Reflection and Forward Optimism: Happy New Year 2016



It's that time of year again. Time to bid farewell to the year that has been and to greet the new one with hope and optimistic appreciation. Time also to reflect a little on the year that is just about to pass and to maybe savour a few of the positive moments, while letting the more negative ones float away having learned all we can from them.

I do hope your year has been a good one. When I look back on mine, as reflected here on this blog, 2015 really has been pretty good to me. I start each year by listing some aims and aspirations - not to be confused with resolutions! - for the year to come, finding that it's interesting to look back at year-end to see what's been achieved, with no recriminations whatsoever for what is not. I like ticking off lists I guess!

Me being me I have somehow misplaced my written aims for 2015 - it's most likely in my 'safe place' along with all my other misplaced items! However I can remember some of them. For starters I achieved my recovery goal last April by being finally 'Over The Hill',  eventually going on to getting back dancing again - even if it is Honky Tonk dancing! And while it may have taken the whole year I did get my version of a Healthy Eating Plan in place, finally reaching my much desired goal weight just before Christmas! Admittedly I kind of abandoned my regime over the last week or so but am pleasantly surprised to see, now that I'm back on track, that any 'damage' has been relatively minimal. Phew! 
I'm also very pleased to have completed some knitting and crochet projects in 2015; most notably the crib featured below, which was some months in the making!





The Teen Wonder has had a great year with some fantastic achievements too I must say, and we're naturally very proud of him. He put in the work for his Junior Certificate getting great results, built his own PC from scratch and had some independence-building trips away without his Parents!

This year we've been very lucky to enjoy some lovely little trips away, including my Netflix prize-winner launch trip to London last March! Our trips this year were mostly in Ireland and I share some photos here highlighting some lovely scenic moments forever etched on our memories.


     From l to r: Gold Coast Dungarvan,  Lanzarote, Sligo, Glendalough and the Cliffs of Moher.


No year goes perfectly for everybody and there are always things concerning us and people we worry about, floating away in the backs of our minds. But we cherish the good and try to learn from the not so good.

Personally I have been very lucky to have mostly enjoyed this year 2015, and I do indeed look forward to 2016 with much hope and positivity. As usual I have some things noted to aim for; most notably to finally solve my penchant for losing things and to reconnect and meet up with friends more.

On a global level 2015 has brought some great hardships for people in this world; from the new generation of homeless in Ireland (including entire families), to the terror reigned upon Paris, Belgium and other countries, to the awful, unfathomable situation in Syria.

But we must always remember too that there is much, much good in this world.

So, as the sky colours up for the final descent of the sun this year I give you my wish for all in 2016....




It is relatively simple: understanding and tolerance of all our neighbour's beliefs and traditions, be they in the house next to us or the village, town or country. With education and compromise delivered where necessary. If we all practice this, and return this tolerance and understanding to each other then hopefully some form of peace will grow?

Or to put it more succinctly in twitter-speak ......

#NewYearsResolutionsIn5Words : Education, Understanding, Tolerance, Compromise, Peace.


May 2016 be good to you all and bring you much joy and peace.


Take care......




The Lull


After all the toing and froing the craziness of Christmas seems to tumult by in a heartbeat, doesn't it? That's certainly how it seemed here.

Of course our craziness of Christmas was punctuated with a 16th Birthday - a mere three days before the big day itself -  for a certain young man who has undergone many blog name-changes here as he grew up right before our very eyes. Time simply had to be found to celebrate this in the fashion it truly deserved; even if the makers of boy 16th cards, banners and balloons do not concur. I must therefore personally thank the makers of the new Star Wars movie: The Force Awakens for fortuitously releasing their masterpiece in the week of his birthday! That was much appreciated and provided the perfect platform for cinema evening of celebrations with some school friends! Which was promptly followed a day later with a lovely family Chinese meal. All parceled up with a much coveted birthday/Christmas present. Happiness reigned.




Before we knew it a busy Christmas Eve was upon us with many preparations to be completed. Then suddenly we were at Midnight Mass - which in Ireland is at any time other than actual Midnight - where I found myself wallowing in not just the peaceful Christmas atmosphere, but in the fact that I was actually sitting down for the first time that day! For a full hour! Oh, heaven indeed. A lovely and relatively brief, given the night that was in it, get together with some good friends afterwards rounded off this lovely day.

Christmas Day and St Stephen's Day were swallowed up with family get togethers, lovely gifts and scrumptious meals. And a deluge of precipitation as it bucketed down for two days solidly! But not even that could dampen our Christmas spirits, not in in the least. The loveliest thing to happen in those two days was a very fleeting visit with my mam. These visits can be very difficult but not on this Christmas Day, which saw her in the best form I've seen in a long time and resulted in the taking of a much cherished photo, that I cannot really publish here. I like to think of this visit as a well deserved Christmas Gift from above, for which I'm most grateful :)

So, here we are two days after Christmas and this day dawned with no rain and the more seasonal feel of frost on the ground. We are officially in the lull between Christmas and New Year's Day, when things calm somewhat and there is more time to chill and to enjoy.

And with those thoughts firmly in mind I took myself off for a long walk this morning. A proper walk, the first one in weeks. Outdoors in the open air, rather than a frenzied haul around a very large shopping mall or nearby town grabbing some presents here, some gifts there and some forgotten food item from wherever I happened to be. With no thoughts of the lengthy and daily to-do-lists of late clouding my brain; just the peace and calmness of a lovely stroll.

Down the lane to the beach I ambled, smiling and happily greeting all the joggers - most especially the singing-out-loud one! - dog walkers and family strollers as I went. There was even a pleasant 'Good Day' to a local well-known politician I met. I will never, ever vote for him or his party again but today he was a person out walking, not a politician; and it's his Christmas too. Peace and Goodwill to all..... 

I joined my fellow sea-gazers down at the beach. Just standing there we were, staring; allowing our senses to fill up with the maritime sounds and sights, washing  away the cabin-fever of the previous two days. Watching the brown churning and slightly frothy sea come crashing in over the stony beach; sounding for all the world like car-wheels crunching over gravel. And glancing through eyes hooded with hands at the sun gleaming on the waters ahead. Beautiful.




After that it was a lengthy walk through the park with more people and dogs to greet! The day was chillier than of late and was the first day this winter that I have felt the need for scarf and gloves. It was perfectly bright and fresh. Although evidence of the previous days' deluge abounded with 'lakes' where lakes where never meant to be!






It's been a fabulous Christmas followed by a lovely relaxing day today. I'm enjoying this lull very much. There are still family gatherings and days out ahead but these are now at a much more relaxed pace and we must drag this festive spirit out for as long as we can.

After all, once this lull is over what's next?

Normalcy and a dark, dreary January?

Enjoy the lull and the festivities, for as long as you can,  I say!

Take care,






Present Yet Absent.......


Christmas is truly my favourite time of year, but glancing through my social media timelines recently made me realise how difficult this time of year can be for some people. I have seen some lovely, meaningful thoughts and messages from people who will be missing a loved one this Christmas. For some it may even be the first Christmas without them. And that is quite sad.

This forced my mind to wander to places I really wished it hadn't. 

You see there are two absent parents that we will keep in our thoughts this Christmas, as usual, but there's also another parent to consider. The one who is present, yet also absent.

Which made me ponder on how we're supposed to deal with our loved ones who live in this limbo? This limbo of neither here nor there-ness? A limbo swathed in a foggy confusion that clouds the mind; making them wonder not only who you are to them but who they are themselves. A confusion that sends them back into their past, muddling what their present age is - on any given day - who's alive and who deceased, and how did they 'end up in this place' anyway? A limbo, therefore, of blame and sometimes pain, without the words to convey their thoughts coherently.

Sadly they are no longer the people we once knew. The mothers who nurtured, the fathers who protected, or the spouses who loved are no longer available to us. They are seemingly replaced by a discombobulated version of their former beings. This version will still lovingly remind you to 'be careful' or to 'keep your chest warm' (a favourite saying here!) when it's cold out, at one point of a conversation, yet revert to calling you their 'mammy' at another. It is very difficult. Being the 'child' of a loved one who has mentally and emotionally traded places with you....

How are we supposed to cope with this? Do we mourn the person they once were - while they're still present, still alive? Or do we wait until the inevitable finally occurs, and their confused and tortured minds and bodies are allowed to leave this earth? 

Perhaps we get to mourn these special loved ones twice. 

It is a very sad situation. This 'present yet absent' lark. Heartbreaking. To watch this person you knew and loved - and still do, just differently - fall deeper and deeper into this unyielding abyss. 

You really do mourn what has been lost. Not only the person they once were but the older person they should have been allowed to become. The fuller life that they deserved to have, after all their child-rearing and house-cleaning years. A fulfilling life that would have allowed them to enjoy their family, mother and daughter days and nights out and to thoroughly enjoy the one and only grandchild that they have. The grandson who perpetually remains 'the little fella' in her mind, but in reality will turn sixteen next week. The grandson she therefore never recognises when he visits. 

Life is cruel. So, sometimes is living. And life, if this teaches us anything, is also very, very short.

Life also goes on, and so therefore must we. 

We deal with this as best we can, while we can. 

We compartmentalise. Or at least I do, it's the best survival skill in my ever-growing arsenal. 

We clutch at the good days, because there are some. These good days glow with such joy and warmth that you grab them greedily, like Christmas Gifts from the gods. 

You soak up the funny moments too, because they also exist, and you stretch them out for as long as they will last.

You just get on with it. Try and leave any mourning until a later date. 

While I found it quite therapeutic to give these thoughts and emotions of mine a brief and rare airing, I am very glad to now place them back in the Pandora's Box that I unwittingly seemed to have opened.

We will absolutely have a lovely Christmas, and I wish that for you too - especially if you find yourself in a similar situation.

And while we attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, and gather round the dinner table on Christmas Day, we will remember with love those who are no longer with us.

And those who are present, yet absent.....










NOTE: Here are some links that you may find helpful and informative: Dementia, Understanding and caring for Stroke Patients Stroke Information and Carer's Association. 

Peace, Goodwill, Cheery Thoughts and a Charity Single....



Yet again I find that time has run away on me and the last two weeks has flown by in yet another blur. A more tinsel-filled blur, it must be said, yet some time was always found to look around and smell the roses. Here are some of the moments that made me smile in that time -insanely smile even - and some of the thoughts that ran through my head....


PEACE AND GOODWILL

We are living in a world that is sometimes  quite worrying. Christmas time is a very special time of year that is about more than a fabulous Christmas Tree, food, drink and the crazy present buying. It is an ideal time of year to reflect; to spread some peace, goodwill and tolerance. Whenever and wherever we can. Even when partaking in the crazy present buying and grocery shopping forays. Tempers fray as queues lengthen, and the blood boiling reaches dangerous levels. Far better to diffuse than fall prey, I thought to myself as I watched one woman flip the bird at another on entering a very packed shopping mall on one very busy morning. She hadn't even got as far as the actual shops, where she'd face even more queues. How else could the rest of her day, and the day of those around her go, I pondered? So, I immediately counteracted this by letting the next person in ahead of me. A strangely mind-blowing moment from such a simple action, I surprisingly found. I tried it again a few days later when approaching some temporary, and hugely inconveniencing traffic lights, by following my muttered stream of obscenities, hurled with fervour at the raging scarlet orb up ahead, with the words 'and smile'. And smile I did, immediately lowering the gradually rising blood boiling levels! Wow. Quite earth-shattering! I henceforth seriously recommend this approach to one and all, most especially if you're under pressure on the road or in shops or eateries. Do spare a thought for all shop assistants and servers too. Honestly, try it. After all peace and goodwill to our fellow man has to start somewhere, doesn't it?


THRILLED SKINNY

While I haven't had time to fully update you on the healthy eating journey I recently embarked upon I can give you a little snippet of how it's all going. The best news of all is that I finally reached my weight loss goal just over a week ago! Christmas time is both a brilliant and difficult time of year to be where you want to be health wise. Healthier eating is for life though, and not just for Christmas, so I will soldier on as best I can. No doubt there will be a couple of increased pounds over this festive period but so long as I'm back at this point by mid-January I'll be happy. At which point the blood cholesterol levels will be checked and I'll give you a more complete 'Thrilled Skinny' update!
There, that should motivate and keep me in line ;-) 


CRAFTY JAZZY

As sad and all as this may seem, seeing some of the Christmas crafts I've recently  endeavoured to make, start to look like the patterns I follow never fails to fill me with both surprise and joy alike. I was like a big child when I saw these two projects, for example, starting to come together recently. There may even be an update on these Christmas knits and crochets of mine to bore you with in the New Year!




THE TREE

Because sometimes Christmas is all about a fabulous Christmas Tree let me share a photo of mine with you! Well, it's fabulous to me anyway and being adorned as it is with my new multi-function and multi-fun coloured lights, it brings me great joy and a sense of calm. It also brightens the fewer but still existent sleepless nights. Oh, and it's also an oasis of calm and delight for our very pretty and equally curious cat, who has taken to sleeping under it. On one of my crocheted aforementioned Christmas crafts that she seems to think was made for her and her alone! Cheeky cat.....






THE CHARITY STOCKING FILLER

On the one hand this is yet another charity single brought out at Christmas time in aid of a very worthy cause. On the other hand, for me at least, it is also full of meaning and nostalgia. Let me explain....

This 'When I Grow Up' charity single, featuring Shane Filan and the wonderful Grace Lee, was recorded at the AIMS (Association of Irish Musical Societies) 50th Anniversary show in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on October 25th last. It was a fabulous show featuring the very best of Irish musical talent, North and South, both upcoming and those who have taken the leap from the Irish amateur stage to the bright West End lights of London. The audience was filled mostly with those of us who had performed in various musicals through the years (including those of us who had danced in both the AIMS 21st and 25th Anniversary shows!!), some who are still performing and those who had choreographed and directed them. It was quite the eclectic, nostalgic and hugely entertaining night I must say! We were like an excited horde of children waiting to join in with the chorus, who's stage disciplinary training immediately switched on when the time came to record the single. The stage filled with a children's choir (including, as I later found out, my cousin's child), the wonderful youth and adult AIMS singers before being joined by Shane and Grace for their duet. It was a very, very special moment. Grace is only 10 years old and has had countless operations for a heart condition. She also has a wonderful singing voice......




'When I Grow Up' is in support of  the CMRF (Children's Medical Research Foundation) Crumlin and Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. It is available in HMV and XtraVision stores and can also be purchased on iTunes, GooglePlay and Amazon.

It really is the perfect stocking filler! Do buy this single if you can, to support both of these wonderful charities.....and to get it to top the Irish Charts ahead of anything X Factor might produce!





For fear of time dragging me away from here yet again I will now take this opportunity to wish you and yours a  Merry Christmas and a very peaceful New Year to come.

And remember, like charity, Peace and Goodwill begins at home...... and when you're out and about ;-)






- DESIGNED BY ECLAIR DESIGNS -