Category Archives: Guest Posts

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 Karen…


Delighted to have Karen Huber bring the 3rd in the ‘Letter to my younger self’ series. Originally from Kansas USA, Karen currently lives in Dublin, Ireland with her husband and three children. She’s a stay at home mum and self-described lazy writer, blogging on faith, motherhood and culture at www.karenohuber.com. Find her on twitter at @karenohuber

Over to her…

Don’t be afraid, girl
I remember this age. Even now, I can see you.

You’re sitting on the slant of the roof. A dormer window allows you a bit of freedom, a smidge of rebellion. You have the attic mostly to yourself, a gift from the men of your church who spent sweaty August hours converting the space. You take pride in decorating it, setting up a desk, putting a calendar on the wall and creating soft light with a little white lamp. You sit and pick up the pen, one of those silvery blue ones with a fuzzy ball at the end, and you open the book.

Dear Diary, you write. You’re my only friend.

From this side, I know that’s not true. You have a veritable revolving door of girlhood friends. Amy and Jessica, Beth and Nicole. There are fights, to be sure, but you are not as alone as you think you are.

letterselfIn the pages of that journal, you write out the wrongs, the imagined slights and the heartache of hopes. You write plays in your head late at night, when the thunder rolls in. In primary school you graduate from sad stories with accompanying sad illustrations to book reviews and essays. Your teachers remark on this, reaffirming over and over what you refuse to hear.

You should listen. In fact, the sooner you listen, the easier this will all be.

I want to sit by your side on the roof of that pink house and tell you to stop sighing and winging, to relish the friendships. I want to tell you to perk the heck up and stop being so melodramatic about everything. I want to tell you to stop questioning the affection and worrying for the future, to remind you that not everyone leaves.

And I want to tell you: don’t be afraid.

Twelve is terrible. I know this. I am very literally wincing with humility at the memory. 23 years on and I look to your son; he will be twelve in six months. I’m tempted to be afraid for him, the emotions and the confusion, the hormones and the lack of confidence. I remember you then and worry for him now. But I will tell him the same and choose to believe it, too.

Don’t be afraid.

Oh, there are some caveats:

You will get sick on your communications teacher this year. Obviously, she will not be happy about.

Be kinder to your mother, your sisters. On this side, they will be your best friends, the ones who love you from start to finish.

Secondary school will start rough, but you will find your niche, your people and your voice. You’ll write again in the shade of your English class, and though you won’t be the smartest, you’ll get the highest mark. “You have something here,” your professors will tell you. And this time, you’ll listen, and it will carry you through university and beyond.

karen.square.headshotI’m not gonna lie. Things will get dicey from time to time. You are human, as is most everyone around you. But don’t be afraid. There is a holy beauty in the waiting, in the heartache, in torn pieces being mended.

And on this side, you will know:

Wild, crazy love will enter your atmosphere, sooner than you think (or want). A tribe of children will come to you, filling your heart and your bed in the middle of the night. Ireland will call you, a home you never imagined from the roof of that pink house. And God will wait for you, though you doubt and run, over and over.

Don’t be afraid, girl. Not everyone leaves.

Not even you.

*****

Photo Credits:
1. rolands.lakis via Compfight cc
2. Karen Huber – provided by herself

Letter to my younger self – Dear Rita…


Our 2nd in the ‘Letter to My Younger Self’ series is from Rita O’Brien. I met Rita through a writing course in Lucan Library, South Dublin. You’ll see some of Rita’s fun and poignant work on the Lucan Writers blog. She’s also on Twitter @ritaobri

Over to her…

Ah, Rita, look at you sitting there – surrounded, God love you, by mini-mountains of books and copies and jotters piled up on the dining room table.  I’d feel more pity for you, though, if you hadn’t got Radio Caroline blasting out of that little PYE transistor radio beside you.  You can’t seriously be studying, now, can you?  If you were, you’d never, ever have managed to learn every single word of every song in last week’s Top 10, which you obviously did, judging by your impression of Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black and The Hollies while your Mam is gone to the shops.

medium_9692711856Less than a week away from the Inter Cert and you’re surprisingly calm and relaxed in yourself.  For some unknown reason, you’ve always enjoyed doing exams, though the Mocks weren’t exactly what you’d call a walk in the park! Well, just wait till you face the real test in two years time.  It’ll be some help having only 11 other girls staying on in your class to do the Leaving Cert, but apart from the stress of trying to get as many Honours as you can, there’ll be the huge emotional upheaval you’re going to experience afterwards, when yourself and your schoolpals part company after 13 years together.  It’s not as if you can all keep in touch by phone because most of those girls’ families would go hungry if they were to try to save up the three hundred pounds installation fee, let alone afford the monthly rental.  And you can forget about meeting up regularly with them, too, unless you’re going to get two buses, at least, to take you over to the other side of the city where your Mam sent you to school.  When you’ve got a family of your own, that’s something you’ll look back on as part of her legacy to you.  Your children will be sent to the local mixed school where most of the neighbours’ kids – boys as well as girls!! – will be going, end of story.

At the moment, you’re imagining yourself, at 18, going off to do charity work in some Godforsaken part of the Third World, but I’d give that one a miss, if I was you, until you’ve at least survived a week-long mosquito attack, coupled with heatstroke and food-poisoning, in Majorca or Fuengirola.  You’d love to get into hairdressing, either, except that your Dad won’t hear a word of it – ‘That’s only for girls who haven’t the brains to do anything else’, so he says, with the result that you’ll end up doing the round of entrance exams to get a job in the Civil Service or in a bank or insurance company, and you’ll take the first place that you’re offered.  That ear-to-ear smile when you get the Civil Service Commission letter will soon be wiped off your face when you start work in the Tax Office.  Talk about a culture shock!  As the only Dubliner in an entire department full of people from outside the Pale whose sisters or brothers will come further down the panel than you, you’d better not expect to be welcomed with open arms.  You’ll hate it but you’ll stick it until something better comes along.

You’re under the impression now that, between school, home and your neighbourhood, you’ve already encountered all the personality types you’re ever going to meet.  Well, you’ve seen nothing yet, girl!  When you go to work, you’ll be lucky to find lifelong friends and the odd date, but you’ll also meet people at all levels who will be driven by their own agendas, needs, ambitions and priorities.  They’ll manipulate, inspire, exploit, influence, upset, mentor, frustrate, impress, torment, support, infuriate and bore you beyond belief.  Whether they will realise it or not, though, you’ll learn from every one of them.  It’ll take time, but you’ll eventually understand that learning what not to do will be every bit as valuable to you in life as learning the opposite.  You’ll have no problem standing up for yourself, and for others, if they need you to – a year or two in a trade union head office will instil that in you, amongst other things.

The years ahead will bring you lots of joy and surprises as well as sadness and disappointments, but I’ll guarantee you this much: decades from now, you’ll look back with an amazing sense of pride and fulfilment at how you handled the setbacks and even used them to your advantage at times.  Naturally, you’ll take the greatest pleasure from the happier events in your life, particularly the ones – and there will be a few, believe me – that will creep up on you unexpectedly.  You’ll come to your own realisation that the best things in life are, indeed, free.  If you’re in any doubt, just get yourself and your two daughters (now, there’s a surprise for you!) down to Glendalough for a walk around the lakes, or take a spin to Rosslare to sit for hours overlooking the harbour, have an hour-long chat with your sister on the phone or invite your pals around for a laugh and some group therapy washed down with a glass of wine or a cup of decaf.

Right now, you’re wishing that you could have a crystal ball to see what the future may hold for you, but what would be the point in that?  For starters, the surprises would be well and truly ruined.  And, because you’re always underestimating your abilities, you’d never for a single minute believe that you’ll possess the inner strength and determination to overcome the few knocks and shocks along the way.  It’d be like telling you that you’ll soon find yourself in Arnott’s front window, that you’ll get to meet a woman President of Ireland, face-to-face, in the Aras or see the Pope in Parkgate Street, that your Ma will be two-timing when she’s 73, or that you’ll still be going to Cliff Richard concerts when you’re 60 (which would make him, yes, 73!!).

Rita O'BThroughout the future, you’ll make choices and decisions where your heart won’t even let your head get a look-in and only time will tell whether you were right or not.  You’ll be contented with whatever you have, wherever you live, because the most important part of your future will have nothing to do with material things.  From the day that you give them life, your daughters will be the centre of your universe.  Every major step you’ll take forever after will be driven by their needs and hopes.  Nobody else on Earth will ever make you as loving, as happy, as loved or as proud as they will.  And you’ll be delighted to hear that, unlike yourself, they’ll be blessed with the company and friendship of loads of cousins, so you’ll have plenty of family hooleys to look forward to.  Having your Ma around until she’s 82 will be the icing on the cake.  You’ll miss her stories and laughs and advice so much after she passes on, but you’ll never, ever be able to remember her without smiling.  And in no time at all, what do you know but your first grandchild will bless your already charmed life?  ‘God’, I bet you’re saying to yourself, ‘I haven’t had as much as a kiss yet and she’s going on about me being a Granny’!

Even now, I can’t tell you everything you’re bound to want to know, but be sure of this one thing: you will, one day, find it in your heart to forgive Maxi, Dick and Twink for ruining your chances of celebrity stardom when they gate-crashed your Opportunity Knocks audition in front of Hughie Green in Parnell Square last year.  ‘Maxi, Dick and WHO?’, says you!!

If you want advice for the future, the voice of experience would tell you to have fun, to enjoy the twists and turns along the road ahead of you, to have no regrets, and to get back to studying your French grammar, because you are just going to love Paris more than anywhere else in the world!

Your older and, hopefully, wiser self. xxxxx

*****

photo credits:
1. dreams & pancakes via photopin cc
2. Rita O’Brien – provided by herself

Letter to my younger self – Dear Helen…


Welcome to the first guest in this series of, ‘Letters to My Younger Self’.
I’m so delighted to have Helen Bullock here 🙂 She’s a great Twitter buddy.
Helen is a primary school teacher. She is the editor of ‘How I Learn’, a crowd sourced study of learning styles – you can find out all about her on her blog; just click here.
You can follow her on Twitter @AnseoAMuinteoir

 

Over to her…

 

Dear Helen
This is Helen now - even though she looks 18! :)

This is Helen now – even though she looks 18! 🙂

Happy 18th Birthday!! Hard to believe while you relish being 18 I’m here looking at 28 and thinking how much has changed.  You’ve grown a lot from that 17/18 year old you know now. You’re so confused right now about what to do in college, facing into your leaving cert and boys. Let’s face it boys are always going to be confusing at 18 but don’t worry, at 28 you’ve got it figured out 🙂

Anyway, I’m here to remind you of a few things and encourage you with a few others.
Firstly, study more. I can tell you now you did just brilliantly in your Leaving Cert but it was down to good planning and study. Yes the supervised study is a bore but you actually study there which is more than you do at home….Just get over it. Study. And don’t forget French, you will regret it if you don’t put the effort in. Speaking of French, be ready for your mock aural exam…you’ll have an embarrassing nose bleed and no tissues, maybe you should keep some in your school bag at all times! The teacher won’t appreciate the mess you’ll make!!
There’s a time ahead when your college plans change, you’re planning on going to Mary I in Limerick to become a teacher but that doesn’t happen. Our parents can’t afford the rent and other expenses that come with you moving out but don’t worry. You do get there, you take the long road and are now a fully qualified teacher, it is not an easy road but without it you will miss out on meeting that guy you want and need to meet so don’t worry. Detours don’t hurt.
“Detours don’t hurt.”
When you do finally make it to college you need to remember to study. But if I’m honest, college is about finding who you are and what you want to be when you grow up. Yes you’ve always wanted to a teacher but it’s this time in college that allows you to explore other areas and jobs. Make friends in college, one especially will be your closest friend and you’ll need her in the future. Have fun, there comes a time when you won’t be having much fun and you have some your worst fears to face. Enjoy your first two years in college, the final year is the hard one and your memories will get you through it. Eventually.
Your taste in boys takes a while to mature, let’s be honest some of the boys you’ve dated have been eh, less than stellar; but one ahead is worth his weight in gold. There’s one however who comes pretty close to ruining your life, don’t let him. Yes everything will seem like a disaster but that friend from college will help you through it. The bruises will fade, the aches lessen, the nightmares become less frequent and the friends who matter will stand by you. The rest don’t matter at all. They’re not real true friends if they can’t or won’t stand by you now, yes you made mistakes but who doesn’t? The biggest mistake was choosing to wrong guy to be with but trust me everyone does at some stage. The main thing to remember is every experience teaches you something and this one will give you a lot of lessons and not all of them will be easy. Don’t give up, yes he hurts you, a lot. But you become stronger because of him, braver. Yes your confidence will be damaged but that guy I’ve mentioned will help.
You will eventually meet him,  he’s amazing. Ok so you won’t meet in the most conventional way, or even the way you both tell your parents. But by 2008 meeting online isn’t something to be ashamed of, over the next few years it becomes almost normal and a lot of your friends meet that way. They even find it settling that they’re not alone! By the time you write this you’ll planning your wedding so any ideas or demands now is a good time to think of them!
medium_9692711856Try not to worry so much about what people think of you, yes it’s going to be hard, you can’t help it and you are so self conscience of your clothes, that hasn’t changed much if I’m honest. There are times you still think you’re not good enough but you are. Some people just don’t matter. Ignore them. You are smart, clever and intelligent. Not everyone sees you for you and trust me they are the people you don’t need to be friends with. Make people laugh, you have a quick sense of humour, use it. Sometimes laughter is the best cure to defuse a situation and timing is everything.
“There are times you still think you’re not good enough, but you are.”
Save money. There’s a time when yes your savings go AWOL  but the habit of saving is a great one and at 28 trust me you’ll be glad you did.
As I write this and I think about my life at 18 and all the things ahead of you I can’t help but smile. Things weren’t easy at times but I’ve had fun and I know you will too. Don’t be scared by the rough times ahead, everyone has challenges but they shape who you are and who you will be.
Celebrate being 18 with your friends, enjoy the night, the moment because let me tell you the people who are there celebrating with you won’t feature much in your future. There’s just one who sticks around and she’s invaluable, keep her close. I’ll be celebrating 28 with friends, I don’t know if they’ll be around when I celebrate 38 but I know that the friends you have now (and the ones I have now) are some of the most important people in our lives, cherish them.
Be good to yourself.
Be safe.
Have fun.
From your older, wiser and often less sensible self
Helen
* * * * *

photo credits:
1. Helen Bullock – provided by herself
2. dreams & pancakes via photopin cc

Starting tomorrow, a series of letters


medium_9692711856

Greetings all.

I’m delighted to be starting a series of guest posts here on auntyamo.com 😉

After writing the ‘Letter to my 15 year old self’, I found there’s a whole website devoted to writing letters to our younger selves. So I thought maybe some others might be up for an opportunity to do the same.

Over the next 3 to 4 weeks some friends and family will be sharing their letters here. Starting tomorrow with a birthday girl.

I hope you enjoy the series – and there’s room for a couple more on the schedule if you’re interested. Drop me an email. amowriting at gmail dot com

I’m looking forward to reading them all. If you haven’t read mine and you’d like to, click here.

See you tomorrow.

As always, thanks for reading.
auntyamo x

photo credit: dreams & pancakes via photopin cc

Guest Post by Ruth Gyves: the Twists & Turns of Life


A warm welcome to my guest on the blog today – Ruth Gyves 🙂 She was with me on the Wednesday Night show on Spirit Radio this week. I’ll let her tell her story…

Last Wednesday night, I made my debut on Spirit Radio. I was the guest on the lovely Annmarie Miles’ show. We spent time chatting about finding God in the twists and turns of life, in the context of some of my own life experiences. Here is a summary of our discussion.

Ruth Gyves

Ruth Gyves

I am an ordinary person living an ordinary life – my story doesn’t consist of thunderbolts and lightning! I am from Dublin, the youngest of a family of 5 and was brought up in a church going family; I had a great childhood. At the age of 11, at a camp in Greystones I responded to the verse in Revelation 3:20 that says ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’. I had just discovered it was not automatic that I would get to heaven, and the guarantee I sought was to ask Jesus into my heart. Simple? At that age it seemed so, but of course life is not that simple. The journey begun on that camp so long ago, has consisted of many twists and turns but has always brought me back to knowing that no matter what I go through, God is real; His love for me is real, his forgiveness is absolute and he gives peace, hope and security that nothing else can give.

As I reached the end of my teens, I had a ‘burning bush’ experience at another camp when I could almost hear God speaking from a bonfire. I couldn’t actually hear him speak, but the sense of his presence was so strong, I knew there was more to this Christian life than just the security of heaven.

I married in 1984, have 3 grown up children and a beautiful granddaughter, Amelia who is 5 years old. Over the years, life has thrown many surprises at me such as the breakup of my marriage, bringing up 3 children through difficult teenage years, and walking with my 18 year old daughter (and my sons) through the loss of her little baby, Ruby.

Some months before my daughter became pregnant, I didn’t know why but my heart was stirred to ask 3 people from my church to pray for my children. I can’t help but wonder how we would have got through that difficult year, if I hadn’t had that prayer cover. I don’t know why it all happened, and I might never know, but I do know that God was very real to me in the pain and sadness we experienced.

medium_534074080So many negative things happened at once; the illness and subsequent death of my dad, a wayward teenage daughter and a long drawn out divorce process. My closeness to God was not as strong as it is now but I was conscious of God walking with me and hanging on to me when my grip was slipping. Often it was hard to put on my positive face and keep going – times when getting through a whole day was difficult, so I broke my day down into slots – breakfast to lunch, lunch to dinner, dinner to bedtime! As time went on, I was able to look at whole days together and things became less difficult.

How did I find my way back? How did I find God again in the twists and turns?

Four key practical things that got me through, and continue to strengthen me on my journey are these:

Prayer
I pray about everything, all the time! I used to give God a list of issues and how I thought he should ‘solve’ them. God often has different ideas and I have learned that praying for God’s solution is better. I was unemployed during 2009 and through that year I saw God’s provision for me in a very real way. One month when money was very short, an anonymous bank draft for exactly the amount I needed came in the post. I believe that God’s way of answering my cry was to prompt someone who knew my plight to respond through generosity.

The Bible
The book of Psalms is a great place to start. I have found endless strength and encouragement in reading the writings of David and others, in all sorts of situations. Psalms like 46 ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’ or 62 ‘My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.’ It’s through reading the bible that I have learned so much about the God in whom I trust and rely on. If I want to know about someone famous, I’ll read about them – if I want to know about God, then reading Scripture is exactly where I’ll find him.

Writing/Journaling
Writing has been a great way to make sense of it all. I write anything – prayers, thoughts, rants, poetry. It has been a huge encouragement to me to look back over the many many notebooks I have written in and see how God has led me and ‘worked it all out’. Just like the children of Israel – it was when they looked back, they could see all God had done for them. I write about hopes and dreams, reviews at the end of the year – anything and everything. One day I’ll write a book…

People
This may be the most important. I am blessed with people in my life who have supported and challenged me. I have also found it essential to be part of a church family where I can learn and grow with other people who love God and are willing to walk with me on my journey. We were not made to be alone – finding someone to walk with me, cry with me, laugh with me, bless me and encourage me has been vital in finding my way through the storm.

There is so much more that I could have shared on the show if time had allowed – and so much more I could share here. Perhaps this might not be the last you’ll hear of me!!
Ruth 🙂

photo credits:
Ruth supplied her own photo
Mary Anne Thygesen via photopin cc

Guest Post: Paradise on a Penitential Island (Part 2)


I hope you enjoyed the start of Mary’s story (if you haven’t read part 1 just click here.)
So without further ado…

Paradise on a Penitential island Part 2

I will interrupt myself again with some notes I wrote at approximately half way through this glorious weekend:

“12.35p.m. Day 2
They are queuing for the tea and toast already – they run the danger of me eating them.
…Another boat full has arrived – all energetic and light of foot – they’ve only been fasting for 12 hours after all!
Way more young people here than I’d expected.
It’s clouded over now was sunny – sooo beautiful.
There’s worse ways of doing penance I’d say! Like doing here in the rain!
Smelt the cooking rashers earlier – had to move!
Foodhall opens at 1.15. queue is growing. Good job I didn’t accidentally bring supplies – they’d be gone by now.
Real spiritual stuff this. Can’t even think of a prayer, can only think of my body – sore and tired.
Maybe eating and exercising might engage my spiritual side more… My head feels so numb.
Queue gone! Where? Been eaten?
Should have at least put on toenail varnish – I am so unprepared!
So God… besides eating, what do I do with myself? …when I get home.
Can’t even miss the girls anymore.”

Now, back to the real world:
Let us briefly reflect on what the people were queuing for
– black tea or coffee, dry toast, oatcakes.
But also sugar.
White granulated sugar, in a glass dispenser that pours continuously into your black coffee until you stop it.
But why stop?
The thin flat oatcakes look like cardboard.
Dunked in your sugary coffee they look like wet cardboard.

But, eat nothing for 20 hours, put a warm damp oatcake between your parched lips and wait to be amazed.

The average Hobnob contains 1.1g of protein, 3.1g of fat, 0.8g fibre, and 9.4 g of carbohydrates, of which 3.9g are sugar.

Information again pilfered from the web – God bless my creativity and the world wide web!

The nutritional composition of Lough Derg oatcakes is not available online, but that is of no real account because my second discovery on the penitential island was that if your BLACK coffee contains almost as much SUGAR as it does water, then a strange thing happens when you consume your dunked oat cake.

On this penitential island, St. Patrick’s purgatory, you’ve discovered paradise.

And paradise is a hot oatcake that for all the world tastes like a Hobnob, and you don’t even miss the milk from your coffee because this just tastes so great!

No I don’t just mean great, I mean one of the best tasting things you’ve ever eaten in your whole life.
The only thing that comes close is the tea and toast you get after you’ve delivered a baby, but even that doesn’t taste this good.
The best food in the world is the Lough Derg oatcake – dunked.
Rachel Allen, Jamie Oliver – eat your heart out!

But there is only one meal a day, so it doesn’t matter how good it tastes, you are only going to get it twice.

Notes from sometime later on that second day:
“Short choppy stepping, protect, or are demanded by tender toes grazed on rocks and pews.
People’s feet more recognisable than their faces.
Father – daughter identified by their long slender piggies. Then the white sparkly toe-nails, the flat, fat footed woman, the corroding fake tan feet, bunions – a whole medley of bunions! Strapped ankles, wide feet, narrow feet, archless feet, trousers tied around their legs.
Overnight vigil now surreal, a body of people, rising and swarming, bound by the devotion but singular in its execution, but still part of the swarm.
Waiting for the sky to brighten – victory over night for the sun and the penitent.
God – where are you in this? In a late rosary for the unborn?
Warm breeze – is that you God?
Silvery lake turns pewter in the rising breeze.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit – help me to trust that you are showing me the path of life… taking me into the fullness of joy of your presence and at your right hand – happiness for ever.”

Maybe, just maybe I’m not all flesh.