Happy birthday Charlotte Church – 24 today.
Erma Bombeck would have been 83 today. We never met, but through her books I felt like she was a friend and I will always be grateful for her writing which makes me laugh and makes me cry.
I first came across her books in San Francisco. When we came across the bookshop I thought I’d died and gone to heaven – three floors of books, comfortable chairs, a cafe, loos and it was open at 10.30pm.
One of the several books we walked out with was Erma’s Motherhood, The Second Oldest Profession. It’s a collection of mostly humorous tales about real life mothers and mothering. But among the funny stories are some poignant ones, including A Special Mother.
It tells of a conversation between God and an angel about choosing which baby goes to which mother.
. . . Finally, He passes a name to an angel and smiles, “Give her a handicapped child.”
The angel is curious. “Why this one, God? She’s so happy”
“Exactly,” smiles God. “Could I give a handicapped child a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.”
“But does she have patience?” asks the angel.
“I don’t want her to have too much patience, or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she’ll handle it.” . . .
It was just a couple of years since our son who’d had multiple disabilities, had died and it moved me, but not as much as the next chapter entitled Ginny.
It tells of a woman bringing her sister a copy of The Special Mother. Ginny who’s son is profoundly disabled, isn’t impressed. But when her sister leaves, she catches her own reflection in a mirror.
She was stunned by what she saw. A thirty-year-old woman with hundred-year-old eyes. Eyes that were dull and listless. Eyes that held no joy. Eyes that looked but never seems to see anything that interested them. Eyes that reflected no life – only pain.
. . . She knelt beside B.J. “Look B.J. there’s something I’ve got to tell you. I’m no saint. It’s important to me for you to know that. I have cursed you for my guilt, my exhaustion and my life. I have questioned why both of us were born. I haven’t figured out yet why He brought us together. I only know there is something special between us . . . I couldn’t bear it if you were not here, or if you had never been. . .
“B.J. I’ve never made any demands on you. I’ve never asked you for anything, but right now, I want you to say ‘Mama’. I know it’s not going to be perfect, but try. Just make a sound. . .
The saliva came out of the conrer of B.J.’s mouth. No sound came forth. then Ginny noticed his eyes. they stared back into hers in a way she had never seen before. They didn’t focus right away, then they looked at her for the first time. . . He knew who she was!
. . .B.J. had just spoken his first word with his eyes. He had called her ‘Mama’.”
This was the first thing I’d come across which expressed the reality of life with a disabled child and even now, more than 15 years after our son’s death, I still can’t read it without crying.
Both of these are still under copyright which is why I haven’t copied them in full. A search for Erma Bombeck, special mother or disabled child will take you to several copies of A Special Mother. I haven’t been able to find a copy of Ginny online.
Nina Simone would have been 87 today.
We were warned that tickets to Oamaru’s annual wine and food festival were selling fast but I kept forgetting to get some when I was in town.
When I finally put it on my list I was too late, they’d sold out.
The organisers then announced there would be 500 tickets sold at the gate this morning but by the time we read about that in yesterday’s ODT we were in Wanaka.
One of the attractions this year is Gin Wigmore, about whom I have to confess I know almost nothing. But it’s always a great day, set in the town’s beautiful public gardens.
Memo to self: get in early next year.
The Animal Welfare (Dairy) Code of Conduct which has been released by Agriculture Minister David Carter provides guidelines for minimum standards which are exceeded on most farms.
Unfortunately a very few farmers don’t treat their stock as they should and the code leaves no doubt about what is required.
The new code covers all areas of dairy cattle management from stockmanship and husbandry practices, to food and water, shade and shelter, and health. This is the first time such a code has been issued.
“It aims to encourage all those involved in the farming of dairy cattle to adopt the highest standards of handling and care,” says Mr Carter.
“Like all codes of animal welfare, this is particularly directed at the worst players in the industry, not the best ones.”
The Minister has asked for separate advice on the long-term housing of dairy cows, like that proposed for the Mackenzie basin, because it wasn’t an issue when the code was being developed.
DairyNZ says the outcome based approach in the code is common sense.
DairyNZ Chairman John Luxton said the new code will strengthen the regard in which our industry is held internationally.
“Our approach to welfare and stockmanship is widely respected because it is backed by the world’s best science, which farmers fund through their DairyNZ industry levy,” Mr Luxton said.
“Our dairy farmers have a history of taking proactive steps to keep ahead of the demands of our international consumers, which is why we have that respect. This code is another positive step.”
DairyNZ Chief Executive Dr Tim Mackle said the major improvement to the new code is its focus on outcomes for animals and the recommended best practices to show farmers how they can keep ahead of minimum standards.
“This new code reinforces the welfare outcomes we want for our cows, without being prescriptive, and it points farmers to recommended best practices.”
There is no excuse for ill-treating animals and unfortunately just one example of less than optimal animal welfare could taint the whole industry. The code will leave no-one in any doubt about what is required and anyone who disregards it will face penalties under the Animal Welfare Act.