2014 Rewound.... and Fast Forward 2015 - Happy New Year!

It's one of my favourite times of the year - New Year's Eve. I know plenty of people who don't like it, in fact I usually ring it in alone. But I like it and I honour it every year, in my own positive way .... and am not afraid to open my hall door at midnight, glass of wine in hand - obviously,  and shout out a  'Happy New Year' to all and sundry - or to an empty street - before scuttling quickly back inside!

I actually find it exciting, to say goodbye to the year that's been, no matter how good or bad it was, and to welcome with open arms the new start that a New Year brings. It's refreshing I find .....

As I've explained before I don't do 'New Year's Resolutions', preferring to set myself goals instead. I've just re-read my New Year's post 2014, and my subsequent mentioned written list of goals and aspirations. I'd like to say that I did my list proud but I didn't really. Although in fairness a certain injury had a major effect and a whole five months of the year was wiped out as far as exercise and weight-control was concerned. I did okay on some of my goals though, in particular knitting and crochet which got a boost from said injury, and find that writing them down is very motivating and cathartic - and makes for a very humourous read-back twelve months later! And so, I will do the same for 2015 and I have similar goals in mind, but I will have to find new ways of achieving some of them!

As far as this blog is concerned I've had my ups and downs, and my very silent moments, when I could find nothing, neither in life nor in my head, to write about. Yet again a certain injury gave me an unexpected boost and material, enabling me to bore you all for months about my trials and tribulations!! I have yet to write that extended HSE/ A & E disaster post, although I did write this one, under the influence of severe pain and medications. Nothing has changed with A & E trips or MRI scan waits in this country, in fact it got worse as the year went on....

So, what did I find to write about in 2014 then? At this point feel free to skip on if you wish, this is more of a cathartic look-back and motivator going forward for myself, if I'm to continue blogging!

Well, the closing of the Irish Thomas Cook offices gave me the opportunity to share my trip to Bermuda in 1980 with you. I also took another nostalgic look-back at Parenting- Through the Swimming Years  and I wrote about Teenage Adventures and Coming of Age.  All the years we spend nurturing our water-winged toddlers/young children and how they suddenly grow up on us....

In February we sadly said goodbye to our gorgeous budgie Sunny, we still think of and talk about him. The plan was to get another one in the summer but, that pesky injury got in the way of our plans yet  again!

I told you all about our amazing Florida Holiday  -  so nice to have this all recorded in one place.

I tried to be funny when sharing some 'interesting' moments, like getting Lost in The Woods and about a certain 'treatment' I received !

Oh, and for an apparently 'silent blogger' I was quite gobby at times during 2014!

I told you all about the dangers of Pilates Classes - Top Tip: go to a class run by a Pilates-specific (or better still a Physiotherapist-Pilates trained) instructors.

I gobbed about the fate of Stay-at-Home-Parents and how little they're thought of at times, especially by successive Governments,  in The Perfect Family and In The Forgotten Worker. I firmly believe in every word I wrote....

I ranted about Water Charges and how I can see people cutting back on water usage to the extent that our whole nation becomes a Dirty Old Town. And on how much I believe peaceful protests to be the more appropriate way to go.

I fumed about the unfairness of circular 0030/2014 and it's effect on Inclusion of our Special Needs Children  and about Mental Health Awareness. The latter being very pertinent with regard to the recent Cork tragedy. It's not good enough to send patients home from hospital when they're well enough to be cared for by community care, when that care is not sufficiently available... for both the patient AND the family.This is sadly not the first tragedy of it's kind and this article from a mum, with whom I totally agree, is worth reading. We must give more to Mental Health Services in this country and help prevent such awful tragedies. Now there's a worthwhile goal for 2015.

And finally I raged about residential abuse in Care Home Concerns., another issue that can be a goal for 2015 : give the vulnerable a voice and ensure that it's heard.

Gosh, all this rewinding is making me all gobby again isn't it?! I'd best stop now.

And look forward to 2015 with positivity and determination. But I need some motivation too, something to aim my recovery at. To get dancing again.....

And look what I found. Hip Op eration - a dance crew from New Zealand aged from 67 to 95! They've even traveled to the Hip Hop championships in Las Vegas!

So I'll leave you with this video, feeling that there's plenty of hope for me yet!

You know where my dance brain is going with this, don't you?!

Thanks for joining me on my ramblings this year. May you find your positivity, determination and motivation for 2015, wherever you can, and may the brand New Year be all you want it to be.

Happy New Year!

Take care,

Christmas 'Reasons to be Cheerful' #R2BC ......

I've always loved Christmas and am lucky to have such a lovely store of Christmas memories, from childhood on. Not that the presents were huge when we were children - they really weren't - or that we had lots of money - we really didn't. We always appreciated what we got though, and the time we spent visiting all our relatives on Christmas morning. Getting to meet all my cousins at both Grandparent's houses was always such a special highlight.

Fast forward a hundred a few years or so and while the traditions may have changed, we are now creating memories for our own children. I have lovely memories of Christmases tinged with Santa magic for my son, but now that he's fifteen I do wonder how special his festive memory bank is? And I wonder if he'll remember this Christmas as being especially nice? Given that it was a bit of a Gypsy Christmas, insofar as the visiting we did and the lovely Christmas dinners - yes, plural - we had quite literally, handed to us on a plate!

Midnight Mass

For me, the festive feelings kicked off as usual with the great Irish tradition of 'Midnight Mass' on Christmas Eve.... at 8 pm! Although I was very uncomfortable sitting in the hard wooden pews this year it was still the usual, special part of our Christmas festivities. The packed church, nice singing and the usual sense of community was just right for the special, religious night, that it was. And all finished off nicely with the new tradition of a quick Christmas drink with friends.

The 'Private Visit'.

Christmas Day dawned gloriously, both weather and family wise, starting with a small family visit to my mother in her 'care home'. She was so nicely dressed in her new Christmas clothes that I had laid out for her. She and her fellow residents were also very well attended by smiling and polite staff who, having left their own families at home, faced a long shift that day. We were grateful to them, and to the fact that my mam was in such great form and enjoyed her Christmas dinner with such relish. She is quite the miracle. This was yet another Christmas we weren't supposed to have and, whatever is to come, I will have the lovely memories of this special visit for always.

Peace and Calm

Some Christmas Day winter sun made for such lovely views to instill some inner peace and calm on our travels that day....

Family Time

The family time continued with time spent with other close family members. Sumptuous and plentiful food was accompanied by both flowing wine and conversation and such lovely company. It really was the most enjoyable and relaxing way to spend both Christmas and St Stephen's Day.

Home Sweet Home

No matter how enjoyable the Christmas was - and it really was - there is nothing like finally coming home sweet home. To enjoy another lovely quick stroll and flop around in sweats to enjoy more food and some festive TV viewing.

And yes, there were some lovely presents, even if  the 'Santa' online order did go horribly wrong and has yet to arrive, but there's more to Christmas than all that.

I hope the teen festive memory bank is awash this year and that his patience is rewarded.

And wherever you are I do hope you had a lovely Jazzy Christmas too!

Note: I doubt there's an #RTBC blog hop this week, and if there is I can't find it! I'm going ahead with this anyway as I do feel cheerful..... and very grateful. 

UPDATE: I was so cheered by and grateful for my Christmas this year that I've been quite cheeky and tagged this post onto the New Year's #R2BC Linky over at Ojo's World!

I've already written my New Year's post and wish you all a positive 2015 with many, many reasons to be cheerful....

Take care,

Dear Son.....

I know you like History so I thought you might like to know some of the prominent world events on this day fifteen years ago: December 22nd 1999.

  • The world feared the forthcoming brand-new Millennium, terrified of the damage it would do to computers globally, branding it: Y2K. Something I know you find hopelessly hilarious today.

Oh yes, there was most definitely a shining light in that 24 hour period.

However, neither you nor I were really taking notice of these world events on this day back then.

We were most definitely otherwise engaged.

I had spent two days walking around hospital corridors and up and down any stairwell I could find, in a desperate attempt to get you to introduce yourself to the world. Well, at the very least to get you to introduce yourself to us, your parents!

But you had other ideas. A sign of things to come perhaps?! You were very comfortable where you were, thank you very much, but I however was not! You were getting bigger and bigger and leaning on things you really shouldn't. It was time to move out, Buster! Actually, I believed you were holding on for another nine days just to be a aluminium Millennium Baby, but I wanted to finally see your little face.... NOW!

And finally, after much ado and serious prodding and monitoring - I swear, there was more going into me than coming out that day! -the light shone that bit brighter in the world, as you came into it.

You were gorgeous. Perfect. With your little rosebud mouth in a perfect 'O', as you gazed all around you when you were finally placed into my arms. A neighbour was later to use the word 'exquisite' to describe you. He was absolutely right too and I should know, being your completely unbiased mother and all.

Now I'm sure that somewhere in this country there is an air and gas machine that was rendered completely useless, and an anesthesiologist who still has the indelible marks of my hands on his wrist from that day. Although I do recall him telling me that his were the last hands I should grab . Good advice really, given that he was mid-epidural-injecting at the time.

But none of that mattered now that you'd finally arrived, a whole ten days late and a few ounces heavier.

You've brightened our lives, given substance to our world and made us very, very proud since that day fifteen years ago. Now, if you'd just clean your room and 'get off that screen' without being incessantly nagged, all would be absolutely perfect! But you're a teenager and your resistance is to be expected :-) 

We've been on an incredible and inspiring journey with you in the last fifteen years son. we've watched you grow into the lovely, handsome young man that you are becoming.

I sense that you are now entering another, more maturing, chapter in your life and we very much look forward to travelling this road with you too.

It promises to be very exciting. Especially if your 'Santa List' and your plans with it come to fruition. This could actually be quite a defining Birthday and Christmas present this year and I really hope that it is.....

You are fifteen years old today, Dear Son, which makes  me fifteen years older. But we won't dwell on that, oh no, not for a tiny minute.

Instead I will simply wish you the happiest 15th Birthday and the Merriest Christmas ever.

May you have a lovely day and may all your dreams and wishes for the future come to pass.

Lots of Love Always,

Mum and Dad


Just a Simple Little Stroll.....

It's amazing the things that one can take for granted.

Like donning coat and trainers before leaving the house, simply to close the door on the stresses and strains of your busy day and take a simple little stroll.....

It's been quite a while since I've been able to that you see. I guess you never miss something until you find it's been taken away from you. And although I have been doing a lot more walking recently, albeit still with my crutch, it's been more of the functional kind of walking. You know, around supermarkets and massive malls for grocery and festive present buying.

I have actually enjoyed the present buying this year - being able to do something you thought you wouldn't can change your perspective somewhat - but I've really missed just going for a simple little stroll.

So today for the first time since last July, I donned coat and trainers, closed the door on the festive stresses and strains - and more importantly on my crutch - and set off on my maiden, unsupported simple little stroll. Down to my beloved beach...

It was a glorious December day today, a mere five days before Christmas and I took my time. Time to smell the sea air and to take in all the glorious, timeless scenery that surrounded me. Views that I will never, ever tire of....

I stopped to admire and gather some Holly to make an oasis centre-piece, and noted that there were no berries at all on the Holly, in this mild winter month...

It was a relaxing little stroll, allowing time to stop and chat with neighbours I had not seen in quite a while. And I finally got to meet one of the regular dog walkers I'd encountered on my pre-injury walking days. and his new Golden Labrador. I really wanted to meet his new dog as his older Golden Labrador had died a few months back.

The slices of life and it's people that you miss out on, when you lose your simple little strolls.....

And finally I took the time to stop a while to soak up the jewel at the end of winter-sun-dappled country lane, and to feel the tepid warmth of the sun  on my upturned face.......

And I made a promise to myself.

To make the time to take this simple little stroll every day over the Christmas holidays.

To rebuild muscle and stamina..... and healthy head space.

Now that I can :-)

Take care, 

Care Home Concerns

It's being going on for years now, yet it still fills me with dread every time I see a report about a care home that has mistreated it's residents. 

The latest report is about the mistreatment of people with Intellectual Disabilities in a care home in Co Mayo, which was televised on RTE Prime Time on Tuesday night. By all accounts it made for some pretty horrific viewing.

I haven't watched it yet myself and have now decided that I won't . 

As the daughter of a parent who is a longtime resident of a care home it would be far too upsetting. And I can only imagine how the parent of a child with disabilities, who may ultimately need the facilities of a care home, must feel on watching these reports.

How many of these programmes do we have to watch before something is done?

I for one was glad when HIQA was set up in order to keep controls and to unearth unacceptable behaviours in our private and state run care homes. It is comforting to know that someone is calling unexpectedly - and sometimes by appointment - into these facilities to check them out. It is comforting to know that you are not your loved one's only advocate. I have studied recent reports on the care home we use and found them to be quite comprehensive, I actually feel that HIQA should have been harder on them over one particular and very serious issue. However, HIQA has been instrumental in instigating some helpful social activity changes and resident questionnaires, but it has also enforced what could be considered an administrative nightmare. One that has brought about an additional daily 'administrative charge' being passed on to residents in our case. HIQA has spent time analysing this cost, and the term used to apply it, and finds it unacceptable. They insist on it being changed and it would appear that an awful lot of paperwork has gone into ensuring that this happens.

Meanwhile there's a care home in Co Mayo where residents are being regularly and horrifically abused. What analysis was done in this home?

The decision to send your loved one - be they young, old, disabled or elderly - into a care home is one of the toughest decisions you'll ever have to make. It's one that, after nine long years, still doesn't sit easy with me. The fact is however, that it's not always possible for a family member to give 24/7 intensive care to one loved one while looking after everyone else in the family; and whilst also giving young children, who may have special needs of their own, their optimum chance in life.

Once you make the decision you then hope that they are always in good hands - especially when you can't visit. You make unexpected visits of your own, at differing times, and even stand outside their room if carers are in with them - secretly listening for any possible issues. You also listen to your loved ones concerns and complaints and investigate those that you can, while trying not to fling unsubstantiated accusations about. While it is very difficult if your loved one cannot verbally express themselves it is also difficult to deal with those who can. Mental Impairment can make distinguishing between fact and perception extremely difficult. 

The care home we use is very good, but it's not perfect. I've seen such loving care and gentle, yet quite firm, responses being administered in many different situations here over the years. I've even seen things I've not been happy with and was easily able to bring them to discussion. I've seen wonderful changes, particularly in the area of social activities, brought about by HIQA visits. I've also seen my own parent brought through diagnosed end-of-life stages, at least three times in as many years. It was excellent nursing care that made this happen, against the odds. And an indomitable fighting spirit and the incredible will to live of the patient herself, we must not forget that!  

However, no-one knows what happens behind closed doors when there no visitors, be they from HIQA or personal, around.

So, what can we do? 

There have been calls for imprisonment of the abusers. I do agree that these abusers must face investigations and be ultimately held accountable for their actions, but they must also face due process. This point is very well, and generously, made by a family member of one of the Aras Attracta residents .

However bringing the abusers to account is not going to completely solve this.

Closing down care homes because of abuse doesn't stop it from happening elsewhere either.  Although re-opened after some time, Leas Cross was closed down in 2005 and yet we're still hearing of  residential abuse today.

Personally speaking I think that maybe more consideration should also be given to the following:

Hiring: Qualifications, References and Training: It would seem that we need to pay more attention to these areas in our Private and State run facilities. We need to consider this very strongly for all nurses/carers in our system, no matter their nationality. Although the abusers in the Aras Attracta case were all Irish I would question if foreign qualifications are equal to our national ones? And indeed are our national ones sufficient? The same must apply to the hiring of management to run state facilities. Staff training for all should be regularly updated.

Owners and Management: Owners in private run facilities need to take a hands-on approach to running their own care homes. They must see their care home for the 'caring home-from-home' that it should be, and  not the tax relief investment they might prefer. The difference in the provisions of my mother's care home was very noticeable when the owners got fully on board. Police it yourself, don't wait for HIQA. Bring on board family members. Do night shifts. Unannounced.

The HSE must be very particular about whom they hire to run our state facilities. These managers should also do night shifts. Unannounced.

Staffing Levels: There should be no excuses or allowances made in any care home, private or state owned, for not employing the relevant, best practice, carer and nurse:resident ratio. Whatever the cost.

Camera Surveillance: There have been some suggestions of this online. We need to deal with any privacy issues and give this serious consideration,

HIQA: Personally speaking I'm impressed with the reports that I have read and the changes they have instigated; and I feel very re-assured that they continue to inspect. Any 'Administrative Nightmares' notwithstanding. However, perhaps we need to review how successful, or not, this authority has been in unearthing and tackling residential abuse; and in ensuring the delivery of 'Safer Better Care'? And then we need to make any necessary changes. Now.

Advocacy for Residents: All vulnerable residents in our care homes need to be given a voice and their voices need to be heard. Whatever the nature of their disability, or reason for needing such levels of care, their dignity and humanity must be preserved and respected.  Family members can only do so much. HIQA seem to attach a lot of importance to this area of care and inspect individual plans and their implementations with regard to resident's personal requirements and challenging behaviours, but clearly more needs to be done by some care homes themselves.

And finally we need to keep these stories in the limelight. 

Keep it fresh so that something is done and so that more assurances can be given to those who need these facilities - and to those who love them.



Since posting this last night I learned of a new care home abuse story in Stamullen, Co Meath .
I have also read this article contending that HIQA was 'deliberately misled by care homes'. This makes sense to me. As I've said above we need to know why they didn't unearth this abuse.... and then make any necessary changes.

Take care,

Crafty Jazzy......

Well, with banned walks, exercise classes and some housework duties too, I had to find something to occupy my time while in recovery. I don't 'do' sitting doing nothing, especially when watching TV, and it would be so easy to just let the Social media world take over.

I wracked my brains and eventually decided that as I was knitting and crocheting a lot I may as well put that past-time to good use. So, I decided to put some items together for my son's school Christmas Fair.

It was quite the learning curve I can tell you and it it didn't quite work out as planned. In fairness I've never done anything like this before.

I tried to pre-judge the demographics you see, which is no easy feat, and to knit/crochet a variety of quick-to-make items to suit everyone. Such as.....

Fancy Scarves for the Mums, Aunties, Grannys etc, made with 1 ball of Tivoli Weave wool per scarf. The pattern is on the back of some wraps, and is available here, but basically using 6mm needles (UK) you just cast on 3 stitches and knit every row (ensure to go under both threads at top of wool) until you run out!

And then, for variety I knitted some Ravelry Drop Stitch Cowls/Neck Warmers; for teenagers, mums etc. Followed by some Coffee Cosys, pattern courtesy of Sarahbevan11designs , for those on-the-go-thermal cup carriers!

I also attempted some newborn baby hats, pattern by LisaAuch, and some mittens from this YouTube video. I did intend doing more beanie hats for a variety of ages but ran out of time.
I did however find time to make two ladies hats from a pattern in one of my many Art of Crochet magazines. I really enjoyed making these!

However the items I enjoyed making most of all were these Pretty Snowflakes by Julie A. Bolduc I crocheted the day before the fair. My very first attempt! Unfortunately the starch hadn't dried in time so they never made it to the fair. They may make it on to my Christmas Tree though.... or in some Christmas presents!

In fact there's quite a few items that may make it into some Christmas presents!

I think I may have mis-priced my items and mis-judged the crowd, you see.  It seems that everyone wants a bargain, they want something for nothing! But they also want something different.

I learned a lot from the experience though and I really enjoyed it too.

I'll definitely be back next year and I will have more time to get some ideas together. And to buy wool in the sales. It can be very costly all this knitting and crocheting you know!

And now it's on to my next project.

It's a fairly big one and I only have three weeks to do it in!

Stay tuned......