Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Dalkey Book Festival - Coming Full Circle

I'm not sure if it counts as a full circle when there's only two stops - more of a round trip, which is a bit like a circle so...

First stop. This time last year I saw a pop up on my Facebook feed talking about a book festival. Even better - a book festival in Dalkey. Even better - a book festival in Dalkey with Billy Bragg.

Credit: Conor McCabe
We bought tickets, the sun shone, we pottered between pubs and marquees, weaving in and out of the crowds who spilled out from the doors onto the street, glasses in hand and smiles on faces. It was magical.

And to top it all off I got to meet Billy.

And so, after a thoroughly enjoyable weekend, we vowed to return next year.

A few months later, a very special lady I have had the pleasure of getting to know, Prishela Row, asked me would I write a short story for a book she was planning. It was titled 'The Kindness of the Irish People' and she wanted me to dig through my memory for a good example and write it down.

It's impossible to say no to Prishela. Plus of course I was honoured to be asked. The only problem was that my story featured me. What sort of a person puts themselves at the centre of a story like that?! But the story wouldn't go away, so I wrote it down, and it turned out that it wasn't my kindness that had made the moment special at all - it was humanity. It was the forming of bonds between strangers on a human level. I handed my story to her and promptly forgot about it all.

And then I got another tap on the shoulder. The book was coming out. Would I read my story out at the Dalkey Book Festival in June?

Second stop. Goosebumps.

The event is on this Thursday. I'm nervous. But most of all I'm deeply proud of my lovely friend who had an idea, and through her own magic wove it into reality.

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.

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