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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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Special Needs · Uncategorized

Get Pixie Pedalling – an update

Last August I wrote about a fundraising appeal to purchase a wheelchair tandem bike so that my daughter could go on bike rides with her daddy. You can read about that here

Well, the outcome of that crazy event was that the team from Virginia Triathlon and Cycling Club WON the four-man category in the Race Around Ireland!!!! Yes they won!!!! After cycling from 3pm Sunday until just after 10pm the following Wednesday without stopping – yes day and night – and covering nearly 2200km around Ireland they only went and bloody well won!!!

By the time the team and their hugely important support crew got back to Navan we were all in a state of delirium. I had hardly slept, had totally neglected the housework (ok that wasn’t a hard one for me) and my main achievement every day had been getting our daughter up and out to school. Most of the rest of the time I was glued to my laptop where we could follow the race in real time. Now this wasn’t – obviously – camera footage, this was a tracker with a little black dot for each entrant in the race which enabled us to see exactly where the lads were and more importantly to see if their close rivals were nearby. At times it was practically neck and neck and I think I can safely speak for everyone else involved who was watching from home that the tension was almost unbearable at times. My husband was one of the support crew and we occasionally managed to have brief phone conversations which gave me some idea of what it was really like out there.

There are many many stories that could be told about Team Pixie’s Race Around Ireland. Some of them are probably not suitable to be told here! I am sure that everyone else who was involved in whatever way will never forget that mad crazy week in September when our world shrank to a little dot on a computer screen and mad texts at 3am asking where the lads were and how was it going. For us as parents it was the most incredible time. We are still so touched by the kindness and generosity of people to do something for our little girl.

The fundraising appeal was a huge success and the bike has been ordered and will hopefully be with us very very soon. I know that getting the bike was the main focus for the team and all the club but we are thrilled to learn that the four guys – Johnny, Jimmy, Lorne and Matt – have been nominated as contenders in the Anglo Celt sports awards!! We would love to see them get the recognition they so richly deserve and if you think so too, maybe you’d text Cavan 9 to 57199 (Republic of Ireland only). If they are the overall winners on Jan 30th it would just be the crowning moment on an incredible experience.

Bits and Bobs · Uncategorized

Carting around crap – decluttering my handbag

I’ve been doing a bit of a declutter this week. Actually I started it as part of the 40 days 40 bags challenge but got sick around Easter and that kind of dragged on in various guises until early June. So I got stuck into again this week. While emptying out the piles of junk that had accumulated in the bottom of my wardrobe, I came across a gorgeous handbag I had bought in a charity shop. And never used. Hmmm. It occurred to me then that my everyday handbag was probably in need of a bit of a declutter too, and that that would be a good reason to stop for a teabreak. Another one.

So downstairs I went and started emptying my handbag. That would be this one that has clearly seen better days. black handbag So what did I find? I took this after I had emptied it all out and binned a few things before the idea of this blog post occurred to me and no way was I rooting in the bin for them. contents of handbag June 27 2014
I discovered that apart from the obvious things – my purse and diary – I was also lugging around:
1. Half a packet of spearmint Polos. Hate to think how long they are open!
2. Six packets of tissues. I do get hay fever, but six, really?
3. A slate wall plaque for my daughter’s bedroom which says “I love you to the moon and back”. Which I bought a fortnight ago.
4. A stack of forms that I have to fill in. None of which I picked up in the last day or two.
5. Another lot of papers that have to be filed.
6. A third lot of paper that is for recycling.
7. A tube of handcream
8. A lipsalve
9. Three tampons. Oh come on, you have some in your handbag too.
10. Three pens. Only one of which works.
11. Three bankcards that had fallen out of my purse. And I hadn’t noticed.
12. A cheque book
13. Three packets of paracetamol. No I wasn’t planning anything, I clearly needed some at some stage and couldn’t find the others in the depths of the crap carrier that was my handbag.

In total then I had thirty-four separate items in the bag I was carrying around at all times. Oh my phone is usually in there too so make that thirty-five. No wonder I have an ache in my shoulder.
So I decluttered it. All the crap went in the bin (add in an empty packet of peanuts and two wrappers from small bard of Milky Bar bought to placate my daughter while we were shopping), all the papers have been either filed, recycled or actioned. The wall plaque is now in my daughter’s room. Not on the wall yet but hey give me time. Five of the packets of tissues and two of the packets of paracetamol are in the bathroom. The bankcards are back in the purse, the cheque book is in my desk drawer.

Then I took a long hard look at the bag itself. The lining is torn, the zip on the front pocket is broken. The strap is a bit tatty and the whole thing has that battered unloved look that my handbags seem to acquire after a while. So I binned it. And I brought the lovely new one downstairs.Green handbag

This now contains my purse, handcream, tampons, 1 packet of paracetamol, ditto tissues, 1 pen. And my phone when I am going out. I realised that I probably don’t need to carry my diary everywhere I go. Its a hell of a lot lighter and neater and easier to find things. But why do we – cos I bet I’m not alone – carry so much crap around with us? Is it a comfort thing, like a security blanket? Is it because we think we might need some of this stuff at some stage? Or is it that it just becomes a receptacle that the flotsam and jetsam of our lives ends up in? In my case I think its definitely the latter.

Ok sisters its over to you. What’s in YOUR crap carrier? Feel free to hashtag #crapcarrier on any social media with your list or a pic. Go on, I dare you!

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Written in stone? Who decides what’s tradition?

As someone who is passionately interested in history, myth, folklore and ritual, I sometimes find myself musing on tradition. (I’m referring to what the OED calls its mass noun usage) Its a much used and abused word, it can be used to justify a certain behaviour or practice “well its traditional” or in an attempt to prevent sometimes much-needed change. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it thus: “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way”

So in the way that I’m thinking about it here, a tradition is a custom or belief. Some customs/beliefs/behaviours do not survive terribly long in the whole of human history. Others persist and some that are generally perceived as being old and traditional are often a lot more recent than is widely thought. For example, roast turkey is widely considered to be the traditional Christmas dinner in England and Ireland (they are the only countries I’ve spent Christmas in so I don’t feel qualified to comment on others) but my readings tell me that it didn’t become commonplace until the eighteenth century, with goose or beef being the previously traditional dish.

The reasons why some traditions survive while others don’t are as varied as the traditions themselves but I feel that each generation should feel able to pick and choose from the assortment of traditions they have grown up with. Traditions can change and develop too and some elements of any given custom or practice may alter from how it was originally carried out. I’m thinking particularly this evening of an Irish tradition of Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Christmas. Debates pop up each year around this time on various social media as to whether or not it was practiced throughout Ireland, and as to what form it took. Needless to say there is never agreement! My understanding of Nollaig na mBan is that it was a day when the men took over all the household chores to give women a rest after all they had done to make the Christmas festivities happen. Nollaig na mBan, for those who don’t know, is celebrated on January 6th – the feast of the Epiphany, Twelfth Night. In more recent times, the celebration has consisted of groups of women coming together to have a meal – usually in a restaurant from what I can make out – and have some of what we would now call downtime. I’ve read reminiscences of women talking about their mothers greatly looking forward to this one night in the year when they got to dress up and go out with other women. (These mostly date from the 1960’s and 1970’s).

In my community, a group of us are keeping this tradition alive. A very dear friend of mine throws her house open for Nollaig na mBan, invites loads of women friends with the proviso that we all bring something from our Christmas leftovers to eat and drink. Often things are made especially too. Its always a great night, good food, lots of music and plenty of laughs. Yes we have altered that tradition somewhat but it works for us and we’ll pass it on to the next generation. And they can make of it what they will, if its not for them, so be it. Traditions should be living things, not something preserved in aspic. If a tradition isn’t right for any given person or group of people then they shouldn’t feel compelled to maintain it. I like traditions, learning about them and in some instances trying to live them, but I like even more that they reflect the community who developed them. If they can’t be adapted or even discarded if need be, then what does that say about society? That we never want anything to change? Perish the thought.

I’m off now to get ready for tonight’s Nollaig na mBan party. Yes its Jan 4th not the 6th, but hey, traditions can change, right? Nollaig na mBan faoi mhaise dhaoibh!

Bits and Bobs · Uncategorized

Resolutions and other New Year musings

I used to make resolutions every New Year. They weren’t terribly original, lose weight (uh yeah no progress there), get fit (see above), become more organised (getting somewhere with this one), etc etc etc. Now there are lots of reasons why I – and let’s face it most of us – don’t keep our New Year resolutions and I’m not going to list them here, any magazine or newspaper will have had at least one article along these lines over the last while. But it occurred to me a few years ago that one possible reason why I’ve never managed to keep said resolutions is that 31st December doesn’t really sit well with me. I’ve never been a fan of big NYE parties, or of gathering together with a bunch of randomers to watch the clock turn round, and I cringe at Auld Lang Syne. (I’m always reminded of Queen Elizabeth’s expression at the millenium celebrations)

I love Christmas/Yuletide/Midwinter/whatever you’re having yourself and mark a lot of festival days throughout the year in my own little way. So its not that I’m a bah humbug (or whatever the NYE equivalent would be). I am a demon for making to-do lists and plans and schemes so resolutions should come easy to me. I think there’s two reasons why 31st Dec doesn’t really do it for me. Firstly, and this is something that I have become more aware of in the last few years, its an artificial time to start a year. Its the middle of a season, so not a natural time for a break or change. The Celtic New Year happens at Samhain – 1st Nov. Its the traditional start of winter but rather than being a time to start new projects or plans, Samhain is a time to reflect and relax, to look inward and to retreat somewhat. Most definitely not a time for making big changes.

Secondly, its just another day – there is nothing special about New Year’s except that the calendar changes from one year to the next. And remember that the naming and numbering of days months and years is just a structure that humankind has created. It could be argued that it bears no relation to anything in nature and the passing of the seasons. I love history and as such am very aware of dates, centuries and the passing of time. But to create a big celebration around the fact that a system we have created in order to keep track of events has just done what it does each day seems a little odd to me.

And that’s why I think I’ve never had much success with New Year’s resolutions. Its too artificial for me. That’s not to say my mind doesn’t stray to all kinds of ideas and plans in late December but I don’t make any resolutions anymore. Talk to me at Imbolc though and that might be a whole other thing…….

Oh – and Happy New Year!

Books · History · Politics · Uncategorized

Having something of a Worzel Gummidge day!

The news this morning of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has left my busy mind struggling to keep up.  As a non Christian the news might be expected to impact me only tangentially.  But as an Irish citizen and resident,  the teachings of the Catholic Church still have considerable impact on the society in which I live – think of the role of the Church in education, the abortion debate, the numerous abuse scandals, the treatment of women and girls in the Magdalene laundries…… so any changes in the leadership of the Catholic Church potentially impact on my country hugely.    As a feminist I would love to see full and equal treatment of women in every sector of society so have major problems with all patriarchal religions.  As a news junkie I’m naturally hooked.  As a fan of Twitter I am in stitches at some of the wit up there today.  As a historian – and I really will finish my PhD one day! – I am fascinated in the way only history lovers can be by the historical impact of this news, especially when commentators on the radio disagree who the last pope to resign was (I want to dive into a library and start reading up on these guys!).  As a Irish feminist woman whose PhD is (note the present tense!) on the role of lay women in the development of orthodox Irish Catholicism in the post-famine period, I am fascinated, slightly mesmerised, a little appalled at the blind faith expressed by people interviewed in Dublin and broadcast a few minutes ago on RTE Radio 1, and very very aware that this could be a big turning point for the Catholic Church.

So there is plenty for my busy little mind to turn over today and I keep jumping from position to position depending on which of my heads is in the forefront.    A few commentators have mentioned the work of Elizabeth Johnson and her book ‘Quest for a Living God’ – another book for me to go and read 🙂

Oh and for those of you who don’t know who Worzel Gummidge is…..http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worzel_Gummidge

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Is this not just a bit twisted?

Just came across a story in the Irish Times from July of this year (link below) about British gamekeepers visiting Ireland to see how a project to preserve the grey partridge is working out. All well and good you might think and I am all for preserving species. But are they not primarily interesting in having these birds as game? So they are looking at ways to preserve them so that they can shoot them??? Am I missing something here or this is somewhat twisted?

Gamekeepers in Britain look to Ireland….