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From The Desk of Florence Nightingale…..

I’ve been MIA here for a while. The girls have been sick. The Little One ended up in hospital on Friday. She’s been sick for three whole weeks and, on Friday, our wonderful GP suggested bringing her into Crumlin to have her checked out. We were only there for three hours, which is a short while to spend in A&E of a Friday afternoon/early evening.

The good news is that there’s nothing discernibly wrong with her. The doctor we saw seemed to think that she had picked up a virus, which left her immune system compromised slightly, then she got tonsillitis, now that’s gone and her immune system is still a bit low. So, all I can do is mind her until she picks up.

The Big One was grand. She got off the school bus and was taken home by a friend of mine who has a child in her class. At a quarter to midnight on Saturday, she sat bolt upright in bed and said something.
“Sorry, Sweetheart?” I asked, none too perturbed, because this child often speaks in her sleep.
“I’m going to….blehhhhhhh”
Oh great. Who thought so much vomit could come out of one so small? Thank God we’re vegetarian so there wasn’t rotting meat to contend with.

I cleaned her up, changed the bed and put her back into it. We both went back to sleep and slept peacefully. Until 2.22am. When there was a repeat performance. Lovely.

The Big One has hair down past her bottom and it hadn’t escaped unscathed. I had no option but to stick her in the shower. It was 3am by the time we got back to bed. Thank God, it seems to have just been a 24 hour thing.  I had a touch of it myself yesterday, but Solpadine took care of it.

As I spent the weekend with my Florence Nightingale hat on, I was profoundly grateful. Grateful that there is nothing terribly wrong with my girls, and grateful that I can fix all that is wrong or uncomfortable in their lives.

They’re five and seven and, to a huge extent, I control their universe. My grip will slip as the years advance, and I am acutely aware of that.  There is so much outside of my control – paedophiles, abusive boyfriends, bullies, drunk drivers, to name a few.  It is tempting to home-school them, forbid boyfriends, refuse them permission to leave the house, and disallow access to the Internet. But I can’t. I cannot protect my girls from life. The best I can do is give them the tools to cope with it.

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The Parenting Privilege

In 2007, The Grand Jury of the European Court made a ruling that devastated Natallie Evans, a young British woman. Six years previously, Ms. Evans was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. At the time, she was engaged to Howard Johnston and they underwent a rapid round of IVF, which resulted in six embryos. These were frozen for use once Ms. Evans was well enough to contemplate pregnancy.

The relationship between the couple, however, broke down and they separated. Ms. Evans still wanted to use the embryos that she and Mr. Johnston had produced together. He refused and so the legal wrangle began. Ms. Evans lost her final appeal and the embryos were destroyed.

We have a similar case before the courts in Ireland today.  A separated couple has frozen embryos that the woman wants implanted and her estranged husband doesn’t. This couple already has two children and the woman wants to grow her family against her husband’s wishes.

Central to this case is the view of the Irish High Court that frozen embryos are not ‘unborn’ within the view of the constitution.  An embryo is only deemed ‘unborn’ and entitled to the full protection of Irish law when that child is implanted in a human womb.
A child born of one of those embryos would be a child born of bitterness. Is that really an ideal start for any child? Perhaps, the woman in this case, should focus on the children she already has, rather than trying her best to bring another child into the world and struggling to bring them up in a single-parent household?
If the woman in this case gets the result that she wants and the embryos are implanted, her estranged husband will be responsible for the resulting babies.  He will be required by law to provide for the child/ren financially, and to bear responsibility for the lives that ensue.

For whatever reason(s) this man has made the decision that he does not want to have any more children with a woman with whom he is no longer in partnership.  We cannot have it both ways – insisting that men should be responsible with their sperm, and then over-ruling the desires of a man who is doing his best to be.

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A Santa-Less Christmas

It’s a funny thing; a child could walk into nearly any primary school in Ireland and declare that God does not exist. There would be no hue and cry. If, however, that same child walked into school and declared that Santa does not exist, there would be uproar.

With Christmas nearly upon us, we need to acknowledge that not everyone celebrates Christmas the way it has traditionally been celebrated in Ireland. Not every child in Ireland will expect a visit from Santa this year. My own two daughters are among them.

There are a number of reasons why this is so. For a start, we’re not Christian. In Ireland, though, any declaration of non-participation is generally greeted with remarks about how much my children are missing out on.  Oddly enough, my Muslim friends never berate me for my non-celebration of Eid, nor have I ever been chastised by a Jew on account of my non-observance of Hanukkah.

Another reason why I refuse to ‘do’ the Santa thing is that I have a policy of not lying to my children. Whenever they ask me a question, I do my best to answer them as honestly as I possibly can.  I have this policy because I want my children to trust me.

Another problem I have with Santa that he only comes to ‘good’ children – and that if you are ‘good’ Santa will bring you your heart’s desire. What about the child who could not be better, but whose parent/s simply can’t afford to give the child what they want? What message does that give such a child – that they simply aren’t good enough? That Santa doesn’t care? And what of the child who keeps what they want a secret – believing the lies that Santa knows what children want? How disappointed will that child be on Christmas morning when they don’t get what they most coveted?

As children get older and more aware of the world around them, they learn about children who live in poverty, children who have little or nothing, and children who are starving. Why do those children not receive gifts from Santa? Are they ‘bad’ as well as poor?

In Ireland, if you don’t invite Santa into your home, you are viewed as odd – if you are white, you are considered even odder. People have accused me of ‘depriving’ my children. All children need something to look forward to, I am told. Well, mine have plenty to look forward to. Apart from their birthdays, we mark the coming of spring and a number of Hindu festivals. In fact, the school my girls attend celebrates Diwali with them every year.

My awareness of what other people tell their children has led me to be sensitive about what I tell mine about Santa. So don’t worry – your secret is safe. Just don’t call me mean-spirited or try to tell me that my kids are deprived because I don’t lie to them – okay?

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Why Do Women Hate Their Bodies?

Des Bishop stood (sat?) in for Sean Moncrieff yesterday on Newstalk, and he had an item called ‘Why Do Women Hate Their Bodies?’ It immediately started me thinking about the part(s) of my body I’d like to change. Rather than bore you with that, though, I’d much rather concentrate on what I like about my body. Why on earth would I want to share that with you? In the hope that you would take another look at yourself – literally and metaphorically – and realise that there is so much about your own body that is fabulous.

I’m not very tall, and it used to bother me a lot. All my siblings are 6’ and over – including my sister. But I inhabit my space and I’m not afraid to stand up for what matters to me.

I have big feet. It makes getting shoes difficult (not as difficult here as it was when I lived in Asia, though!) and I’ve always bemoaned the size of them. Yesterday, though, I thought about how lucky I am that I have feet that are not deformed or arthritic. I’m also lucky that I always have shoes.

I don’t have perfect legs, but they work perfectly.

‘Buxom’ is not a word that could ever be accurately applied to me – but my breasts are ‘working breasts’ not just there for decoration. For over seven years straight, they provided nourishment, comfort and immunological protection to my children. The children of strangers also benefitted from my milk, as I donated my spare milk (and there was a lot of it!) to the milk bank.  Without my milk, my eldest would not have survived her first few months. I wouldn’t trade any of that for a bigger cup size. My cup runneth over.

No one will ever write poetry about my eyes, but I’d be lost without them. And they are never afraid to look you in yours.

My stomach is not as flat as it could be, but – newsflash! – I’m a woman, not a stick-insect.

Sure, my smile may not light up a room, but I smile a lot – and I smile from the heart. I’m lucky to have so much to smile about.

I don’t have a dinky little nose like Nicole Kidman, but I am still overwhelmed by the smell of jasmine, baking bread, coffee, spices and babies.

When I sit down and think about it like this, I don’t hate my body. Even if I did, it wouldn’t get me anywhere. To a large extent, our bodies are genetically pre-determined. There are certain things that we absolutely cannot change about the way we look. I have other things to battle – other fights to fight. I don’t need to fight myself.

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All I Want For Christmas…..

I’m a writer. And I’m a Virgo. This instantly gives you a few vital (!) pieces of information about me:

1.    I love to write.
2.    I love to be organised, part of which means that
3.    I love lists.

In keeping with the festive spirit, I have decided to blog about the things I would like for Christmas. So, here – in no particular order –  is my writerly Xmas wishlist:

  1. A laptop The four year-old i-Mac is sooooo sllllloooowwwww. Keeping multiple applications running and multiple tabs open is draining its life force.  A laptop (I’m so desperate it doesn’t even have to be a Mac) would mean I could take it with me, too! I know I can write on the back of bus tickets if I have to, but I find that I can’t work on current stuff unless I have it with me. I only get new ideas when I’m out. Which is great, but I have work I need to finish!
  2. An iPod Touch Like many writers, I love to have music on when I write. An iPod allows me to take my music with me everywhere. An iPod Touch would allow me to read everywhere, too!
  3. Pretty Stationery. I love stationery because I love writing. I love writing on good, attractive stationery when I send letters and cards.
  4. A lovely pen. I’m picky about what I write with. I like a nice fountain pen, but the one I have is going a bit leaky. A nice one would go with well  my lovely stationery. 🙂
  5. A Ladder to my Attic. You know, like a Stira. That way, I could disappear into the attic when I needed to write completely undisturbed. They’d never think of looking for me there.
  6. A Kettle. I’d like a kettle in the room where I write, so I don’t have to disappear downstairs and risk distraction every time I want a cuppa.
  7. An Anti-Guilt Pill. This would be fabulous for those times when I feel guilty for neglecting the kids when I write and guilty for neglecting writing when I’m with the kids.
  8. Media Directory. Handy to have when you get an idea and would like to know who best to pitch it to. A Media Directory has the answers to all your media questions.
  9. An Agent. I know, I know, but it’s a wish list, right? I’d love to have a kick-ass agent who loves my work and would help me land
  10. A Publishing Contract. There’s nothing more to say about that, is there?
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Unmentionables

Today’s blog was inspired by the wonderful Alex Barclay. In her book, Blood runs Cold, Ms Barclay refers to a multi-pack of pastel-coloured cotton panties as  ‘Darkroom panties; things would only develop in the dark’.  She further proclaims that ‘every woman has a couple’. Well, for the record, I would like to put my hand up and declare ‘not this woman’!  It’s a fantastic image, though, and I’m sure we all know immediately what she means.

In my teens, I decided that underwear should only be worn in one of two colours – black or white. Occasionally, I throw caution to the wind and wear something in purple, but that is only on rare occasions.  When I was a teenager, leggings were invented and they were de rigeur for Drama students in the early nineties. Back then, the idea of a VPL (visible panty line) caused my blood to run cold and I adopted the habit of wearing only thongs. Or g-strings, as they were called in those days.

Not long after, I moved to Singapore, where such items of underwear were impossible to find. Even M&S didn’t carry a selection. I had mine sent out to me in what I referred to as ‘Red Cross Packages’, which also contained Sinutab and Neurofen, which were similarly unavailable in the Land of The Lion back then.

When I worked (here) in Bangkok, one of my colleagues bemoaned the fact that her boyfriend didn’t get the notion of period underwear. He couldn’t understand why, for those few days when she had her period, she wore grubbier, less sexy underwear than she did the rest of the time. This woman was Canadian – though her parents came from Korea – and he was a Brit, and she wondered if it was a cultural thing. I could shed no light, but figured it was probably more personal than cultural.

Obviously, my former colleague’s boyfriend thought that women should be sexily-dressed all the time, no matter how comfortable or otherwise their pants might make them feel.

Personally, I feel that regardless of what’s on display, whatever is next to my skin must be feminine. Even though no one else will see it, I make sure that my underwear is matching and comfortable. Even though a one-time flatmate of mine contended that g-strings couldn’t possibly be comfortable!

When it comes to children, however, I am distinctly unnerved by some of the products on the market. Large department stores have bra-tops for 4 year olds. Why? They also carry ranges of knickers that have things like ‘cute’, ‘lovely’ and even ‘sexy’ on them. Now, call me old-fashioned, but when it comes to children I really think that underwear should be of the type Alex Barclay refers to – plain cotton pastels. The odd flower here and there is also perfectly acceptable.

My eldest daughter wears bloomers (like these), which we pick up in India. She loves them – not least because we have to go to India to buy them – but her sister wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair! Even so young, they have definite ideas about what kind of underwear they like and will wear.

So what I’m wondering is, does our underwear say something about us? I’d guess it probably does, though I’ve not come across any research on the subject.  So why don’t you ‘fess up and share with the rest of us what your knicker-drawer contains?

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