as if you are part of the family; after all, we hear you through the wall late at night when we are trying to sleep (because we have a young family and have to get up in the morning whether we like it or not, to look after the sprogs and to remain in gainful employment).

May we say how much we admire your commitment to mastering the art of percussion. We hear you practising the drums over and over (and over and over) during the day.

While we can only applaud your enthusiasm, the repetition, nay intrusion – let’s call a spade a spade – of this banging and bashing and clashing and crashing, into our family home, has led to some rather uncharitable thoughts, along the lines of shoving said drumsticks where the sun don’t shine.

Do enjoy your youth and your zeal for life! But don’t do so at the expense of your neighbours. They’re only trying to mind their own business and get on with theirs.

Please invest in some electronic drums with volume control and headphones. Go on, embrace the digital age! Better yet, find a practise room in a building where there are no neighbours – then you can crash-bang-wallop your heart out.

May we also suggest that a teeny tiny 200-year-old house is not the best choice for late night, boisterous gatherings. Do consider buggering off going somewhere else if you must do this. The pub, perhaps. Pubs love loud voices and raucous laughter. Raise a glass to us while you’re there. Cheers! And do bear in mind your neighbours are also living in teeny tiny 200-year-old houses and are thus quite close by whenever you embark on raucous gatherings within the home; a matter of a few feet, in reality.

Godspeed in your youthful endeavours. Just do them a tad more *softly*.

 

Please.

 

Shhhhhhh!

 

Thanks.

 

Yours faithfully

Bleary-eyed Neighbours (who would appreciate some consideration)