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Hot cross buns and Easter eggs – #nearly50

I was born on April 11th, 1971, which was – in the western Christian calendar – Easter Sunday. I was baptised Roman Catholic, and nominally raised as one, although we were not exactly the most observant or devout family. We did attend Mass but not every Sunday. I did make my First Holy Communion (which I still capitalise even in my mind’s eye) but when it came ot time for confirmation I opted not to make it, which probably explains why I don’t capitalise that in my mind’s eye. Or anywhere else. I remember vividly what felt like the interminably long service on Good Friday and sitting in the church thinking “I don’t believe any of this”. Now, I am not saying that to offend or upset anyone who holds different religious beliefs than I do. I’m just telling it like it was for me. I found the whole thing boring and uninspiring. I did love Midnight Mass (again with the capitalisation) on Christmas Eve and when I was a child that Mass was still late at night, I think it might have finished just after midnight. I’d be hard pushed to tell you much about other religious feasts and festivals, except for Easter. Maybe it was by dint of having been born on an Easter Sunday. As a child I tried – to no avail – every year to argue that I should have an extra Easter egg because after all I was born on Easter Sunday. Never got me anywhere. I occasionally make the same pitch to my husband that I should have plenty of eggs cos I am an Easter bunny. I’m still not getting anywhere with it!

Easter weekend then has always felt a bit special to me, even though obviously my birthday doesn’t fall in that weekend every year, what with it being a movable feast. Unlike Christmas when I do go all out with the traditional food, I don’t really do much of that at Easter. None of us in this house are big fans of roast lamb. I’ve yet to make a Simnel cake, although when I see pictures of them each year on social media I say that I will make one next year. (Don’t hold your breath). Our daughter is not a chocolate lover and I’ve already mentioned my lack of success on the Easter egg front. But hot cross buns on Good Friday, now that IS something I go for. I’ve tried making them a couple of times and while the results were perfectly edible, quite decent really, it felt like a huge amount of faff when I can get perfectly good ones in a shop. So this morning that’s just what I did. We’ve not opened the McCloskeys ones yet but I can report the Super Valu ones were delicious, even more so with some of yesterday’s homemade lemon curd on top.

Hot cross buns are a must on Good Friday. Too much faff to make them though!

Maybe its the long weekend, although this last year has been such a blur that a long weekend no longer feels special like it did back in the day when I was in paid employment, or maybe its the overtones of it being close to my birthday but Easter weekend usually feels good to me. It used to signify the real start of the tourism season – I know things are so different now – when there would be places to go for a day out. Its spring which is my favourite season, the weather is often good, and so far this weekend – yes I know its only Friday – has been fabulous. April is my birth month and as I said in yesterday’s post, I’m approaching 50 and it feels quite liberating. I’m not sure why that is yet, I’ll probably unpick it more as the month goes on. I think I’ll buy myself an Easter egg this year.

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Approaching 50!

Today is April 1st 2021 and I will reach my 50th birthday in less than two weeks. I’ve never had a problem or hang-up with getting older, and I’ll readily admit to being a little intolerant of those that do. I don’t understand why getting older – especially for women – is seen by some as something to be feared or hidden. You don’t have to look at too many adverts for cosmetics, skin care products or hair dye to see the messages of ‘hiding the signs of aging’, or’covering the grey’ coming through time and again. What’s wrong with looking the age you are? Why try to pretend you are younger than you are? Why does society – some of it anyway – have such a problem with getting older? Is it that people are seen as less productive or useful as they get older? Is it that it reminds people of the inevitability of death? Whatever the thinking, conscious or otherwise, behind these messages, I’ve long found them irritating. Now as I near my 50th birthday I’m even less tolerant of them. But I’m not going into all of that now, it’s been covered exhaustively many times.

I’m looking forward to being 50, it feels somewhat liberating in a way I haven’t defined yet. I’d not made any big plans for the occasion, but I had decided – initially as a joke with some friends – that I was going to dye my hair purple and get a tattoo to mark the occasion. Obviously I cannot get either of those done now. Neither can I have any kind of party or real get together. How then to mark this milestone event in my life?

I’m going to treat myself to a nice month, inasmuch as life circumstances permit. I know a birthday is only one day but I’ve never been known for my restraint and so I’m going to extend it for the whole month of April. Today I made a few jars of lemon curd using Darina Allen’s recipe from Forgotten Skills of Cooking. Lemon is my favourite flavour, even more so than chocolate, and I can never really get too much of it. I’m going to thoroughly enjoy those few jars this month, some on good soft white bread, some on drop scones, some in cakes.

Food will likely play a sizeable part this month – I love to cook and to eat and especially to try new recipes. I try to eat a decent diet but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes that’s down to time pressures or stress or an overloaded brain. But sometimes it’s a deliberate conscious decision. Like this morning when everyone else was asleep and I made a choice to start my birthday month with this breakfast of champions 

😊
😊

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#IDPWD2020 – a right to privacy?

Today is December 3rd, 2020, International Day of People with Disabilities. I’m going to start this piece by stating that I do not have a disability and I cannot claim – nor would I – that I know what it is like to have a disability or to live with a disability. Just want to put that on the record. I am the mother of an amazing beautiful severely disabled 13 year old girl so I have that lived experience of living with a disabled person.
As I write this we are in CHI at Crumlin children’s hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Last week my daughter had major spinal surgery to correct severe scoliosis. It’s a long hard procedure with a long recovery but she is doing well. It’s been a lot harder than I ever imagined however. That’s not really what this post is about but it’s just to give a bit of context. As a result of our daughter’s surgery, we have to make some significant changes at home. She is getting a profiling bed and a gantry hoist. These will have to be installed in our living room as it is downstairs. She will no longer be able to access her bedroom upstairs.
We are hoping to have an extension built to provide her with a bedroom, bathroom and sensory/relaxation room that will meet her needs for the rest of her life. Building costs money and, amongst everything else going on in our lives, we are researching ways to pull together the money needed to proceed with the build. That’s once we get planning permission…….

Because of our family’s circumstances (which I’m not going to detail here for reasons that I hope will become apparent as this post continues) we do not have the money to do the build. Just to clarify, this post is not about looking for money. Our daughter is 13 now and has been disabled since birth. She will always be disabled. We will always need an adapted car for her to travel in, she will always need equipment (wheelchair, hoist, possibly a walker etc) to assist her in living her life rather than just existing. None of that stuff is cheap. We accept and understand that. There is one aspect of parenting a severely disabled child and now teenager that has increasingly unsettled me over the last few years but it’s only recently that the thoughts have begun to coalesce in my mind. It’s this: why did it become the norm to turn to crowdfunding and other forms of fundraising in order to provide disabled people with the basics of what they need? Why did it become commonplace to see families having to speak out on very private aspects of their lives to try and get help for their children? Why should any parent have to bare their soul, put their heartache out there for everyone to see in order to fight for their child to have surgery, or to get equipment or to have adaptations done to their house? And perhaps most importantly of all, how have we as a society allowed this to happen? I can only speak to the situation here in Ireland but I’d be willing to bet it’s the same in so many other countries. Irrespective of where in Ireland you might live, I bet you’ve seen many stories in your local media (radio/papers) and on social media about children from your area with disabilities, life changing injuries or life long conditions or serious illnesses who need equipment/vehicles/housing adaptation. I’m sure many of you have generously donated to help. I know that their families are very grateful. Did you ever when reading those stories ask yourself why these families felt they had no other option but to go public? Did you ever feel slightly uncomfortable hearing so much about what should be private business? Here in Ireland we are great at helping others out, at donating a few euros for a good cause, at reading a story in the paper or seeing it on TV and saying to ourselves “ah the poor thing I’ll give them €20 (or whatever)” and maybe feeling like we’ve done a good thing. I’ve done it myself more times than I can count.
But it’s getting worse. I have lost track of the number of Facebook campaigns parents are running in a desperate attempt to get an adapted vehicle or to get their house adapted. I know people personally who have done this and I know the sheer amount of work it has taken. One mum told me that running the crowdfunding campaign and various fundraising events became nearly a full-time job. That’s on top of parenting, running a house and providing 24/7 care to her severely disabled child. How have we gotten to the point where no one seems to ask is this ok?
In our case I have had more people than I can remember suggest to me that I should think about running a crowdfunding campaign to get our extension built. This, it seems, is the new norm. This, it seems, is how disabled children and their families are expected to provide what they need in order to have the best quality of life possible. This, it seems, is becoming the first port of call when it should surely be the last resort.

Surely those families, my family, are entitled NOT to have to tell all about their struggles and sufferings to get what they need. What are we becoming, a society where those who can suffer the most and inspire the most pity get what they need? And maybe other families who for utterly valid reasons cannot speak out like that fall by the wayside.

Are you ok with that?


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There are some things I will never understand

I’ve just read an article in The Guardian from 6 February 2020 about a collection of coins that sold at auction for £80,000. The coins were owned by a man (his identity has been kept secret) who died in 2019. The coins were stashed away all over his house which the article describes as a “remote, damp, rat-infested bolthole” and was near Stroud in Gloucestershire. So clearly the owner did not spend money on improving his physical living circumstances. The coins seem to have been mostly commemorative special editions. They were all auctioned and sold for a total of £80,000. Now here’s the thing that gets me. That person spent sums of money amassing those coins. And for what? To have them sitting in drawers and cupboards – one coin was described as having been found in a sugar bowl – until the day he died? So what enjoyment, if any, could he possibly have gotten out of them? And now other people have spent various sums – the report mentions that a set of gold coins minted to mark the golden jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002 sold for £5000 – on what are essentially useless pieces of metal to have them sitting in other buildings?

Either I am missing something or the world has gone even madder than I thought. If these coins were very old – and I mean hundreds of years – or extremely rare, then I could understand the interest in them. I could understand the desire to preserve them as part of our heritage. But the way this story reads to me is that a person spent money – possibly a fair bit of money – collecting these and got nothing for them, well maybe he got some pleasure from looking at them. Then he died and his family have sold them. So the family gets money for them. And other people have bought them and what will they get out of them? Is it just being able to say or think “I own that”? If that’s the case then in a lot of ways this sums up so much of what has gone wrong with our world. Spending thousands of pounds on useless bits of metal so you can look at them and say “That’s mine”?? What will happen to those coins in the future? Someone else will spend money on them thirty years down the line and so it will continue, with people passing on money to purchase money to then sit and look at? If that’s capitalism or consumerism or whatever else you want to call it, I’m not interested.

I’m aware that I’m writing this on March 16, 2020 when the world is in the grip of panic about the spread of COVID-19. Here in the Republic of Ireland schools were closed last week, pubs closed yesterday and most churches are not holding public Mass. Those who wish to can watch Mass online. I don’t practice any religion so that doesn’t impact on me. The reality of climate breakdown is evident all around the world and I see very few political leaders who inspire any kind of confidence. I see many who inspire absolute fear. Its possible then that I’m maybe being a little more cynical than usual, that I’ve even less tolerance for stupidity and bullshit than before. Nonetheless, I still cannot see any sense in spending money on something that can never be of any use when the world is going to hell in a handcart.

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Did you hear who’s dead?

Edited to add: events overtook me this morning and I was still writing this post when the death of Brendan Grace was officially announced, but I’m going to leave this post as it was.

A little while after I woke up this morning (6.15) I was looking at Twitter checking the morning’s news. I saw that Brendan Grace was trending in Ireland and my first thought was “ah no,he’s dead.” Brendan Grace for those of you who might not have heard of him is an extremely well-known Irish comedian and actor who is currently ill. It transpired that someone had announced his death and social media being what it is, an awful lot of people posted tributes and commented how sad they were to hear of his death.

Next thing I saw was a different load of people giving out about those who had commented on or shared posts about Brendan Grace without having checked that he had died. And before anyone jumps on me here, its very easy to check – any Irish news outlet (RTE, Irish Times, Irish Examiner etc) would have major coverage on their sites and social media platforms if Brendan Grace had died, so it would have only taken another click or two to verify things.

Over my first cuppa I carried on reading Twitter and saw that Noel Whelan, political commentator, columnist with the Irish Times, barrister, founder of the Kenendy Summer School, died yesterday after a short illness. And before anyone jumps on me again for repeating that, it was announced by the Irish Times. I generally found his column interesting even if I didn’t always agree with it and felt slightly sad to hear of his death. Online reaction to these two stories got me thinking about how we learn of the news of a death in the era of social media saturation.

Whenever I hear via social media of a death of a famous person, I’m always reminded of when Richard Burton’s death was announced. It was August 1984, so I was 13. The evening news came on the telly (probably the BBC) and over the opening music, was just a photo of Richard Burton. I remember as clearly as if it was yesterday my Dad saying “Bloody hell, Richard Burton has died.” At this point the newsreader hadn’t said anything so I asked Dad how he knew and he replied that when the news starts with a picture of a famous person that meant they had died. At 13 I wasn’t really aware of Burton’s fame and work but that always stayed with me. I don’t know how long after Burton died that the news broke, but I’d be willing to bet it wasn’t almost instantly like it seems to be now. When Amy Winehouse died in 2011, it was being discussed – or in some instances gossiped about – all over social media before it was officially announced.

Reading about Brendan Grace and Noel Whelan this morning got me thinking about how we learn about a death. The writer Kevin Barry had a short story in the Irish Times last week that made me smile. Entitled ‘Who’s Dead McCarthy‘, it reminded me of a number of people I know who seem to almost delight in sharing the news of a death. It doesn’t matter to them if the death was sudden, tragic, or expected after a long illness. I’ve been on the receiving end of a few “Did you hear who’s dead?” type conversations (and in some instances phone calls), and I’d be willing to bet most Irish people of my age and probably younger have been. I was born in England and lived there until I was 31 but I don’t recall this happening. Its not really gleeful (although with SOME people you would wonder) but it doesn’t come across as exactly sad either.

Social media makes it too easy to spread news of a death, whether erroneous or not. I’d be amazed if social media (and in this example I’m thinking especially of Facebook) hasn’t been used to incorrectly share the news of the death of a non-famous person in their local area. I cannot imagine what that would feel like for family members and close friends – possibly even the person themselves – to read. If you’ve bothered to read this far, then the next time you read on social media of a death, maybe take a few seconds to verify its true before you share it. Or go one further – do you need to share it? Do we need to hear straight away that someone has died? If you were close to them, you’ll hear quickly enough and through the appropriate channels. If not, you’ll find out in due course.

This morning in Ireland, we’ve all heard who’s dead. RIP Brendan Grace – Bottler, Fr Fintan Stack in that unforgettable cameo in Father Ted. RIP Noel Whelan – our politics would have been different but his work on the marriage equality campaign helped Ireland move towards being more inclusive.

Parenting

Christmas memories

Little Christmas Tree

 

Sixteen years ago my now husband and I spent our first Christmas together.  We were living in a mobile home while we hunted around Leinster for our forever home.  Obviously a Christmas tree of any size whether real or fake was not an option for us but I really wanted us to have some class of a tree.  Shopping in Dublin one day, himself found this wee tree in a shop.  I loved it. and it just suited our slightly crazy living arrangements perfectly.

By the following Christmas we were living in our little new to us but old to the world home.  We bought a real tree for the living room, but I couldn’t part with this one, I put it up in the window of the spare bedroom and when that later became our daughter’s room, it became her Christmas tree.

Sixteen years after its first outing, our little Christmas tree is showing its age.  Every year it loses a few more fronds.  Every year another light or two stops working.  Every year the star is a bit wonkier.  But I’ll never be able to part with it because when I look at that tree, I remember our first Christmas living together, when we cooked a full Christmas dinner for hours on the little cooker and turned our mobile home into a sauna.  That was the year we made soup for starters and it was so filling we could hardly eat the dinner.  That was the year the winter was so cold in the mobile that condensation caused by our breath dripped onto our heads from the bedroom ceiling as we slept.  That was the bedroom that was so teeny that to get any of our clothes from the cupboards we had to climb on the bed.  That was the first home we owned.  It was cramped, it could be cold.  It was ours and it was fun.

Its the little things that bring back memories.  Every Christmas we make new memories and as we get older, reminiscing becomes more and more pleasurable, even if it can be bittersweet at times.

After a very hard 18 months or so, I’m looking forward to spending this Christmas with the two people I love the most, curling up in front of a warm fire with a glass of red, watching classic movies and discovering new favourites, cooking and eating great food,  playing with our daughter, having quality downtime together.  And every evening as the sun goes down, I’ll switch on our little Christmas tree and remember.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

nd is put up in her bedroom every year.

Sixteen years on from its first outing

 

Living the Good Life

Buried in my garden….. a quarter of a century ago!

One positive side to the prolonged dry spell we are having – for gardeners anyway – is that a lot of weeds are dying off. The temperature was a little cooler earlier today so I took the opportunity to do some clearing on an area I am going to make into a flower bed. As the weeds are so dry and largely dead there wasn’t any digging involved, just a bit of pulling. As I merrily pulled up handfuls of dead ground elder (the bane of my gardening life) and was delighted to see roots coming up along with it, I spied something red in the soil.

Brylcreem plastic rubbish
Part of a jar of Brylcreem

It was part of a jar of Brylcreem. We are living in this house for 15 years and none of us use Brylcreem. Apologies if I’m wrong in what I’m about to say but I’ve always thought of Brylcreem as a product for men. As far as I know, the last man to live in this house before my husband died about 25 years ago. So assuming that Brylcreem jar was his (and it might well not have been), that has probably been buried for at least 25 years. Yet with no cleaning I was able to identify it straight away, its a little faded but still very obvious what it is.

Apart from the idea of burying your household rubbish in your garden, this really illustrates how plastics do not biodegrade. They do not break down. I’ve no idea where the rest of that jar is, maybe I’ll find it in another ten years. I do wonder as well what having plastics buried in our garden is doing to the soil. I’m trying to reduce the amount of plastic we buy and use in this house. When I find something like this, it underlines why I’m doing that.

Parenting · Politics

Not just wrong, illegal

In 2001, when I was 30, I learnt that my mother had had three babies born in Ireland in the 1960’s who had all been adopted. I’m not ready to publicly examine and discuss all of the emotional fallout from that. My mother – who died last year – was not willing to talk about any of that with me other than in two conversations after I learnt about those three babies – three siblings I never knew existed. The fact that I know of their very existence is due to the persistence of the oldest child, my sister, who tracked me down and made contact with me.

One of those babies – a boy born in 1968 – has never been traced. From what I have been able to piece together from various members of my extended family and from the little bit my mother was prepared to share with me, his adoption was not conducted through any formal agency and it is likely he was illegally adopted.

That baby is now a 50 year old man. He may well have children, possibly grandchildren as well. Imagine for a minute that everything you thought you knew about your background turns out to be wrong – your name, your ancestry, your extended family…… all wrong.

His case is unfortunately not unusual. News broke here in Ireland yesterday that the births of 126 people were illegally registered as shown by records of the St. Patrick’s Guild adoption agency. This wasn’t news to anyone involved in organisations such as the Adoption Rights Alliance who have been talking about illegal adoptions for years.

I’ve been watching the RTÉ evening news while writing this and the language used is very telling: this was described as births having been “wrongly” registered. No, these births were ILLEGALLY registered. ‘Wrongly’ makes it sound like an administrative error rather than deliberate and illegal falsification of legal documents which it was.

I don’t know if my brother is still alive. I don’t know if he knows he was adopted. His case – if indeed it was (as I suspect) an illegal adoption – is one of probably thousands. Ireland needs to start talking about this openly and correctly and not keep on covering all of this up hoping it will never resurface. Trust me, that doesn’t work and all it does is create greater damage when it finally comes to light.

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The ton of bricks has finally landed

Its been a very hard year. Not 2018, but the year (& a month) since Easter 2017 when a succession of bad things happened to my little family. Our gorgeous daughter developed C Diff (clostridium difficile) which is a vile infection in the bowel. She was hospitalised three times with it and it really set her back a lot. That’s on top of her severe disabilities. Just a couple of weeks after she began to pick up, my husband got bitten by something and got cellulitis in his leg which, apart from needing hospitalisation and lots of antibiotics, meant he was off work for a few months as his job is very physical. That took us from April to September, by which time he was improving. He finally got the all clear to return to work on October 2. On October 7 he was in collision with a car while cycling and received serious injuries. I can’t say more about that here as there is a court case pending.

Five weeks after his accident (he was home by that stage but needed a lot of care), I received a phone call on a Saturday night from a hospital in England (I live in Ireland), telling me that my mother was critically ill and I should get there asap. With the help of two amazing women I am lucky to call friends and with the support of family and neighbours I managed to get there on the Sunday morning and was able to be with her until she died on the Monday, less than 48 hours after I got the initial phone call. I haven’t even begun to process all of that yet.

The next month was taken up with organising her funeral, packing up her home and trying – increasingly desperately – to keep on top of things at home. We somehow managed to make it to 2018 and all I could think was that things had to get better. Don’t panic, nothing else really bad happened. We continued to muddle on through, our daughter’s epilepsy deteriorated and she had lots of tests done in February and we are working with her neurology team looking at the various options. That is all stressful but by this stage I felt I had come through so much relatively unscathed that I’d be ok. My husband has continued to improve and our daughter’s seizures are manageable at present. Over the last couple of months I have felt increasingly in need of some time alone. I’m the kind of person who needs a certain amount of solitude. I love being with my family and people generally but I need alone time too and that had been in very short supply since April last year.

Now it is May, and my husband returned to work this week, albeit on light duties. Our daughter is able to go to school each day and I have had a few hours each day that are just mine. Great, I thought, I can catch up on various things that need to be done, and carry on with an exercise program (I started the C25K 3 weeks ago), take some time for hobbies and things that make me feel good. I am fond of lists – shopping lists, lists of recipes I want to try, lists of books I want to read, and the damn TO-DO list. Today is Thursday and each day this week I’ve made myself a little to-do list of things I need or want to get done that day. At 47 you’d think I’d have twigged by now that this probably wasn’t a very good idea. I haven’t crossed everything off the list any day this week so far. That results in me carrying items forward on to the next day’s list and subconsciously (until this morning) carrying forward a niggling feeling of failure.

This morning after my husband and daughter had left for work and school, I was getting ready to go for the next day of the C25K program (hoping that the lower back pain I have had since getting up would ease off and that my knee wouldn’t be sore afterwards), and writing my to-do list while pondering why I have been so bloody exhausted all week. (I know, I know, I can never switch my head off)

WALLOP. Its all starting to hit me now. Now that things have calmed down and are getting back to normality, the stress and strain of this last year is hitting me. And there was me thinking I’d escaped it. Now that might not sound terribly profound but it was (apologies for the cliche) a Eureka moment for me. I’m not Superwoman (she doesn’t exist). I have been through an awful year and my mind and body are now saying to me “STOP. Listen to us, its ok to rest, its ok to not have a to-do list every day. Its ok to not keep pushing yourself so hard.”

All I have to do now is actually listen to that message and act on it. There are times when I wonder how I’ve kept going the last few months. I’m running on empty and I need to allow myself to rest and heal. I’m parking the C25K for now and I’m going to try not to write a to-do list every day. That’s enough for now.

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Showing self kindness.

This very thought provoking piece could so easily be about me. As a carer taking time for myself is very hard but I’m increasingly aware I simply have to or everything else will collapse. I’m hoping that becoming conscious of this is the first step.

Everything is coming up Rosie

Many people, including myself have been brought up to put others first. My Mother was the typical Martyr, working herself into the ground, not expecting consideration or praise. Even when unwell she would keep going, no-one could run the home as she did, she made herself indespensible, but at what cost?  She was constantly drained, irritable, sleep deprived & extremely low in mood. When it was suggested that she took a break, she’d be horrified. When sitting she’d perch on the edge of the chair, just waiting to jump up & continue her work. I don’t remember ever seeing her truly relax. I can only imagine how unworthy she felt. Why else would she abuse herself in this way?

For most of my life I followed my Mothers’ ethos, although illness forced me to take a slower approach to life than I wanted. Even when really unwell, as soon as…

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