The season to be jolly, is now upon us, but is it all twinkles and sparkles?
I took this picture yesterday. It is one of Brown Thomas’s windows in Dublin City. You will see the writing at the bottom left says ‘possibilities’. To me there is drama in the photo, a space woman and her space pod surrounded by baubles or mini planets, but isn’t she fabulous. The possibilities for her starting somewhere new, starting something new, are endless, if she is brave enough to try.
At this time of year, as Christmas approaches, we may all take time to reflect on the year behind us. The hopes and dreams that were realised, the gains and the losses we have experienced, the paths we did not intend to take, but took nevertheless and the new goals and wishes we intend to set for ourselves as we step into the next new year.
I love the idea of Christmas. I love the twinkle and sparkle of the lights, the decorations, the shop windows, the excitement of children looking forward to Santa. The reality of Christmas though, is often a stark contrast what we perceive it to be or believe it should be.
As I walked along the streets in Dublin, where decorations adorned the buildings, cardboard and makeshift beds, with damp sleeping bags lay in an alcove, or by a railing, tucked to the side, to be used later in the day and night.
Where some people were busking and demonstrating their many talents, others were sitting, despondent and defeated, holding out a cup, in the hope of getting a few coins.
I wondered where both cohorts would sleep that night. How warm, how comfortable, how joyous or how full of dread they would be, heading into the Festive season or whether it would be just another day rolling into the other for them.
It is a season of conflict, a season of extremes. For some children there will be no Santa on Christmas morning, no food, no comfort, no warmth, but instead deep sadness, loneliness, perhaps fear and despair and wondering why Santa had again, forgotten about them and not called to their home.
Each year many children telephone Childline, for numerous different reasons and this is a critical support for children of all ages. Most of Childline’s funding comes from fundraising and donations from the generosity of ordinary people like you and me. I once organised a fundraiser for them and raised almost a thousand euro, and the event I organised was fun and interactive and the people who came had a great time and were very generous with their donations.
Barnardos, the ISPCC, Make a wish, Jack and Jill to name but a few more charities that actively support disadvantaged and sick children, could not do it without the help and generosity of us, joe blogs, by donating money, goods, our time etc etc. The possibilities are endless when we come together, seek out, dig deep and remember that so many of us are more fortunate than others, and at this time of year, especially, seek out what can we do to help those less fortunate.
Times are tough, and some people may just want a listening ear, or a call to see if they are OK. Christmas is, after all, about giving. Even giving someone a hug or a compliment can make their day.
It may be someone’s first Christmas without a loved one, and they may be struggling with that, knowing their future will never be quite the same. I understand that feeling, having lost my dad and best friend withing 6 months of each other. It is tough. What can we do for people who have suffered loss? We can just try to be kind and understanding and offer hope and our presence, that is often the best present someone can receive.
Like the spacewomen entering her new phase, starting out somewhere new, or something new, it doesn’t have to feel or be hopeless, it can be hopeful, exciting, curious, but it has to start with what she will seek out, what she will try, what she will surrender to and what she can offer. It is often in the offering and giving, that the greatest joy is felt.
‘Good will to all men (women and children)’, is the best way for ‘the season to be jolly’. We cannot fix everyone’s problems, but for those of us who can, we should try to give what we can to those who need it most.
Tell me your secrets
Deep burried lies
hidden and wrapped
inside your disguise
Tell me your heartaches
The fractured and broken
That keep you tight-lipped
of hurt unspoken
Tell me your sorrows lost in your grief,
swirling and whirling,
time robbed like a thief
Tell me your wishes,
your hopes, your desires
Ambitions to be realised,
goals to aspire
Now tell me your worth, your value, esteem
Spill out your guts, its time to come clean……
How we take this form of writing for granted. We do it without thinking. It is quick, instant and can land near and far in a nano second. It can be swiped, discarded, deleted and forgotten about at the flick of a button. This is text!
Since time began what connects us with each other is communication. Before text, communication came in different forms such as symbols, drawings, paintings, dancing, smoke signals or different sounds.
We have always managed to find a way to communicate and have evolved so that each nation has their own written word and language and communication has become much easier to read and translate.
When mobile phones first appeared and became the most sought after device in almost every house hold, we learned a new way to communicate; TXT. Abbreviated from Text. It was the new order, the fashion, the new next big thing. Words were shortened and abbreviated all the time, so a new form of language evolved, like LOL, BRB, FML, BFF and our fingers and thumbs worked at quick speed to send txt to our fiends and families and everyone else.
Social Media came next and a whole new degree of communication was possible. But, with all this evolving of communication and txt, something went missing and is almost extinct, because we have been so progressive in moving forward. The art of letter writing. The only letters most of us get these days are perhaps hospital appointments, bills, summonses (perish the thought) and maybe a post card when on holiday.
Friends and families send txts to eachother, thousands every day, and it is a great facility. It works at quick speed and is instant and we would be lost without it. But, I do find it sad, that me included, do not send letters, written on note paper, popped into an envelope, stamped and sent to our nearest and dearest. It is sad, because it is a record, a physical record of not only the text contained, but the art of seeing and recognising the senders handwriting, whether good or bad or illegible!
I sent a letter to my daughter who worked during the summer at a camp in Canada. I wrote her a couple of letters, rather than only sending txts and emails, because, I wanted her to have something arrive in the post that she could open and read at the end of the day, and keep it safe somewhere, so that when she is an old woman and I am not here, she can open that letter and be transported back to her summer in Canada.
I have a stack of letters from my youth, from when I moved from the UK to Ireland. My friends and I only had letter writing to stay in touch. I kept my letters, and to this day, they are so precious to me because I can be transported back to my youth, laugh at the tales of woe and glee contained in the letters. I can see the post mark on the envelope denoting the date. Feelings and emotions rise up in me as I hold and read the text and it feels like treasure in my hands and brings warmth to my heart.
I am not saying we should go back to only letter writing, but I am saying, we should reintroduce it, don’t let it become extinct. Send someone you love a letter, the old fashioned way and I bet you will get a surprising txt back saying how wonderful it was to receive it!
I never thought about him being vain or conceited
In his work, in his family, in his faith
He wanted for nothing, except that his line be happy
A man that wandered as a child over cliffs and strand
But never learned to swim
It didn’t bother him
For he would run
Over sand and grass, field and bog
Catching waves, catching breath, catching ball
with a hurl in one hand and a sliotar in the other
what luxury this simplicity was
for a boy who walked three long miles to school bare foot
paying no heed to distance or time
counting rhythm and beat of the mooing and bleating
of cows and sheep
crows and curlew over – head crooned their symphony
and on his 12th summer, books and pencils were exchanged
now it was time to pick up the shovel, the pitch fork, the mantle
and work the land until he too could fly south for the winter
and migrate for a different labour
Soon the sea would carry him to foreign shores and foreign places
The sound of the cattle replaced with the sounds of the traffic
The hum of the curlew exchanged for the drumming of the drill
Leather now cover the soles of his feet
pressing down on pedals and pulling on levers in his JCB
the pull of home tugging at his heart strings
my father, and thousands like him, come rain or shine, built the English motorways.
All Hallows Eve
And as the clocks go back
The darkness descends
Prepare for long nights and shorter days
Samhain, Samhain, when the veil is thin
And the ghosts of the dead attempt to seep in
And try to spy to perhaps say hi
Don’t be afraid of the ghosts we laid
In the deep dark earth, biding time to portray
reveal and expose, what we already know
love is the key and will unlock for sure
And the sinners and saints, may bang on your door
on All Hallows Eve they’ll be witches and ghouls
But don’t be a fool to fall for the trick, for the treat
Is much sweeter so welcome them in
the ones with lost souls are not always so grim
we reap what we sow, tread lightly there now
look out, look within, pray, listen and bow
Modern medicine saves so many lives, increases our life span, but sometimes we need to trust in the alternatives and ‘give them a shot’. To listen to our body and try to get to the route cause of every day irritations than can impact and cause us major problems on a daily basis.
We put a lot of trust in other people such as, experts, professionals, doctors etc. The other night I was woken up with the most unusual pain in my abdomen that slowly grew worse and worse, a real stabbing pain that was gripping the entire, of my now very swollen tummy. I often suffer with bloating. Apparently I have the worst bloating my consultant has ever seen in 35 years, but it never came with pain. IBS. That is what he said I had a good few years ago now, when I was referred to him, and he told me I was to cut out certain foods which ‘I THOUGHT’ might trigger it. It was a case of trial and error, but I never quite seemed to master it!
I woke up another day, also a few years ago with the most horrendous pain in the center of my chest, which spread across my entire chest. I rang the consultant. ‘Its just your IBS’ he said. ‘No, No No’ I said, this is something different, there is pain its a different sensation’ I continued. I could sense his irritation coming down the phone. ‘What do you want to do’ he asked….Isn’t he supposed to suggest what ought to be done, I thought? ‘Well’ I said ‘I think you ought to maybe put a camera down or up or somewhere to see what is causing the pain’. He had an opening a few days later in his diary and I snapped it up.
‘You have to sedate me’ I said ‘otherwise I will gag and you will never get that tube down my throat’. I know he thought I was being ‘precious’ but I know my gag reflex. He agreed, reluctantly.
I was unaware of it all, thank goodness, and when I woke up my other half was patiently waiting beside the bed, bored to tears most probably as these things do tend to go on! The consultant finally came to see me, pulled the curtain around so he could talk in private. That makes me smile, because of course you can hear everything going on the other side of any curtain! Anyway, its a gesture I suppose. ‘Well’ he said,’ I have to apologise, you have an olympic sized ulcer on your duodenum. No wonder you were in pain’ he smiled as he showed me an image of my said olympic sized ulcer…. delightful! Prescription at the ready and follow the instructions and all will be good, adios amigos….
Fast forward to the other night, the stab in the dark, that I could have done without. There I was pacing the room like a woman in labour, swollen to the point of a woman in labour about to give birth execpt there was no baby. Just enormous swelling and pain. Was it my ulcer again, was it my IBS or was it my rare cyst?
Cyst, what cyst I hear you say. Oh yes, I also have a rare mesenteric cyst in my abdomen, behind my intestines and right beside my aorta, the shape of a hot water bottle! A fancy cyst, not your normal circular ones!
This too, was caught or diagnosed quite by accident. I was having what I thought was kidney pain and was eventually sent to a urologist. Who couldn’t find anything wrong who sent me to someone else who on first sighting couldn’t find anything wrong who sent me back to the urologist who sent me for an ultrasound….
‘Voila, there is something there, but I don’t know what it is’ the Doctor said. He needed to consult with other professionals and consultants and would get back to me.
I got the call whilst giving a facial to a client (this was in my Beauty Therapy days, when I used to be a beauty therapist, one of my many,many jobs) anyway, I digress. I could hear my phone buzzing and was berating myself for not turning the phone to silent. Once I put the mask on my client, I left the room to let her relax, to let the mask work its magic and to see who kept calling me.
It was the consultant. ‘You have a rare cyst, a mesenteric cyst’ he said but I sensed apprehension in his voice. It is hot water bottle shaped, behind your intestines and beside the aorta. You will have to come down to get it drained. I have never come across one of these in the 30 years that I have been a doctor, he continued…. mmmm I have heard that before I thought!
That was also a good few years ago now and I carry on, as you do with life, hoping the pesky little thing will just remain quiet and not give me any bother. So, you see my dilema, the other night whilst, rocking on the bed, pacing the floor and wondering if morning would ever come so that I could go see a doctor and figure out what was going on. Was it my cyst, my ulcer or my IBS, was it all three deciding to rock up together and give me a hard time…….
The lovely Doctor saw me, performed an ECG (to be sure that the old ticker was behaving itself), he wrote a prescription for pain killers, tablets to take down the swelling and tablets treat any ulcer that might be there. He then wrote a letter for A & E for a CAT scan, should my condition stay the same after taking the meds, in case it was in fact, the cyst.
‘It could be an ulcer, it could be your cyst, it could be the IBS, OR, he continued, it could be gall stones! Wait, what, gallstones….. hell no, not something else to be joining the party in there I thought, feeling very despondent.
The tablets eased the situation so I didn’t bother going to A & E to sit with possible covid patients for 12 hours. I thought about the alternatives. I googled, dieticicians, Nutritionists, Hebalists etc until I came across Kinesihealth… Kinesiologist….. I really felt that if it was the IBS or indeed the ulcer, or indeed gall stones, aren’t they triggered by diet? so instead of treating the symptom, I wanted to get to the bottom of the cause of all this pain and bloating. The Cyst? well, there is nothing I can do about that, that just appeared, perhaps had been there since birth an no one knew, but food wouldn’t disturb it.
I had to take a stab in the dark here and try the alternative. So I headed off to see the Kinesiologist a couple of days later. We chatted, talked symptoms, talked previous medical history, talked about stress…. sure I have stress this year, a move, 2 significant deaths and my other half having a significant operation to deal with. We all know stress can affect the body.
She pops me on the the treatment couch I raise my arm, my leg, I press against her arm and she’s checking my muscle reaction I think. She taps here and there, and places a jar by my neck, puts something in it and this rotation happens for quite some time. All the while she is saying, yes, ah OK, yes, great, etc etc.
The diagnosis is that my body is totally intolerant to Gluten and Dairy and completely overloaded. I have to take her word for it. She is the expert. She is the professional and I am open to try new methods of medicine. She makes up a concoction of Bach flower remedy for my emotional state to help heal and calm my internal state. Prescribes a digestive enzyme and some liquid zinc with the promise of sending on a list of food products which are gluten and dairy free.
I can’t do any harm can it, to give it a try? What have I got to lose. But all I can think of is how wonderful it would be, if for once, we could get to the bottom of all this bloating, the indigestion, the fluctuating bowel movements.
Don’t get me wrong. We need medical doctors and I will continue to visit mine and I will now ask for him to refer me for my CAT scan, just to make sure the old rare cyst doesn’t need draining. Sometimes, though, instead of relying on medication to treat symptoms, isn’t it better that we try to find out the route cause of the problem and treat that?
Some people say they are quaks, but remember this. Long before Medical schools and medical doctors, we had alternative healers, like homeopaths, chinese medicine, witch doctors. Didn’t our own grandmothers treat us with salves and balms and poultices for different ailments from herbs and leaves and bread and all sorts of foraging.
Even in the Salon, I would often tell my clients to make their own home made masks. Pineapple for example, on the skin is great for exfoliation, provides vitamin c. Its great for sun damage and uneven skin tone. Just lay a piece of gauze over your face, then on top of that lay some fresh pineapple and a bit of the juice, lay back for 10 minutes and wash off feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Oats, eggs, honey, strawberries, cucumber to name but a few more, all natural, all have healing benefits when placed on the skin and hair. They do the job that a salon manufactured mask would do, so I think these alternative practitioners know their craft and have as much of a place in helping to heal our bodies as our medical doctors do.
Wish me luck….. Gluten and dairy free, here I come!
Lost and found
And there he was, frozen, still, eyes wide, teeth shining, tail erect, holding my gaze, waiting, both of us, for the other to make a move.
Not what I expected to see at the bottom of the garden, my sanctuary, sweet smell of honeysuckle, boxed in with the structured walled hedge. My get away from the noise of the house, the chaos, and now, each of us startled, lost in our thoughts and fears. The wolf cub and me, wondering what next? Is each of us friend or foe?
My gaze softened, I smiled and slowly held out my hand as I bent down, to beckon him and to my surprise, he yielded and together we sat, quiet amongst the honeysuckle, knowing we’d been found.
For national poetry day across the pond in the UK…..
We get through time, somehow, after loss. This too shall pass, they say, and the intensity and immediacy of it does fade, but the feeling of loss and grief stays and reminders are what keeps us going through each new day that we have without them in this world….. blessed to have known you….. for Jackie
“like a bird singing in the rain, let grateful memories survive in time of sorrow”Robert Louis Stevenson
At some stage in our lives we all have to experience loss. Loss of a relationship, loss of money, material things, loss of a loved one. Many many years ago when I was courting, my now husband, I broke off our relationship. He was very upset and so was I at the time, but I just felt that the time wasn’t right. Someone said to him ‘better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’. He told me this when we got back together.
Throughout our lives we have many different types of relationships with family, friends, partners, teachers, work colleagues etc, each with varying depths and ties of commitment, love and connection. Sometimes it is easy to break the ties and other times it is very difficult, impossible even. Some ties will never be broken, whether the person is here or not. So we must count ourselves very lucky when we are able to say ‘Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all’. Loving some one and feeling love is just the most precious gift and one to treasure forever and be thankful for.
Having lost my dear friend one year ago today, I am thankful for the years we had together as friends, like sisters, thankful for the experiences we shared and the memories that linger on, to keep her alive. This post, is for her…….
The many times I reach for the phone, then realise
No, no now
As I take the milk carton from the fridge and in bold writing the ‘use by’ date
Is that specific date
A wasp as it weaves its way in my direction, like it’s on a mission
Reminds of you running and screaming down the isle of the bus to avoid it’s sting
When the person next to me orders a J D and Coke at the bar
When I see a Sainsbury’s bag, ad, Next, River Island or Karen Millen Label
A packet of Benson and Hedges, Marlboro Menthol, Vapes
Reminds me of players No.6 and us getting suspended from school for smoking on the bus
And having cigarettes on our person
Oh how we howled with laughter
Vaseline cream and cotton wool to take off your make up and moisturise
how you swore by it
Progressing to Lancôme, Miss Dior and any brand of lipstick, so long as the colour was right
Sunbeds, sun bathing and prickly heat
Strong tea, strong coffee and bacon ribs
Dundalk, Coventry, Nuneaton and South Carolina
Place names remain, all reminders of you
Every time I walk through my front door and your photo is there to greet me
Every pic or meme I post on Facebook, the absence of your like, emoji or comment
Reminds me of that empty space
Laughing, crying, celebrations and times of sadness
My mind transports to you
Every time I see two old ladies, talking, laughing, sitting together
My future longs for you
In the noise and the silence, every morning and the last thing at night
All reminders of you
The staghorn tree in rich rust red, standing prominent and tall
Planted in memory of you
Laughing eyes and a bright white smile
A plethora of ordinary things will continue to, thankfully,
remind me of you.
24/03/1965 – 23/09/2021
For my best friend, my sister from another mister, my heart and my thanks
Mutability [“The flower that smiles to-day”]
The flower that smiles to-day
All that we wish to stay
Tempts and then flies.
What is this world’s delight?
Lightning that mocks the night,
Brief even as bright.
Virtue, how frail it is!
Friendship how rare!
Love, how it sells poor bliss
For proud despair!
But we, though soon they fall,
Survive their joy, and all
Which ours we call.
Whilst skies are blue and bright,
Whilst flowers are gay,
Whilst eyes that change ere night
Make glad the day;
Whilst yet the calm hours creep,
Dream thou—and from thy sleep
Then wake to weep.
A child has no say in the family it is born to and when that family break downs, it has no say it the family it is placed with, when he/she goes into care. Imagine how terribly sad and frightening that must be for them. Fostering a child is both rewarding and challenging, but so badly needed. Foster carers are in short supply so if ever you were toying with the idea, go for it. Give a child a chance………
Imagine leaving home and all you know which is familiar to you and not know where you are going or when you are going back. Imagine being told you have to stay there now. Imagine being 7 years old.
Imagine your child, your niece, cousin, grand daughter, friend…. imagine if it were them that had to leave. Isn’t that just the saddest thing to imagine. In that situation you would at least hope, that they would be happy, safe, cared for and loved…..
As a foster carer, I have looked after 13 children for various duration and various reasons and I would hope that they all feel that they were safe, cared for and loved. As a foster carer I know I put my and heart and soul into them, to take care of them and keep them safe.
This is a poem I wrote about the journey, a sample if you like, of what it must be like for the child……
A door stands between them, white pvc
Nothing extraordinary, just a typical front door
She is small. Blonde hair and big blue eyes
barely seen as her fringe lays a screen over them
Her shoulders raised, tort and tense, almost
Touching her ears
Nerves and fear swimming around every cell
In her little body
Politely she whispers ‘hello’
As she crosses the threshold
The door closes behind her
It takes a village they say, to raise a child
Soon they would find out
Small steps and quiet voices, calm
Kind, encouraging, acknowledging,
Knowing and Pausing
Curiosity unites them both
Of what the other is like
What the other likes and doesn’t like
Inquisitively, she wanders from room to room
Gently she touches the surfaces of inanimate objects
Observing her demeanour there is something
Soothing about her, but also something
Akin to sadness
And as it seeps from her it connects the two
Together, and so the bond is formed
A sense of permitting the arm of trust to reach out
And be held
Gradually the shield around her
That guards her
And so too do her shoulders
One day, many years from this one
She is able to shout and protest and make
Noise and scream and punch and stomp
And laugh and cry
Knowing it is safe to do so
She is safe in this place
That this place is her home
Like plasticine, they have moulded to the ways
Of the other
They have integrated, assimilated and absorbed
The others’ disposition
They understand and know
That when the day comes for her to leave
They will still love
They will still care
They will still be open
and the door will revolve
For the bond is resolute