Show me the way to go Home…

“I just feel so proud of her.” My strong mother said through her tears as we followed the lone bag-piper as he led my Granny Breslin to her final resting place. The song was called Going Home.

90 years on this earth. 1 month and one Mother’s Day she’s been gone.

Barely 2 days she shared with her own mother, who died through complications with birth. In the last maybe 15 years she kept her close to her heart on a photo pendant my dear uncle John bought for her. My Granny didn’t really talk about her mother much until she developed dementia. But it was the biggest pain and loss in her life, and she really could not wait to be reunited with her.

“She’ll be soon after her” they said when little Margaret Burns’ mother died. But 90 years, 14 children and 101 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren later… and what a legacy, what a life.

In one of our kitchen table mammoth tea and talking sessions my sister said “Think how terrified she must have been every time she was pregnant.” And it’s true…Yet she went through it 14 times, with only two of the younger ones born in hospital, the rest at home. Such a brave and selfless woman who just used her life to raise her children with her simple faith, strong morals and a lot of laughter.

My friends, and others who had never met Granny were reduced to tears at the funeral listening to all she had overcome between Derry and Scotland. Her father, a good man, died when she was 12 and herself and her sister found him when they returned from the cinema.

She was then raised by her beloved Aunt Annie in Derry, where both parents were from. “If he’s meant for you, he’ll come into the fireside.” Annie always said. And my Granda did just that, coming into the house to wait for Annie’s son Paddy every Friday night before they went to the pub. One day he asked Annie could he take Margaret to the ‘pictures.’ “You’ll have to ask her yourself.” Annie replied. My Granny was listening on the stairs, delighted.

They lived in a little house in Creggan, paying up for groceries, battling through the riots of the Troubles, and doing a miraculous job of raising 6 girls and 8 boys without murdering any of them!

I have to say, I’m biased, they’re my aunties and uncles, but the Breslins are an absolute credit to my Granny. I’m just so proud to be part of this family, and watching as they handled themselves, their grown up children, all the visitors with such grace and dignity at the wake and funeral. They are a big loving family of absolute characters, and although it was the saddest of circumstances we were delighted to see each other. The wake at times was an almost joyful occasion, which I thought maybe would have upset my mammy but she said it’s exactly what Granny would have wanted. Some of us (mostly cousins) had a drink after the soup and sandwiches of the funeral (I was the only one to volunteer to show my family up) and now we are hoping to organise a big cousins meet-up at least once a year.

Mother’s Day was yesterday, and the first one my own mother has spent without hers. I knew it would be difficult, so I had the idea of a version of my granny’s beloved photo pendant featuring a wee song my granny in her dementia especially liked to sing.

From here.

One of my favourite stories about my Granny, and it was told at the funeral, highlights her very healthy relationship with God. My auntie Eileen once found a piece of scone far from my Granny’s chair and jam dripping from the Sacred Heart picture. “You fairly knew your own mother!” she accused Jesus. Kind of regularly, actually!

She died on 14 February, Valentine’s Day. “She’s a wee lover” my Mammy said as she left to say her final goodbyes.

It comforts us all to think of the first Mother’s Day for two amazing long-suffering women. After 90 years. That’s love.

 

Margaret Breslin

7th October 1926 – 14th February 2017

On Hope

The following is a very short piece I wrote on the topic ‘hope,’ which was the theme of the Women Who Write’s February meeting. (A wonderful monthly group that started last year.) I had been despairing on the facebook page that maybe I wasn’t a woman who writes. I began to worry and run out of time and I even took to twitter to ask people what hope meant to them. I was glad to have the discussions with people, and I ended up being really emotional in a good way! Hope is one of my favourites.

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I find hope in the usual places; crossed fingers and candles for job applications, a fresh notebook, an unopened letter. First messages, meetings, coffees. Anywhere there is possibility. The new year and spring time are hope’s favourite dates in the calendar.

I’d like to deliver hope to the unusual places too.  Oh, to stand at the end of the bridge like a gatekeeper. And place a little parcel of hope in the pocket of any son or daughter who feels they can’t go on. It would warm their heart and slow their feet. It would provide just enough light to see a way through for the next few hours, until the next phone call, the next conversation. It would whisper of love, family, friends and future.

My 7-year-old brother said hope is waiting for something that you are looking forward to. My colleague said hope is not quite a wish, not a strong as a prayer, but a strong want.  My philosophical friend said somewhat pessimistically, ‘…of little use in and of itself: can be as stifling and paralysing as it can be inspiring to action. Grasped at in a void, you’ll probably take nothing more than self-delusion and disappointment from it.’ In these hopeful conversations, I heard the story of a young woman who died last year, after a battle with brain cancer which spanned her whole adult life. She somehow managed to stay positive through years of pain and setbacks. Ten years ago she named her miracle baby Hope. Now her friend says he can’t think of Hope without thinking of Emma.

In these treacherous Trump times lies are being told. You’re not good enough. You don’t belong. You can’t cope.  A foundation of faith, hope and love is vital. Of these beautiful triplets love may be the greatest, but there is a lot to be said for hope.

The power of words. A ramble.

I work in a shop at present. A book shop, mostly, but also newspapers and magazines and lots of stationery for Back to School.  I get a little defensive when people judge me. All my work friends seem to be doing second degrees or other courses and I feel left behind a lot. I don’t like to be negative here but I kind of wanted to share this experience.

On Saturday I was serving customers and an elderly lady with a stern manner and a white bob bought the Daily Mail. She pointed out the front page and agreed wholeheartedly with Theresa May bringing back grammar schools. She seemed to press the point and said ‘All my children went to grammar school, it’s not about your upbringing it’s about how hard you work.’ She really seemed to be trying to judge me or something so I said truthfully, I went to a grammar school. In all seriousness, she looked at me, smiled, and asked ‘What happened to you?’ I was so shocked, and so disheartened. My fears coming true. I don’t even know what I said back, I listed my achievements like degree and Journalism qualification, and she still smirked and made me feel like absolute rubbish. The rest of the exchange was horrible, and she went away with a big smile on her face. I really hope she feels better about herself by trying to tear someone down. Even if, and especially if I didn’t have ANY qualifications, what right had she to judge someone?

On Saturday night after too many gins I stood crying outside the bar to my Book Manager, about this and general life insecurities. I wish hateful people didn’t have the power to make me feel like this. I wish they and more importantly, I didn’t compare myself to all my friends, siblings and colleagues who are ‘winning’ at life when I seem to be floundering or stopped dead.

I will go through surges of applying for jobs in Belfast, Edinburgh, but in truth I have no focus, I don’t know what to apply for and I get so bummed out with the rejections that come about 2 months later if ever.

When a colleague who is about the same age as me but who’s been with the company for a long time, got engaged recently and now has a fantastic new job, I was so, so happy for him, but also I was jealous. Or more, just felt terrible about how I was doing. And that’s horribly selfish and I don’t want to feel like that.

My Mammy is right, as she mostly is. I need to concentrate on all the things I have, and not pine for things I don’t. Apart from people leaving all over the shop, the people I work with in the humble shop have become really good friends and support and I’m truly grateful to have them in my life. I have been asked to do a really interesting bit of freelance which I am having extreme anxiety about after so long, but really chuffed to be asked to do and appreciate the flexibility I am allowed.

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Although I know I could be doing more, I am choosing to hope and to trust and to try to live my life in the moment. I try to make a difference where I am, and keep an open heart. What else can I do when I’m not sure what I’m doing. I obsess about being 27 but I am blessed and that’s still young (isn’t it?) and I know I can do a little good for those around me.

I’m surrounded by good people, and beautiful friends and family. Really I want to thank people for being so kind and patient with little broken record me. And encourage anyone who feels like giving up, or that they aren’t keeping up. You’re good enough, no matter what you do, it’s who you are that’s important and all your human interactions. Be someone who builds people up, and doesn’t tear them down.

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Birthday Bubble

I turned 27 on Saturday, and am somewhat disturbed by this. However, after two nights out I think I have hit a bit of a depressive stage today. I have been feeling so loved and spoiled all weekend I thought I would let it spill into a blog post.

I had to work on my birthday, just from 2-7 (27!) and I did try to swap it, alas. But in the morning I was spoiled with a coconut cream finger, and many paper creations from Ellen and Jacob. Well really just Ellen. Jacob gave me 70 cents from the windowsill. Ellen who is 9’s masterpiece was a big map with a 3D library, a ‘gorgeous garden’ made from a Graze Box and our house complete with 10 family members. There was a really cute note on it saying I didn’t have to keep it if it was too big.

After my sweaty shift manning the stationery department, I rushed home and enlisted my lovely visiting Belfast sister to do my hair and make up which was happy days for me. She had bought me some lovely make up from Soap and Glory which we tried out. We have become really good friends of late. We don’t contact each other that much when she’s not at home, but we have late night chats and laughs when she’s back, we are weirdly similar and different, and herself and her boyfriend are so good to me and our family.

I got several lovely cards and packages, and because people know I love snail mail they probably feel under pressure, but they are not and it was a lovely surprise. Thank you Ruth, Mammy, Abbye and L! Too kind and generous. What funny, pretty birthday parcels.

Caoimhe and me had already had quite a good week of events, she got me a ticket to Lisa Hannigan in Belfast for last Sunday, which was beautiful and then we had the time of our lives at Sarah Millican on Tuesday! Still laughing about that. We are both more and more determined to make the most of it and it is working out well for now!

So, I was ultimately late to my own birthday night, but five of us went to Claire’s house to have a few drinks including pink prosecco before heading out. Two are friends for 16 years, one about 8 years and one is a new friend.

We got carried away and had such a laugh, and a serious conversation about sexism in the workplace. We celebrated being 27, some being single, that pHD, we took selfies and learned about snapchat. And this is what is so important to me about friendship, and in particular female friendship (one of my favourite subjects and indeed things) all of us have difficult things happening in our lives, some really hard stuff for some of my best friends that I know of, but there is just a constant circle of support, and closeness and yes, love. This often gives way to the best laughs, and teasing. There is nothing like it. We left it so late to go out that we weren’t sure where to go, but you know what? It didn’t matter. We got a wee corner to dance in and everyone was happy and I mostly remember laughing!

Aisling, the George to my Fred had sent me this quote which I love;

The best kind of friendships are fierce lady friendships where you aggressively believe in each other, defend each other, and think the other deserves the world.

We met some interesting people as we weaved our way home, and my friends looked after me really well! Plenty to tease me about in future, I am sure but that’s ok!

I dragged myself out of bed after a few hours to do the Foyle Hospice Walk/Run and it wasn’t that pretty, but it was for a good cause and I got to see Ruth and baby Luke and properly meet her sisters and mum so it was all good.

A power nap and some Chinese food later, Claire and Aisling decided on Sunday Sips so away we went again! Quieter drinks in Claire’s and the bar later. But we all felt happy and I really appreciated the friendship and the love bubble.

I think I just really wanted to get my gratitude on, and really appreciate all the kindness that has been shown to me over the last few days, but really all the time with these girls! Again as I always say, I am at a bit of a funny place in my life, and I at least thought I would be married off by this stage, and making a bit more money but I really am trying to be appreciative of the wonderful gifts that I do have, and keep hoping. I did have a huge disappointment, and a mysterious bouquet of flowers within a week so I guess anything could happen, ha.

This could be our year! And I will get by with a little help from my friends.

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Loose Ending

When I’m not in work, it’s how I’m feeling mostly. At a loose end. Applying for better work positions requires more energy than I feel I have, but I’m constantly worrying about my lack of savings and what people think of me. I fear no one is going to be interested in the person ‘wasting’ their education/training.

Most girls are guilty of neglecting friends when they are in a relationship. I know I am. And then when it ends you don’t want to lean on these friends too much, for fear they think you’re using them. I’m trying not to be too needy but I’m still feeling lonely. Last weekend my beautiful friend Abbye drove up from Belfast and we both stayed at a B&B in town. It was an uplifting, funny adventure. We went for a long lunch with dessert and impassioned catching up, we bought PJs in Primark, we went to a Lego Exhibition in the Nerve Centre, we bought a bottle of gin and plastic wine glasses, we did Crow Stands, we listened to Josh Ritter and Toots and the Maytals and got ready in half an hour, we went to Walled City Brewery and had flight boards of local craft beer, ‘pintxo’s’ and cocktails, talked about EVERYTHING, decided it was a Ventathon 2016 and I didn’t realise how much I needed it!

I had the worst driving lesson on Thursday night. I’m almost regressing. How can I be so forgetful? I’m half convinced I have memory problems. I nearly decided to park it (pardon the pun) for now -I’d never be able to afford a car anyway- but I shall persevere.

I’m trying to be open, and kind, and connect with people. Deep down I know everything is ok. I have a lovely present for my Mum and I’m looking forward to appreciating her tomorrow.

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I seem to be surrounded by people having babies. My friend R is living in Belfast and she had a little boy near the beginning of February, I was up to see her a week or more ago and I just feel fiercely proud of her. He is very beautiful. I’m not really panicking on that end. Yet.

I’m getting so much comfort from the songs of Josh Ritter. He’s always there. I love to find new meanings to the rich lyrics, I’ve used certain lines this week on a 10 year anniversary card, my Mother’s Day card, and my BFF Aisling gave me a wee shout out on a local radio station with ‘Snow is Gone’  and it really cheered me up.

I’m worried I won’t get all the time off I need for wedding related things, and I won’t fit into any bridesmaid dresses.

I never feel I’m doing enough, you know? I feel like everyone else thinks that about me too. I want to just have faith and trust that things will appear, and work out. I’m craving being around friendly faces. I don’t want my job to define me or restrict me, and I don’t want to kill myself looking for the perfect one either.

To my shame I have been writing nothing but blog posts, but I have been reading an awful lot. I’m simultaneously reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and Making it Up as I Go Along by Marian Keyes. One heavy and distressing and over 700 pages, the other light hearted and laugh out loud funny. Books are a major comfort too.

I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this. I’m sure it’s boring and self centred. I just had to write and kind of sort my feelings out. I’m nothing if not honest.

Today I dyed my hair Honey Chocolate and kind of basked in a patch of sunlight reading and browsing and eating cake based things. And hoping.

Trust Your Gut

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Perfect illustration from Bryony Attenburrow

A few short weeks ago, I would have avoided reading this piece, or anything similar. I wouldn’t have clicked the link or wanted to face the truth.

It seems one’s body knows when things aren’t right, it tries to tell you time and time again, and it is possible to quash the feelings, to get on with it, to ignore the niggle. I’m the biggest worrier in the world. I’m constantly teased about it by the people who know me. But a gut feeling is different to the twisty tummy worries that come and go.

Relationships are the thing that get me in the gut. And when you have a good connection with someone it becomes very difficult to face the flickering warnings in your heart. I’d go as far as to say that it takes a certain amount of bravery. Especially when the future is unknown.

I had to hurt someone I care a great deal about. I had to go into my retail job trying not to cry, and hoping people would know without me having to tell them. I’m a bit lonely, at a bit of a loose end. I’m 26. I’m not a teenager. Something spookily similar has happened to me already. But my gut is calm again, for the first time in a long time.

I have a desire to marry, and to have children. This is so important to me that I want to be as happy as possible and absolutely ‘love in a bucket’. Marriage is difficult enough without serious doubts.

I fear most people, most women? Settle. I always thought of settling as ‘I’m unhappy, this isn’t what I want but I’m going to go ahead with it for whatever reason. Baby/security/money etc.’

But it’s more ‘I’m quite happy, I really like/fancy this person. He’s really good to me. We have a good time. We’re similar. Maybe I wouldn’t find anyone else.’ While feeling that something isn’t quite adding up inside.

There’s a dull dread when people get engaged. It’s hard to feel happy for people you love who are happily putting rings on fingers. This is terrible. I was so grumpy when my brother got engaged and I even cried, and it wasn’t jealousy. I wanted everyone to freeze until I was happy, I was ready, until I was at their level.

Maybe you’re thinking, how dare she expect anything more than a decent man who loves her? But if my body was quietly warning no, no, no- how could I ignore it? I have faith enough to believe that there’s someone out there just for me. My mammy’s been praying for him since I was a little girl. I want to love as deeply as I’m loved. I want a sureness, a yes-ness, an excitement to move forward that flows into everything else.  Yes, it is a lot to ask for. But I deserve it. You deserve it.

Listen to your gut.

 

p.s I wrote this to try to make sense of things. I thought my experience might help someone. I really, really don’t wish to hurt anyone. Please let me know if you have any issues.

My year in books

A very genuine Happy New Year to any and all of my readers. Thank you for sticking with me. I was trying to think of a post to do and I saw this simple one from Lou Morgan. So I was inspired. I didn’t want to be a downer but I didn’t feel that I had anything to really point at to say  that I had achieved in 2015. But I have read almost 30 books so here is my list. As Lou said, I’m not going to make any judgement on them, just document them. Thank goodness for my instagrams of my books!

I find it hard not to have hope, so even though I feel a little sad that some of 2015’s hopes were in vain, I’m choosing to hope more and I’m going to try to be more active in changing my life for the better.

Reading is a way to escape the hard times and to store up inspiration until a time when I’m ready to use it! Books are such a blessing and a comfort. I wish you many wonderful books to read, and adventures to go on in 2016!

  1. Funny Girl – Nick Hornby
  2. Stoner – Williams
  3. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing – Eimear McBride
  4. Flavours of Love – Dorothy Koomson
  5. Us – David Nicholls
  6. Staring at Lakes- Michael Harding
  7. All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven
  8. Ancient Light – John Banville
  9. Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
  10. Apple and Rain – Sarah Crossan
  11. The Apple Tart of Hope – Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
  12. The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yoko Ogawa
  13. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistestop Cafe – Fannie Flagg
  14. Late Fragments – Kate Gross
  15. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D Salinger
  16. The Children Act – Ian McEwan
  17. The C Word – Lisa Lynch
  18. The China Factory – Mary Costello
  19. Hour of the Star – Clarice Lispector
  20. Remains of the Day- Kazuo Ishiguro
  21. The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett
  22. In the Name of Love – Patrick Smith
  23. The Electric Michaelangelo – Sarah Hall
  24. Night Owls – Jenn Bennett
  25. The Love Song of Queenie Hennessey – Rachel Joyce
  26. The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith
  27. Reasons to Stay Alive- Matt Haig
  28. Slam – Nick Hornby
  29. Love, Nina – Nina Stibbe
  30. Spill Simmer Falter Wither – Sara Baum (presently reading)

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