Musings – Blog Awards Finalist

“There are many reasons to celebrate, but National Mustard Day just isn’t one of them.”
Lily O’Brien

I bring even more glad tidings of not just good news, but great news that I have been selected as a finalist in the Blog Awards Ireland in the Health and Well being Category. The news came through last in a delicious email which read:

Hi Brenda,

Congratulations!!! Your blog “An Irish Girl Interrupted” has made it onto the Blog Awards Ireland 2015 – Finalist List!!! Your blog has been listed as a finalist in the Best Health and Wellbeing Blog Category !!!
We will officially announce the Blog Awards Ireland 2015 – Finalist list on The Blog Awards Ireland website later on tonight. We have also attached a link for ‘Finalist’ buttons below, that you can put on your blog to announce to your readers/subscribers that you have made it to the final stage of the competition.
What great news to receive! I am delighted to display my finalist button in several colours here.
Finalist-Buttons-300x2504Finalist-Buttons-300x2505Finalist-Buttons-300x250
Thanks to anyone and everyone who nominated me. My daughter Emma told me today that she did a secret nomination. How sweet.
So what happens now? Well on 22 October there will be an opportunity to get a new gúna (dress) and to go along to the awards’ night and meet all the others who have been longlisted, shortlisted and finalisted (is that even a word?).
Regardless of what happens I will still have this blog and I will still have readers so while I do want you to keep your fingers crossed for me on the night, I also, do not want you to be disappointed for us if we don’t win out on the night.
Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read my book chapters and these musings of mine. Thanks for the kind comments and the wonderfully uplifting emails you have sent me.
There are more book chapters to come and you know me – there will be lots more musings too.
Fingers and toes crossed now for the 22nd.
If you want to find out who else has been placed on the lists of finalists you can read them here on the Blog Awards Ireland website.
Brenda xxxx

Chapter 29 – In Sickness and In Health

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
Lao Tzu

I could not have come through my Myeloma trials and difficulties without the love and support of my husband Bryan. I sometimes think the diagnosis is much harder for family and loved ones. They stand with you, watching you as you wrestle with the diagnosis of cancer and then they have to stand and watch, feeling helpless as you go through the most awful treatment. They are the real unsung heroes in any cancer story. People tell me all the time that I am brave and inspiring but my hero and the person who got me through my treatment was my husband Bryan.

Our backstory

I met Bryan for the first time in 1993. We were introduced by a mutual friend – a penpal friend of mine. We started dating about two weeks after we met. I kind of knew after a few days of meeting Bryan that I was feeling different about us. I was feeling things I had never felt before. Long before our first date, I kind of knew that he was going to be the man I married. We just clicked.

Our first date was a Howard Jones midnight at the Olympia Concert. I had grown up in love with Howard Jones’s music so when I saw he was coming to Ireland I had to go along to see if he still had the magic. It was a great concert and we left buzzing. The latter part of our first date consisted of us foiling a robbery taking place in the building just beneath my flat and having two burly Gardai (policemen) in the apartment with us for about two hours as they tried to coax the thieves down off the roof!!!! There were fire engines, police cars and an ambulance – it certainly was a date to remember.

We started dating steadily after that. I was living on my own in Dublin and Bryan was based in the Curragh in Co Kildare. We saw each other as often as we could. Bryan was even known to cycle from The Curragh to where I lived in Harold’s Cross in Dublin to see me.

I met his family in October of that year and he met mine in the November of that year. Sentences which had begun with ‘me’ for years suddenly became ‘me and Bryan’.

I should point out that even though I knew after two weeks that Bryan would be the man I would marry, I didn’t tell him that. That would have frightened anyone away. It scared me too as I had never felt that way about anyone up to that point.

“There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.”
Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

We both knew it was something serious and in February 1994 Bryan proposed and I said yes. We told only close friends and omitted to tell family as we feared they might think we were moving too quickly.

By anyone’s standards we probably were. Both my sisters were dating people for five years each at that time. And in I would come with a marriage proposal and an engagement on the table.

We started to save for our house from that moment. We went ring shopping and announced our engagement officially in October 1994. We bought and moved into our first house together in June 1995 and we got married on 29 December 1995 in my home town of Belturbet, Co Cavan.

wedding

We had bright blue skies and snow on 29 December 1995 which was one of the happiest days of my life. I remember our wedding vows so well – we said these lines to one another as part of our vows:

“With love and joy I accept you Bryan as my husband
I will stand by your side in good times and in bad”

For so many years we had good times. Baby number one arrived on 5 April 1997 and baby number two arrived on 19 August 2004. We lost a child on Good Friday 2003 and that was a sad and painful time for us.

Emma born
Emma as a newborn
Cathal born
Cathal as a newborn

But we had our perfect little family of a girl and a boy. The next step was to move to a bigger house to give the kids more room and we did that in September 2005. All was going well for us as a family. Neither of us had been ill before. I had an issue with asthma but we rarely went to the doctor or the hospital and we were blessed that we had two really healthy kids.

I am not really a crier. I am a strong person. When something bad happens I am more likely to be the one busy doing something or if I am physically hurt you will find me laughing my way through the pain. If I was ever in pain or in trouble I would always ask Bryan not to be too nice to me because I knew it would be the straw that would make me break down and cry.

It was during the Christmas of 2006 that everything changed for us as a couple and as a family. We are a Christmas family and we make a huge fuss in the house for it. But from early December I was feeling ill. I was hiding just how bad I was feeling and  I knew that Bryan was doing his best to hide his concerns. We muddled through Christmas but by our wedding anniversary on 29 December I was sick – I had no appetite and anything I ate didn’t stay down.

On 1 January when I almost collapsed in the local supermarket, Bryan said enough was enough and he insisted I go to the doctor. When we got the terrible news that I was in kidney failure, we had no idea where it would all end. Neither of us mentioned the word cancer as we just didn’t know enough about it at the time to even suspect it.

When the diagnosis came through finally on 10 January 2007 I delivered the news to Bryan on the phone. He dropped everything in work and made the journey out. While talking to him on the phone I had asked him now to be too nice to me as I needed not to cry at the moment. I needed not to give in to the tears. I needed to feel I was in control. Bryan arrived to the hospital about 40 minutes later and took me in his arms. Of course I cried and through my tears said, “I told you not to be too nice to me”.

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”
Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

All the way through the treatment he was there for me. He was wishing me well, willing me well. He took charge of the running of the house and took over all sorts of chores from me. I somehow have ended up never having to lift an iron since I was diagnosed! Well there has to be some perks.

I found some texts recently on an old phone. They are from 2007 when I was in hospital at various times.

10 January 2007 (day of diagnosis)
Love u. Get a good night’s sleep. Me and your Mam will be up mid morning. Bryan

14 July 2007
Feeling any better? Bryan

14 July 2007
You’re almost there now. Just remember how much we all love you. Try to get some sleep. Bryan

I received texts like this every day from Bryan. He was faced with some terrible sights when he came to see me in the hospital. He never missed a day.

He more than fulfilled his side of the marriage vows in terms  of the ‘in sickness and in health’ bit.

I know that serious illness and trauma can cause friction and fracture in a relationship and I am grateful that we are as together as ever and looking forward to celebrating 20 years of marriage on 29 December this year.

rome 2
In Rome together

There’s a quote from F Scott Fitzgerald which says:

“I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self respect. And it’s these things I’d believe in, even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all she should be. I love her and it is the beginning of everything.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

I am borrowing the last line from that and making it my own when I say:

“I love him and that is the beginning of everything”

I  have been blessed by my marriage and all it has brought into my life. I realise nowadays that this can be an exception and therefore it is something to be cherished and valued.

All I want for us now is to grow into an old married couple together and to be able to look back on this time of sickness as a small blip in a very big and wonderful life.

Emma and meIMG_0007FeetBrenda and Cathal birthday pic 2009

Musings – The Boy on the Beach

The boy on the beach – it could be a title for a short story or a book on the best sellers list.

The boy on the beach – it could be the title of a song.

The boy on the beach – it could be the title of a movie.

The boy on the beach is none of those things because as of 2 and 3 September 2015, the image of the boy on the beach has been burned into the minds, hearts and consciences of every person of good will on this planet.

The boy on the beach is Aylan Kurdi aged 3. He is…. no … he WAS a toddler from Syria, labeled a migrant and or a refugee who died in the cold waters of the Mediterranean sea, and was washed up like a piece of driftwood onto a beach where he should have been playing and building sandcastles. He’s not and he was not a migrant or a refugee – he was and he is every mother’s son. He was just a little boy who was trying to escape hell. He died with his mother and his brother…… How must that mother have felt when she realised she was letting go of her sons’ hands for the last time….. How must she have felt knowing, thinking her last thoughts about her beautiful sons….. Did she die thinking she failed them? Did she die in despair? Was she crying salty tears into an already salty sea?

I can never un-see that picture. I will also remember forever the image of the policeman gently cradling Aylan in his arms as he lifted him up – his face turned away as though what he finds himself doing is too horrific to comprehend.

TURKEY Migrant_2

The time for hand-wringing and setting up meetings weeks into the future has passed…. We all need to act now to save this family we all belong to – it doesn’t matter what languages we speak, or what we have in common…. we are all part of the same human family…..

There’s lots we can do……..Type in the hashtag #refugeecrisis or google the acres of newspaper coverage about the boy on the beach and you will find links to aid agencies you can donate to who are working on the ground in the places these families are running away from. Give what you can. Call, text, phone, email your local government representatives and demand they act now…….. We don’t want any more children lying dead on the beaches of Europe…..Remember they want the same things we want – they want a place to call home where they can play safely and grow up with their parents and their brothers and sisters…..

This is a poem which was shared with me today on Facebook. It’s called HOME and it is by Somali poet Warsan Shire. Read it and hopefully it will make you realise why these fellow human beings are risking everything and why we must stand up and prevent another crisis like what happened in WWII.

“HOME,” by Somali poet Warsan Shire:

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.

Ends

So now answer me one question: Can we here in Ireland afford to take more than 600 migrants/refugees……can we afford to save more than 600 of our fellow human beings?

Musings – I bring more glad tidings of this blog being shortlisted for the Blog Awards Ireland

I found out last night that this blog has made it onto the shortlist for the Blog Awards Ireland in the Health and Wellbeing category. There are some great blogs included on the shortlist so I am in very good company up there with them. Check out the complete list of shortlists here.

That makes it two hurdles I have jumped over so far in the Blog Awards process and there are a couple more to go if I am to have any chance of making it as a finalist. One of those hurdles involves me doing a bit of spring cleaning on the blog – things like spell checking and a bit of dusting here and there. The other hurdle involves the element of a public vote and that is where you, the readers, come in. From 7 September you will have a chance to vote for this blog. I am to be sent a VOTE BUTTON which I will add to the site and I will also add information on other voting options.

You will note a list and some check boxes below that the judges will have to complete for the finalist stage.

Judging Criteria for Finalist Stage

  • Is it written in an engaging, entertaining or informative style?

  • Is the blog easy to navigate?

  • Does the design compliment the writing and make it easy to read?

  • Spelling and grammar – will it make our judges weep or smile?

  • The Finalist list will be judged by an independent judging panel.

I would love to have your vote but for the moment you can stand easy. But, I shall be calling on you soon!

Brenda