Never been a fan of rollercoasters

Life Is A Rollercoaster

I’ve been on a few – nothing as extreme as the ones you get nowadays at Alton Towers etc but I have done some pretty big ones… but I don’t actually *like* rollercoasters. The constant ups and downs and loops and turns, well, it turns my stomach just thinking about it.

Ronan Keating sang a song “Life is a rollercoaster” – and yes, I’m fully aware how sad it is that I know this and I can even sing bits of the chorus. This week has been one of those weeks when that song has been so true.

There’s been some great highs – work in particular has been good and actually fairly exciting and productive in the most part. There’s also been some lows – parenting “challenges” and problems with my back, neck and arms.

In all honesty it’s one of those kinds of weeks where I could shout “I’m King of the World” one minute, and take a long drive off a short cliff the next.

It’s all part of “the journey”, and it’s life. But sometimes….

The Nuances of Pain


Pain. It comes in varying degrees and the severity is very much a subjective thing. It always makes me laugh when doctors ask for you to quantify pain levels on a 1 to 10 level as the results will differ for each person and can depend on a huge number of variables (and yes, I appreciate that they are trying to guage how the pain is affecting *you* at the time rather than comparing it to other people)

As I’ve written here just once or twice, I have fairly major issues with my spine. So much so that in 2010 I underwent major surgery on my cervical spine (the neck) and now have a neck that is made from titanium and polymer. As the surgery took place several years too late I live with daily pain, a high dosage medication regime, and a constant mental excercise to “manage the pain”

It’s that last phrase that people often can’t wrap their heads around. You can manage people, situations, finances (well some people can anyway!), physical objects – but how can you manage pain? The hardest part is that you can’t explain it easily – managing pain is a mental process for keeping pain compartmentalised and locking it away in a part of the brain. Doing something mental with something physical is a strange concept. But it works.

Well, to a degree.

Over a period of time it is possible to manage regular pain levels, the day to day pain, to an extent that you are in constant pain but you aren’t as aware of it. By that I mean that it’s not that I don’t feel it it’s just that I put my focus on everything apart from that.

This is constant. It’s something that I do subconciously, but all the time. And it’s tiring. It takes effort, energy and focus that drains you.

Day to day it’s manageable. Where it has a bigger effect is in those times when the pain is greater than normal, or when there is more pain through a different injury. More pain requires more mental effort, which increases the levels of tiredness. This then leads to the other “side-effect” of putting in more mental effort in that I am more irritable, I can snap at people without meaning to and my interactions with folks are more tense.

I try not to snap at people, but I can’t switch off the pain management – if I did, I’d be crying on the floor. So the alternative is trying to keep the pain isolated whilst being normal. And all the while this is making me more and more tired.

As I get more tired, the pain management becomes harder to do because I’m mentally shattered.

Can you see the vicious loop?

It’s only once the pain has levelled off again that I can start to become more rested and can begin to become human again – but, depending how long the peak of pain lasts, that can take a good week or two to fully get back to normal levels.

I’m not writing this to get sympathy or to ilicit any sort of response really – to be honest this is mostly my way of documenting for myself what I go through. For the past 6 days my lower back has been playing up, nearly crippling me with the pain at times and, although the pain is easing off a bit, I’m now getting to that latter part. I know that some people won’t fully understand that, even though the pain is lessened, there is still a long process that is likely to kick me for at least a week now.

Chronic pain isn’t just about the physical, there’s much more to it. And sometimes it can really stink.



At Church this week we sang a song by Jules Burt, Paul Oakley and Sam Cox. We were in the middle of a time of worship where I really felt connected to God and then we sang these lyrics:

You’re all I want, You’re all I need
Jesus my love, my everything

All of a sudden I couldn’t actually sing any more. I started praying and my stomach churned as my heart felt ten times heavier. I realised that I couldn’t just sing those lyrics – I had to mean them. The question that was making me feel the way I was was did I really mean them?

Can I honestly stand there and say that Jesus is my everything? Can I really say that He is all I need?

It’s not a simple question when you get to the root of it. Can I really say that I need nothing, and no one, more than Jesus. Above my wife, and above my children. Above the roof over my head and the food on my table.

Each morning I listen to a podcast called “The Daily Audio Bible” which takes you through the Bible in a year – a great way to spend the morning commute and the perfect way for me to start my day. The Old Testament readings this last couple of weeks have been coming from the book of Job and I found myself wondering if I would respond in the same way if, like him, everything was stripped away completely. He lost his wife, his children, his home and his business. Yet still he wouldn’t turn away from God, and he never let go of his trust in God’s judgements and righteousness.

Would I do the same? Surely that’s the ultimate test of those lyrics?

I started typing this immediately as the words were weighing on me, and the worship had moved into a more meditative and prayerful time. When Andrew, one of the leaders of the Church, stood up to speak I stopped to listen and found myself laughing at the way God works. Andrew was saying exactly what I was typing. His words echoed mine as he said “Can we stand there and say that Jesus is our everything? Can we say that He is all we need?”

I ended up singing the lyrics as a prayer and a hearty cry – that I would get to the point where Jesus is all I want and all I need… and where He is my EVERYTHING.

Because, in all honesty, I can’t say that’s where I am right now.

Boxes and Brushes

boxes & brushes

It’s finally happened! On the 12th of July we actually moved from Stamford to Rugby – and the process that was kicked off 5 years ago reached its culmination. With delays occurring even up to the day of the move it proved to be a stressful and nerve-wracking time and not an experience I plan on tackling again anytime soon.

Before I go any further I have got to give a huge shout out of THANKS to everyone who helped us in getting the house in Stamford sorted, packing done, vans loaded, moving in, unloading, unpacking, cleaning, tidying, sorting out DIY etc and anything and everything else. We have managed to achieve a huge amount in the last month and a bit and it couldn’t have been done without the help of family and friends.

Since we moved in we’ve done a lot of work in getting things done – particularly focussing on the kids bedrooms which are now both decorated, unpacked and looking remarkably good. Of course, we did all the sorting out and now the rooms are looking very typical of a boys room and a teenagers room (no visible floor space and you wouldn’t believe that we’d done any tidying up or sorting out!)

Being a techie I have, of course, got some priorities right in sorting out the networking, tv’s, sky, internet and general connectivity 😀 A key focus of all my latest tech setups has been working to try and improve overall functionality whilst reducing the overall impact on our electricity bills – not always the easiest thing to balance out but I’ve at least now started a process that will hopefully allow me to meet the demands of a modern household without fattening the wallets of the power companies too much (boy do I wish there were more eco grants available for solar and wind generation as I’d willingly pop some panels on our roof and a couple of micro turbines)

I had a chat with Mrs H just before we moved and explained that it wasn’t the house I was going to miss in Stamford as it was, put bluntly, an ex-council mid-terrace house with 4 walls and an a-frame roof – what I was going to miss was the people and the places. That’s proven to be true – I really miss some of the people there even though it’s only been a month and a bit. Thankfully we’ve managed to catch up with some folks and even had the weather for a barbeque.

The new house, in contrast to our old one, is one I can see me falling in love with. The house is quirky and full of character, we’ve never seen another house like it. There’s room galore in it so that we can each have our own space and don’t get under each others feet. Everyone who’s seen it has been shocked when they see just how much room it does have as, from the front, it doesn’t look like it’s a big house at all. Quite the opposite in fact as it looks really small from the front aspect. I find myself regularly looking at different areas of the house, garden or workshop (yes, there’s a man cave at the bottom of the garden) and smiling when I realise just how good the house is – and always sending another “thank you” upstairs as there’s no way we’d have got this house without some divine nudging along the way.

The other big thing about the move has been the whole process of trying to get settled in to the area and making new friends. Thankfully God has been ahead of us all the way and there’s a family in the church who live just at the bottom of the hill and we’ve clicked quite well with them. Everyone has been really welcoming and friendly and things will get a bit easier once the kids start at school/college and make more friends and get settled in to a routine a bit more. It’s not the easiest of things for me as I’m not particularly comfortable in new groups and can easily shy away from people – once I get to know folks and get settled it, well that’s a different story… but getting to that stage is a major challenge for me and is something I’m having to try and face head on.

So now it’s time to put down some roots, get settled in, and get ready for whatever we’re called to do. Rugby – you’ve been warned, the Hartleys have arrived! 🙂

A Frantic Serenity

Frantically Serene

(Sadly I’m not talking about a rush to make more episodes of the total excellent and criminally cancelled Joss Whedon series!)

Swimming gracefully on the still waters of a Lake floats the swan – looking serene and peaceful as it loftily looks down on the activity going on around it. As we know though, this is an image that belies the true level of activity going on and is merely an illusion hiding the churning waters underneath. The swan is in fact paddling like mad.

Four days after all the surface chaos that was taking place to secure our new home (pending all surveys etc…) things would appear to be like the swan. We’re waiting for solicitors, surveys, mortgages etc with the whole process taking anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks.

Any rumours of being able to take a few days to relax, breathe, and catch up are greatly exaggerated as we have found that we are unbelivably frantic – sorting out schools (primary, secondary and 6th form), trying to collate a list of all the services etc that we’ll need to contact, filling in forms and paperwork a-plenty. Then there’s trying to enjoy the experience by planning how we can layout rooms, what decorating we can do and in what colours, and trying to fully engage and excite the kids so that they can make the most of this and can create fond memories of this time.

Tomorrow we’re taking them all to see the new house, the first time they will have seen their new rooms other than via pictures on rightmove. It should hopefully prove to be fun for them and will provide us with more of a chance to map out more of the house – all the essentials such as power sockets, tv points, telephone sockets (all important things for a geek like me :-D)

Soon, thoughts will turn to packing up what we have at home (having done a load of packing last year in order to de-clutter the house) and making plans for the logistics etc…

This swan is going to keep on swimming 🙂