Plan B and Banana Bread?

Banana bread; I never actually did get around to baking one.

I did eat a slice that someone else baked, but that was the height of my lockdown success.

Lockdown as we know it has passed, thankfully, and yet there is a new type of lockdown coming at us tonight.

It seems to be a steam train that we can’t stop… maybe using trains as a metaphor is futile here in Donegal. A big bus? A huge tractor… whichever you use, it’s coming at us and the brakes aren’t working.

But as always, with every cloud, we can look for a silver lining. Can’t we? For me, that silver lining is school.

This time, hopefully, lockdown won’t include homeschooling, and with all the luck in the world, will not be as restrictive as the first one. At least with the kids still in school, those of us who work from home can ACTUALLY work, as opposed to trying to work between feeding the kids and you know, parenting?

And those of us with kids of school going age, might actually be able to GO to work as our children will be continuing with school.
Hopefully.

But most importantly, our kids won’t have to go through as much upheaval as we will this time around. And that can only be a positive.

For me, trying to teach from home was the highest height of lows in my almost 20 year career. I hated every single sorry minute of it, and while I did my very best to teach from home for the months of April through to June, I am absolutely not afraid to admit that it almost broke me. Almost.

Despite what some will have you believe, teachers did our best. Damn it we did a good job, but my own children were pretty much ignored for chunks of the day and homeschooling of my OWN daughter did not happen as I tried to keep providing education for my other babbies.

But hey. I’m not complaining. I’m really not. I just don’t ever want to go back to that again. I love being back in school, and as difficult as it is, (and by God it is difficult), being back in classrooms with young people is good for the soul. It’s what teachers AND students need. Teaching is never just about passing knowledge and hitting curriculums. It’s about so much more than that. Masks and all.

So even with the impending restrictions that we face again tonight, hopefully, we’ll be able to keep the constant of school going for everyone.

There was a camaraderie about the last lockdown wasn’t there? All in this together and finding our way through the “New Normal” and all that zoomyjazz?
I wonder however, how much of that is lost.

Because this time is different. We’re all fed up.

We’re all scundered as we say here in Donegal. We’re all disappointed that it’s come to this.
The novelty of Lockdown has well and truly worn off.
And people’s patience is thin.

The seeming contradictions of the plans and restrictions are not helping. If anything, they’re pitching people against each other. And that is the main difference this time.

Why can he do that but I can’t do that?
How is she allowed to do that , but I have to do this?

The list of questions like this is pretty endless right now.

And yet, on we must go. Once more into the abyss I suppose.

The next few weeks will determine the next few months. We all need to buckle down and try to keep the chins up.

We might not have the lovely weather or same sense of newness that wound us together last time round. But we do still have each other and this time, thankfully, our kids will have some semblance of normality.

And if we can all keep that going, and try to remember that we’re all facing this shitstorm together, who knows, we might actually get things back under some control.

I probably still won’t bother baking a banana bread however… I don’t even like banana bread.

But I’ll happily cheer you on as you bake yours.
Because that is how we are going to get past this.
By cheering each other on.

And by letting each other do what we have to do, whether we agree with them or not.

Chins up Chickies.
We’ve got this.

#holdfirm

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

New Year, New You..’re Grand as You Are Love.

Before the onslaught of New Year, New You Bullshit starts, let me remind you of a few things…

Yes, January 1st is an obviously good starting point for new beginnings and new intentions.

Just like everything ‘starts on Monday’, at this time of year, we are all so good at using ‘I’ll start in the New Year’ as our mantra.

New project? I’ll start in January…
New intention? I’ll start in January…
Giving up something? Wait until January…
Starting something? Wait until January…
New routine? I’ll start in January…
Want to change something? Wait until January…

Good intentions eh?

NEED to change something? Wait until January?
And suddenly, what SEEMS like a good intention is ACTUALLY just procrastination.

And we’re all good at that.

Of course the New Year is a great time for motivation and change and new everything.

However, if you are changing something because someone or something is making you feel like you’re not good enough, stop and think.

Over the next few days, our news feeds will be full of adverts which seem to be encouraging and motivating you.

You’ll see all sorts of quick fixes and miracle makers; everything from programmes and apps to help to start or stop a habit, to magic pills and shakes which will transform you into a Victoria Secret’s model faster than you can take a poo… (which is precisely what you’ll be doing if you take any of that crap.)

What we need to remember is that EACH and EVERY one of these adverts has been TARGETED at us.

They’re not popping up on our screens by accident.

They’re targeted by the companies; our age, interests, demographic, location, previous searches… it’s all algorithm and it’s simple and clever marketing.

Most of the ads are genuine companies who know their target markets and how to target them effectively at the right time, in the right way.

There’s no conspiracy in that.

Where we have a problem is when the companies are telling you, usually indirectly, sometimes bluntly, that YOU are not good enough AS YOU ARE.

They tell you you NEED to look a certain way. You NEED your teeth whitened.
You NEED to lose weight.
You NEED to calm down.
You NEED to change your mindset.
You NEED to spend less time or more time on whatever…
You NEED to eat this way.
You NEED to take this…
You NEED to take that.

They tell you that your life is incomplete. They tell you that your life is mediocre.
They tell you that your life could be soooooo much better.

They go so far as to show you “Real people”, their case studies, their Before and Afters. They put only the Glossy, filtered, Instaperfect images of their customers/clients on their websites.
They tell you that YOU TOO could have this life…that it is SOOOO easy.

They smugly imply that it really is a breeze, that if you join their gang/cult/whatever that you will also have shiny, filtered, smiling instafeed in as little as 10 days.

By showing you these glossy smiling examples, they are indirectly telling your that YOUR life is actually pretty shitty in comparison.

They are hitting you during the Post Christmas bloat, the gray Pre-January blur when family members have left and the tree is molting in the corner and we’re all feeling a bit ‘meh‘.

They are telling you that you are not enough.
They are wrong.
You are perfect, just as you are.
You are beautiful, just as you are.
You are strong.
You can face anything.
You are loved.
Your life is YOUR life and it should not be measured by anyone else’s prepackaged and filtered measuring tape.

Sure, we all have things we aspire to, resolutions an intentions.

If you want to change something, do it.

If you want to get healthier, do it.

If you want to lose weight, go for it.

If you want to make a drastic change to your routine, go for it.

But ONLY do it FOR YOU.

Not because some advert on your news feed tells you you are not enough.

Do it for YOURSELF. AND if anyone of the smug, shiny, “Look at how perfect my life is” brigade tells you they can “Make you the BEST version of YOU,” tell them to feck off.

You’re doing a great job of being YOU, all by yourself.
You don’t need to buy a lifestyle from anyone. You don’t need a NEW YOU.

You just need to realise that you’re already as YOU as you can be.

And you look pretty damn perfect to me.
😘

FAIL…First Attempt In Learning

Failing to Fail…

Why are we so determined to make sure our little darlings never know what it’s like to fail?

Why do we expect everyone to be a high flying “success” at everything?

When did failing at something become so terrible?

I grew up failing. I failed plenty. I failed often.

I’m still failing.And yet, each and every one of those failings was, and is, a learning.

Sometimes, no matter how many times I try and try and try at something, I fail.

Maybe I’m not meant to do it.
Maybe I’m not good enough at it.
Maybe, it’s not within my skill-set.
Maybe, someone else is better than me…

If it’s not happening, I have two choices; I can keep going until I (maybe) do succeed.

Or I can be proud that I tried but move on to another project, accepting that it’s just not going to happen.

But either way, I’ve learned something.

I’ve either learned the right or successful way to do something, or I’ve learned something about ME; about my abilities and my limitations.

Because, it’s OK to have limitations.And shock horror, it’s OK to know what YOUR Limitations are.

It’s actually quite liberating.

If children don’t run, they won’t fall… so how will they learn NOT to?

There is a massive problem in our society and it’s not just with our children.

There is and has been for many years, a mistaken perception that we should teach our children that they “can do anything”; that they “can be anything”; that they can not lose or fail at anything.

That failure is NOT an option.Well actually it is.

And I’d go so far as to say that failure is necessary.

The fear of failure is everywhere.

None of us want our children to experience rejection or failure.

It’s evident at the school sports days, where we make them “race” and “compete” but then give them ALL a certificate or medal.

We see it in dance classes or drama groups, where they audition but ALL get onstage anyway.

We see it at football training, or where the only options are “win” or “a tie”, so that no one has to lose.

Of course, equality and inclusion are inherently important in schools and clubs. And most of these societies and organisations have individualized and tailored policies and programes in place to include everyone.

And so they should.

Inclusion is not what I am talking about here.🥰

But when in general, we are not rewarding the “winners” for fear of upsetting the person in 2nd place, or indeed 24th place, what we are creating is a generation who feel entitled.

We need to stop telling our kids that they can be “anything they want to be”.

We should be encouraging our children to try and try.

We should be telling them they can be what they want to be… IF they have that ability and are willing to work for it.

What is wrong with encouraging them to learn what their strengths and passions are?

What is wrong with encouraging them to try and to work to earn and to deserve the end goal, may that be a degree in medicine or a place on the football team?

What is wrong with our children knowing what they are good at and recognising what they are not so good at?

How are they supposed to work towards improving and learning if they simply think they are entitled to an ‘A’ in an exam, or to the place on the team, or to a certain job because they’ve always been told they can be anything or do anything they want to do?

We do not all have the same skills.

We do not all have the same strengths.

I can teach Shakespeare to a brick, but I couldn’t be a math teacher for all the tea in China, no matter HOW much I worked for it.

And I wouldn’t be able to be a Doctor or surgeon, because I am way too emotional for such a job (and I’m probably, actually, certainly not that academically able!)

Does that mean I am a failure?

Eh no.

Every Irish dancing feis I didn’t win, was a lesson. It spurned me on. Every time I saw that a certain ‘Leah’ or ‘Clare’ was there, I knew that I most likely hadn’t a chance of anything higher than 3rd place.

Did that mean I couldn’t dance?NO. I could dance. Still can. 😂

It just meant that those girls were better than me.

They trained harder. They had more talent. They deserved every medal and cup they won. They inspired me to push harder.Sometimes I won, sometimes I didn’t.

It’s called life.

When I tried gymnastics, the day that I gave myself a black eye with my own knee was the day that I decided I was done.

Funnily enough Mum agreed.

Did I fail? No. I was just shite at gymnastics!

When I got average results in my Junior and Leaving Cert, did I feel like a failure?

No. I got what I deserved and I got out what I put in. I had done my best. And as long as I did my best, that was enough for my parents and it was enough for me.

However, when I have won, or achieved or succeeded, it was celebrated.

Because each time, I bust myself and tried and grafted and worked and any other synonym you can imagine.

And if I do succeed, I am proud of it, because the achievement is mine and I have probably failed ten times before managing it.

If you burn the omelette and don’t try to make it again, how do you eat?Every failed friendship I have, (and there are many), while heartbreaking to deal with, have all been for the best.

Every failed romance (yup many of those too😂!) teaches us something else important about ourselves and the person who is not right for us.

Every failed job or project or application or interview teaches us something.

For me, every time I auditioned, and was rejected, for a part in a show, broke my heart a little.

Of course it did (and does). Let’s be honest, if I didn’t want the part, why would I go for it?

But rather than stomp my foot and think myself too good to return, I pulled up my big girl knickers and still joined the group; may it be to a smaller role or into the chorus.

Because I love it.
I don’t have to be the leading lady to have fun.

And our children need to understand that they don’t have to always win to be winners.

That they don’t always have to score the goals to be important to the team.
That even though they are doing their best, sometimes the person beside them is just a little bit better.

And sometimes, THEY will be that person and someone else will lose to them.

When we started to walk, we all fell…And then we learned how NOT to fall.

And eventually we walked, all by ourselves. (And sometimes, we still fall!) If we keep carrying our kids and our young people over every obstacle, how can we expect them to learn how NOT to fall?

Direct them, encourage them, support them.

But let them feel disappointment sometimes. Let them learn to accept the success of others.

And when they DO succeed, celebrate with them.We have to sometimes fail to really appreciate succeeding. We’re not entitled to anything.

We have to work and try and earn things.

Life will not simply give you things because you think you deserve them.

You get out what you put in.

And while we don’t want our kids to repeat our mistakes, we have to let them make their own, so that they walk by themselves.

Who knows? They might even fly…

Mammy