Miracles of Love

I need a miracle.

In the last year, or maybe in my recent life, I’ve fallen into my bed many a night and asked for a miracle. Asked for Charlie and Skye to have better health, that their lives wouldn’t be filled with so many trials and tribulations. I’ve begged God, whoever he may be, to cure my mother who is deeply tortured by mental health issues. I’ve closed my eyes and asked him to let me live when I was seconds from dying. Now, I’m not sure if it was God who saved me, or if it was my ridiculously stubborn will power but here I am; just being here isn’t the miracle though I think it was the details that saved me.

When I was taken into casualty I was assigned a specialist stroke nurse who was strong willed, feisty and spoke when I couldn’t. I will never forget her whispering in my ear ‘if you take this drug you will die’; I didn’t take it and I lived. Her love, care and compassion was my lifeline in my darkest hour. There were so many micro-miracles that its hard to place them all in my foggy memories; the joiner who installed a tone of rails in my house free of charge, the food which just appeared to feed my children and the constant love which would fall on me when I would least expect it.

Earlier in the year I took a trip to Italy, I went alone and spent so much time in reflection, my wee mum is sick; she is so poorly I often wonder how she opens her eyes every day. It was in Italy during some of the quietest moments of my life that I begged for a miracle. I wanted my mum to be able to annoy me again, to tell me my fake tan was too dark, to instruct me on the art of laundry or to simply sit in my home watching me live my life. Instead of feeling miraculous the allegations of sexual harassment started to tumble out across Scotland, and while far away from everyone I loved, my own memories were swirling around my brain like a storm of dark nightmares. I started to get sick. My face started to freeze and I was miles away from home. There was a night which was so dark that I wondered how much more of life a person could take when the mountains seemed so inexplicably high. I told the young hotel owner that I would be taking to my bed for a day or so and not to worry if he didn’t see me, I explained that I had been sick and I needed a rest. At eleven that night there was a loud bang on the door and his mother instructed me to drink some holy water for my pain, it wasn’t the water that brought me back to life it was her love and kindness. The next morning when I opened the shutters I kept thinking that I had been missing the answers all along. Nothing was exactly as I had planned in my life, but being so deep in my own worry had led me to miss the amazing things that happen around me every single day. I was having my own personal pity party.

I’ve recently got to know a young mum of three, a care experienced girl who beat the system and got her degree; was married and pregnant when her world came tumbling down around her. Husband left, rent was too high, benefit cuts too deep to let her survive. My sister took this family into her heart and she told me that they would fly. Homeless, alone and with nothing. We asked for a miracle. It wasn’t a blinding light, it wasn’t a lottery win; it was Councillor Cannon making sure she got the right caseworker, it was the people of Wallacewell who wouldn’t let her sink, it was in my friends who are painting and decorating her new wee home, it was in my sister who believed in her. It was in the hope that life could be more. Those were her miracles. On Friday this girl didn’t even have food in her cupboards but on Saturday night she was thanking the world for her wonderful new life. You see, she has her eyes open to what love is.

Charlie started her hormone journey today. I sat in the Royal Hospital for Sick Kids listening to her medical history as it was read out to me, heart defects, epilepsy, diabetes, depression; and now her body is going to have to battle so hard to be what it should be anyway. Just to be who she is on the inside. As I sat I kept thinking about all the current right wing press condemning these young trans people. I thought my heart would shatter. Who would pick this? I wanted to pick her up and run, run as far as I could; but she didn’t want to run, she wanted to stand up to this and to carry on. As we walked out the hospital we passed kids, some of whom were so sick they couldn’t walk and my heart felt like it was going to explode. Wandering through the corridors with Christmas trees and cheery festive music I was sure my emotions were going to betray me, seconds from tears and my stomach in knots we walked out to see a rainbow so big and bright we both stood for ages, eventually burst out laughing. You see we cant change our problems but we can change how we react to them. We can choose to let them topple us or we can decide to make our broken moments make us stronger. Dolly Parton once famously said ‘Storms make trees take deeper roots’.

To that end I’m going to be doing something to make micro-miracles for others. James (the boss) is collecting toys for local charities but I will be collecting (and begging) for small gifts for young women just like the girl in my blog. Women who have been given so little in life but who deserve a little hope. If you could donate a small, wrapped gift for a young lady then let me know. Ill be giving them to WAVES on the Southside and to the women of Wallacewell. It’s time for me to open my eyes. If you are struggling with life, and if miracles seem like a fantasy, let someone know. People in this country are getting poorer, austerity isn’t killing the debt, its killing people; but I believe in good. I believe in hope. I believe that Jo Cox was right when she said “there is more which unites us than divides us”. If you cant donate to my precious ladies that’s ok, we all have budgets but try and give something. A hello to a grumpy neighbour, five minutes babysitting to the single mum in your street, dinner to an elderly relative; change will come of that I have no fears but until then we must look out for each other. If your give a little, even if it’s just your time, then eventually you’ll be your own miracle.

Gifts can be handed in to our Glasgow Cathcart office on Clarkston Road, or alternatively shoot me an email at rosa.zambonini@parliament.scot

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Tiny Dancer

Today I was in Glasgow and I was caught up in all the early seasonal sparkle. The whole city looked like it was gearing up for a big party; and everyone was invited, well almost everyone.

I met a couple on the street, they had a dog, a tent and lots of sleeping bags. Their stories, like most living on the streets, were torrid, sad and seemingly hopeless. Yet they were funny, upbeat and ridiculously kind as they offered me “the newly donated, clean sleeping bag” to sit on. For some reason I was completely taken in by this couple and their banter was true Glaswegian wonderfulness, but while I was sat on the ground it made me notice every grumble of the passers by. “The poor dog” or the “dog didn’t ask for that life, such a shame”. The dog, the dog, the dog. The dog, as far as I could see, was well fed and blissfully unaware that it was living on argyle street or that it was any different from any other canine. I however, was sad. Sad that so many had so much time for a dog, and yet so little time for people. I was so sad, that I asked this couple how it made them feel, the man laughed and said “I don’t need them to feel for me, or to worry about me, I have real love and I wonder if any of them do”.

Taken a back I asked them how long they’d been together? Not long but they were married, she said he was her safe haven and he said “aye but she is my tiny dancer” (like the song). They told me they’d been clean since they got married, and I could well believe it, and that their goal is to live a life protecting each other. It’s hard to say what they were protecting each other from, but you could see it. There was no house, no stuff, not a lot of food but there was an abundance of love the likes of that which I hadn’t seen in such a long time.

Homelessness in this wealthy nation in 2017 angers me, almost as much as anything else, the notion that in winter people will pitch a tent to survive makes my blood boil with rage. To be sneered at by passers by because they see fit to have a dog which they so clearly love, and to be scorned for having no shelter was almost enough to tip my anger into a shouting match with strangers. But what would that achieve? Very little. As we work in or out of politics, it’s our job to just love on those less fortunate with the vigour in which this couple loved each other. I don’t mean romantic love, I mean a love for humanity which ensures it’s survival.

I bought gifts, shoes, coffees, lunch. I jumped into my BMW. I drove to my lovely little terraced house. I hate a load of food in a warm home. I will sleep alone in my big comfortable bed. I so wish they had even a little of what I have; but I did all of this alone. So really it would be a wonderful exchange if they got even a fraction of my life, and I had a fraction of their love. I’m so thankful for all the lovely things I have, but I’m so ready to acknowledge that others have so much more even when it first appears that they have so little 💛

Breakups and Brexit

Every time I speak to Italians they ask me about Brexit and why we want to leave. I quickly and firmly tell them that Scotland doesn’t want to go anywhere. I’m like a freshly dumped woman “we had a great relationship… I wish this never happened…. don’t forget us”.

While I was out of the country I managed to stream in question time and as usual Brexit was a highly debated topic. One of the questions that got me was “should we have another referendum?” And that’s when I started to think that Brexit was becoming a bit like a romantic break up.

I think most people who’ve broken up with someone, will at some point in their life regret one of those breakups. I once broke up with a guy who’d just driven to Calais and back in one day for me because I felt he was a little immature. Yes because you see I’m pretty perfect, not. That man now lives in Dubai, has a lovely life, a good job and a partner who he’s taking care of. Regrets see, awful things. There’s also the breakups which have come along suddenly, when they’ve been in the heat of an argument and I’ve cried and begged said lover to come back, seen the error of my ways, deeply sorry etc. We all need that little fright now and again to remind us of what we had. I’m starting to think the Brexit vote has been a huge unromantic shock to our nation.

The brexiteers promised us a green land with lots of money. It was plastered on a big bus, money for the NHS they said, no more immigrants they nastily sneered. People were catapulted into the dream of more money and more self control. That’s what the single life promise me, wrong, it was all a lie. The grass isn’t greener, it’s scorched and dusty; with the tumbleweed of failure all around; Brexit that is, single life is marginally ok. None of the UK lead politicians have a clue, it looks like there will be less money in the pocket of an average family, the migrant population fill a vast skills gap, the pound is a stable as Mays government and this country is the laughing stock of the EU; and that’s only the tip of the nightmare. The UK leaving the EU is such an acrimonious divorce it makes even the most publicised Hollywood split look idyllic.

I think the British public should be allowed to ask for another chance. They should be like me when I dumped my high school sweetheart for not being exciting enough. They should be allowed to reconsider. Someone once said that if we had referendums all the time we would never get anything done, but politics isn’t stagnant; we have general elections every five years “yes I liked you, I thought you were the right man for me but now it’s just not working”. People should be allowed to change their mind when they are armed with the facts.

May and her cronies are making a right arse of Brexit but Nicola Sturgeon is like “relate” giving good council and showing us how a good relationship can work. The British public have all the facts now, mainly the fact that Brexit is an omnisbambles and it’s time they were allowed to say…. I’m sorry, I want you back, we can make this work!

Is chivalry dead?

On one of my “research dates” I went for a walk and the man insisted that he walk on the road side of the pavement, he took my elbow as I stepped off the kerb and held open every door. I loved it. The odd thing is that when my boss, my brother or a male pal does it for me I snap at them “insisting I’m a strong independent woman and I can open a God damn door”. Weird right?

So this date got me wondering, is it that chivalry is dead? Or is that women have become so independent we think we don’t need it any more? Or have some men just become lazy? Could it be a combination? I believe in all things Equality, I really do but the fact of the matter is I was raised by a man who brought me, my sister and my mum breakfast in bed every morning. Some may say I was spoiled, but my dad (who’s very Latin with his emotions) claims that Gods greatest gift to him was the ability to shower affection on his girls. So now when I’m in a relationship I expect to have a door opened, a chair pulled out and it seems to me I have to accept hats who I am. Blame Jimbo he perpetuated it.

I do toy with the idea that as a feminist we should take turns to walk on the inside of the pavement or pull out a chair. If I pay date night cheques then it makes sense to open a door right? Yes, on paper it does but in my heart I want to be swooning all over the chivalrous gent of choice. On my first night in Lucca I went to a pizzeria and there was a beautiful young couple. He stood when she went to the bathroom, he kissed her nose when she returned and he held her jacket on when she was leaving. The feminist in me didn’t even come to the surface, the young lady looked adored and cherished. Oh to be a girl of 21 again…

So if chivalry is manners, kindness, affection, love and care; then that should be a feminists dream. Wouldn’t we rather a man said “send the cheque” than “send nudes”? Well I would, I am so old school romantically I have mental visions of me sitting like Scarlet O’Hara in a buggy with Red while he drives me off to a paddle steamer. Scarlet is the best example of a woman who can accept chivalry and yet be hugely strong and powerful, she may have put on curtains to impress a man; but in turn that man saved her life, her family and her Tara… If you’ve never seen gone with the wind, you can’t date me.

So why don’t I like unromantically linked males opening doors? I don’t know, maybe it’s because there is no need for them to do it? Maybe it’s because I do everything else myself, so why should they get that? Maybe I’m a control freak? Answers on a postcard to Tuscany.

When it comes to Romance, for me Chivalry is a sign of the man. If a man can be rushing to work and stressed out his head; and yet still bring you a croissant and coffee, he is a provider. In Italy I’ve been overwhelmed with the chivalrous gestures, I’m not looking for Mr Zambonini the second here, but I am enjoying the romantic notion that chivalry does still exist. Yes there are a few creepy B’s but they’re everywhere. The key is to look for the one who looks left and right for you before you step off the road, not the one with the most money, not the one with the flashiest car or the one with the biggest….. house. The key is to look for the one who will treat you like his mama taught him to, with dignity, kindness and respect. That way your feminist self can be in harmony with your romantic notions….

So yes it exists but just let it happen when you find it…

Caio 🇮🇹

My God is Proud of Pride 

I’ve not written a blog in months but I think now, with this very short one, is a good time to start. With pride on in Glasgow this weekend it got me to thinking why we should be proud of our LGBTI community, but more importantly why we should love them, and of course each other.

One of my most read blog posts was around the issues of Christian politicians, and if they can serve the LGBTI community. However, I suppose as a Christian mum, the bigger question is why can’t ALL Christian’s love the LGBTI community? The bible was written in times that were very different, there was interpretation and cultural influences on everything that was written by MEN, God passed on his word; but ultimately the bible was written by humans who have opinions. A pastors wife recently said to me that we would never dream of sacrificing children to God and yet that was a practice discussed in the Old Testament, it was a thought provoking statement and true.

As a mum of a trans child all I want is for her to be happy; almost weekly I’m reminded that her life will be harder than everyone else’s. She will always be “different”, she will always have “battles” and she will also have “hurts”. However Charlie also has a great big God who loves her. In the bible the word love is mentioned almost more than any other, over and over and over it tells us to love EVERYONE. This “love the sinner and hate the sin” chat is also rubbish, imagine if christians went to church and said “I love you even though you said shi*t and you’re a big fat gossip”, it’s unthinkable. We are told not to judge and that means YOU! If you’re a Christian reading this just don’t.. ok? No one likes pious nonsense and it brings no one closer to God.

The God I know is loving, he is kind, he is giving, he catches me when I fall, and he is always near. I understand why many don’t believe in his presence because life is hard right? Look at me: a diabetic trans daughter, another with cerebral palsy, almost choking with a stroke at 35… so you could say it’s hard to believe he’s even around, but I think he is otherwise I don’t think I’d be able to put one foot in front of the other. What I also believe is that God loves everyone and I mean everyone. No one is excluded from the love of Jesus, Jesus didn’t die on the cross and rise to say believe in me and you will live (apart from the gays, they’re out). 

God loves everyone even the gays whether you like it or not. In Glasgow we often hear “let Glasgow flourish” but often we miss out the second part “by the preaching of his word and the praising of his name”. Last year at Pride the only thing that upset my Christian daughter charlie was when a group of “evangelists” hurled abuse at her while she walked proudly, even though she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. So I’d like to ask them this: will God judge me for loving or will he judge you for hating and making a very fragile 13 year old girl cry by telling her that her own God has disowned her? 
Glasgow welcomes the Gays, the trans and everyone in between this weekend. Glasgow will flourish by the very beautiful and colourful spectical that is pride. God will be there because pride is a place of love and where there is Love there is peace….

Happy Pride Glasgow 

Just TIE me up in love

Recently there have been figures being banded about on the wait times for CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services). I don’t have the answers but I do have a thought. My daughter Charlie was self harming, slashing her arms till they looked like they had been clawed at by a wild animal and contemplating taking her own life. It took love, support and many weeks at Camhs before we got to the root of the problem…. She was trans.

Camhs were an exceptional tool and I know the Scottish government are committed to reducing wait times, however like every other illness, I think we should be looking at prevention where possible. A cure is good but prevention is always better, and nine times out of ten more cost effective. That’s where TIE (time for inclusive education) comes in. Many of the young LGBTI young people I’ve met during Charlie’s journey were in the same boat, the  story is so often repetitive. Fear of being who they are, fear of being bullied, fear of telling parents. Hatred of themselves, hatred of who they are, hatred of their own flesh. Then comes a Camhs referral, an opening up and finally acceptance…. not always but most of the time.

TIE aims for a better understanding of LGBTI issues, a reduction of bullying and a removal of stigma. If you think “hey I’m gay/trans/lesbian but that’s ok it’s as normal as being left handed;” then wouldn’t you be less likely to hate yourself? I think so! It’s about seeking to engage everyone from the straight community, the LGBTI community and the educational departments to ensure young people don’t resort to horrific acts of violence on their own precious skin.

This won’t just change the lives of young people but it will create generations of more tolerant adults. Workplace bullying, especially for trans women in very male dominated environments, is a huge issue. This results in many adults seeking the same support as our young people, but many often think they should be stronger, the shame overcomes them and they decide the only way out, is the unthinkable.

I’m not saying for a minute that this will resolve every issue faced in the treatment of young people and their battles with mental health, however I believe it would be a start. I speak out all the time on trans issues because I face it along side Charlie every day. This week my mum (gran sheena) realised she is wearing a  jacket in summer because she is ashamed of her own wee shape and my 70 year old mum has been researching special bras! Awesome right? But what if your family isn’t like that? What if charlie spent the whole summer roasting because of shame? That would damage her mental health beyond words. So we have to do more and in my heart I believe the schools are where we can achieve this.

I spoke at the SNP conference earlier this year where the members supported the TIE pledge (I will link the speech below). However words are not enough, if you want to reduce wait times, encourage children and most importantly save lives, then we must act. This is not a liberal versus conservative argument; or indeed church versus state; no – this is LIFE or DEATH. I urge everyone, especially the straight community who might think this will never effect you, to keep acting! The only way we can change the world is to get up and do it. Not just for wait lists, or Charlie; but for every young person in our country! Love wins. 

Please Sir I’m Hungry….

Unison has confirmed on their Facebook page that NLC are planning to abolish the breakfast clubs in North Lanarkshire. Less than a few days after their deal with the Tories their right wing identity seems to be showing in Labour policies.

When I’m at the Scottish Parliament I hear Kezia Dugdale lament over and over about her party tackling poverty and the “failing” Educational system in Scotland. It’s incomprehensible to think a child can learn if they are hungry, to go to school with a sparse breakfast, or worse none at all, will mean children in poverty suffer immeasurably. They will be unable to concentrate, they will be tired, behaviour will suffer and heir ability to learn will be slashed. 

On the NLC website it still has the benefits of a breakfast club and I quote “help children to be alert… able to learn…improve attendance and performance”. This is only part of the breakfast club positivity shared. So this begs the question does the Labour administration and NLC no longer believe this? Or do they want to save money at the cost of our smallest constituents.

Breakfast clubs don’t just help support Children in poverty, it is a safe and supportive environment for working parents to leave children while the make the commute to work. Many parents have to be at work at nine, these people are raising a family, contributing to or economy and in most areas trying to stay afloat. Do you have kids who you drop off before work? Where will they go? What will you do? CHALLENGE THIS

If this vital service to the future generations of North Lanarkshire is indeed abolished, I urge everyone to write, email and call their Labour Party representatives and demand that it’s restored. If it’s lost I will be demanding an explanation form every Labour Councillor, list MSP and their leadership. Don’t bang on to me about Corbyns “socialist manifesto” when you are considering grabbing the food from the mouths of babes. Don’t just say you’re a lefty, let’s see some decenancy from the Labour Party, or is that too much to ask! You would think we are living in Dickensian times where our beautiful children have to beg…… not on my watch…. not in my name.