Monday, January 21, 2013


So far this winter I have spent a fair bit of time complaining about how mild it is.  We had a bit of a cold snap early December but really until a week ago it was fierce mild and pretty damp.  I am highly suspicious of mild damp winters for a number of completely illogical reasons, namely:
A mild winter will mean a mild damp summer.. in other words temperatures a few degrees warmer but with grey skies and lots of rain.  Geraniums rotting in their pots and very little eating in the garden.
A mild damp winter is very unhealthy.  I always feel that we need a crisp cold winter to kill off winter bugs (like coughs and colds and the like).  Was it only in my world that there seemed to be a lot of ill people over Christmas?  I don’t think so.
Mild winters confuse nature and so things that shouldn’t be budding getting ahead of themselves.  Confusion in nature couldn’t be a good idea.

So I have been waiting for the cold and am relieved that it is now with us.  During the last couple of days I have watched as the UK has been turned into an Arctic wonderland and have had to subdue the jealousy.  Various parts of Ireland have also had some snowfall but so far none in my corner of the world.

Today is the third Monday of January which supposedly is the most depressing day of the year due to its distance from the festivities of Christmas, the weather and extra debt.  This is baloney in my opinion – any day is what we make it.

But that said, I am tired.  What makes me tired at this time of the year is getting up in the dark.  We’ve been at it for months now and it’s hard.   So when it snowed this morning I was delighted.  “Keep it up” I whispered to Mother Nature, “and make it heavier”.  I was overcome with a huge urge to shoo the children back to bed and declare a duvet day due to heavy snowfall.  Needless to say it wasn’t to be.

We should change the way we do things in winter by working shorter hours.  Wouldn’t it be great if we began work at 10am and finished at 4pm for the months of November, December and January?  February is the beginning of spring and by then we would be rested like the rest of nature and ready to burst forth and be productive again.

So if I ruled the country I would sort out our working and school hours to work with nature and this planet we live on..... and not against it.

That done I would then move on another and not unrelated matter.  As I said I firmly believe that a mild winter means that there are far more bugs to be caught; flu, colds, coughing, sneezing, high temperature and moaning.  It’s awful being sick.  But it is almost worse to share your life and your bed with someone who is sick.

Now bear with me here... I am about to make one of my famous sweeping generalisations but I have done some research on this... with my female friends.  The result of that research is this...
Women hate sharing a bed with a sick partner
Men aren’t bothered at all.

I like my bed.  I like my bedroom.  It is my haven.  My sanctuary.  It is a place that I willingly share with himself EXCEPT when he is a coughing, spluttering mess with a temperature.  Then I hate it.

When he is sick I spend the night hanging off my side of the bed, facing away from the overheated mess beside me who is contaminating the bedclothes with his germs.  And who is oblivious to my discomfort.  And who, I might add, if the roles were reversed would have no problem sharing the bed with me.

So.... my second task would be to make a law that sick men who share a bed with a woman should make alternative arrangements when they are sick.  They can sleep in their car, the shed, the bath or go to a hotel or hospital.... but matrimony does not confer the right to their female partner’s bed when they are ill!  Love is NOT HAVING TO SHARE YOUR BED WITH A SICK PARTNER.

Finally and again on a not unrelated subject I want to know who was the bright spark who decided that bathrooms should also house the toilet?

I grew up in a suburban house which was built in the late 50s and we had a separate toilet.  Bathroom housed the bath and wash basin and the toilet were next door.  Now I will admit that there was no wash basin in the loo but that was before we were so fussy about washing ones hands.  But broadly it was a far better idea.

A bathroom is where one makes oneself clean..  It is where one showers or bathes for long periods of time.  Is should be a place of scented candles and bubbles AND SHOULD NEVER SMELL OF POO.

But worse that all this is that I recently learned that every time you flush the loo thousands (or maybe millions) of bacteria and germs splash back invisibly all over the bathroom.  Onto your fluffy bath towel, into your bath BUT WORSE OF ALL ONTO YOUR TOOTH BRUSH...  AGGHHHHH

A toilet should be just that.  In a room by its very own self.  With a small washbasin purely for washing paws. And if I was in charge I would immediately offer a grant to anyone who wished to have their toilet separated from their bathroom.

 I am sure men are behind the toilet and bathroom all together thing!  They haven’t a clue.

Well that’s made me feel better... my perfect world coming more into focus...

I hope it may have cheered you up on this most depressing day of the year!!  I’ll let you know when I run for office!!!

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Good old Shane Lynch has stirred up that old hornet’s nest again...
Who’s he, do I hear you ask?
Remember your man who used to be in Boyzone and then became a racing driver??
What hornet’s nest?
Oh that old hoary chestnut about whether a parent should stay at home to mind their children or go out to paid work and avail of some form of childcare.
What’s a hoary chestnut?  Noooo... enough now.

Anyway Shane apparently said that he would like a woman to stay at home and mind the children.  “I like a traditional house, where a woman stays at home to raise the children and the man goes to work” he said.

Oh Shane what are you like?  Traditional house, woman at home with kids, man out working? Oh... except I can understand where you are coming from.

Let me first of all say that I am not laying down any rules about how we as women (and men) should organise our lives and nor am I making any judgements about parents who work and avail of childcare.

As many of you know, I worked from age 17 until 39 and have gone back to part time work in the last 18months.  I have been a single parent, a working married parent with children in crèche and I have been a full time housewife and stay at home mother.  In my opinion, if it is financially possible and if one parent is happy to take on the role of full time parent it is the best option for children.  I am aware that I am privileged that I have been able to be at home for ten years while my husband earned the money to keep us all afloat.  

A few months ago I interviewed David Coleman, who is a child psychologist, broadcaster and author.  I asked him this question, “in a perfect world where all choices were available to parents which is the best childcare option for children?”  I fully expected to get a fudgy, PC answer.  But no, he stated with great clarity that where it is financially possible and where one parent is happy to take on the role of full time parent in the home, this is by far the best option for children.

This morning I took part in the Midday programme on TV3 where this issue was discussed.  Shane Lynch’s comments were then being commented upon on the Twitter machine.  I expressed my opinion and there was a small, reasoned and respectful debate (social media is capable of such a thing – although you might not be aware of that from listening to our politicians and reading some of our newspapers).

One comment however struck me as particularly interesting.  The gist of the tweet was that nowadays we need fluidity and a willingness to transcend traditional gender behaviour models.  Mmmmm.. this is part of the problem in my opinion.

I know many, many women (and some men) who are full time stay at home with kids parents (we don’t even have a proper term for the role).  They have given up careers to care for their kids themselves.  They enjoy their new role and take it just as seriously as they did their ‘paid jobs’.

But as a society I don’t believe we put any value on these parents.  This is part of the reason I got so exercised by the cut in child benefit which I wrote about here.

In our rush for equality we have raced ahead demanding, quite rightly, to be paid the same as men and be given the same opportunities but we have forgotten the sisters for whom running a home and raising children is a job, a hugely important job.  In our rush to abandon ‘traditional gender behaviour models’ have we denigrated a role that many women and men believe is their most important one – that of homemaker?

Being at home with children is only possible when you have a partner who sees the role as equally important to his/hers which is to earn the money to keep the show on the road.  It’s truly a team game!

But how many of us ‘housewives/husbands’ have been asked when we are going back to work?  Or when asked ‘what do you do’ struggle and apologise for our ‘just being at home’?

Equality for women is all about choice.  And yet I know many women who feel they have let down the sisterhood by abandoning their education and career, albeit it temporarily, to care for their offspring.

So I think we have silenced this army of stay at home parents, who are mainly women.  They work away within their homes, volunteering in their communities and making endless cups of tea at school events.  These parents are working and are contributing to society.  I am not sure we value their contribution as much as we should.

So Shane – I know what you are getting at... but the bottom line is that it is up to each family to decide what best works for them... but I am grateful to you for highlighting a role which I think we have sidelined for too long!

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Every year I buy myself my new diary and for the last ten years or so I have looked for a diary that will not only have adequate room to record my appointments etc., but which will also inspire me or make me smile on a regular basis.  I have had diaries liberally sprinkled with quotes, with affirmations and with inspirational art but three years ago I bought myself A Fearless Woman Diary which has words and art by Jeannine Roberts Royce.  I have bought it every year since.  2013’s cover is emblazoned with the following words

A Fearless Woman..... she waits for no one.  She honours and celebrates who she is becoming.  She is the one she has been waiting for.”

I turned 50 last year and more than ever I am convinced that life is a journey into oneself.  Although I have been working hard on healing myself and on a personal quest for inner peace for over ten years now, I am still learning, still doing the work.  And so every year in January I peruse the Self Help shelves in order to see if I can find some new book which may assist me in my ‘work’ on myself.

This year Dubray Bookshops have helpfully gathered some new self help books together in a section called ‘You Can Change Your Life’.  This section is also on their website here.

So just for you I have chosen a couple of new possibilities together with some of my old favourites to hopefully inspire you to continue on working to be the best version of you that you can be!

I am delighted that my favourite of the new crop of self help books is an Irish publication, From Ordinary to Extraordinary (How To Live An Exceptional Life) by Brian Colbert and published by Gill & McMillan.

What initially caught my eye about this book was in the blurb on the back which states “this book will teach you how to reprogramme your mind for success.”  I firmly believe that our minds are the final frontier and are key to improving our lives in so many ways.  I also liked the fact that Colbert draws on psychology, sociology, Shamanism, Taoism, Buddhism and NLP in this book because I don’t believe that any one discipline can provide us with all the answers, no more than one book can.

Colbert talks about ‘mastering your mood’, ‘lightening up’ and says that ‘behaviour is what we do, and not who we are.’  He also has a section on ‘minding your language’.  The text also contains plenty of simple short exercises aimed at helping you design your own plan for changing your life.

All of which ring my bell and is why I think this book is well worth exploring further.

In a similar vein is the book ‘You Can Change Your Life’ by Rob Yeung and published by Pan McMillan.

On the first page of this book is the quote by Henry David Thoreau “things do not change – we change” and this is a theme that is explored by the author Rob Yeung.  He makes the point that change will only occur if you really want to change.  This is hugely important to anyone who does want to improve their life.  You can buy every book in the shop, go to every workshop there is but the only person who can change your life is you!  And you must want to change and do the work.

Other themes explored include the power of visualisation and resilience (or how to keep going when things go wrong).

All in all this is a similar type book to Brian Colberts and if you were torn between the two I would rate Colberts as better.

Flagging Depression by Dr Harry Barry is published by Liberties Press and is not a new release but was a book that was recommended to me as being a goodie.  Dr Barry is a GP from Louth with a particular interest in mental health and he has written a series of books on the subject.

What I like about this (along with his great happy sounding name) is that it is written in a clear, simple, non jargon style.  The book begins with a very clear explanation of what depression is... something which will help not only those who suffer from the condition but those of us who may have a friend or family member who is afflicted.

The majority of the book is devoted to outlining how to begin and continue a journey to wellness and Dr Barry draws on various techniques including lifestyle changes, talking therapy, drug therapy and alternative therapies including CBT.

It is this holistic approach and the clear easy to read style that particularly appeals to me about this book.

Another book that was suggested to me for my self help list was Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking which is published by Penguin.  A certain radio producer credits this book with her success in giving up smoking ten months ago.

I was a smoker, a 20-a-day girl until about 16 years ago when I finally gave up by going cold turkey and it was not easy.  But Allen Carr says if you read his book you will find giving up is  fierce easy.

His book is the world’s bestselling book on giving up smoking, endorsed on by Anjelica Huston, Anthony Hopkins and Aston Kutcher no less.

Carr was a bit of an expert on smoking and trying to give up.  He apparently smoked 100 cigarettes a day.... is that actually possible?  The fact that he himself, having given up, did die of lung cancer in 2006 should add urgency to your attempts to kick this horrible habit.

Perhaps I would have found it much easier if I had had this book back in 1996 when I was a grumpy, wheezy, cream cake guzzling struggling ex smoker.  I will never know... but if you are struggling with the fags I think you could do worse that gamble the cost of 40 of those fags on this book.

Right now for some of my old favourites.....

First up is The Shack by Wm Paul Young.  This is a book I was fairly sure I would not read because the story begins with the abduction of the main character’s young daughter who is then murdered in a shack.  I hate reading such horror..... but in the case of this book there needed to be something very shocking in order to really understand the rest of the story.

And that is what this book is – a story – a novel.  But the story is a metaphor for how we get hurt in life and then stuck.  It is difficult to explain the story but suffice to say that this book changed entirely how I thought about God.  It also went a long way in helping me to discard much of what I had been taught about God by my Catholic upbringing – the God who is a paternal judging God and it ‘out there’ somewhere very separate from us.

In the Shack the main character meets a very different God – who is portrayed as an African scone baking mama, along with Jesus and Soraya (the Holy Spirit).

All I can say is that I loved this book.  Deeply.  If you have a spiritual bent, if you would like to explore a new way of thinking about God, give this book a try.

I am delighted to see that Wm Paul Young has written his second book which is called Cross Roads and features on Dubrays How to Change Your Life section. According to the blurb on the back “Cross Roads speaks to all of us who’ve got things wrong in life and asks the big question:  What if you could go back and put things right.”

I can’t wait to get stuck in.

You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay was one of the first self help books I read when I begin my own self healing journey and it helped me greatly and I have no hesitation in recommending it.  It is one of the classics of the genre and its author has gone on to run a publishing and self help empire.

Like the first book I mention in this post, the basic premise of You Can Heal Your Life is that our thoughts and beliefs can cause us an awful lot of hassle in every aspect of our lives.  Hay states that “just because you believe it doesn’t make it true”.  She also says that “awareness if the first step to healing and change.”  She talks about how to change and the importance of releasing the past and forgiveness.  All of which I fully endorse.

You won’t agree with everything in this book, but in my opinion there are enough nuggets of wisdom and challenging theories to make this a book I will never part with.

Finally, a book I revisit over and over again because I love its simplicity and the fact that it makes me feel happy and optimistic is 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace by Dr Wayne Dyer.  Again this is a spiritual book in which Dyer gives us 10 secrets for a better life.

From the First Secret which is Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing to the tenth which is Avoid all thoughts that weaken you this is a beautiful book to dip into over and over again.

These are merely my suggestions.  But as one of my Reiki teachers used to advise me when looking for self help book recommendations “just go into the book shop and browse, the book you need will come to your attention... you will know it when you see it”.  And you will.

Enjoy some life changing reading and Happy New Year!