Friendship Bras… Does Yours Still Fit?

This year has been weird. And the whole idea of friendship has been weird too.

Many of us will say that we’ve had friendships change, for better and for worse.

We’ve tightened our circles. We’ve made new friends. (Isn’t the tinterweb amazing in fairness?)

We’ve been chatting to strangers online and some really fun connections have been made. Some of us have made an effort. Most of us have retreated into our own wee worlds and only let a few in. Maybe you’ve had zoom calls or been in Wattsapp chats or messenger groups. Maybe you’ve removed yourself from chats that you found to be zapping the life out of you.

The list of ways that we have been dealing with social interaction, or lack thereof, is infinite.

And we’re all different.

I’ve been through enough “friendships” in my lifetime to know that they don’t always last.

We’ve all had friends not reply to our calls or messages.

We’ve all had the message group that has stopped pinging.

We’ve all had the realisation that we’ve not been invited to something.

We’ve all had the friends who’ve unfollowed or deleted us.

We’ve all had the friend who took themselves out of the message group for some reason.

I’m sure every one of you reading this can empathise with some of this. Maybe you’ve reassessed who your friends are. Maybe you’ve been hurt. Maybe you’ve felt left out. Maybe you’re the friend who has cut ties with someone.

I saw a meme about friends last week announcing that If they don’t check in on you, they’re not worth your time….” or something to that effect. So many people were commenting and agreeing…

BUT

In the past year, we have all been through so much.

Most of us have literally had to put all of our energy into keeping things going. Or “between the ditches” as one of my mates says.

And for most of us, our priorities changed.

We’ve all coped, (and not coped), differently.

And maybe the friend who “cut you out” or “didn’t bother about you”, just couldn’t. Maybe they just had a million other things happening and you weren’t a priority.

It may seem harsh, but the reality is that no one owes us anything.

No one is required to message or call or include us in anything.

Everyone has been fighting their own battles for the past year and yes, there may be relationships that will need effort to be rekindled and rejuvenated, that will eventually be OK again.

But maybe there are relationships that were intended to fizzle out.

So maybe, let them go?

Friendship is a two way thing. If there isn’t effort from both sides, it won’t work.

Everyone comes into our lives for a reason, and if they leave, they might have left memories. They might have left scars or hurt. But even those people teach us something, either about people, or about ourselves.

I care deeply about people I let into my life.

I try hard to make people feel valued and cared about.

But if I think for one second that I am upsetting or having a negative impact on someone’s life, I feel sad.

I don’t get annoyed if someone removes me from their circle or from social media. If what I say or post makes someone feel badly, then I’m pretty damn proud of them for hitting block. Or whatever button they press.

We all got caught up in the glamour of all of the friendships and social circles in the chaos of pre-covid life. And I think many of us blurred the lines a bit.

We called people we really didn’t know very well, “friends”.

We called acquaintances from events or different communities we were in, “friends”.

We have the added complication of social media where genuine and brilliant connections CAN and are formed. But until the person you’re connecting with has seen you at your best and at your worst, should we really call them “friends”?

We all define friends differently.

I have a very small and very tight little circle. I’m so very lucky. There are three ladies who have been in my life for many, many years. I have one or two buddies who I adore and who give me such joy in our conversations. I’ve always been open to making new friends, even as an adult. But I try not to confuse all of the different ‘types’ of friends.

True friends are like a favourite Bra; the ones we go to for comfort. The ones we don’t need to put on frills for. The ones who have been in your drawer for so long, it would be empty without them. They’re safe, comfy and supportive. And they might not be worn every single day, but they’re our go-to every time. And they don’t need matching knickers. They’re perfectly fabulous all on their own. These are your friends.

Yes it’s nice to have the fancy, frilly, sexy or sassy boobie-baskets in the drawer for different occasions or “events”, and they’re just as fabulous, but only worn the odd time. They are for certain outfits, or have certain functions, or make us feel a certain way. These are your acquaintances; you pals.

Then there is the bra that broke on you, or whose wire snapped and stabbed you in the ribs… or that left marks on because it really just didn’t fit properly. But you keep it in the drawer just to remind yourself not to wear it again and not to buy that particular brand again. These are your lessons learned.

So there. Friends are bras.

All different style and sizes; Some a good fit, some not so good. Some to be kept forever, some to be worn by someone else. Some to be admired and appreciated for their style and beauty, but some that really just weren’t your style.

And when we realise that not all bra CAN fit us, and that indeed we won’t always be the right fit for the bra, we can appreciate that sometimes, gently removing the bra, popping it in the recycle bag and wishing it all the better boobies in the world, is the only way forward.

Yes, there will be some people who have disappointed us or hurt us this past year, but actually, the only person who controls YOUR disappointment or hurt, is YOU.

And maybe we’ve been the “friend” doing the disappointing?

If you’ve felt ignored by someone, ring them. Say hi. Maybe they’re feeling the same way about you.

But remember that only person who owes you anything, is yourself. And if someone needs to remove you, that’s their right. None of us should wear an uncomfortable bra.

And none of us need to stay in “friendships” that really, really aren’t.

S is for Special – Happy World Down’s Syndrome Day x


It’s World Down’s Syndrome Day. 

It’s a day to celebrate the extra chromosome that makes some people just a little bit more special.
One of the first images I saw on Instagranny today was of my good friend Lee Gooch’s handsome little superhero, Noah.

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And oh! How it melted my heart.

What an angelic, gorgeous and perfect little face.  There is mischief in those eyes and he has his Daddy wrapped around his little finger by the looks of this. (Image shared with permission as always)

This image, like all of the beautiful images on my Timelines today, melts my heart, not only because of the joy it shows, but also because of the memories it provokes in me.

Lee and his family are blessed.

I know this, because my family too were blessed.

Actually, we still are.

A child with Downs Syndrome isn’t just their extra chromosome.

A child with Downs, is special.
Special in every sense of the word.
My own Aunty Carmel was special.
She was beautiful, mischievous and intelligent. She held more love in the tip of her finger than ANYONE I have ever known. She was witty, bold and an absolute rascal, loving nothing more than to get the craic going with whoever was visiting.

She loved to dress up, adored The Rose of Tralee and loved to dance.  Every single person who walked through the door of my Grandparents’ home, fell head over heels in love with her. She was the most head-strong, determined and fearless Ladybelle I’ve ever met.  She kept our family on our toes.


And she taught me many lessons.

The main one being that we are all different and that different is good.
I remember being in the Shopping Centre with her and my other Aunty when I was about 5.

Other kids were staring at Carmel. It was the first time I realised that she was different because I suddenly became aware of other people’s reactions to her.

Her reaction to one teenage boy who stopped to look at her? She stuck out her tongue at him, laughed her hearty laugh and waved at him mischievously as we pushed her past.
There and then, I was proud of her. Even at that young age, she taught me that you must NEVER let anyone bring you down, that you must be YOU, and that there IS no other You to be.
She was perfect.

She was the strongest woman I ever had the pleasure of knowing.  Carmel had no tolerance for nonsense, seeing the world without political correctness or prejudice. She also had no filter! (I take after her like that!)  She simply saw people.  She recognized and delighted in kindness. She had no time for people who were not kind.

She was more brave and more caring and more wonderful than I could ever put into words and I miss her every day.

She was indeed my Special Aunty, but for so many more reasons than her Downs Syndrome.

Special doesn’t even start to describe her or the love that she gave or more importantly, the love that she demanded.

Love.

Pure and true…

Like the love on wee Noah’s face in that photograph and every day.
A family who have been blessed with an extra chromosome, know a love that is beyond words.
So there.

We miss Carmel every day and she lives on in our hearts and in our memories. Knowing and loving her is responsible for so much of who I am today. 

And I send my love and respect to every single family who are fighting every day for the rights of Downs Syndrome children, and who are helping to make people realise that the “S” in DS should not stand for “Syndrome”…

It stands for “Strong”.

It stands for “Smile”

…and it stands for Special.

#worlddownsyndromeday #smile #love #special

(Lee has given me permission to post this pic. Thanks Lovely. And kisses to Noah and his beautiful Mummy and big brother too.)

Are YOU rocking the socks today? You can support Down’s Syndrome Ireland by posting with #LotsofSocks4DSI

My girls and I rocking our socks today for World Down’s Syndrome Day

Maria ‘The Mammy’ vs Maria ‘The Múinteoir’

Maria the Mammy thinks...

Nope. 

Not a hope. 

Not sending them ANYWHERE NEAR schools. 

Need to keep them safe.

Can’t control things when they’re away from me.

Fuck the government and their ineptitude.

I don’t want them to be away from us.

I don’t want them to be frightened or worried or scared by anything.

I don’t want to think about how they can’t hug their friends or play with other kids who aren’t in their pod or whatever.

I don’t want them to go on a bus, mixing with kids from 6 different schools.

I don’t want to have to send them to Afterschool

How am I going to manage to be both in class and at the school gate on days where I have to pick up my own kids?

I’ve had months of keeping them close and knowing they’re safe.

BUT… 

They miss school 

They need school

They miss their friends

They need more social interaction

They need more than Myself and their Daddy

They need normality. 

They need education…because Home-learning DID NOT happen as much or as well as it should have done. (Kind of difficult when both of us were working full time from home.)

They need other adult voices.

They need routine.

They’re in a wonderful school and have wonderful teachers who I know will do everything to keep them safe and secure.

Maria the Múinteoir thinks…

I don’t want to put myself or anyone of my colleagues or students in harm’s way.

What if I get it?

What if I’m an Asymptomatic carrier?

What if one of my kids gets sick and it’s my fault?

What is it going to be like teaching some classes in school and the rest online?

Am I going to be able to do my job properly?

Am I going to be able to make the kids feel safe and secure?

How can I support the students who need support?

How can I teach in my usual groupwork and collaborative style when they have to be socially distanced and I can’t sit beside them?

What about my students with extra needs?

How can I not meet anyone outside of my own bubble, but I can stand in a room with up to 30 young adults for up to 80 minutes?

How is under Jesus is this going to work?

BUT

I can’t wait to get back to work.

I miss my colleagues.

I miss my babies.

I miss teaching.

I need routine.

I need adult conversation.

I need some sort of normality.

My students need school.

I know it’ll be OK

I trust my management to keep us safe.

I will absolutely do MY best to keep my students feeling safe.

Teachers are a resilient bunch. 

We’ll do our best.

And it WILL all be OK.  

We are not in control and we can only deal with things as they come.  We did it in the autumn and we’ll do it again now.

So many of us are experiencing all sorts of emotions tonight, especially those of us who are parents also.  We are genuinely torn.

I need the Mammies and Daddies who are feeling the exact same way as I am as a Mammy, to trust me in the same way that I have to put MY trust in my daughters’ teachers. 

I need the parents who are sending their kids into me, to trust that I will do my absolute best to make sure that their children are able to learn in the current environment, and that they feel safe and secure in my presence. 

I need the parents to understand that I understand THEIR worries, because I too am a Mammy who is nervous (terrified) about releasing my little girls into the big scary world right now too.

We are frightened.  We are worried.  We are anxious.  And our fears are real.  

But we are determined and we are professional and we are fully qualified to educate.  And as teachers, we care about your kids. 

The emotional chaos of the sudden closure of schools again in January was huge… but that’s a whole other article. 

So while Maria the Mammy might fall apart in the utility room a few times today at the thought of MY precious babies leaving me every day to go to a whole new world, Maria the teacher will pull myself together, take a deep breath, hang up my tracksuit and go back through the doors of my much missed school, to teach and to support my “other babbies”… 

And it will all be absolutely grand. 

Grill? Aye, Grill…

The Golden Grill.

Bella’s Club. Millionaire Club, Club 2000, Rouge… However you remember it and whatever name your generation used, one word said it all.

You going the Grill? Aye.

I am saddened to see the news today that the famous building that housed Letterkenny’s legendary Golden Grill, is being demolished.

Well, saddened might be the wrong word. It’s been lying unopened for years, and it is approximately 14 years since I was last in it, so really, I have nothing to be sad about. But for so so many of us who grew up in and around Letterkenny, the Grill, for a huge chunk of our youths, was Life.

The queues. The bouncers, The joy of finally getting through the door with that ID… (I NEVER did this Mammy I promise…) The big hallway where immediately, we read the atmosphere and decided which direction in which to strut (sorry walk) first. Into the strobe lit, smokey deep and cavernous mayhem of Millionaires, later to become the uber cool and very funkified Club 2000? Or into the deep and dulcetly dim dens of Bella’s.

Millionaires. Oh the podiums…The steps… The raised levels… We all had our moment on those podiums, didn’t we? I’m pretty sure I spent FAR too much time strutting my not-quite-as-funky-but-slightly-so-drunky stuff on those podiums. We knew the spots. We knew where to stand, to see and be seen. We knew the corners certain people would surely be in. We knew the tricks of heading out to get coats before the final songs. We knew which bar to head towards.

Or maybe we shuffled towards Bella’s…to the cooler and less “Ooooooonce-oooooncey” music, the lesser jammed dance floor, the dare I say, older and “cooler” crowd, who preferred a drink, a boogie and shock horror, even a conversation to the full blown rave happening across the hall.

And then, the supper. Oh the SUPPER!

The free supper that you held your ticket tight all night to ensure that you got. How many supper tickets were produced from sweaty bras in those days eh? And the crush at the counter, calling for “curry chups and coleshlaaaaw” or “battered sausages”.

The joy.

We knew that the craic. We were cool. Everyone in the grill was cool, even those of us who really weren’t.

The Grill Letterkenny - Home | Facebook
Image from The Grill’s Facebook page

The music. The crowds. The chaos. The squashed bodies. The shared sweat. The swapped saliva. Jesus lads, how did we survive? The glares and stares. The flirty glances and coy looks. The full on shift right there in the middle of a few thousand people. The dancing. The freedom. The buzz. The giddy energy. The drunkenness. The invincibility… Christ I could write a million more words and I still wouldn’t explain it all.

Even as I type this, the memories are making me smile.

The style. The heels. The nakedness. The slaps when a hand wandered too far. The protective brothers stepping in. The square-ups. The puffed chests. The bouncers. The scuffles. How a crowd of sardines could split instantaneously as bouncers removed whoever dared ruin the mood.

Friendships started and ended in the Grill. The problems of the world were solved in bathrooms and on sofas. You went in to the loo for a pee but came out with wisdom, advice and possibly a new best friend. Oh, and remember when we shared lipsticks and hairbrushes with strangers? Jaysus wept!

Relationship started (and ended!) in the Grill. Some of us old fogeys, now long past the joys of a packed nightclub, can attribute first kisses with the current partner to The Grill. Oh indeed, The Grill has a lot to answer for in some cases.

And yet, I sit here now, having heard that it’s going to cease to exist and I find myself reminiscing.

It was a huge part of life for us in the 90s and noughties. And it most certainly was a huge part of life for those who frequented it in the 70s and 80s. (I’ve heard the aunts and uncles telling stories!) I’m sure younger people have fond memories of events there in the past 10 years too, but of course EVERY generation thinks that THEY have the monopoly on the memories, don’t they?

I have fond memories (mostly) of my many many nights in it. Some are a bit blurry. Some have possibly been edited a bit in my mind. Some have been blotted from my memory accidentally on purpose. But in general, they are fond.

Memories of friendships, of dancing, of flirting, of laughing, of boogying, of eating, of dancing. Did I mention the dancing? Oh, the dancing!

The strobe lights. the smoke and even sometimes, fireworks for dramatic effect. The Grill was an icon. It will never be replicated. And I’m a little sad that my own daughters won’t get to experience it for themselves.

For now however, it moves into the history books, joining The Fiesta in the stuff of Letterkenny Legends. In the same way that I grew up listening to stories of The Fiesta from my parents, our kids will listen to stories of the Grill.

And they’ll roll their eyes and never understand how absolutely fecking EPIC it was to be us.

And if walls could talk, the walls of that building, while it still stands, could tell some stories. And when those walls do fall, the stories will stay with us. You can’t demolish memories.

Here We Go Again…

What a week it’s been eh?

We’re all feeling a bit incredulous really. This past few days, it’s felt like we are slowly sliding into chaos once again.

  We’re trying to adapt to all of the changes that are coming at us faster than Sonic the bloody Hedgehog, while trying to maintain a “calm” in front of our kids. 

 And with the indecisiveness, “we will , we won’t, we might-iness” of our Government, we can be forgiven for wondering what the actual feck is going on.

Once again, we’re back to working, whether at work or online, all while minding and homeschooling our kids, trying to keep them occupied and fed and generally trying to do eleventy billion jobs from our kitchen tables. 

And this time, we don’t have the long sunny evenings or unusually warm weather to soften the blow.  

And as I try to get my own head around this new situation in my own house, I’m trying to remember the things that worked (and that did NOT work) for me last time we were in this type of lockdown. 

One thing that became VERY clear to us last March, was that Homeschooling was NOT something that we were successful at.  Trying to pivot your business online and trying to teach online for the first time ever, after almost 20 years of standing in an actual classroom, meant that finding time to sit with our girls to “homeschool” was impossible.  

 I felt like crap about it to start.  How is it that a teacher, for God’s sake, couldn’t manage to educate her own children?  Disgraceful… 

And then I copped myself on.  I couldn’t do it.  I was trying to make up a whole new version of my job AND we were trying to keep our family business alive.  And it’s going to be the same this time to be honest. (Also, I could teach Shakespeare to a duck, but 3rd class maths? Nope!)

I will get them to do some of the work their angels of teachers send, but it’ll be done within the realms of OUR ability and only as long as it isn’t adding more stress to our lives. 

Here we go again I suppose. 

One of the biggest mistakes that loads of us made last time, was to think that we had to do it all.  Think about it…

There aren’t enough hours to combine the 6/7 hours your kids spend at school, with the 8/10 hours you work, the few hours you need for cooking, cleaning etc… never mind homework, exercise and trying to stay on top of things.  You’re trying to fit about 30 hours of “stuff” into a 24 hour day.  When do you sleep Mammy?

It’s not physically possible to do it all. 

SO choose what you NEED to do and do that. 

Give yourself a break.  We’re in a global pandemic.  

Here are some things that work for me. 

  1. Routine:  Make a plan for the week, just as you would if you were all getting up to go to work/school.  For me, I tend to get up at 6am as usual to do a few hours of school work before the girls get up and then a few more in the afternoon.  I’ll allocate a time for the kids to do some school work.  The girls will have playtime and downtime and bedtime will remain as normal as possible. And they’ll know that Mammy and Daddy still have to work for certain hours.
  1. Eating:  If your kids are anything like mine, they’re ALWAYS hungry.  I’m going to try to keep the idea of “breaktime” and “lunchtime” etc going at home.  Otherwise, Princess’s bum will be stuck out of the fridge constantly. 
  1. Get dressed:  seems obvious, and yet it’s so easy to stay in the pjs.  But from tomorrow, it’s up, shower and get dressed. Just without heels or makeup. See the positives where you can!
  1. Don’t overdo the Mary Poppins act:  I’ve already seen social media influencers who have done 3 weeks worth of arts and crafts activities in the first 2 days of no school.  Calm yourselves.  Let the kids play. Let them be bored. Let them read or draw.  Put on their coats and open the door if you can!  Not every activity needs to be organised or planned. Save those for the really long rainy days where they are genuinely bored or need cheered up.
  1. Follow people who inspire you:  Social Media has been a dark place this past few months.  Don’t allow yourself to become bogged down or overwhelmed. Switch off the phone. And try to have a switch off time in the evening.  And only follow people who are making you smile. Please learn to use the unfollow/mute button on accounts that make you doubt what a Queen you are. 
  1. Keep active:   We’ll train together every morning with our Rushe Fitness members and most days, I’ll try to get out for a run/walk. Sometimes, just getting OUT is amazing.  While it’s cold and slippy, it’s still gorgeous out there. Go for a walk or jog.  Fresh air is good for everyone. Get as much as you can.  If you’re used to training but can’t do it alone, join us for our online programme which you can follow from your home at a time that suits you.
We run Opti-Mum, Ireland’s leading at home training system for Mums
  1. Read:  If you’re like me, you’ll have a pile of started and unread books in the house.  Put down the phone and start to read.  Let your kids see you do it.  Have a “reading time” block in the day where you all sit and read. Monkey see, Monkey do.
  1. Cook:  Again, most of us cook functionally and conveniently.  Rather than firing on the slowcooker or  cooking in a hurry, set your inner Nigella alight and get chopping.  Let the kids cook too.  They love it.  And if you have a few of those “Betty” quick brownies in the press for the really long days, you’re winning at life AND you have something sweet and tasty for your cuppa.
  1. Stay in touch:  For many of us who are used to social interaction with colleagues or clients, the sudden isolation and lack of communication can be upsetting.  Talk to each other.  Message friends. Set up messenger groups with people who you would usually see each day and check in on each other.  Make phonecalls.  Pick up the phone and call someone rather than always messaging.  Some people might not hear another voice from one end of the day to the next.  Communicate.
  1. Stay positive:  yeah it’s easy to say isn’t it? But it’s hard to do. We all have good days and bad days. But go easy on yourself.  You’re allowed to be scared. You’re allowed to be upset.  Grief and fear are not signs of weakness.  In order to deal with things, we first have to process it; to let it sink in. So allow yourself time to process.  Then, look for the positives and focus on those.

We are in weird times.  We are dealing with disappointments and stresses that are unprecedented.  Much of what we are facing is bleak. and yet in the middle of it all, we’re seeing glimpses of hope and finally, an end is in sight. 

Mind yourselves.  Go easy on yourselves.  You are not in competition with anyone.  Do what you need to do, for you.