Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Good vibrations


That was my one word chosen for 2018. It was picked with a view to drawing positivity to me. Hitting the sweet vibrations of the universe with a harmony that The Beach Boys would be proud of. Imagining all the great things I wanted from the year and pulling them towards me with the force of a black hole vortex.

Hey! Was it something I said? Come back here!

Ok, so some of the stuff is a bit out there. But I do believe that there's something in all of it. If you go around focusing on all the bad things that can happen - guess what? Bad things happen! If you focus on the amazing - well, you just never know do you?

There's a school of thought that believes that the universe delivers on our vibes. Literally. Our own energy reflected back on us. It's a crazy concept. But then so was electricity before we all took it for granted. And what is electricity but energy.

Electricity: a form of energy resulting from the existence of charged particles, either statically as an accumulation of charge or dynamically as a current.

Anyway, I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this, but I have had some pretty incredible things happen so far this year. Life changing things in fact.

Professionally I've somehow managed to bag myself the role of Head of Social for eumom and Easy Parenting magazine. Like all good women (especially mothers) I was immediately flooded by imposter syndrome. Can I do this? Do I know enough? Am I the best person for this job? What if I fail? (Oh but what if you fly...)

"You know things you don't even know you know" a friend wisely counseled at the time. And you know what? She was right. Believe in yourself. No one knows everything, it's a learning game. Keep listening, keep learning, keep helping and keep being helped. 

(It also helps that I work here. )
(I know.)

A post shared by Kate Gunn (@katetakes5) 

Which brings me to Incredible Thing No. 2. 

I've written an actual book that has an actual publisher.  Gulp. Slightly terrifying. Especially as it is oversharing to the Nth degree. It's a book about separation. A personal story. A story which I wish I had been able to read when I was going through my own (dare I say it) 'journey'. A story which has the blessings of my family, my kids and my ex. It's a story of hope. My story. 

It's also the reason I haven't written a post on here all year and why I disappeared from Facebook for so long. The deadline is the end of this month so obviously I'm doing what all writers do at times of crisis - anything but writing. 

So that's all momentous. And it isn't even midway through the year yet. Call me crazy hippy lady but I'm going to keep sending those good vibrations into the ether and see what comes back to me. 

Who's with me? (Don't all rush at once now...)

Sunday, December 31, 2017

One word 2018

It's that time of the year again, time to not make resolutions but to review the year that has passed, and choose a new word to live by for the year ahead. A word that brings you back to what you are looking for when you are a little bit lost. A word that inspires you when you are tired. A word that helps guide your decisions when confusion reigns.

I'm not usually great at keeping things going past the good idea phase. I like to think of myself as the creative type - excited by new shiny things as they are dreamed up or pass by my eyeline. 'Oh look a good idea! Quick grab it before it disappears!'' I plan to hold on to the shiny new good idea and change my life with it, but then a new one comes along and, well, I can't hold on to them all can I? So I'll just let go of this old not-so-shiny-anymore one and grab the new one. Quick, before it disappears...

The One Word movement however has stayed shiny. This is my forth year doing it and all I can say is - it works for me.

In 2015, my first year, I chose Fresh. In 2016 it was Depth. Last year my word was Goals. I had some big ones that I wanted to stop putting on the long finger and just really steam roll through. My word was a way of reminding myself of the big picture throughout the year.

So how did I fair?

My big goals were to finish my book, start a pension, do a triathlon and be more patient with my children.

I made huge headway with my book. I got excited about it, getting up early to write and living vast chunks of time with the story rolling around in my head. I got the belief back - even to the point of sending it on to a few trusted pairs of eyes and a single publisher. But then I stumbled again. I know it's not right yet and I'm not sure how to fix it. With that in mind I've just signed up to a big scary 8 week course with the Irish Writers Centre. Perhaps this time next year I'll be checking off the goal that at times seems an immense impossibility and at others seems almost within touching distance.

I completed my One Year No Beer. I also wrote an article about the early days, appeared on the radio to discuss it and now may never drink again. I know.

I started a pension with the money I saved by giving up drink. Rock n' Roll.

I completed the Dublin City Triathlon and came 4th in my (aul one) age group. (I think there were more than 4 of us...). My one word helped me through many a training session.

I went sunrise swimming, and even dragged the kids along some mornings.

I did at least one sea swim every month for the year.

And then there's the patience thing. I'd like to think I improved. I certainly learned a lot this year about dealing with children's ever changing emotional needs. How listening, supporting, working through issues together helps empower them. And how labelling a child never, ever helps. I also got a big fat healthy reminder that it is how we react to our children's emotions that is the key to really helping them. We've all been there. They shout at you. You shout back. They scream louder. You explode. When all along if you'd taken the time to find out where the anger was coming from and talk it out with them you both could have learned something. I'm not saying it's easy - especially in the heat of the moment. But recent weeks have taught me that lots of extra love and positive reinforcement works wonders on behaviour and household happiness. More of that this year please.

So on to 2018 and my word, which this year is Mind. 

I've spent a lot of this year exploring the power of the mind, and the more I read and discover the more I know it's the answer to everything. And there is so much to learn. From teaching your kids the life skills of resilience and grit, to opening yourself up to the power of the universe - everything stems from your brain.

I've been reading up on neuroplasticity - which basically is the science of rewiring your brain. The good news is that no, you are not born that way. You can train your brain to grow new neurons, build new pathways, become compassionate or grateful or happier - or even more patient. Wow.

Meditation also looms large in my plans. Taking time out each day to allow the subconscious space to breathe and speak to you. I'm going to upgrade my current free app to a paid version which hopefully will make me do it every day. Bring on the calm.

Universal intelligence - far less scientific but still worthy of exploration will also feature in my 2018 plans. I keep coming back to this as if it's simply positive thinking, but I'm pretty sure it's much more than that. It's believing in your potential and having faith that what you want is available to you. (If this time next year I'm an author you can take it from me it works. If I'm not you never have to read another crackpot hippie mantra post from me ever again.)

Kindness, gratitude, abundance, confidence, positivity. Live how you want to live. Be the person you want to be. If I master all that and pass it on to my kids I'm pretty sure that's a parenting Olympic gold in the bag.

This little story from Ruby Wax's 'Sane New World' sums it up in all it's simplicity.

Have an amazing 2018.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

23 questions to ask your child

This has been doing the rounds online for ages - it's only taken me two years to actually take 10 minutes to sit down and go through the questions with one of my kids. BUT having finally done it I can highly recommend it as time extremely well spent. 

I took the youngest out for dinner the other week (Indian, yum), and spent the entire time grinning like an idiot across the table at him as he answered these 23 questions about me. As a bonding experience it is pretty damn good. 

Here's one I made earlier..

So here's our Q&A, recorded for the memory making loveliness. 

1. What is something Mummy always says to you?
'I love you'. 
2. What makes Mummy happy?
'Kisses and cuddles'
3. What makes Mummy sad?
4. How does Mummy make you laugh?
'Being herself'
5. What was Mummy like as a child?
'I dunno, I didn't know you as a child'
6. How old is Mummy?
7. How tall is Mummy?
'6ft 3' (5ft 2)
8. What is Mummy’s favourite thing to do?
'Spending time with the family'
9. What does Mummy do when you’re not here?
'Misses me'
10. If Mummy becomes famous what will it be for?
'Being pretty' (!)
11. What is Mummy really good at?
'Hugs and kisses'
12. What is Mummy not very good at?
13. What is Mummy’s job?
'A writer'
14. What makes you proud of Mummy?
'She works hard and she never gives up on her dreams'
15. What is Mummy’s favourite food?
'Pasta' (correct)
16. What do you & Mummy do together?
'Go for dinner'
17. How are you & Mummy the same?
'We both love hugs and kisses and we both have green eyes'
18. If your Mummy was a character who would she be?
'The mum from Stranger Things'
19. How are you & Mummy different?
'You're not great at football'
20. How do you know Mummy loves you?
'You give me hugs and kisses, you cook for me, spend money on me and kiss me goodnight every night'
21. What does Mummy like best about Daddy?
'His personality' 
22. Where is Mummy’s favourite place to go?
'Bed' (Good answer)
23. How old was Mummy when she had you?
37 (Close!)
So basically it's all about the kisses and cuddles. I might have this parenting lark sorted after all.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Perfect Paris

Back when I was knee deep in nappies and struggling to breathe under the weight of three tiny tots (literally), I could have killed now-me with a death stare through the heart of the internet.

Go away. Leave me in my self-made hell of whingy kids and sleep deprivation. What a bitch.

I know. I get it. But it's not like I was just jumping on a plane to Paris at the drop of a hat. This trip was booked months and months ago, and looked forward to through many a rough day since. Does it help if I tell you that it really was a particularly tough few months leading up to this? No? Well let me just say that I needed this. Like, really needed this.

Right, so now that the guilty-me is out of the way - come and tiptoe around sunny Paris with me.

We went for a festival. The National. Run the Jewels. Kevin Morby. This is the Kit. It was full of young hipster Parisians, and very civilised . The people watching was almost as good as the music.

We stayed in a perfect little hotel just opposite the venue. Newly refurbished and cosy with a capitol Zzzz, it was hard to leave each day.

Except for the food. The food kept us moving.

There's a well known restaurant attached to teh hotel - 'Au Beouf Couronne'. All stiff white table cloths and red velvet seats. The steak was immense. The desserts tipped us over the edge. Watching the waiter passing by the table with an overflowing cheese board saw me curse the portion sizes. I guess I'll just have to go back..

Our days were spent wandering around Paris.

Black coffee and croissants, a quick hop on the Metro and then off to The Seine, The Eiffel Tower, L'Orangerie, Montematre, a river cruise here, a record shop there, and a few bistros along the way.

Mon Dieu!

He enjoyed himself I swear...

I know. I'm annoying. But if you get to plan a couple of days away - even if it takes you ten years to actually do it - head to Paris. You won't be disappointed.

Say hello on Instagram

Sunday, October 1, 2017

1 year. 12 months. 365 days. I did it.

It's now one whole year since I gave up alcohol for what was supposed to be one month.

No one is more surprised than me to find myself here. I had absolutely no intention whatsoever in going off it for so long. 30 days was my agreed limit. A supportive gesture that surprised me with it's benefits. So much so that I decided to keep going to 365. And now here I am, pretty sure I'll never go back.

The funny thing about giving up alcohol is that everybody thinks you've got a back story. You're an alcoholic. You're sick. You're dying. Something terrible has happened. I still enjoy the fact that when you ask for a non-alcoholic beer in a bar or restaurant there's a pause ('Is she joking?'), and then a hurried, averted-eyes response - 'Of course, yes, no problem...' ('Oh my GOD she must be an alcho. Quick, act normal'). The truth of course is a lot more boring.

I stopped drinking for 30 days with my boyfriend. A challenge. A test to see what health benefits might occur. With the support of One Year No Beer this was more about the good things might come from it, rather than depriving ourselves. This mental shift was one of the most powerful things in making the experience so positive.

I became highly productive, brimming with energy. Skin, sleep and mood improved. Weekends were spent in the great outdoors instead of dragging myself around town with a faint headache and a desire for bedtime.

I painted the house, finished a diploma, completed the first draft of a book, did a triathlon, ran a sub-50-minute 10k race, hiked 120k of the camino, took to sunrise swimming, still went out, and learned a huge amount about myself while doing it.

Turns out you can accomplish lots of things when you're not drinking / hungover.

When you tell people you've stopped drinking, (and assure them that there's no tragic backstory), they always wonder whether you were a real drinker in the first place. I can assure you that I was. My typical week would be maybe half a bottle of wine midweek, a couple of beers one night of the weekend, and then a couple of beers and another half bottle of wine the next night. Of course some weekends were much heavier, though nothing 'worrying' in terms of what we all seem to consider normal these days. That will be a lot more than some of you, and a lot less than others.

I reckon I save at least €200 a month not drinking, that's about €2500 a year. Which would translate into a pretty amazing holiday if you were so inclined. Me? I started a pension plan instead. So yeah, who says not drinking makes you boring?

Do I still get stressed about things? Certainly. But I'm now more likely to reach for the running shoes rather than the bottle to relax. Do I still get cravings? Occasionally I'll eye up a glass of red wine and consider 'just one'. But really there's no such thing. A year after giving up, I no longer agonise over the decision of whether or not I will drink again. I've gained more from giving it up than anything I might have lost. This quote seems more and more apt the further down the road I go. It's just easier to not drink 100% of the time.
The weirdest thing about the whole experience is that the spell of alcohol is suddenly broken, and you see it for what it is. I'm not here to lecture anyone about the merits or dangers of drink, but a conversation with your kids about it is highly recommended. With little prompting mine came out with nuggets such as 'Grown ups are scary when they're drunk'; 'They become like different people'; 'Everyone is loud and stupid'. Hmm.

Society has normalised our drinking habits to such a degree that to not drink is considered to be weird, boring, suspicious. But it's worth breaking the spell just once in your adult life, so that you can look from the other side of the fence with a clear mind and then decide which field you want to set up camp in. You might be as surprised as I am with your choice.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Summer 2017. Where did that go?

Summer loving, loving Summer.

It's my favourite season. The time when ankle boots are kicked to the curb and flip flops and bare feet take centre stage. For the past few months my toes have had a love affair with a battered pair of Haviana's, barely flirting with anything else on offer.

But now the school books have been purchased and the jumpers are starting to come out more frequently. The hardly noticed shorter evenings and slightly later sunrises are creeping up, and it has to be admitted - summertime is almost over.

June was a blur of primary school leaving parties, celebrations and uniformed swims. The eldest moves on to secondary this year and we all took a gulp as she waved goodbye at the school gates she first entered so many years ago.

July was kids clubs, travel and birthdays. I hiked 120k of the Camino in Spain, while the kids and their Dad had old fashioned fun in West Cork, with fishing nets, stray dogs and Graham Norton..

August has been the month I sampled and fell for sunrise swimming. Who knew that there was something I'd be willing to get out of bed at 5.30 for..? Amazing. The kids have even got in on the action.

I've also been training for a triathlon, just one week to go now. 

We've spent weeks strolling up and down to the beach for sea swims in every weather. We've done sleepovers, glamping, backyard camping, rabbit adopting, beach movies, horse riding, stone skimming, trampolining, cooking, festivals, and of course - plenty of boredom.

I had intended to write about all of our trips and adventures, but blogging seems to have taken a back seat for the summer months. Too much 'Life' to squeeze in, but too many memories not to record some of it. So this little recap will have to do.

Plenty of time for more during the darker days and colder weather.

See you then.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Dancer

‘Sean. Wake up. She’s out there again.’

Lucy’s husband rolled over under the duvet and moaned.

‘Do you think we should go out to her?’ she whispered, peaking through the flimsy curtains into the garden next door.

‘What’s she doing this time?’ he asked sleepily, more interested in his return to dreams than the latest antics of their aged neighbour.

‘She’s in her nighty and she’s twirling around on the grass. I think… I think she’s dancing.’

‘Just leave her to it. She’s as mad as a box of frogs Lucy’.

‘I feel bad for her though. She looks so frail and graceful out there in the darkness all alone’.

Lucy continued to watch her neighbour’s movements. She opened the window a little and heard the old woman with the long grey hair and white flowing nightdress calling to the non-existent birds around her.

‘Rodolfo! Rodolfo! It’s time now! Are you there Bernard?’

Lydia tied up her ballet shoes and stretched out on the barre. The feeling was magical. Every day could be a good day after pulling your body to life. She studied herself in the mirror. Long limbs, and golden hair stretched back in a tight bun. The other girls in the room bent and leapt beside her. Each one as graceful as the next. Beautiful creatures.

Bernard would be coming to see the show tonight. After every performance he brought her flowers with a note nestled in them - ‘To my darling Lydia. I couldn’t be prouder. All my love forever, Bernard.’ She smiled as she thought of him. It wouldn’t be long now until he officially asked her.

When the dancers took their afternoon break, Lydia walked quickly down to the café on the corner to meet him. She still got a thrill walking through the streets of London. She had thought she was a big city girl before she moved here, but within a day she had realised how parochial Dublin was. She looked up at the sky and felt the warmth of the sun on her face.

A collision sent her back-stepping into the path of busy shoppers.

‘Oh! Are you alright miss?’ His deep brown eyes looked into hers, and for a moment she was lost. 
‘My fault, my fault, I am so sorry. You are ok?’

She thought the accent was Italian, but couldn’t be sure. All she knew was that she wanted to hear more.

‘I’m fine. I think it may have been my fault actually’. She looked up to the sky in explanation and was surprised to see him smiling warmly at her when her gaze returned.

Within minutes they were settled into a booth in an American style diner, and he was telling her how he had ended up in England after the war. She told him about how her parents had used all their savings to send her to London to become a ballet star, and how she was already making it after less than a year here. Of course she was still only in the chorus, but she was getting closer every day.  He was enthralled and begged her to let him come to watch. It was only then that she thought of Bernard. Poor, sweet, loyal Bernard, who must be wondering what had happened to her.

‘I’ll leave a ticket for you at the door. I suppose you better tell me your name, hadn’t you?’

‘It’s Rodolfo. After my great, great grandfather. Family is numero uno for true Italians.’ He held up one index finger to make the point, then gently leaned forward and stroked her cheek with it.

As she skipped back to the theatre she wondered why she had never felt that same thrill when Bernard touched her. The pull was undeniable, all she wanted was to reach out and touch him back. Rodolfo. She said it to herself again, rolling it off her tongue in delight.

After the show, amid the flurried footsteps and laughter of other dancers, she received the flowers.

‘You were amazing. I must see you again. Meet me tomorrow night. I will wait for you. Rodolfo.’

Bernard didn’t understand why she was spending less and less time with him. When he asked in desperation if she would marry him, she could do no more than shake her head and give him a soft kiss on the cheek. Poor Bernard.

Their romance was the thing of movies. Long kisses and passionate embraces that sometimes went too far. But it didn’t matter because they were so in love. Rodolfo was ecstatic. He couldn’t wait for her to meet his Mama and sisters. Did she know it was all girls in his family? His father had left when they were young, and his five sisters had helped raise him. And Italy! Wait until she saw Italy! They would go to Florence on their honeymoon. It was like nowhere else on earth. Too beautiful to describe. As beautiful as her even! They would have - what? Four? Five children? They would all have his brown skin and her cheekbones. Bellisima!

Her family had all come over from Ireland for the wedding. Excited and impressed by the suddenness of it all. Her mother wore the biggest hat Clery’s had available, and her father the proudest smile in the church.

Lydia stood at the bottom of the aisle in the prettiest three-quarter length white dress, flared at the waist to show off her still-perfect figure. ‘Bellisima!’ he would whisper when he leaned in to kiss her neck.

It was only when she saw the worried glances fly between the guests that she thought something might be wrong. Had the rings been forgotten? Was somebody ill? Her father looked at his watch again.

Lydia sat without moving, staring at the crucifix ahead as chaos echoed around her. They said her father and brother had to pull her from the pew. White flowers scattered in the aisle as they dragged her out.

She never did hear from him again.

Lucy closed the curtains and got back into bed. ‘Poor old thing’, she sighed, as she nestled into her husband’s warm back, 'I wonder what happened to her to make her so crazy'.

This story is fictional. Inspired by an old neighbour and the need to take a break from the novel writing.
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