Jimmy & Christina 11 November 2016

My wee (!)  brother Jimmy got married to the most exquisite bride I ever saw, Christina, on Friday. I know it hasn’t fully sank in yet! I had the honour of being a bridesmaid, and we had the most wonderful day.

My family is literally still on a high. It was such a blessed and genuinely happy day. It’s hard not to be totally happy for them as they have been the epitome of true love for many’s a year.

It’s been a beautiful experience. From sunrise in the gorgeous RoCo hair, giggles and the most perfect make up by Kendra. We were pampered and felt like princesses, I also feel like I have made a few new friends as we have been living in each other’s pockets this last week or so! I feel like the colours and happy memories of getting ready have been emblazoned into my mind. I really had a special, happy morning. Thank you Christina and Kendra, Clodagh and Kim at RoCo for such a great start to the big day.

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These are just wee snapshots, a bridesmaid doesn’t have much time for photos, so we will rely on Natalie Doherty photographer extraordinaire for the ceremony photos and more. I’m not doing the day justice but I just wanted to document it a little.

The ceremony was at St. Patrick’s Church Pennyburn and we were delighted that Fr. Gerard Mongan officiated. He has been a great family friend from way back when when myself, Jimmy and best man Paddy were altar servers and he was a deacon 15 years ago! He made the Mass so personal and he was so generous and funny. It all ran completely smoothly and every guest was commenting on what a beautiful mass it was. Jimmy and Christina just lit up when they saw each other and it was an absolute privilege to witness their official and spiritual union.

 

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The venue, The Redcastle Hotel and Spa is an absolute dream and I wish I could have stayed in the peaceful ocean view hotel for a week! It’s just across the border in Donegal and we got whisked there in a beautiful vintage car.

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It rained but it hardly mattered and it was such a warm and right feeling to have all your family surrounding you to help two very loved and special people commit their lives to each other. It was touching to see how much my parents enjoyed it, how proud they were and how blessed they felt. I barely have a photo here but my 7 siblings and I are a source of pride (for some reason! Ha) to my mammy and daddy and they said they preferred it to their own wedding day because we were all there this time!!

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How absolutely divine is my new sister-in-law?

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Jacob really stole the show. He danced with 18+ people (he counted in bed the next morning) and he had the time of his life. My Daddy also had a great line in his tear inducing speech ‘For 20 years until Jacob came along, it was just you and me in a house full of hormones.’ He spoke directly to Jimmy about how much he loved and was proud of him and everyone was fighting down the feels. I was actually really proud of my Daddy and his speech (although he was so nervous) was just amazing. A lady came up and called him ‘heart man’ after it. Love is the most important.

Jimmy was almost annoyed at my Daddy for nearly setting him off before his speech. Jimmy also spoke straight from the heart and got choked up when he spoke about his new beautiful, kind and intelligent wife. I have the best men folk.

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We danced the night away and some of the special requests were perfect. My parents had asked for The Obvious Child by Paul Simon as they always danced in the kitchen with the wee siblings to it. Everyone was up and it was a moment. Also the best man requested ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ by the Undertones and it was hilarious. The first dance was a Coldplay song Against the World and they were so beautiful and in love it would break your heart in the best possible way.

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If I could always look this good at 2.am!

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My room had a helicopter pad right outside. And the sea!

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The view from the honeymoon suite balcony after breakfast next morning!

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Way home 🙂

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This beautiful photo from Ann-Marie Appleton.  Looove it. 

 

So once more a huge and heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS to the new Mr and Mrs Mc Callion. I love you two so much and am so very proud of you. Your wedding was a dream. Thank you for everything. So many people have been touched by this love story and this beautiful celebration. Have an unforgettable honeymoon in Mexico and New York. See you when you come home, for the next chapter.

x

 

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Do You Realise?

You were buried today. Somewhere in Donegal, while I did a driving test. I last saw you about 10 years ago. Cancer, a young wife, a devastated family. You were 29 years old.

Thank you for giving me a handful of CDs to listen to, including Hello Starling by Josh Ritter which spellbound me straight away. (The rest is history!)

Thank you for shyly bringing me a heavy bag full of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. For liking me when I thought no one ever would.

You were never serious. You drank brandy at 19 and got in bar fights. You had a weirdly warped sense of humour. You lived for music. There were so many mad stories ten years ago, I bet they got more crazy as the years went on and the travelling intensified.

I’m debating whether to write to your family. I might. You really looked up to your brothers. A kind word can almost always help.

Praying and thinking about your parents, brothers and wife. The situation is shattering.

When I was 16 and you were 19 The Flaming Lips were your favourite. This song was on the first mix CD you made. It’s so relevant. I can’t stop singing it quietly. Liberated from suffering now, I hope you are always with your wife in spirit, and getting into stuff for free forever more.

Leaving a Paper Trail (of Letters)

It’s #sendsomehappy time again, a fun blog collaboration with my good fellow letter loving friend ZoeProse celebrating all things snail mail. Promoting picking up your pen and making someone’s day.

‘You can keep this, and when I’m a famous writer…’ I’m only half joking. But letters are such a physical, personal thing. I love the thought of actual examples of my writing, thoughts and sentiments -aged but treasured- turning up in a loved one’s attic or something years in the future. Yes, I know.

I’m obsessive about dating cards and letters. Something I think I have learned from my Godmother! I like to keep track of when things were sent and written. And have been known to pencil the date on to cards the younger siblings give me or letters I received with no date included.

I keep all my incoming correspondence in smallish boxes. Currently I’m running out of space in a gold perfume gift box. Usually my letters only come from the same four or five people. I should probably organise them better.

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When you run out of space… Photo from here 🙂

Weirdly, I like to think of my friends and loved ones I have written to for years lovingly keeping bundles of my letters, to be saved until further notice. It’s reassuring to have evidence of your life out there, you know? Even to be morbid enough to say that after death, there will be personal words to remember me by, now that people barely print photographs any more! I’d rather my words than my face be remembered anyway. Deep.

In saying that, I’m by no means Virginia Woolf and my letters will be doubtlessly embarrassing as I worry and whine about something or someone. However, letters can tell us something about someone’s thoughts and feelings in that snapshot of time. And that is precious.

Many a time I have wished I kept all the letters my cousin sent to me when we were 10 or 11. I have also mourned the burning of the majority of Jane Austen’s letters for confidentiality by her sister Cassandra, and Chris’s from my recent read Dear Bessie.

I have written before that one of the attractions of letters is that you can keep it to reread and comfort you, and it has physically been with your loved one, sent to you, and there is so much comfort in that! So let’s send as many letters as we can, and in turn be conscientious about hoarding-er saving them.

Challenge This time simply to create a small box where you can store letters and cards. The crafty among you could decorate with a mail theme. Let us know what you come up with!

#sendsomehappy !

Interwoven Threads

The OCD writer in me is distressed that May 2014 is the only month that I did not write a blog post in my three years of blogging. Most disappointing. Well maybe it’s time to get back on the blogging and creative writing wagon. My Journalism course is coming to an end and there is once again a big question mark over my future. But I’m feeling ok. My wise Godmother often quotes the Quakers, ‘The way will open.’ And I have a feeling there is deep truth in that.

This year has allowed me to change my direction in life, perhaps take some control although it doesn’t really feel like it! I’m turning 25 this week, big quarter of a century. I really hadn’t been happy.  Lots of big things have shifted in last two or three months and now there are some green shoots that are putting a smile on my face.

One of the changes is losing some weight. I have been having a go at Slimming World since the beginning of the New Year and to date I have lost just over two stone. I have to say I had to change a lot and if my Mammy didn’t make the slimming world chips and good low fat food for me most days I would be lost! Still spoiled in a house full of children. My Dad has been enjoying having the healthy dinners too.

I’m feeling a bit more confident and people have finally started to notice, ha. This weekend my sister went away with her boyfriend and as I had some space I decided to have a clear out of some clothes. It might be counting my chickens but some of them are too big now, and I think they could find a new home through charity shops.

Picture from here.
Picture from here.

As I folded and pulled dresses and tops from the chock-a-block wardrobe I share with my sister I couldn’t help think about all the memories, all the places I’ve been and people I’ve crossed paths with while wearing these clothes.

My memory is something else that has been worrying me. My parents used to tease me and call me ‘memory woman’ when I was little as I remembered everything. Now it worries me the things I forget. I think that might be why I can’t choose a favourite book, but then again maybe I’m still searching. There is so much to read, why limit yourself?

But here I saw a nice brown dress from Next that did as Christmas clothes when I hadn’t remembered to buy something new. My friend L from Edinburgh and I saw a girl at a Suede concert in Belfast wearing the same dress, posing with no coat or anything. We shivered and tutted behind her in our layers in the ‘Norn Iron’  August!

This black dress with red roses I was never comfortable in. I had a night out after my friend Claire got married, her dog Shelby who has sadly passed away licked my false tanned legs at pre-drinks in her first martial home before we went to the Gweedore bar for some dancing.

A burgundy patterned ‘staple’ top that saw me through many days at the newspaper office before becoming a bit baggy and having a run-in with a too-hot iron.

Fun, dotty not-quite-denim trousers that saw many walks and sunny days, but were always too big so now at falling down status. Last worn on my first family outing in years to Ards Forest Park where I went on the tire swing with Ellen who’s seven and was delighted.

Vests and casual tops that served me well on ordinary, not remembered days that fill my life and make me who I am.

Outfits that have had beer spilled on them and tears dripped onto them.

Clothes are worn close, they protect and they say something about you. They’ve been tucked and squeezed into backpacks and wheely suitcases for university, and city breaks. They have probably identified me when I have gotten separated from friends. To someone I might have been the girl with the green dress and the smile.

Some items of clothing are worn in rotation, as much as I could this year with no uniform and a small class of people who might have noticed if you always wear the same thing on Wednesdays. It’s weird that they could be so much part of your life and then they rip or tear or get too small or someone says something nasty and they get discarded or passed on.

I did come across uniform pieces from my job in the opticians which I had for six years. It’s finally time to let it go, face the very uncertain future, but what to do with these emblazoned trousers and tunics? If they fall into the wrong hands we could have an imposter on the loose! Lots of laughs and lots of stress occurred while I wore these. I made some fast friends. I hurriedly changed into yoga gear or going-out clothes in the loo, cramming the uniform into a bag.

I’m not a material girl at all. I don’t own any designer stuff. Perhaps I’m judged for my mostly cheap and cheerful wardrobe. I just hope the two or three black bags of lovingly folded fresh and clean clothes go to good homes, and people do some good living while wearing them close to their hearts.

If I become employed I will slowly replace them with slightly slinkier threads that put a sparkle in my eye and help me feel up for taking on this strange and wonderful thing called life.

Picture from here.
Picture from here.

 

 

2012: My year

It was the year…

I completed a year of blogging in January.

M and I broke up… and it was the saddest and strangest time. Nothing seemed right. I had thought we were the problem. We weren’t. After about 2 months apart, we found our way back. We went on a date on Good Friday, in April. Our own Good Friday Agreement, my Mum called it. The relief and gratefulness was overwhelming. I woke up on Easter Saturday with a smile. That hadn’t happened in a long time.

My 23rd birthday passed without much ado. I’m still not really used to being 23! Must be grown up if I didn’t want a party or too much attention.

Lots of lovely Josh Ritter things. He continues to follow me on twitter, with 87 other people. In June, M and I went to Dublin to Josh’s book signing and hung around to meet him. Josh was lovely as usual and recognised me from twitter and before. Just so happy. Best day 🙂 I’m just honoured to be his fan. What a wonderful guy.

I graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with a 2:1 in English (Major) and Philosophy (Minor). The final year was hard for me, with lots of personal stuff going on. Am proud of my achievement and still hoping that my degree will help me in my quest to work with words. Three years in Belfast seemed to pass in a flash. I was happiest with my living arrangements in the final year, lovely flat on University Avenue. Bitter sweet: Proud and happy to graduate but am still missing the small things about being in Belfast. Friends, lectures (I didn’t have many in final year, just awful seminars. I LOVED listening to someone intelligently speak of books for an hour at a time.) and oddly, Common Grounds on University Avenue. It seemed that just as IO got into the swing of Belfast life it was taken away.

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M moved into Fort Will.I.Am, giving us some space and peace. I don’t live with him but I have somewhere to escape to whenever I want.

I saw Foo Fighters at T Vital in Belfast. It had a festival feel and it was a brilliant show, despite comical drowned-rats episode as we queued in a thunder-storm.

I continued work with the job I have been in throughout university. I appreciate the work. I like my colleagues. I yearn for more.

I took up Zumba and Yoga within a week of each other  They lasted longer that I expected them to… but yet not that long. I did enjoy them… but weird nervousness did rear its head, and exercise is not a strong point for me. I know it’s importance though, and am unhappy with my body as it is so will have to rethink my strategy.

Had a very lovely visit and a lemon cake from my best Belfast friends in October. Hope to have many more visits and meet ups, and to stay in touch via my favourite form of communication: snail mail in between times.

We sadly lost Maria, M’s grandmother in November. Christmas was a hard time for everyone in her absence. We will keep her light shining.

Two little bundles of kitten came to live in Fort Will.I.Am. They are Buttons and Brave and we have been making gradual headway with them. Very shy little things. I like them a lot.

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Christmas was special, I always love Christmas. I felt a bit like George Bailey and really appreciated what I have. On Christmas Day I’m always at a loss at what to do. M and I ended up watching the traditional screening of It’s a Wonderful Life in my overcrowded living room, with my parents and sisters. I could tell there was many other things he would rather be doing and he wasn’t too impressed with the old black and white film, but it meant a lot that he would sit with us. And it did me good to see the old feel good movie.  I loved this blog post entitled ‘Clarence’ by Lou Morgan.

I will hush now to muster my hopes for 2013 and savour the last hours of 2012. Thank you for reading and commenting in 2012, I’m going to try to be more efficient and organised and present next year for you all.

A little tribute to a special lady

Maria on her 69th birthday on 12 June, the day after my 23rd birthday.

My boyfriend lost his grandmother on Monday 12 November. She was 69 years old and had been battling lung (and then bone cancer) from about April of this year. She was a special lady and I’d like to dedicate a little slice of lemon cake to her.

Maria was a small Scottish woman, the centre of her family. She had a great accent and a wonderful sense of humour. She lost her parents at a young age, and moved to Derry, N. Ireland to live with a relative. She was married to Frankie, and they had five children. My M was the first grandchild, she had 11. When M was 7 his Mum moved back in with her parents for a few months and Maria and Frankie graciously welcomed her, M and his little brother and two baby sisters into their home which already housed their 4 remaining children. M and his brother slept in a room with their 3 teenage uncles, and as we quietly sat by Maria’s side at the wake telling stories, we marvelled that they had all fitted into that little room.

The wedding album was on show at the wake, the photos were beautiful. It was 1968. Maria wore a simple dress with long flared sleeves, a very puffy veil, and wicked eyeliner. M’s Mum is the image of her. Frankie looked tall, proud and happy. I wish I had a photo to show you. I will ask M. Everyone admired it. It was gorgeous, I would be glad to have such a lovely wedding album and so bittersweet  to see all that life and hope and happiness.

Maria would make dinner ‘tea’ for her whole family including the grandchildren every Thursday, and in her wonderful Scottish accent would ask them, ‘Do you want tea with your tea?’ We said it so much that about 5 years ago, I think it was M’s 20th birthday, our friend Aisling made him a mug that had those words on it. Tea and custard creams were her favourite, and on the first night of the wake one of the younger children put a cup and a custard cream in with their Granny.

It must have been New Years 2011, at M’s family home, we all stood up to hug and kiss and go outside to see the Chinese Lanterns filling the skies, Maria took my arm and said ‘Open the window. We did that in Scotland to let the old year out and the new year in.’ I really liked this and it will always stay with me.

M and I had a break earlier this year, it was a very hard, sad time for us. We missed each other a lot and one day we decided to meet to chat the next time I was home from Belfast. We went to our favourite Starbucks in the car and before we had any sort of talk we caught up and he told me both his Granny and Granda were ill and his Granny had cancer. I just cried. It was a mixture of everything, not being there for him when he found this out and for wee, gentle Maria.

Even though she was ill she came to family gatherings for a little while, she gave all she could. She was very excited at the birth of her newest grand daughter Annie in August.  The end still came as a shock to her husband, daughters and sons and grandchildren and friends. She got taken into hospital on Sunday morning, and she died peacefully surrounded by her family in the early hours of Monday morning.

So many people came to the house over the two days, it was really good for the family. They all pulled together, and as they are a close family anyway, it wasn’t strange to have everyone together , just comforting. I have learned that their are different ways to be close.

M did a reading at the funeral Mass, it was very difficult for him and both his auntie and the priest quietly offered to do it for him. He refused and battled through it, I know he was determined to do it for Maria and I was so proud. He feels like he has let his Granny down but I know she would be even prouder. I wished I could have walked over and cuddled him in the middle of Mass. I know he held a special place in her heart, he made her laugh more than anyone.

I was glad to know her, she was greatly loved and will be missed dearly.

God bless, Maria. You have a beautiful family who will make you proud. Look out for them all and we will keep you in our prayers as you always prayed for us x

The two brothers with their Granny in 2010.

A Photographic Thought

Sometimes, especially when I am away from home, and I see people taking photographs, getting their photograph taken with a landmark, or with their arm around their partner, or pulling a funny face, I think about where that photograph will end up, and perhaps what these people will think about when they look at their frozen, happy faces in the years to come. I know we live in a digital age, and that photographs may remain on their digital camera forever, or on their hard drive until the computer packs up, or until the dog deletes it, or whatever. But they might, as I try to, get their photos developed, put them in an album or always mean to, but leave them stacked in the glossy card envelope for years in a box in the attic. I like to think about people who I once shared a unknowing moment of sunshine with, a day at the beach with, a view of a waterfall with, a backdrop with, will have similar photographs, but very different memories from me of that day.

A girl may shed a tear as she looks at the happy face of the man she loves, who loved her then but doesn’t anymore, waving from the pyramids of Egypt. A father may

Jacob climbing in the window, July 2011.

embarrass his daughter by showing her new boyfriend a still of her, aged four and chubby, gobbling up her little brother’s ice cream at the pier, traces of her own still evident on her pink t-shirt. An older couple may find a few snaps from a weekend away that they had long since forgot, and smile as they remember the freedom and youth of days gone by.  It’s just another way that we are connected.

Interesting things can be found in the backgrounds of photographs, also. Years ago my parents were looking at photos of my baptism/christening from June 1989. In it, there was a photograph of a woman my father worked with, for only the last 10 years or so, and her husband. The lady is also my friend’s auntie, but I didn’t register that at the time… just wondered why she was there as my Dad didn’t know her yet. Then we looked up the News Bulletin from St. Mary’s Church from that week, that my parents had saved, and found out that there were 4 babies christened that day, and one of them was my friend (hi Claire!) who I met when I was 11, and I lived with last year. We were christened at the same ceremony! Fate or what?

I got a wonderful new camera for my birthday, and I really need to figure out the settings and start taking pictures of interesting and beautiful things, and making new memories, instead of neglecting it until I have a night out…