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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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Why I’m encouraging a boycott of the Late Late tonight

Ok. First up for anyone outside of Ireland, the Late Late Show (generally referred to as the Late Late) is a chat show broadcast on our main State broadcaster’s channel at prime time on a Friday night. Its nothing to do with James Corden. I’ll say straight away that I’m not really a fan, I’d look at it if there was someone/thing on it that appealed to me. That isn’t a frequent occurrence.

Next thing to point out is that I support and defend free speech and freedom of expression. So why then am I encouraging people to boycott what is still one of the highest ratings shows in Ireland? Simple, its because of one of tonight’s guests, namely Katie Hopkins. In case you’ve never heard of her, she is, well what is she really? A newspaper columnist, a former EU Parliamentary candidate, a loudmouth, a contestant on various reality shows…… and in my opinion, a professional agitator.

She is famous/notorious (take your pick) for expressing ideas that many – myself included – find offensive. I’m not going to repeat them all here but they include targeting and attacking people for their body size, sneering about the names “lower class” (her words) people give their children, and probably most famously comparing migrants to “cockroaches” and “feral humans”.

None of this is nice stuff to read or hear, but as I said earlier I believe in freedom of expression, so shouldn’t she be free to say what she likes on the Late Late? In principle. yes she should. BUT for me saying those kind of things at the end of a week which saw the election of a man who has been described by one of our Senators as a fascist (hat-tip Aodhan O Riordain) and after a year which has seen a rise in racist incidents in Britain following the Brexit vote, feels like RTE are being sensationalist and giving her a platform to say things which will very likely be inflammatory. Or in other words, giving her a platform in which to spread hate. Not what I expect from our State broadcaster.

Furthermore, I don’t really think she genuinely believes a lot of what she says. I think its said to be deliberately controversial, in order to make a name for herself and get more paying gigs like appearing on TV shows and writing newspaper columns. So why then should we watch someone – indeed waste time on someone – who is only saying stuff to feed their need to be famous?

I won’t be watching. I’ve emailed RTE to tell them why and I’ve tweeted about it too. It would be great if she didn’t trend on Twitter tonight. Publicity is her oxygen. Let’s cut off the supply.

Parenting · Uncategorized

Causey Christmas Experience

Why am I writing about our visit to Causey Farm LAST Christmas you might wonder? Two reasons: one, I needed to free up storage space on my phone and there were still pictures from there on it and two you won’t find it until that time is upon us again.

This was the first time we had visited any of the Christmas experiences, and our daughter was 8 when we visited last year. Not that we are grinches or anything (actually I LOVE Christmas but don’t want to see stuff in the shops until after Hallowe’en) but as our daughter has a significant level of disability and does not understand anything much about Christmas, I was reluctant to go in case seeing lots of other (smaller) children really getting into the whole spirit would be too hard. Minding myself is an important part of being a carer after all 🙂

However, Causey Farm do a day at their Christmas Experience for children with special needs from the local area – as far as I can make out they contact local organisations and families get invited that way. We were invited by the respite home our daughter attends. As Causey Farm is only a few miles from us we decided to give it a go. I want to point out here that it was not a free event, all families attending paid.

It was a cold Saturday when we headed over and we were all wrapped up very warmly – and I’d definitely advise wrapping up well, there is a bit of walking between the various sheds and you are on a farm in Meath in the winter. Wellies or at the very least old shoes are also a good idea. Our wee woman is a wheelchair user so she was grand and snug with her lovely wheelchair blanket bag.

Well, it really was a great afternoon. The tour takes you through a number of sheds and buildings starting where the story of Mary and Joseph is told and if my memory serves me well we all sang ‘Away in a Manger’. There are lots of opportunities to see and pet the various animals – and there was even a camel!!! A real live camel in north Meath was not something I ever expected to see.

The passage of time has dimmed my memory for the exact order of events, but you move on to a traditional Irish kitchen at Christmas where the bean an ti talks about Christmas traditions and we all got to stir the pudding.

Stirring the Christmas pudding at Causey Farm
Stirring the Christmas pudding at Causey Farm

One of the next rooms is the post room where the elves (who are just brilliant, I don’t know where or how Causey find their staff but these guys were excellent) go through the letters to Santa and ask if the people are naughty or nice. This largely went over our lassie’s head but she certainly picked up on all the giggling and excitement. As for me I was too busy laughing to take any pics.

We visited Mrs Claus and helped her pack Santa’s bag for his trip around the world and then we went to the elves’ workroom. Now this really was superb, its a big old room decorated and laid out with all kinds of Christmas gifts and goodies but the clincher for me were the lists of names festooned all around the room so that every child could find their name (on the nice list of course!) The children are all taken upstairs and slide down into the elves’ workroom but obviously this wasn’t an option for our girlie as the stairs were too difficult for her to manage. It meant that she got extra time to find her name on the list though 🙂

On the nice list  - where else?
On the nice list – where else?

Then we all go through the elves’ door into Santa’s parlour. There are benches for all the children to sit on and listen while the elf (I think ours was called Bubbles) explains to us that this is a big treat to be in here and we have to be REALLY quiet or Santa will hear us. Well you can imagine the kids’ reaction to that! The excited chatter and laughter built up and built up and then! A rope ladder appeared in the fireplace and sure enough the man himself literally came down the chimney. I know I wasn’t the only adult there that day with tears in their eyes at the awe and excitement this produced in the children. Even our little girl, although she didn’t fully understand, knew that something special was happening.

Next we all followed Santa into another room where in turn each family was called up and all the children got a present. Herself can be a little shy at times and doesn’t have many words but Causey’s Santa was superb with her.

Hello Santa
Hello Santa

The smile on her wee face as she met Santa was lovely beyond words and remains one of my favourite memories. As you can hopefully see Santa came over to her rather than us all getting onto his sofa, which was much easier for her.

causey-2015 The day finished off with complimentary hot drinks and scones back in the main building and for herself a little snooze! tired-after-a-lovely-day

I would recommend the Causey Christmas Experience to anyone. My only reservation would be the price. For families of four children and two adults you are looking at over €100 which is a pricey enough afternoon. But it really is so lovely. I wouldn’t go back every year, I think the magic might get a bit diluted if you did that, but if the time ever comes when our darling girl understands all about Christmas then I don’t care if she is 20, I’m bringing her back to Causey Farm to see Santa coming down that chimney.

Click here for information about Causey Farm’s Christmas Experience

Bits and Bobs · Uncategorized

February photo a day challenge

January vanished in this house in a cloud of colds coughs and chest infections. Thankfully we are all recovered now and what passes for normal service is being resumed i.e daughter has gone back to school today after two weeks off and I’m picking my way through the clutter that sickness and lethargy create and trying to make some sense of it. Isn’t it crazy how quickly you lose touch with things on the outside when you’re not well? Having spent most of the last two and a half weeks in the house, I’ve spent more time than usual on social media. In doing so I spotted that one of my sister bloggers over at Simply Homemade from Irish Parenting Bloggers is running a challenge for February – namely that you take a photo each day of the month and each day has a specific theme. I like the idea of this, especially as it will challenge me to be more visual. I’m more into words than images so this will be interesting for me. (Yet here I am writing about it!!) I’ve even joined Instagram to take part in it! All the info you need is right here

Better open my eyes and see what I can capture for today!

2016 Reading Challenge · Books · Uncategorized

2016 Reading Challenge book one – Finished!

As you might have seen in a previous post I’m taking part in a reading challenge this year. To those of you who know me well, the challenge might have been not to read any books this year but let’s face it, that’s never going to happen! I heard about this challenge from a fellow blogger over at Pretty Purple Polka Dots and its been interesting seeing what others are reading.

There are 12 categories of books to read over the year, you can get all the details at Modern Mrs Darcy’s page. For my first book I selected Amy Tan’s Saving Fish From Drowning, which came under the category of ‘A book you own but have never read’. I bought it in a charity shop ages ago and then it sat on one of our bookshelves. On with the review…… well I wasn’t bowled over by it. Amy TanI had read two of Tan’s books previously, The Bonesetter’s Daughter and The Joy Luck Club and found them both excellent. Heartrending in places, dealing with issues that resonated in my own life and most importantly for me, had characters I was interested in. So I had fairly high hopes for Saving Fish From Drowning. They weren’t met, now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate the book and would go so far as to say I liked it but I’m not mad about it.

I found that after about a third of the book I was struggling to keep going. If I hadn’t been doing this reading challenge I doubt I would have made myself continue. I am glad I did because the middle section of the book (well up to the last three or four chapters really) was much better. I never warmed to any of the characters, but neither did I take against them. I couldn’t summon up huge interest in any of them and I do wonder if having so many characters in the main story of the book (about a group of American tourists who get lost in Burma/Myanmar) made it hard to fully develop any of them. Tan’s descriptions and writing are as strong as ever but the plot never grabbed me. Would I recommend it? It wouldn’t be the top of my list of recommendations but I wouldn’t advise against reading it either.

Book one of the 2016 reading challenge down, eleven more to go. This one is going in the charity shop bag, I wouldn’t be interested in reading it again and this way two charities will benefit a little bit from it! Plus its gone from the overfull bookshelves which is a good thing too. Book two – well one of the categories is ‘a book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF’. I’m going to get my husband to select one for me before Mon (1st Feb). Our tastes overlap somewhat but not completely and I have no idea what he is going to choose for me! That’s part of the fun of the challenge I guess – and so far its made me finish a book I would likely have discarded otherwise. Onwards!

Bits and Bobs · Uncategorized

The A-Z of me

A couple of weeks ago some of the very talented writers in the Irish Parenting Bloggers group started writing A-Z’s about themselves.  As ever, I’m a bit late to the party, but was tagged by Clare who writes at The Clevs to add mine, so here goes!

A  One of the things that infuriates me is apathy.  I really can’t get my head around the mindset of people who have no interest in what’s happening in the world, or who just sit around and whine things are bad but do nothing about it.  Drives me demented.

B All I want in life isBooks. Well there was never going to be anything else for B really was there?  I have everything in this list except not enough of 5 and 11 and will always need more 12’s.

Chocolate, crisps and cake, three of my biggest weaknesses when it comes to snacking.  I’ve never tried to make crisps or chocolate, but love to make cake……. These were my first attempt at hot cross buns (before baking)DSCF3332

D  Dandy Walker Syndrome, the rare neurological condition our beautiful daughter was born with nearly eight years ago.  Becoming a parent for the first time changes your life in ways you could never have imagined, but this diagnosis (which came prenatally) took our lives in a direction we never knew existed.

E  I love elephants, no idea where this came from or why but I just love them.

F    I can’t remember when I first heard the word feminism or discovered what it meant (and then went on to discover how it has many different interpretations) but I vividly remember the first time it was used in a derogatory sense towards me. Yes it was the classic “You must be a bra-burning feminist then” when I expressed an opinion aged 15 in the school library that I didn’t think it necessary for women to change their surname upon marriage.  F is also for Fionnuala, my amazing and adored daughter.

G  On a good day (and today is dry at least!) I can easily spend an hour just sitting in the garden listening to birds and daydreaming.  A great way to switch off.

H  my truly wonderful husband. Falling in love with him changed my life in ways I could never have imagined, and has enriched it immeasurably. And following on from F above, I didn’t take his name when we married. As he put it so well when talking to another person “She has a perfectly good name of her own.”

I  Imagination  – mine is always on the go.  Sometimes it would be nice to turn it off for a little while.

J  Growing our own fruit and veg has made me come up with ways to preserve our bounty.  Jam is something I made rather a lot of last year – gooseberry, gooseberry & elderflower, blueberry, marrow & orange, marrow & ginger, blackberry & apple (ok that was jelly).  I haven’t entirely got the hang of it yet but there’s a nice feeling in seeing the jars all full and neatly labelled.

K  One of my forms of therapy is knitting.  I don’t claim to be very good at it and I’m not terribly fast, but I enjoy it and it helps me to relax and unwind.  Apart from when a pattern goes wrong and I curse it to the pit of hell.

L   Liverpool, a city very dear to me and the football team I’ve supported since I was 6 years old. The latter fact played a small part in my choices for university applications and I’ve never regretted going there as a very nervous fresher 23 years ago.  Great city, great people.  I ended up staying for 10 years.

Money.  Like many people I spend a certain amount of time having to think about money and usually how to make it go further.  I’m not however motivated by it and have zero desire to accumulate a lot of it.  Once I have enough to meet my living expenses I’m not bothered about having more.  Here’s another mindset I can’t understand: people who have made more money than they could spend in 20 lifetimes yet they carry on making more.  WHY???? A certain wealthy businessman who lives in Malta comes to mind here.

N Current affairs, politics, news, I’m a news junkie.  Two daily newspapers, the news/current affairs radio programmes, never miss at least one evening news show on TV.

O   I hold very strong opinions on a lot of topics and am not afraid to express them.  Sometimes this annoys people. See F above.  However, I maintain – well I would wouldn’t I ? – that my opinions are as valid as anyone else’s.  And hopefully better thought out than some.  I am working hard on listening better to other people’s opinions too.

P  powerPower. I had some fascinating discussions and arguments about power and its meaning, use and abuse while studying community development last year.  Still pondering this one through but I think its something we hand over way too easily.  And see A above.  

Q  As a child I asked questions constantly.  Why this? Why that?  Why does…. ? why doesn’t…….?  I keep questioning, always will.

R  A rose by any other name would smell as sweet apparently.  They are my favourite flower, apart from yellow ones.  They don’t feel or look right to me.

  Being by the sea is one of my favourite places.  It doesn’t matter which sea or where I’m near it.  But I wouldn’t want to live on the coast  – I like to keep it as somewhere to go for a treat and to relax.

T  I was never that keen on or interested in gardening as a child and teenager (probably not that unusual) but developed an interest in growing food around the time I really learnt to cook.  This would be 20 odd years ago now.  Over the years this has deepened and now we grow some fruit, some veg and herbs.  So why is this not under G for garden or F for food?  Cos deep down I really want to be Barbara from The Good Life!! Love the idea of self-sufficiency and hope to make more moves in this direction.  The Good Life

U University.  Sometimes I feel I didn’t make enough of my time at university.  Don’t be too surprised if I end up at one again in the not too distant future!

V  Vino. Red for preference.  There is something incredibly relaxing for me about sipping a glass of good red on a Friday evening.  A good way to start the weekend!

W  Walking.   I have started to walk between 4 and 5kms every day, don’t hugely enjoy it (I could be at home reading a book!!!) but I can feel the benefits so will persevere!

X  Xenophobia – the fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or their politics or culture.  That is the definition from the online Collins English Dictionary.  I cannot, and never could, understand prejudice.  Its the most frightening mindset out there and I do my best to challenge it when I hear it.

Y  I’ve only done Yoga a few times, but every time I have loved it and found it a great stress reliever.  I would love to incorporate it into my weekly routine somehow.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz  I love my sleep and I love my bed!  Curling up in there with a good book is a great pleasure.

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Going public with this story..

I have the privilege to be able to call this amazing mum one of my dearest friends. I know how highly she values her privacy. I know it had been unspeakably hard for her to have to go public about her daughter’s illness. Unfortunately parents whose children are very ill or who have special needs are all too often expected to lay their family’s private intimate business out for all to see in order to get the services that should be theirs by right. I am so proud of my friend and so heartsick for her and most especially for her beautiful daughter. This situation has to change. People with cancer should automatically get a medical card. End of.

Lucy fights Cancer 2014-

Anyone who knows me well, knows I am actually a very private person😞
But in this situation, I felt I had no choice but to go public with Lucy’s story!
I know it has been very difficult for family and friends to see Lucy’s photo everywhere and to hear me speak about such private details on the radio!
But I had to do it, I was raised in a household where you worked and paid tax, I would think I am raising my own children with the same attitude
Sadly the one time I have approached the state for support, it has been declined 😞

The HSE issued a statement yesterday, which said “we don’t comment on individual cases…. But they were over the means ”

1. They should not have released that information publicly
2. Of course we were over the means back then, we were both working!
3…

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