Tuesday, April 27, 2010


‘Have you anyone for communion this year’ is a question that is surely echoing around the school gates about now, as mothers (and some fathers) compare notes and put the finishing touches to plans for The Big Day in May. Each time I hear the question, my heart soars as I remember again that my days of Communions Madness are now over! Halleluiah.

Communion Madness takes many forms. There is the Communion Dress Madness and the Communion Hairstyle Madness to mention just two. But the Communion Madness I am particularly glad to no longer be a part of is the Communion ‘Do’ Madness; the part of the day after the church bit. In my experience the preferred option nowadays, particularly in suburbia, is for a party at home. You can even buy Communion Party invitations. But the Communion Party is a peculiar beast because it comes in two phases.

Phase One is the family party. After the cuppa and buns in the church hall or school, the extended family and perhaps Godparents retire to the Communicant’s home for lunch. In the days of the Celtic Tiger this was often catered, or sometimes held in a local Golf Club, Yacht Club or restaurant. Nowadays the party at home is probably more likely catered by the lucky mammy of the Communion Boy or Girl. Phase One should also include entertainment for the youngsters; the popular option being a bouncing castle which always requires a leap of faith in the Irish weather that puts what the children have been through in the church to shame!

Once the family have been fed and watered sufficiently, some will leave just ahead of Phase Two of the Communion Do. Phase Two is when the neighbours and friends arrive to celebrate the child’s special day. A second wave of food will be provided and the drink restocked. These parties have been known to go to the wee hours of the following day.

I am genuinely in awe of mammies who can achieve all this in one 24 hours. Personally, being well versed in my own shortcomings I know such a gig is way beyond what I could ever hope to achieve. For me, getting myself and my children to the church on time and looking reasonably well turned out is about the height of it. I am a small bit embarrassed by the fact that for our daughter’s Communion, we all piled into the car after the church and left town. We decamped to the country hotel where we had lunch and by 6pm, just as we should have been beginning phase two, we were in the swimming pool! Selfish? Perhaps but I suppose I have a highly developed sense of self preservation as opposed to perseverance.

And after our swim we sat down to dinner and I regaled my girls with the story of how communions were done in the 70’s. A quick call (on your own) to a couple of neighbours to collect a few coins in your bag and then it was off to Dublin Zoo where along with viewing the animals, you also viewed all the other little girls in their white dresses. The Zoo was a lot more compact then and so there were no long walks over sandy savannah. On concrete footpaths our finery was unsullied by dust and our minds unburdened by the knowledge that a lot of the animals were more than a little ‘disturbed’ by their small enclosures. The highlight of the afternoon was an ice cream stop in the little cafĂ© overlooking the flamingos. And we were delighted. Heady days indeed. So ‘anyone for Communion in your house this year?’
One of the nicest 'concepts' taught to children nowadays for Communion is that of connectedness. My youngest daughters both sang a lovely hymn at their Communions, called 'Connected'. Long before this was introduced formally, back in 1996, Paul captured 'we are all connected' in this beautiful shot of eldest, Carla (third from left) and her friends on their Communion Day!

Friday, April 23, 2010


Some weeks back I told you that I was the lucky winner of a book (the very best kind of prize) on Karen Jones Gowen's blog. The book is called Uncut Diamonds - her second novel.

I have often found myself having to defend the kind of books I like best. I don’t like thrillers, crime fiction, historical fiction or anything that has violence. I like a book to wrap myself up in. A book that allows me to immerse myself in another life where I can watch characters grow and change as they cope with whatever life is throwing at them. I love books strong on character. For me, plot is secondary to that.

Uncut Diamonds is just that kind of book – a wander around the life of Marcie and Shawn McGill and their expanding brood of kids in smalltown USA (set in Illinois). The story charts some turbulent years in the life of this young, growing family who are challenged with the recession of the 70’s which causes Shawn to lose work and ultimately they lose their house.

I just loved the central character, Marcie. She was a young mother, trying to do her best for her family but who often was overwhelmed by life – like the rest of us. I loved the spirituality that was an integral part of this Mormon family’s life. It was a book that certainly resonated with me and had many similarities to Ireland in the 70’s when the church played a huge role in family life.

Ultimately this is a story full of light and redemption as the family find help in all kinds of unexpected places. It highlights the love that binds families together even when on the surface there may be arguments and tensions.

For an uplifting read, you could do worse than read Uncut Diamonds! Check out its author’s blog at www.karengowenjones.blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Writing Honestly

My previous post has just set a new From My Kitchen Table record for the number of comments! Hurray! Like most bloggers, I often wonder what it is that prompts readers to leave a comment on some posts and not on others.

My last post, A New View From My Kitchen Table was not a particularly easy one to write. I felt it was more personal and more seeringly honest than my usual commentary or funny anecdote type offerings. I was unsure if it was appropriate to indulge myself in a little soul searching, afraid that it might come across as self absorbed and boring. It’s not easy to admit, either in person or virtually, that all is not great in your world at the moment! But, you, the readers assured me, by virtue of your comments that you prefer to read honestly written posts.

It is very easy when blogging to create your perfect persona. The person you would really like to be, living your ideal life. The ‘here I am - happy mom and writer and wife, occasionally just getting a small big bit bogged down in my domestically blessed out life but generally happy as a sandboy.’ You have let me know that you want to read about the real me, living my real life, warts and all and I want to say thank you for that.

That said, I promise I will try to only pen misery posts when absolutely necessary!


Monday, April 19, 2010

A New View From My Kitchen Table

Recently the view from my kitchen table has grown a little dark. I know there are many of us, at home caring for kids, cats and dog while the other half is out in the Big Bad World of Recession trying to earn enough to keep the boat (to borrow from Christy Moore) afloat. The fact that I am a writer doesn’t really help. Alone at my kitchen table in the morning, scribbling away, words and thoughts that no one wants to buy. My world gets smaller and ‘issues’ get larger. It’s too easy to become trapped in a lonely bubble of, not quite despair but certainly of despondency.

I have snapped at the children a little more than I should have, particularly when they mention stuff like new runners or money for some excursion or other. I don’t want to add to his burdens and so don’t talk about my feelings much with him. And so we begin to function on a surface level of false optimism.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am an optimist by nature and believe in the power of positive thinking but it is not always healthy to be dishonest about how you are feeling. In order to heal lower emotions (such as worry) we must first accept and validate the feeling, before releasing it.

But I digress. Back to my gloomy and lonely kitchen table and my shrinking world. After weeks of carrying this aura of worry and unexpressed concern I begin to feel as if my emotions have all become displaced. They are all now just below the surface of my being instead of deep inner recesses where they normally reside.

I have days when I know that if someone says the wrong thing to me I will dissolve into a million pieces. Alternatively if something strikes me as funny, I can become an uncontrollable laughing wreck; frightening to witness and usually ending in tears anyway.

Then last week himself got a great deal on an overnight in a hotel and as it was his birthday anyway we decide to take the opportunity of a break away. This sounds simple, but when you are in the dark place at the kitchen table it can feel frivolous and wrong. But it was his birthday….

I won’t bore you with the details but we had a lovely, quiet and relaxing time. We had time to chat and to laugh. We had a lovely meal, a lie in, huge breakfast and as today is his birthday he chose to stop, on the way back, at a little airport near the hotel where we passed another pleasant hour having coffee while watching tiny aircraft come and go. And we talked some more.

I am telling you this because I think that in the current economic climate it is too easy to forget how vital it is to look after our own mental health. As parents, we put ourselves at the bottom of the priority list. This is not good. Taking time out, not only renews your spirit and energy but it also grants us the gift of perspective. Perspective I had lost from spending too long, pondering life from my kitchen table.

And there was a bonus kicker too…. We both remembered why we fell in love in the first place and why we are married. We won’t leave taking time out for ourselves so long next time!

Photo of Peacock in full display at Finnstown House Hotel, Lucan.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Autumn is my favourite season but there is something so joyful and hopeful about Springtime; a message now more needed than ever.

Clear skies reveal the true blue ceiling to our world.
Sunlight dazzles and sparkles sending fingers of warmth to stroke my face and arms.
Air ripples with the joyous tumbling notes of bird song.
A fat furry bee buzzes against the window.
Splashes of buttery yellow hopefulness in unexpected corners.
Summer faintly humming in the near distance.

Earth’s whispers on April breezes,
Echoes of unseen stirrings beneath her soft surface.
Whispers heard deep in my veins,
Pulling me back outdoors.
Softly urging me to be part of this ensemble of recreation.
This colourful exuberant birthing of new life.

Delicate buds hiding unfurled leaves,
Stately tulips, bearing witness.
The cherry tree tosses her blossoms on the breeze
With the wild abandon of a Bollywood heroine.
And busy birds, singing, building
I take my cue.

Fingers deep in soil, breathing it's loamy aroma as I dig and plant,
I give thanks to Mother Earth
For her reminder, that life is a journey
A series of deaths and rebirths
She turns through the seasons, year on year, she whispers ‘all is well’

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


I love it when I catch the RTE programme, Reeling In The Years, usually by mistake. Last night, I saw the programme featuring 1982 in Ireland. Rugby was big news - we won the Triple Crown. The other big news was the economy - we were in a deep recession. There was plenty of political turmoil. Familiar? Very - except that in 1982 we had not just emerged from 15-20 years of incredible growth and wealth. And perhaps it is that fact that makes it so difficult for us to accept and come to terms with this recession this time.

Last Friday, the Late Late Show began with one of the most hysterical and depressing panel discussions I think I have ever heard. Four (as far as I can remember) journalists discussed just how dire this crisis is for Ireland. The hysterical ranged from Ger Colleran who suggested that the people of Ireland would like the errant property developers to be shot (figuratively speaking) to Kevin Myers foretelling that it won't just be our children but our grandchildren and even great grandchildren who will pay for this NAMA bailout of the banks. The whole discussion was totally unbalanced and very dark.

Certainly I know that this country is 'in the shit' financially, as are many families and I am not for one minute trying to trivialise that fact. But, as I am constantly saying to my husband, it is only money. We seem to have lost all perspective.

Ireland has not changed. We have not gone from a country of winners to losers overnight. We are still a great little country, full of imaginative, creative, energetic, hard working people. We are a nation who can communicate and sell like few others. We are witty and deeply spiritual, if no longer overtly religious. All the talents we used to build the great wealth of the Celtic Tiger era are still intact.

But if we keep being brainwashed by this wholly exaggerated and dark view of ourselves we will be stuck in the economic doldrums for a whole lot longer than we need to be, or that is good for us individually.

We need to stop the blame game. We all understand how it was our obsession with property that was at the heart of our financial woes. But we need to let the law and economic forces deal with that. The rest of us need to focus on getting our mojo back!

Ireland is going through a painful and major detoxification. We are clearing greed and corruption from our business and financial world. We are also witnessing the clearance of cruelty and abuse of power by the Catholic Church. At the end of this process Ireland Inc., will be a morally and spiritually enhanced country - through and through.

In the meantime, we individually, must all remember who we are. We are still a wonderfully articulate, expansive, open minded, well educated people, as we always were. And now more than ever we need to remember that. Because without that confidence we cannot move forward.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


No not that type of housekeeping, although it is exactly that, that I am abandoning for a couple of days for a wee break in the Sunny South East - Wexford to be precise!

So I shall be off air - which may be a relief to many of you!

I will bring notebook and pen and hope to write some bits and pieces if I get the peace and quiet I crave! I am also bringing Uncut Diamonds, the book I won from it's author Karen Jones Gowen's Blog. And a bit of spirituality with another dip in and out of book.

I am looking forward to walks on the beach, and around the nature reserve we are staying on. The girls (2 out of 3) are a little dubious about all this peace and quiet but Dylan is more than excited! And is raringto go as you can see above!!!

Anyway in the meantime, can I direct you over to my dearly beloved's blog where you will find details of his involvement in Happy Faces Day in aid of Cystic Fibrosis Ireland. So if you are in the Cabinteely area next week - pop in and have your photos done for a donation to the charity. All details on Paul Sherwood's Blog

So enjoy the rest of the Easter Holidays....



Friday, April 2, 2010


In my previous post, I mentioned some of the ‘celebrities’ I have had tea with. This tea drinking was not as random as it might have sounded. I spent 9 years working for the Alzheimer Society of Ireland where I had responsibility for both fundraising and PR. One of my first tasks when I began working with the then fledgling society was to set up a National Fundraising Day. So National Tea Day was born and in the course of the following years I got to drink tea with a cast of characters as diverse as Dustin the Turkey and Meave Binchey.

But few can compare with my taking tea with The Boss on the lawn of his little pad in Kinsealy in North Co Dublin. In order to understand just how big an event this was, you should know that my dear ole dad was a former classmate of the man he called Cathal. And although my Dad was the straightest and most honest man ever he always held Cathal (who was anything but) in great esteem. So the day I announced that I was doing a photocall with the Great Man (who had retired at this time)was to my dad, the crowning moment of my career.

For Tea Day one of our corporate sponsors, Toyota Ireland, loaned us a small 4x4 which we had covered with decals of tea pots and tea cups for added publicity. It attracted a lot of attention and yours truly got to drive it for the three months leading up to the big day as I visited each branch of the Society all over the country.

So the morning of the big photocall dawned and off I headed in the Teamobile to Abbeyville. I arrived ahead of the press and parked slightly to one side of the front door. CJ’s secretary arrived and we set up our tea party on the lawn. The press arrived and we all waited. Finally the door of the house opened and Charlie Haughey strode across the lawn towards us. Thinking back on it now, I am reminded of the scene in Fr Ted when Ted is trying to explain perspective to Dougal, using a model cow and cows in a field. “This one is small,” he says exasperated “and those ones are far away.” Mr Haughey was small far away and still small when he arrived beside me. Not that that fact took in any way from his aura of power and slightly Mafia like charisma.

I poured tea and concentrated hard on not scalding The Boss and the snappers snapped away. I have to say that Charlie was generous and very accommodating. When we were done, he turned to leave and I accompanied him back across the lawn, gushing about how grateful the Society was to him for his time and his support He said little but then squinted into the distance and said (in the classic Scrap Saturday voice) “who owns that eyesore parked at my front door?”
I was immediately panic stricken. Had I committed some massive faux pas, parking so close to his front door.

“Oh, I do, Mr Haughey. Well I don’t own it, Toyota do. They loaned it to us for Tea Day. It’s great for added publicity," I gabbled adding "it’s their new RAV4,” assuming most men like discussing makes and model numbers.

He clearly couldn’t have cared less.

“Grand little car for a woman I suppose” was all he said as he strode on his shortish legs back to his grand mansion.

I was grinning at this brilliant quote he had gifted me as I folded my 6 foot frame back into my “grand little car for a woman.”

It was pure Charlie Haughey and had me giggling all the way back southside to report it all to my dad.