Monday, February 20, 2012


Do you believe in the power of prayer? Or as it is more trendily called lately – cosmic ordering? Do you think that our thoughts carry power? Can our minds influence our future?

At the risk of losing any bit of street cred I may have, I do believe that we are powerful beyond our belief. I do believe in the power of positive thinking. I believe in the power of visualisation. I do believe that our thoughts carry power. And ergo as I believe there is a higher power I believe in the power of prayer or cosmic ordering.

It therefore goes without saying that my children think I am bats.. well except for the eldest one, now living in Perth, Western Australia where she is making her dreams come true. But my 13year old and my 11 year old definitely do not value my wisdom at all and much to my delight consider me an awful embarrassment. Although recently the universe (or God or whatever) decided to show my 13 year old how visualisation and prayer or cosmic ordering works with amazing results. And I think it might have changed her mind.

Regular readers will remember that over the summer and autumn we fostered kittens for the DSPCA. It was hard work and great fun. The last fostering we did was a mammy cat and her 4 black kittens. 13 year old fell in love with one who she was convinced loved her. “He sits on my lap and he loves me” she reported regularly, followed by “can we keep him, pleeeeease”. Now we already have four resident cats – which is loads, so my standard response to her plaintiff cries was “no, we are not going to be a five cat household”.

But she went on and on and on... for weeks, for months. Her argument was that none of our resident cats loved her specifically. Kitty (our youngest cat) loves the 11 year old, basically sharing her bedroom day and night. I stood my ground.

But one evening at dinner, when I must have been in a particularly mellow mood, she quietly once again made her case for getting her own cat. She described how he would be a gentle, playful cat, black and white and he would love her. She had that distant look in her eyes as she daydreamed about her imaginary cat.

“Listen” I said, putting down my knife and fork, “if this is really important to you and something you really want, just carry on visualising it. In your mind see exactly what your cat looks like, see him sleeping on your bed and sitting on your knee.”

“But Mom, you said that we can’t have more than four cats so how would we get this new cat?”

“You don’t worry about that at all. Leave all the details to God. You just put your wish to have a cat to call your own out there and then forget about it.”

She looked at me dubiously but she did shut up. We had about ten days free of her moaning about getting a new cat.

Then one afternoon I was coming home town when my phone rang. It was the girls excitedly telling me that a stray cat had appeared in the front garden and wouldn’t go away. This happens occasionally with dogs and cats but usually an owner is found pretty quickly. “Can we let him in the house, it’s really cold out” they implored. “No way” was my answer, with visions of how quickly our house could be destroyed by fighting cats and our dog thrown into the mix for good measure. I told them they could give him some food in the garden but that was it.

When I pulled up in the driveway about half an hour later, there he was. A black and white young cat sitting on the window sill as if waiting for me to arrive. I addressed him immediately “you needn’t get any ideas buster... you are going home”. He looked very like a neighbour’s cat. Girls were dispatched to check that out. But no, he wasn’t theirs. By now it was dark and it was very cold and cat had stubbornly stayed by our front door. “Ok, I said we will let him in carefully and see what happens.”

Amazingly nothing much happened. The other cats were mildly curious but not that bothered. Dylan our daft dog got madly over excited like he does about everything but even that was short lived. So cat was allowed to stay the night. He found one of our cat beds under a radiator and slept for hours.

Next morning common sense was again employed. “We must find his owners” I lectured the girls. “We will drive around to see if there are any notices up on nearby estates and then we will take him to the vet to see if he is micro chipped.” There were no notices and there was no micro chip. The vet confirmed that he was about a year old, intact (not been spayed) and in good condition.

“What am I going to do?” I asked, “I have already have 4 cats... I don’t want another.”

“He belongs to someone,” the vet said “I think you should let him out and he may just go home.”

This seemed like sage advice which we followed. Cat immediately set off at a stately pace down the road. “See”, I said to 13 year old “he has remembered where he lives and he has gone home. Somewhere his family will be very happy to see him.”

That was Saturday.

On Monday in the early afternoon I got a call from the vets.

“You don’t still have that black and white cat do you” she asked.

“No”, I said proudly “we took your advice, let him out and off he went. I presume he’s gone home.”

“Em, no he didn’t. He was picked up yesterday by a lady who found him on the central reservation of the N11. She couldn’t keep him, he’s back here."

At 4pm that day I picked up 13 year old from school and instead of driving home, headed for the vets. When we pulled up outside, she looked at me quizzically.

“There is someone here waiting for you,” I said.

Sometimes I can be a bit slow on the uptake, even with my own wisdom. The universe had sent my 13 year old her cat, exactly as she had visualised; black and white and full of personality and affection. And yes, he does love her. He sits on her knee and sleeps on her bed. Most of all though he knows that he is where he is meant to be.

So now – I want a weekly newspaper column; one where I can write about anything that tickles my fancy or moves me or annoys me. I also want a regular radio gig....reviewing the morning’s newspapers where I could focus on the positive and off beat stories to help cheer us all up?

Right – got that Universe? Watch this space!!!

Photo of Felix relaxing (yep, he does sleep that way sometimes) by 11year old!

Friday, February 10, 2012


News has forever been generally negative. We all know that old cliché that ‘no news is good news’, well it works backwards too. In other words ‘good news is no news’. There are other writers, more learned than I, who have probably written long theses on why this is so, but even I recognise, that we live in a global world where fear is a huge factor in our lives. Stoking our fears and insecurities makes us better consumers and advertising funds the media, so I guess that the status quo is going to remain for some time to come.

But I don’t think that it is altogether fair to blame the media entirely for the barrage of negative news that we are subjected to every day. I think that we also have a morbid fascination with bad news. Just look at how people get so seemingly spellbound by disasters and tragedy on a grand scale. Is this because we all possess an element of the “God I am glad that I am not in that situation” type thinking? Perhaps.

We in Ireland are also endlessly fascinated by politics and more recently economics. We greedily soak up the news and the conversations of celebrity experts on everything from bond markets to septic tanks. Often these conversations and discussions go around and around in circles never actually reaching any conclusion as trendy economists and outspoken politicians whizz from studio to studio peddling their own particular wisdom which in turn becomes the water cooler or twitter conversations. All of which leads us subconsciously to live in a state of stress about the future.

There is nothing wrong with stress as a short term measure to combat some threat. Being stressed when you find yourself staring down a lion, for example, would be most useful but in day to day life this low level anxiety cannot be good for us.

Psychologist Maureen Gaffney wrote recently that “resilience during periods of stress relies on the ability to actively rebalance positive and negative emotions.”

So why is there seemingly so little balance in the news and current affairs media? That is something that only the media can answer but in the meantime we as individuals need to develop the ability to stand back from what we are reading, listening to or watching from time to time. We need to regularly ask ourselves “how am I feeling today?” Much of what we hear about on news media, from natural disasters to impending financial meltdowns, we have no control over. So if you are already feeling a little bit below par, a bit fed up, uneasy or worried then recognise that fact and take a break away from the bad news.

I know that if you, like me, are a current affairs junkie who likes to know what is going on, turning off The News, or Primetime or Tonight with Vincent Browne might be a radical step. For years my alarm radio was set to RTE Radio 1 so it was the voices of Morning Ireland I woke up to. But recently there have been mornings when I know that I don’t want to begin my day with all this financial gloom and dire doom. Depending on my emotional state I may chose Hector’s roaring from Galway to jar me awake or on other mornings it will be some classical music on Lyric FM. But the point is to recognise when enough is enough for you and move that dial.

In the meantime I will continue to drone on about how we need more positivity and inspiring stories in our news media to balance all the negative stuff. I will continue to love hearing RTE’s Philip Bromwell’s voice as I know he will bring me a tale of dolphins, or rescued dogs or squirrels. I say we need more like him. We need more uplifting and life affirming good news stories which are everywhere in our society, particularly in these hard times. These stories may not make us better consumers immediately but ultimately by bringing balance to our news we will be a nation of happier, less stressed citizens which just might play a large part in Ireland getting herself out of this brutal recession.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Today, February 1st is the Feast of St Brigid. My daughters went to St Brigids National School it has long been a day of mild celebration in our house being as it means a half day and no homework (only for the youngest now though).

The 1st of February is also (according to the Celtic calendar) the first day of Springtime..and even though February can be one of the coldest months, this morning the sun is shining and the sky is blue! Spring is stirring. Snowdrops are well up and crocuses have also flowered and daffodils are just behind them. All of these flowers speak of hope and remind us that even during the long dark winter, the wheel of the year is continually turning and regardless of what is happening in our world, Mother Nature continues her work and life goes on. There is little as comforting as that fact...that life goes on... all is well.

St Brigid is one of my favourite saints because she is also a Goddess and it has become impossible to differentiate between the two. Legends swirl around her both her pagan and Christian expression. Some think that Brigid was actually a pagan priestess before her conversion to Christianity. Personally I don’t think it matters.

As a Goddess, Brigid is connected with healing, smithcraft and poetry. Traditionally in Ireland on the eve of St Brigids Day, a cloth would be left outdoors overnight. This cloth would receive a blessing from Brigid and would then be used for the rest of the year for healing. It was known (as far as I can remember) as Brat Bhride.

Brigid is also Goddess of fire, the hearth (traditionally the centre of the home) and energy. And finally she is Goddess of fertility and childbirth and is said to lean over every cradle.

The legends of St Brigid are equally fascinating and stories abound. We know she founded monasteries for both men and women. She is credited with making Kildare a monastic city and a renowned centre for learning and illumination. But more than that, she wanted her monasteries to be warm and comforting places – hence her association with the hearth traditionally the centre of the home and of sustenance. Her generosity was also legendary especially to the poor. She also had a huge affinity with animals and was credited with being able to get cows to milk three times a day.

She was very influential in her time and widely respected. Some legends even have it that she was made a bishop and lived with a special female companion.

But it is the way that her legend embodies both the traditional feminine aspects of domesticity, caring and healing with more masculine traits of smithcrafting and her successful navigation of religious patriarchy, that really appeal to me. It is this melding of these traditional roles that makes her a very relevant icon for today.

And how appropriate is it that tomorrow the Gender Quotas Bill is coming before the Dail? So today let’s remember Brigid – one of Ireland’s greatest feminine icons and ask her blessing as we embark on the first step in the business of political equality in this country.

Photo is of the Harry Clarke stained glass window depicting Brigid in Cabinteely Church.