Category Archives: Hope

Is this Destinydelivered…..

There is something deep inside of me that is loosened by alcohol. I am not sure if it is a feeling of inadequacy, shyness, or reluctance, but I recognise that if I have a glass or two of wine, and I am near my computer- I am compelled to write my thoughts down.

Since I began blogging last year (July 2011) I have wanted to record and write so many things… It started out as a kind of living diary for me and for my already grown up children… I wanted them to somehow ‘see’ the person that was inside their mother….

I wanted them to separate the familiar ‘mammy’ that they knew and grew up with, from the woman that I was before they were born and who also lived a parallel life while they were children.

My ramblings were not intended for them to scrutinise in the ‘here and now’- they were for after I was gone.

This was the shyness, or the reluctance that stopped me from publically posting my blog for such a long time. I was afraid of being questioned, afraid of being ridiculed, afraid of being judged.

Becoming a blogger in the past year, I have learnt that writing personal stories, thoughts and histories, and sharing them amongst friends and family has actually been one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

It can sometimes be difficult to articulate fears and inexperience, to flounder in the face of adversity, and in front of people who expect that you will always perform to your optimum.

Blogging has allowed me to share how unsteady I have felt in my past, and also how I recognise that my future is not mapped out and assured.

I began writing this blog as a life diary for my children so that they could somehow know me after I was gone, but in writing it, I am getting to know myself more so than I ever thought possible by simply recounting my life and recording it.

Is this Destinydelivered?

Missing someone….

Missing you is not something that I think about every minute of every day.
Missing you is something different.
Missing you is not hearing your voice and laughter.
Missing you is not smelling your special sweet smell.
Missing you is not having you to hug and listen to.
Missing you is looking at your children and seeing your lovely features in them.
Missing you is our stories and history unfinished.
Missing you is my present and future without you.
Missing you is like missing the other half of me.

Missing you is simply always missing you.

Valerie’s Gallery.

This was a phrase coined by Mark my brother in law in response to the amount of photos, posters and personal memorabilia that I have displayed in my downstairs loo. He said going to the toilet in my house was like walking into a gallery.

I figured that people who ‘used the facilities’ would ‘sit for a bit’, and if I could make their visit more memorable then I would. Inside this room there are photos of family & friends, posters, art work, and the general tack & tat that we all love to collect and which remind us of particular good times.

After Mark inaugurated the space about 10 years ago, my hubby Dermot had a handmade tile made for me as a gift and we stuck it on the door. ‘Valerie’s Gallery’ was born although there was no grand opening, and I didn’t invite guests to a cheese and wine reception.

This tiny area contains so many captured images of my life, and people who come to my house and ‘use the room’ are constantly surprised by how I have utilised this space. They remark on its colour and content and all the bits inside.
As they emerge they might ask ‘who is that in the black & white picture in the small car’ or ‘I love that pic of your sister and you’. It is a real conversation starter and I never tire of conducting tours although it can be exhausting with all that walking around!

Like in a real gallery there are some exhibits that never change, but every year I try to add to the collection although space is at a premium. It’s difficult to remove a picture or thing, but time moves on and this is reflected in the images that are featured.

I personally love sitting and contemplating all the people who surround me and who have been encapsulated in the smallest room in my house. I often gaze in wonder at all of these photos and paraphernalia that represent my life, and are beloved by me and mine. I have post cards, photos, billboards, and watercolours. In my view all the necessary ingredients that make up a good gallery.

Come pay a visit to my house and let me show you around. If you want to know me and my family- they are all there on the walls of my downstairs loo. Visiting hours are random and there is no fee. All are welcome.

Destiny can be about being surrounded by your past whilst still being able to see a future.

People- and the way they touch our hearts and minds….

Meeting someone pivotal in your life is often not greeted by cymbals and drum rolls. Sometimes they just slip in unnoticed and non-assuming, yet they can subliminally change how we think and act in quiet and unobtrusive ways. People like this are like jewels. Colorful treasure in a sometimes grey, monochrome world that can make us sit up and take notice of the beauty and sparkle that is inherent in life.

I met a man twelve years ago who changed me, fundamentally and quietly without his knowing. We met weekly and exchanged thoughts, philosophies, visions and ideas. He was older than I was and had a broader life experience and education than I had at the time. He spoke to and listened to me, and encouraged me to believe in my aspirations, beliefs and hopes. He supported me as I took the first tentative steps to thinking beyond the person that I was at the time, and he shaded my dreams with pencils of colour and substance.

Looking back, I recognise that I was at a crossroads in my life. My children were in their late teens and were on their own paths of discovery. My job at the time was well paid but I hated it. My husband had his career and was working hard at it. I was approaching my 40’s and I truly didn’t know who I was or where I going to. My life was predictable and mostly enjoyable, but it was lacking something that I couldn’t articulate or name.

This man encouraged me to read the works of great philosophers and writers, and to think deeply about the things that produced joy and happiness for me. He believed in the power of silence and self-reflection and taught me not to feel afraid in the quiet of my mind. Through our weekly discussions we explored what the universe had to offer us as humans and what we could give back.

We debated and argued back and forth about what was meaningful and relevant in a world gone mad with consumerism and greed. We agreed that it was people and how they felt that mattered most when it came to actual living.

I looked forward to our meetings and I was rarely disappointed. We were in a work environment so not all the time was spent chatting, but I loved having time out with this wonderful man learning something new in almost every encounter. He made me think in a way that I had never done before.

Trying to help my husband and children understand the monumental shift that was occurring inside me was difficult, as I was learning to think, to do things differently, and to reflect on where I was on my life’s map. I was also menopausal at the time which may have contributed to their lack of engagement with me as they all thought I was going nuts anyway. My new “Airy Fairy” way of thinking and my constant quoting of this man’s viewpoints made them laugh and dismiss me a lot, although they were never deliberately unkind. They just didn’t get what I was getting.

They didn’t understand the effect that this man was having on my consciousness. Although they listened to me, they didn’t really hear me or understand my new way of thinking. I knew that he did and I simply loved him for it.

I eventually emerged from the menopause mentally intact (although my family may disagree on this issue) and began to slowly build a new individual way of being, hugely influenced by this gentle man.

My thoughts and practices are different now and have been since I knew him. His gentleness continues to affect me in how I view the world and his wisdom will never be forgotten.

I do not see him now and have not for many years. Our paths diverged and we are not in contact. He has absolutely no idea how he influenced and changed my life.

I remember him with fondness, thankfulness and a deep and abiding love. He provided me with a space that allowed me to express my feelings, my doubts, worries and dreams. He listened to me and never judged me. He encouraged me to be quiet in myself and to appreciate the silence that lies within us all. He taught me to accept people with all their frailties and vulnerabilities and to recognise that I have those feelings too.

He has been a kind of guru for me in how I live my life although he would hate to have that title. He believed in the sharing of life’s philosophies, education and knowledge, with the implicit acknowledgement that we have no ownership of them as they were never ours in the first place. I learnt from him that wisdom, kindness and understanding that is passed on is the greatest gift that we as humans can share.

Destiny can teach us about people and the unconsciousness power they have to individually shape our lives.

Care and kindness in unexpected places

According to all the current reports in the newspaper and on the TV, our Irish National Health Service is in shambles. There are stories featured almost every day about the heartbreak and suffering that vulnerable people have to endure at a time when they need care the most. There seems to be little praise for the services and for every bad story that is heard, there are another five waiting in the wings for their day in the spotlight.

I realise that no newspaper ever refused ink, and that good news rarely makes the front page, but I am heartened by my own recent experience with the Health Service and particularly with St James Hospital in Dublin where my mother is currently a patient.

I brought my mam (who is also terminally ill) to the A & E department of James Street hospital in Dublin late on Monday night June 18th on the advice of her GP. Her condition didn’t appear to relate to her current illness, but her GP quite rightly didn’t want to take any chances. From the waiting room she was triaged within five minutes and was admitted almost immediately. The care and attention that she received during the next few hours was of an exceptionally high standard, and was in contrast to previously heard stories about this particular department.

Despite being overcrowded with patients on trollies, there was one cubicle that was constantly kept empty during the night. Trollies were moved about by the staff with the dexterity of chess pieces as doctors came and consulted with, and diagnosed their patients. Each patient was wheeled into this empty cubicle in order to have complete privacy as doctors examined them. When the consultation was over, they were wheeled back out again leaving the cubicle ready for the next patient.

All this movement/ shifting/ wheeling/ tugging/pushing was carried out by the staff with constant cheerfulness and maximum efficiency. My mother was wheeled into that cubicle three times during the hours that we were there before she was eventually transferred to a ward. Being the beneficiaries of such a high level of privacy and dignity in the middle of a hustling busy A & E dept. was so welcome and so totally unexpected given the horrific experiences of other patients that are constantly referred to by the media. The current health service is hugely criticised most of the time- but my mother’s recent experience was one to be highly commended.

The unit that she is still on is staffed by dedicated people who look after her with diligent care, kindness and professionalism. Her every need is catered for and we are so lucky that her care team are so thorough in their work and expertise.

Since she was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year, the care and attention that my mother has received from the medical staff in St James Hospital has been nothing short of excellent. Her treatments and appointments run like clockwork, and she has always been present at the heart of every consultation and meeting about her illness.

Kindness, affection and good humour are the added bonuses that the staff provide, and my mother and the rest of my family are so grateful that she is being looked after with such compassion, thoughtfulness and consideration.

I have nothing but praise for all the health care professionals that surround us at the moment as my mother struggles to remain upbeat and as well as she can be given her fragile state. I have no doubt that while the Health Service in general is struggling and needs reform, St James Hospital as a centre of excellence is currently demonstrating how best practice can actually work as my mother and consequently the rest of our family are the recipients of this care.

Destiny can lie in the hands and hearts of unexpected people who come into our lives when they are needed the most.

Investigating Fairies

Memory can be tricky, and sometimes when we tell a story we can embellish it slightly to make it more appealing to the listener. If the bones of the story remain true then there is probably no real harm done, particularly if it is a good or amusing tale. When something happens that is remarkable I want to remember it, and I have often wondered why I didn’t write things down at the time so that I could remember every little detail and nuance of what it was that I wanted to remember. Life happens and interrupts all these good intentions and resolutions, and sometimes memories fade and are lost.

Tonight I was gazing into my back garden looking in wonder at the solar sparkly fairy lights that my darling sister Annie bought for me before she died three years ago. They were shining brightly in the darkness despite the years that have gone since she died, when suddenly I remembered a fairy story from my own past.

It involved my then six year old daughter Jayne and her first baby tooth which had fallen out during the day. At the time I told my children (like many other parents) that if the child put their tooth under their pillow at night time, the fairies would come and take that tooth, carve it into toys for the baby fairies, and that they would leave money in its place under the pillow. This story needed little embellishment and most children knew the drill and minded those precious tiny teeth until they could be safely stored under the pillow in return for cold hard cash.

During that day Jayne wandered around the house with her precious tooth rolled up in a wad of tissue paper clutched tightly in her little hand. She was noticeably quiet, and a few times as she drifted past me during the afternoon I clearly remember asking her if she was alright. She was vague, but replied that she was fine. I watched her doing the strangest things like sitting on the floor in the sitting room, gazing up the chimney for a long long time. Our chimney was manually blocked up as we had gas central heating but there was a working fireplace in the house that we didn’t use. She also stood on the top of the sofa in the window area in the sitting room and opened and closed the windows! When I asked he what she was doing, her reply was “I’m just checking”…..

She spent a long time in the downstairs toilet and she flushed it several times while the door was open and when I asked her again if she was alright, she reassured me that she was “fine”. All through that afternoon she checked exterior doors and windows. I was highly amused but as I was busy with household chores, getting dinner ready etc, I really didn’t pay too much attention or press her on her investigative meanderings and never linked her behaviour to the recently “lost” tooth.

While we were sitting having dinner that evening she was quietly munching away when she put down her knife and fork and announced that she had “finally worked it out”. “Worked what out?” I replied.

In one of the sweetest moments of my life my little six year old daughter told me that the whole day she had been worrying as to how the fairies would get into the house to take her tooth for their fairy baby’s. She had checked the windows and doors and as we lived in a City she knew that they would be well secured when we were asleep and in our beds. She had checked the toilet and knew that they couldn’t get in that way and the chimney was blocked so that was not the entry point for sure.

She smiled with the conviction of Agatha Christie as she told me that there was not one fairy that arrived and took the precious tooth and left the money, but that there were in fact seventeen fairies involved in the operation. “Really” I asked humorously, “how have you worked that out”? Her reply was “Well I figure that it takes sixteen fairies to open the letterbox (which was a tightly sprung brass fixture on our front door) and only one fairy to fly up the stairs to collect the tooth”!

That was a beautiful and special moment. A moment that will be forever etched in my memory as I looked upon her innocent little face, so pleased with herself having worked out the miracle of how the tooth fairy accomplished the swap.

I promised myself that I would write it down, but I didn’t. I remembered it though with clarity throughout my life as I promised myself that I would record it. Perhaps that childish logic was the basis for her scientific persuasion and her eventual career in the police force, who knows. I am just glad that finally I have written it down and can faithfully attest that it is the absolute truth with no embellishments. This is the way that it happened.

Was it part of her destiny to establish the facts or was it part of mine to wonder at her innocence. Who knows, but I believe that it’s a great story that needed to be told.

Being yourself….

Living in the shadow of someone else can be the most debilitating curse. Being compared to someone that everyone else perceives as being better than you can be privately humiliating, and the feelings that arise as a result can last a lifetime. It can colour how you live and how you justify your very existence. You can end up apologising for your life choices, how you made them and how you continue towards your destiny. Despite your choices though, you are always compared. This can be the toughest battle and one that is never really fought openly. It can be latent and subjective and it can burden in the most hurtful and inconceivable way.

31 years ago today I married a boy. I was 20 and loved him. He was 24 and loved me back. We set forth on an adventure that saw us buying a house, having a couple of kids, building a life as young couple’s do- raising a family together and taking life in its stride.

We encountered Joy, happiness, debt, hardship, isolation, personal problems, parenting issues, job difficulties etc…. Normal events in normal lives.

Throughout our early married years we had the benevolence of our parents, but in particular we had my husband’s wonderful dad who was a rock of sense. He was a Civil Servant who worked for the Department of Justice in Ireland, and had spent his lifetime working for the collective good of the Irish legal system- drafting pieces of legislation that are still a part of our constitution today. He was a moral and kind man and had wonderful values that he passed unknowingly on to his four children.

My lovely husband was the beneficiary of the morals, kindness and thoughtfulness of this sweet man who sadly died on the eve of the new Millennium on Dec 31st 1999.

Growing up in an affluent area in Dublin, my husband was surrounded by neighbours who had children, some of who had grand career opportunities that were granted to them because of their family connections. My husband had no such connections as his Dad was not in private business and who also believed that in order to get on in life you had to work hard and not rely on people giving you a leg up. His Dad had a total distain for stockbrokers and Merchant bankers and on his retirement when he was given a substantial amount of money for all his years with his State employers, he declined to invest in the “latest trend” and deposited his money in a regular bank with regular interest pay-outs rather than gamble on the stock market. He saw many of his colleagues lose their pensions on “sure things” and he passed on his hatred of stock trading and share purchasing to his children and I am all the better because of it.

This is a frame as to how we ended up living our own life, carefully and thriftily. Not showy and full on, but according to our needs and within our budget. Boring to so many who encouraged us to borrow and go on expensive holidays- to build on-or to buy a bigger house- to buy that car and to “have it all”.. We didn’t do any of that and we had a small life, lived within our means, but we were never desperately poor yet never extravagantly rich either. This was the example his Dad had set.

In comparison to some of his old neighbourhood peers, my husband suffered the indignity of mediocrity. They built empires while he worked as a skilled paramedic and Fire Fighter with the Dublin Fire Brigade. He provided a lifesaving service to the people of Dublin while his peers were busy accumulating personal wealth through business and entrepreneurship. His Dad was very proud of him and his chosen career and that is worth more than words can say.

The recent financial crash has left many of his peers broken, debt ridden and despairing.

My lovely husband knows what it feels like to live in the shadow of people who think that “they are all that and a bag o’ chips” … when really they are not even the bits in the bag when the chips are gone…….

I have always known his worth as a person. His Dad lives on in him. I married him 31 years ago today and I am so glad that we are still together. I simply love him and all the qualities that make him so dear to me.

Destiny can be about recognising goodness in people and grabbing that person and holding on tightly. x