Letter to my younger self – Dear Róisín…


After a few days away and a few busy days of reading at events. I’m back. :) To ease myself back into things, here’s another letter for you. (It’s still the summer, I can’t be overdoing it…)

Róisín is a social media connection who has been enjoying the ‘Letter to my younger self’ series, and decided to give it a go herself. Róisín blogs at randomdescent.wordpress.com and you can follow her on Twitter @randomdescent 

Over to her…

So you’re 15 now, and as awkward as baby foal (though considerably less leggy; you haven’t grown an inch since you were 12). I know what you’re thinking, back in 2004. When will life actually begin? The summer holidays are passing by again like they always do. You watch telly in the mornings and go shopping with Mam in the afternoon. You write letters to your best friend even though she lives three miles away. You write stories and draw pictures.
You have no idea how the future you, at the age of 25, would kill for so much free time.
Anyway, don’t worry. Life is just around the corner. You’ll go up to Belfast with your mam for a week, and see a bit of the island anew. In the HMV in Belfast city centre, you’ll take advantage of those low, low sterling prices and pick up a couple of CDs. One is The Strokes’ debut. You’d heard ‘Last Night’ on the radio and liked it; it’s a gamble to buy an album on the back of one song, but it’s only £6 or so.

So you did make it to RTÉ after all...

So you did make it to RTÉ after all…

In a B’n’B room on the Ormeau Road you put your Discman into your ears and from the failing digital bleeping that heralds the title track you’re hooked. The album is already three years old, made in that last New York summer before the towers came down, but to you it’s simultaneously the newest and oldest thing you’ve ever heard. You don’t really get what Julian Casablancas is singing about – that would all come later on- but you can feel the world-weariness, the disappointment. Raised on Britney and the Spice Girls, but always, always absorbing the Beatles and the Stones played at home, you never realised there were still rock bands out there.

Whatever The Strokes do or, rather, don’t do next, you’ll never forget that first moment, and this album will become an old friend to you. It’s all about the music, this time in your life. The musicals you sing in school, your classmate’s unearthly rendition of a hymn at a school mass, the violin you play, the Strokes and the Kings of Leon and the Killers and Franz Ferdinand and then, it’s Green Day and Nirvana and the Pixies.

Life is beginning and so is the music. The next year, the academic year when you leave fifteen behind and become sweet sixteen, this is the game changer. You’ll get up on the stage and sing in a wonderfully plummy English accent as Yum-Yum in The Mikado; you’ll think you’re in love; you’ll venture to Italy with your classmates and to Dublin and Mayo and everywhere in between.

You won’t realise it but it’s one of the best times of your life. You always snorted at that dreaded ‘school-days are the best days’ trotted out by those older; things would be so much cooler when you could do whatever you want, and you could get out of that horrendous green gabardine skirt.

Well, I won’t pretend, 15 year old me, that the skirt is missed. (It really was the worst garment ever made- you’ll be disgusted to know that after you left, the school changed to a rather nice blue uniform). You’d probably be a bit disappointed to know that you haven’t really gotten it together either. No boyfriend and no amazing career in journalism, but you won’t believe the experiences that in store. You won’t believe the good and the bad that’ll come, how much you will grow, how strong you will prove yourself.

Dear fifteen year old me, I will not let you down.

PS. I know Apple are totally lame now but trust me, I’d recommend saving your pocket money and buying a few shares. Don’t question it…

 

photo credit: photo supplied by Róisín and used with her permission 

Five Minute Friday – Tell


Time for Five Minute Friday… five minutes of unedited, non stop writing on a given theme. today’s theme ‘TELL’ 


Find out more about Five Minute Friday by clicking the button

 

There’s so much sad news this week it’s almost overwhelming. The news from the Middle East doesn’t seem to get any better. And God forgive me, I find myself wanting to bury my head… ‘PLEASE don’t tell me any more.’ 

The news of Robin Williams’ death is so tragic. I was surprised to find myself grieving at one stage. I don’t usually respond that way to the death of rich a famous folk; maybe it is because grief is still near the surface for me.
I find his death is also a bit frightening. To think a man who could make us laugh and think as much as he did, felt there was no other option but to take his life. That scares me.

The other news that deeply saddened me was the story of Vicky Beeching, and her struggle with homosexuality. I’m not sad because she is gay. I’m sad because not being able to tell anyone, or be honest about how she really feels, made her physically ill, with a very serious condition.  I’m also sad that now she has come out, she getting so much hatred flung at her. You know I disagree with her position on same sex marriage; Five Minute Friday is not the place for that discussion. But I do believe she has done a brave and honest thing in telling people.

Anything you want to tell me?

Anything you want to tell me?

I worry there are people in my life who feel they can’t tell anyone about something that is crushing them. And I suppose I just want to shout out to anyone reading – you can tell me. Tell me anything. If it needs to be said and you’ve no one to say it to, you can say it to me. I’ll try to understand, I probably won’t be able to do anything and but I’ll help if I can.

You can tell God too The Bible says that
we can tell Him anything.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you – 1 Peter 5:7

Letter to my younger self – Dear Orna…


Here’s the next in the Letter to my younger self series. At this stage, all I can say is, I wish my own writings brought so many readers here. It’s been an amazing few weeks here on auntyamo.com ;) Here’s another great letter for you. This time from Orna, a fellow member of Shared Planet Writing group. You can follow her on Twitter @ornarichella

Over to her…

Yes you are afraid…

image (6)I look at you, me, our 16 year old self, through the looking glass and want to tell you it will be ok. Time has passed and you will still be here. You will survive and you will be a stronger person.

You are so scared and so lonely. Surrounded by others but isolated, no real connection to the everyday. You live in books and glance over the pages at life going by for everyone else but you don’t know how to join in. It is as if you came without the instructions. So you live in dreams and stories and the echoes of other’s lives. When you close the book reality seems a pale imitation. You are happiest in the twilight between sleep and wakefulness when the dream seems real and you can direct them. I wish I could come back and tell you that while you are dreaming life is passing you by. A million ice-cream vans drive away while you are trying to decide what type of flavor to buy. You dither rather than decide and miss out through inaction. It will cost you many things and you will berate yourself for your losses. This is not going to change, but sometimes you will be able to shake yourself and get past it and amaze everyone with what you can do if you focus. It keeps you going.

You go to college and build life skills and friendships and bad eating habits. You will try many things but achieve less than you should because you are afraid. Scared to tell your parents that you want to stay up weekends to work on plays. Scared to audition for people you look up to in case you are no good. Scared to try out for different sports because you don’t know how to start or how to fit in. Scared to fail.

Some terrifying things will happen in college and they will change you forever. You will experience heartache and loss and dreadful sickness and black desolation. If you knew going in to it what you had to face you would never believe you would be able to carry it. But you do and we make it through. Just about.

image (5)Your family, by birth and by choice, will be your strength and your burden in equal measures. Cherish every day with them and love the happy and silly moments. They will carry you through the terrible losses ahead. Hug your dad every chance you get and gather his voice to you. Every day is precious and he won’t always be there. Look at your mum. Really look and see all that she is doing and sacrificing for you and stop taking her for granted. She is spilling her heart blood for you and you will torment her with the selfishness that only a teenage girl can. When everyone else fails you and you cannot go on she will pick you up and carry you to the finish line.

Friendship which you chased like a rainbow all your life will return like a boomerang after you throw it away. There will be no bosom pal like you dreamed of in girlhood. You are no Anne Shirley. But a group of boys will be your posse and become family.

Love will come and go leaving you crushed. A few times. But you will find happiness with a friend when you least expect it and you will marry and eventually after much heartache become a mum. Only then will you realise the pain you have caused your own mum. That is your burden to live with. Try and make it up to her. I am still working on that.

image (4)Try your best rather than coasting on your ability. It would be nice to sparkle rather than simply shimmer. You don’t realise that yet. There is no dress rehearsal or matinée. You only get one performance. Make it one you can look back on and be proud of.

But most of all try. And when you are afraid try anyway. Because the happy days will always outshine the sad ones. And your blessings are more than any heart can carry without overflowing.

 

All photos supplied by Orna and used with her permission.

I woke up this morning and guess what… I was alive!


I woke up very early this morning, which I don’t mind – as long as I’ve slept well the night before. A full night’s sleep is a rarity these days; but… I slept all night and was awake well before 7am. (I know that for some of you, that is waking at ‘normal’ time – but it’s early for me!)

Weird thing was that the first thought that came to mind was
“Thank you God, I made it through another night. I am alive.”

This is an old pic of me & I'm only smiling because I had not intentions of leaving my bed that day :)

This is an old pic of me & I’m only smiling because I had not intentions of leaving my bed that day :)

I’m sorry to say that I am NOT one of those people who wakes with a prayer in her heart! Usually the first thought I wake with is the horrifying realisation that it’s time to get out of my comfy bed. I wish I was someone who wakes with a prayer on my lips – and maybe a song in my heart and a sparrow on my window sill???
But if you know me – you’ll know that’s just not me.

I hadn’t expected to die in the night by the way, so why I was so urgently thankful for another day of life, I’m not sure… but as I lay in bed pondering it, I remembered something. It happened yesterday as well. I’d been awake in the middle of the night for ages so when I woke I was groggy n’ grumpy, and I forgot immediately that I’d whispered a thanks to God for another day. I had missed it cos it happened before I was awake enough to start complaining.

medium_1476887807I’ve been told that writers should always have a notebook by their bed. Often in that state where you are either falling asleep or waking up – you know that in-between bit where you know what’s going on but you’ve lost the use of all limbs and the the power of speech – you come up with storylines and all sorts of different ideas. It’s said you should write them immediately cos once you are fully awake, you’ll forget them. I wonder if it was a similar thing.

I wonder have if I’ve done it before. Maybe I do it more than I realise. I’ve never been good in the mornings – numerous times in my life I’ve woken up at 6.30 to pray, only to find myself in an Adrian Plass-like* stupor at 8 when I SHOULD be getting up.

Maybe I am in that group who can sing “Early in the morning a song shall rise to thee.” Perhaps I am an early pray-er and didn’t know it.

A girl can dream eh? :)

photo #2 credit: jamelah via photopin cc

*Adrian Plass is a somewhat fictional character who tells his story in an Adrian Mole like diary. His story about getting up very early to pray for a few days in a row and ending up zombified having done very little praying, is told very well in ‘The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 37¾’ You can read a sample here

The Daisy Chain of Events, and a pop for votes… :)


dispic meI’m overwhelmed at the response to the Letter to my younger self series. The comments and likes here on the blog, don’t reflect what a huge impact the series has had; but my reader numbers have never looked so good :) and there’s great response on FB.

It all started with me adding an option of asking a question on the About Aunty Amo page. One question was, what would you say to your 15 year old self. So I wrote a letter in the form of a blog post and that gave me the idea of inviting a few others to do the same and I would post them here. And wow! What a collection!

The original Letter to 15 year old me has been nominated for Best Blog Post in Blog Awards Ireland. This is the only category that is open to public vote. Everyone can vote once a week and each week a group of the lowest voted are taken off the list. This continues until there are only 10 left and they will be judged.

I've never looked good on canvas...

I’ve never looked good on canvas…

I’d love to stay in for a few weeks so if you enjoy the letter to 15 year old me and you’d like to vote for it, here’s what you need to do.

  • Click the link below
  • Scroll down the list to ‘Just Another Christian Woman Talking Through Her Hat’
  • Click the little button just left of ‘Just Another…’
  • Scroll down to the bottom and click ‘vote’
  • If you’ve done it right, the screen will change to show you the voting numbers

 

Click here for the link, and thank you all again for reading and commenting (and voting…)! :)

Letter to my younger self – Dear Patricia…


I have to tell you I’m blown away by this next offering in the Letter to my younger self series. This is a beautiful letter, by Patricia Gibney.

I know Patricia through social media; we are mutual friends of a number of writers. She says she has been writing stories since she could hold a pencil. She’s currently editing her first crime novel and has a second one on the go. She got through to the ‘Date with an Agent’ competition as part of the Dublin Writers Festival in May 2014.
Patricia has two full time roles – one as a writer and one as mum to her three children.
Her two facebook pages are Once in a Lifetime Gifts and Spring Sprong Sally. You can also follow her on Twitter @trisha460

Over to Patricia…

photo (2)I recently stumbled across letters he wrote to you, when he was in army training in Donegal, during the summer of ‘78. It was a time of no mobiles, computers or social media; a time when only one family on your estate owned a telephone. Letters were the lifeline of your early relationship. Finding those tattered missives scripted in his blotted blue pen, prompt me to write a letter to you, my younger self.

It is June 1978 and he’s home on a few days leave. You’ve just turned seventeen and completed your leaving cert exams. I can see you both. Lying on the flattened grass beside the murky waters of the canal, your head on his chest, your fingers idling with the buttons of his wide collared, mauve (yes mauve) shirt, while he smokes a Major from one hand, running his other through your short dark hair. He’s wearing those jeans you love. The faded denim bellbottoms, with the little plaits across the back pockets where you link your fingers as you walk. You’ve kicked off your prized platform sandals and don’t seem embarrassed by your green nylon hand-me-down trousers, eagerly plucked from your cousin’s parcel from England, along with the white cheese-cloth blouse, the one with the delicate mother of pearl buttons. You think you look fantastic and you know what, you do. Lying there, you are the picture of happiness, as you listen to his heart beat thump-thump, thump-thump, against your ear, your head rising and falling in unison with his breaths and you believe it is the most wonderful sound in the world. At that moment in time, you realise you are in love. You want this moment of natural serenity to last forever. But forever is just a word. And moments are fleeting. And nothing lasts forever. Forgive me, I’m a little bit cynical now, but trust me, I know.

As you lie there, intertwined by the naivety of youth, do you see the colour of the wild flowers, feel the touch of the grass between your bare toes, smell the summer fragrances around you and hear the bees foraging in the petals? Do you see the little butterfly flitting among the reeds or the soft white feather floating from the sky? I don’t think you do. Not then. Not for a long time. Not until you realise that there really is no such thing as forever. But you trail your fingers along his smooth jaw, memorise each lash fluttering over his magical blue eyes and flick his blonde hair from his brow. All your senses are consumed by the one you dream of spending the rest of your life with. Let me tell you, dreams are so far from reality that you can get lost in them, until the harshness of life intervenes and shatters them, like a raindrop exploding on concrete, when you least expect it.

I need to tell you, life is made up of moments, like the one you are now enjoying and you will have many moments of similar magic but I struggle to remember them. You will jump on the roller coaster and it will take off too fast, catching you in the wheels of stress, family and work. And in a flash, though many years from now, your dreams disappear, leaving you drowning in a sea of insane nothingness.

photo (3)You do marry him. Yes you do. Sure you knew he was “the one” when you were only fourteen. And the day before your 21st birthday you pledge yourselves to each other and slip gold bands on your fingers. You save for your house. Wow, interest rates are 14% in the eighties and you will have to give up smoking to afford the mortgage. Having children won’t be easy. For nine years you struggle but a beautiful girl is yours through adoption and then the miracle of another daughter and son sprinkle your life with fairy dust. Through all this, you work, hard and long hours. You strive to be the best at all you do and never stand still. And he will travel with his job, Lebanon and Kosovo, Chad and Congo, Sweden and Sudan. And life will hurtle you through a tide of incessant “doing and going” and “running and racing”, babies and bottles, cots and calpol, pots and pans, school bags and books, plays and exams, laughter and love, discos and dramas, running upstairs and down. And he will throw the arm of common sense around your shoulder, grounding you in life. You will be defined by your husband, your children, your family and friends, and your job. They will be the constant in your world. Forever.

Forever? Remember when I said it is only a word? It is an imaginary crystal of a future you can know nothing about. Not then, huh, not even now.

Your forever with him will end in a single moment, so out of the blue that you will look at the sky and wonder where the cloudburst came from. Neither of you will ask why or shake your fists in anger or drown in each others sorrow. Two strong people gelled together as teenagers, nurture and grow as adults; in a world of the unknown, you both know and don’t know simultaneously. And the hardest day of your lives will come when you sit, holding hands, facing your three children and tell them their Daddy is going to die. They will scream and run from the room and curl up in grief and shed the tears neither of you can.

Resolutely, you will fight the disease as a family, but it will win in a very short time.
And as you lie by his side on the last day of May in 2009, you will rest your head on his chest and listen to the thump-thump of his heart beat grow softer and slower and you will feel his breath on your hair, in and out, until there is no out. And you will hear the birds in the trees outside your window and see the early morning sun send a steely shaft of light through the curtains and you will know that no matter how long or how short ‘Forever’ is, the moments of your shared lives will live on with you. Because when you look at your children, you will see him in their eyes, hear him in their laughter, feel him in their hugs and taste him on their tears.

As I see you on the canal bank, back in ‘78, I ask you to look around and drink in the moment, to memorise the colours, sounds and smells of the day, to photograph it in your mind. Follow the little butterfly with your eyes and grasp the soft white feather between your fingertips. And savour the prospect of the years that lie before you. Moments such as this make memories that will last.

Perhaps only memories can last forever.

*****

Both photos supplied by Patricia and used with permission

Humble Origins


I was out with family last night and was recognised! The mother of an old school friend spotted me and after looking at me for a while (a bit unnerving as I’d noticed it), she came and asked me if I was indeed Annmarie Keeley (my maiden name).

She seemed genuinely delighted to have found me and had fond memories of me. “You’d come in to my house all… you know….” and she did this zany gesture that looked to me like confidence and exuberance. I asked about my old friend and we chatted about what I was up to. We talked about the band that was playing and how great they were. She already knew that three members of the band were nephews of mine. Before we said goodbye, she said that any time I came in to her house, she would ask me to sing; and I never said no. Her abiding memory of me is singing in her kitchen.

I think about her a lot. I don’t mean my friend’s mother, I mean that teenager who used to sing in her kitchen.

Last week I was chatting on Spirit Radio about humility and then on Sunday it was the theme of the sermon. Both times the point was made – humility is absent when we talk ourselves up, but also when we talk ourselves down.

phil 2

Philippians 2:3,4

False humility doesn’t just say “I’m SO wonderful.” It also says “I’m SO terrible.” Real humility is not thinking about yourself as better, or thinking about yourself as worse – it is simply thinking about yourself less. Thinking of others first; as the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2.

I used to think that I was getting more humble as time went on. You know… developing and maturing. But I wonder if I’m getting less humble. I reckon when singing in that woman’s kitchen, I hardly thought about my self at all.

Must see if I can get back to that place (Not her kitchen, that would just be weird! :) )

Photo credit: From Pinterest user Mandy Schaalma