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. 

Toodles 2020. Off You Feck!

I’m a big bungled bag of mixed thoughts and emotions as I sit to write this. 

Usually, my last blog of the year flows easily; full of nostalgia and positivity and hope and excitement… and actually, I’m feeling all of those things right now too.  I just can’t seem to write them down in a way that will be meaningful to everyone. Because now, more than ever, none of us can fully understand how anyone else is feeling.

We’ve just come through the weirdest year of our lives.

  I could start to talk about how “while it was bad, it was actually good”, or “In the midst of the chaos, was joy”, or “the lessons I’ve learned this year”.  God I could write 20 pages on each of those titles if I’m honest. 

It was good, in its own way. 

I did learn loads about myself and about life in general.  (80 pages coming on that…next year!)

In the midst of the chaos, there was joy.  

We did make loads of memories. 

Yes, 2020 was good for lots of reasons. 2

The main lessons I learned were that actually, life did NOT need to be as busy and chaotic as it was and that actually, as long as I have my own wee family safe within my own four walls, then all is right with the world, no matter how frightening the world is.  (I wrote a LOT about our own four walls this year.  I spent a lot of time looking at them I suppose!)

And while I could sit here and wax lyrical about how we must all look at the positives of 2020 and be grateful for this, that and the other, I can not let the year end without acknowledging that it was the hardest, most frightening, confusing, frustrating and heartbreaking fecking year that we have ever faced. 

I am grateful.  I’m so grateful for my family and for health and for work.  And personally, I know so many people who have had too much sadness and hardship to bear this year. I’ve cried with lots of friends (virtually) and like everyone, I’ve had moments of WTF?

 But as always, perspective is key.  I can, and will, only ever speak for ME.

I’ve been afraid.  I’ve been stressed.  I’ve struggled.  I’ve freaked out.  (I’ve had panic attacks about going to do the fricken shopping for God’s sake.)  I’ve spent more hours than I care to remember, looking at my children, terrified that they’re not OK.  I’ve spent hours and hours stressing with my husband about our family business and wondering how many more slaps it can take,  I’ve cried onto my laptop as I tried to figure out a whole new way of trying to do my job, while trying and failing to homeschool my own children. I’ve missed family.  I’ve missed my friends.  I’ve seen my best friend once since March… I’ve been angry.  I’ve been frustrated.  I’ve been sad.  I’ve even been judgemental. Show me someone who at this stage, has NOT given out about someone else’s actions this year (and then send me whatever magic potion they’re using please.)

And yet, tonight as I sit watching the clock tick towards 2021, I can’t help but feel proud.  I’m proud of myself.  I’m proud of my kids. (Kids are amazing!) I’m proud of my husband. I’m proud of every one of my family and friends who have clawed their way through the shitshow that was 2020. 

We made so many memories this year.  We found joy we’d never realised we could find within our four walls and indeed on our own doorsteps.  We’ve been surprised by the things that we’ve missed and the things that we found that, actually, we didn’t miss at all. 

We’ve been torn apart by the ferocity of missing people and being apart from people we love. And yet, we’ve also realised quite abruptly who is important to us and who is, maybe, not.

On top of Muckish Mountain on a rare day out with some of our Rushe Fitness crew last summer.

I can look back through my camera roll tonight and share my “highlights”.  It is filled with photographs of 2020, each one telling a story to anyone who looks at it, and yet each one holds so many memories that no one but us could ever understand. Behind lots of those smiles are a million other emotions. Some of the smiles are real. Some of them are hilarious. And yet, some are frantic and frightened. Some don’t reach the eyes. 

I have looked at some today. They’ve made me smile and laugh. But I won’t be sharing them anywhere. I’m not looking back. I’m too tired to be honest! And so I’m looking forward. I can’t wait for it to be tomorrow so I can close the metaphorical door on a year that I’ve been wishing away since March.

I’m ready for it to be over.  And while I know full well that at midnight tonight, absolutely NOTHING but the date is going to actually change, I am excited for the new year.  Every day will bring us one step closer to getting back to some sort of normality, where 2020 is a distant memory that we talk about and reminisce about. 

So whether you’ve come through 2020 enlightened and empowered and energised, or you’ve skid towards the end, glass in hand, roots to your armpits and a bit delirious, I raise a glass to you tonight and wish you a better and more fablis 2021. 

Give yourself a round of applause.  You made it!

 And no matter what 2021 brings with it, it’s a brand new year that we are at least a bit more ready for than last year. 

From Emmet and the girls and myself, I wish you every best wish for 2021.  May it be filled with brighter days, good health and hugs and smiles that reach your eyes. Love to all. 

Until next year!

Me x

My Four Walls

Christmas.

I LOVE it! I love everything about it.

I love the sparkle, the sounds, the smells, the smiles.

I love the kindness. I love how it brings out the best in so many people.

I love the glitter, the happy and the magic…

But what I don’t love,  is the pressure placed on us by the interweb to create magical, Christmas card worthy Hallmark moments.

It’s started already; Instagranny and Bookface are full of pictures of beautiful trees and perfect living rooms.  None of us posted the mess of them being put up though did we!? 

Myself included.  Of course not.  We want to show the world our best smile don’t we? We want to give the general idea that we’ve got our sh*t together inside our own four walls.

And this year, not being able to visit our friends and families has led to more people sharing their images online.  

Any newsfeed is filled with festive fun; trees going up, garlands being made, fancy glasses with tipples by the fire, smiles and joy.  Houses now seem to be “themed”, and showhouse worthy. 

 It’s rather cool to look at in fairness and isn’t it wonderful how we can share ideas and get inspiration simply by watching other people’s posts?

And it’s lovely for us to see inside the four walls of the cousins or friends who we know we probably won’t be able to visit this year.  

Stupid Covid…

The selfies from Christmas shopping trips have been largely replaced by snaps of boxes and packages arriving on doorsteps, accompanied by hashtags joking about the #postmanismybestfriend or #cantrememberwhatIordered.

The staff parties and large get-togethers are whittled down.

It’s all pretty different isn’t it? 

And yet, what stays the same is that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. 

Maybe you have one tree that is still in the attic and will stay there until the 20th?  That’s OK.

Maybe you have two different trees with a mishmash of colours and decorations as old as you?  Fablis.

Maybe you’re quite happy to leave the tree as it is after the kids have decorated it and it warms your heart to see all of the decorations around the bottom.  Class. 

Maybe you let them at the tree, but absolutely fix the whole thing after they’ve gone to bed?  You are my people Mammas.

Maybe you don’t give a hoot if your decorations are multicoloured and not in any way planned.  That’s brilliant! 

Maybe you prefer to put the tree up yourself rather than creating an illusion of family fecking JOY.  Go for it. 

Maybe you don’t see the point in matching Pjs.  Don’t buy them.

Maybe you hate turkey.  Don’t buy turkey. 

Maybe you don’t like mulled wine…or the smell of cinnamon?  Don’t buy those candles.

Maybe you don’t wrap every single present… once again, my people. 

Maybe you don’t get professional photos done.  There is no law in fairness.  

Maybe you can’t face going to see a Santa this year.  Your call Mammy. Your call. 

Maybe you are devastated that you can’t see certain people this Christmas. We all are.

Maybe you are quietly NOT devastated to not see certain people…that’s OK too! 

Maybe Christmas is grating on your nerves and you can’t even begin to process it because of your own personal circumstances.  To you, beautiful Queen, I send all my love. 

If this year has taught us anything, it is that what happens outside our four walls (or outside of our own bubble), really does not matter. 

Christmas will happen, whether it’s quiet and understated, or extravagant and instaperfect. 

On the 25th, we’ll wake up.  We’ll do what we need to do and then on the 26th, we’ll get on with it again. 

I adore Christmas.  I love it. I’m missing some things and some people this year.  We all are. 

I’m looking forward to closing the doors of my own messy four walls and to spending some much needed down time with my own people…

 But I’m very very aware that it’s not the same for us all.  Especially this year. 

Remember that what you see online is contrived.  It is not always real.  In fact, even the most “real” people that you follow, CHOOSE what to show you. 

If you find yourself doubting your choices, or second guessing your Christmas, or feeling poop about yourself, do yourself a favour. 

Hit mute or unfollow. 

Don’t watch people who make you feel second, or less. 

Your Christmas will be what you make it.  And what happens within the four walls of other people, doesn’t matter one iota. 

The End of One Chapter leads on to a New One

I know things are hugely different this year, but the sentiment remains.
💙💙💙💙💙💙💙

Although it is many moons ago, Mammy remembers getting her Leaving Cert Results.

Mammy was certain that the contents of the little brown envelope were going to change her life. Had Mammy’s life REALLY depended on the contents of that little brown envelope, quite frankly, I’d be living an utterly dreadful, mediocre and half-arsed attempt at one. 😂

Because the results printed on my little scrap of yellow paper were quite awful, if I’m very honest.

The only mark I remember (or tell anyone about!) was my A1 in Honours English. Go figure.

As for the rest of them? I’d say the examiners only passed me so that they wouldn’t have to read my verbal diahorrea again the following year. 😂I’m not exaggerating either.

But the other grades didn’t matter. The A in English was all that mattered to me, both then AND today. Yes, I got into college, but not until I had spent a week back in the brown uniform 😣😣 convincing myself that I needed to repeat the Leaving Cert.

It wasn’t until the second round offers and a trip to meet (attack😛) the Dean of the English Department in Coleraine, that I finally got my place on the degree course. (I might have only been 17, but I was a stroppy one!😂)

English was all I loved. It was all that I wanted to study and, as the little brown envelope told me, it was apparently all that I was good at… All that I was good at THEN.

At 17.

As it turns out, I’m good at a whole load of things.

The Big LC recognised my ability to understand Shakespeare and write stories off the top of my head, but it didn’t (and couldn’t) know how strong I was at things like organisation, being a friend, laughing or leading.

So I was crap at French. Biology for me ended after the section on photosynthesis. But although my maths grade was dismal, I challenge you to find ANYONE who can work out a % as quickly as me when I see the word “SALE”. 😂😂

So there.

Now, over 20 years on, I’m an English teacher. I’m a writer and I’m a businesswoman. I’m a whole lot of things that that little piece of paper could NEVER have predicted me to be.

Our young people are incredible. And no class before has ever been tested like our class of 2020.

These young adults are like no others before them. They have had a LOT going on…

They have given their ALL for 2 years, and didn’t get to sit the papers. This will never be understood fully by the rest of us.

Some of them are dealing with trying to live up to expectations that might be unrealistic.

They were playing the match of their lives, and the goalposts not only changed…they disappeared.

Today is the biggest day in many of their lives to date.

Despite what it is inflated to be, it is NOT the most important piece of paper in the world.

Yes, the letters and numbers inside it will have an immediate effect.

Yes, some doors will open and yes, some doors will close, but what is written on the page does not define them.

NO assessment can fully know our children. It can’t measure the whole person.

It doesn’t see their kindness.
It can’t recognise their wit or humour.
It doesn’t measure their ability to change things.
It can’t recognise their skills as motivators, or thinkers, or makers, or doers.
It does not define them, nor should it.

And it certainly can’t understand or fully reflect the strength, resilience and bravery required to face final year in a global pandemic.

Be proud, because regardless of what is on that page, your children have come through the most trying end to school life imaginable…and we must remind them that they CAN do whatever they want.

Because WE know what they can be.

There are ALWAYS options and sometimes, the path that they are so determined to be the ONLY one for them right now, was never the right one for them…it usually takes a few years for them to realise that however.

But they will. 💕

So in the meantime, tell them how brilliant they are. And leave them under NO illusion that no matter what words and letters are on that piece of paper, that you are and will always be proud of them and that you will help them to get to where they want to go, may it be straight through the college door or in a longer, roundabout way.

But all roads lead ahead. And this long chapter is finally over. It’s time for the next one.

Today, I send love to all of the young people (especially my own Babbies😘😘) and to all you exam parents who await the results today.

And remember, those numbers do NOT hold the key to their future. They hold that key already.

It’s right inside them.

And no piece of paper or words on a screen can change that.

M XXX

Calling Covid Out

Last week was a bumpy one.

Not only was it the girls’ first week back at school and my first week back at work, but it was also the week where we were stopped in our tracks… by a cough. 

On Tuesday morning, one of the girls woke having developed a stuffy head-cold and nasty cough.  It was quite a sudden onset and so, because there’s this global pandemic happening and we’re all now conditioned to panic at snuffles and splutters (that would once upon a time not even have raised an eyebrow), I rang the doctor. 

Long story short, Doc referred her for a test. We all started to self isolate at home. I rang work.  I rang school to let them know.  We waited for the appointment.  We went to have her tested. We went home.  She went to bed, still dosed with what I knew was a typical headcold… and we waited for the result on Wednesday, which, thank the powers above, was NEGATIVE. 

But try as we did to remain calm until we HAD to panic…the panic and “what’ ifs” did set in.  

What if it’s positive?

What if she gets more sick?

What about her sister?

What about her school friends?

What about my work?

What about my colleagues?

What about our business?

What will people say?

IF she had it, who was to blame? 

Where did she get it?

What did we do wrong?

And that was when I stopped myself in my own spiralling train of destructive thoughts and slapped myself out of the panic. 

We did nothing wrong and no one was to blame.

This virus is dreadful.  It’s frightening and it’s impacted us all in ways that will take years for us to fathom. 

But it is a virus that we have to learn to live with. To live beside. 

The vast majority of us are being cautious.  We’re being careful.  We’re aware of the constant danger. And yet we’re trying to go about our lives as normally as we can.  

So whose fault is it if one of us contracts the virus?

Why do we automatically start to attribute blame?  Why is needing a test or testing positive automatically equated to irresponsibility?

Unfortunately, picking up this virus is as easy as catching a flu, or chicken pox, or head lice.  The difference is, when we catch one of the viruses that we’re USED to, we deal with it, look after ourselves and try to get better.  I’m not comparing or demeaning the virus by the way.  Covid is deadly. No one wants it. I’m simply leading to my next point.  

Along with the threat of or the diagnosis of covid, comes a strange guilt; a worry about what people will say? A stigma.

Because the person diagnosed is deemed responsible for any ripple effect diagnosis around them. 

And none of us wants to be the person who starts a covid ripple.

So I’m calling Covid Out… because we all have enough to be dealing with right now, without piling on another level of shame or guilt or whatever you want to call it. 

  If you need a test, get a test.  If you need to self isolate, don’t be embarrassed or worried.  Just be responsible and do it. 

We need to talk about it, because with schools reopened and typical back-to-school snuffles and colds coming at us fast, there’s a good chance that most houses are going to have to use the phrases “Covid test” or “self isolating” in the next few weeks.

  There will be days missed from school.  There will be days missed from work.  The ripple effect of one person in a household needing a test is something that until it hit OUR house last week, I honestly hadn’t thought about. 

But for those 36 hours I had nothing to do BUT think about it.  I didn’t sleep a wink, until we had the results.  And most of my worry was about other people; my parents, his parents, my Granny, my colleagues, her friends… it didn’t bear thinking about, and yet we had no choice BUT to think about it.

 Covid19 and the shitstorm we have been through this past 6 month, has exacerbated our anxieties and worry.  But as parents, we need to know that people getting tested and indeed testing positive is NOT something to criticise or gossip about.  And none of us know if and when we’ll be in that situation ourselves. 

So be kind.  Stay out of the whispered conversations about who has been tested, or who is off work, or who has left school suddenly.  Don’t get involved in hushed speculations about where JacintaNancy down the road picked it up, or where John Joe was last week that he might have gotten it.   Being judgemental is another virus in itself. 

If you or your kid need tested, don’t worry.  It’s a quick process and while it’s uncomfortable, it’s over in 5 seconds.  Here is the cartoon that another friend (who was going through the exact same thing with his kid) sent me.  It really helped and is worth saving.

hse.ie

I also have all of the stories saved in a highlight on my Instagram if anyone wants to watch.

And if you do find yourself going for the test, I hope it all comes back negative and that you are all OK. 

Call Covid out…

 Because it’s stressful enough being a parent in the current climate and we need to support each other through it all. 

M x