My Sweet Lord!

I wish I could find that photo of myself.

I’m about 12/13 and am sitting on a sand dune on Ballinaclash beach in Co. Wexford. I’ve got my legs crossed and my hands on my knee with a ‘strike a pose’ look on my face. I’m wearing a red bathing suit and there are at least three places to ‘pinch an inch’; but I don’t seem to care. In fact, I don’t remember being aware of the ‘rolls’ as I posed for the photo.

I doubt there’s a photo of me after that time where I’m not self-conscious about how I look. (Discount any where I’m not sober.)

If you’re familiar with this blog then you’ll know that every so often, the subject of eating and weight rears its rotten head. My blogging journey started with a series of posts about weight loss (or not) it’s been coming around like Christmas (only not as often…) You’ll find some examples here and here.

For the last few months I’ve been reading blogs and Facebook pages about the subject; most posts giving actual pain because they talk about a land that I’ve not been to for a long time. A land where I’ve got my food:activity ratio as it should be. A land where I’m looking after myself properly. And more importantly, a land where I’m happy with myself; and my swimsuit, with its rolls.

25482907745_d195113ddd_qIt might sound like I’m jumping on the band wagon, but I’ve known for a long time that sugar is my nemesis. I’ve said before that I’ve an issue with food, but I’ve never really believed that I am an addict. I do now though. I love, want, need and crave sugar – in any and all of its forms. Have you read those articles that tell you sugar lights up the same parts of the brain that a cocaine hit does? I’m not a bit surprised. I can think of nothing better than a bucket load of chocolate and a key. To lock the door behind me so I can eat it in secret.

So… about a month ago I quit. None in coffee, none on cereal – in fact no cereal except porridge. No processed food, just fresh meat and vegetables, salads and fruit; you know… all the good stuff. I’m allowing myself a minimal amount of bread and potatoes. (Come on, I’m Irish. I’d have to hand in my passport if I stopped eating the spuds altogether).

I worry about writing a post like this. Saying it out loud is usually the beginning of the end of a diet for me. I’m praying that this is a life change, a turning of my heart towards full dependence on God, and not a sugar buzz, to give me joy.

I’ll be honest, I’m grieving a bit. I’m sad that (please God) I’ll never eat a whole bag of Haribo in one sitting again. That I won’t be enjoying sugary chocolate with sugary coffee on a regular basis. And I’m scared – cos sugar makes me feel better, and what if my whole food bars and a cup of green tea don’t do the same?

I pray these words from Psalm 119: 103 will be true for me and I will get the sweet rush I need from Him.

“How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

If you’re interested, the FB pages I’ve been following are Teresa Sheilds Parker, Sundi Jo and Just Eat Real Food  and if you’re a prayer, please pray for me. I need it!

Thanks, A x

photo credit: Sugar via photopin (license)

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 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 

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 😉 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.

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

Letter to my younger self – Dear Grace…

I met Grace Tierney at a workshop for writers in Carousel Creates. Her ‘wordfoolery’ blog about unusual words, is a favourite of mine 😉 She is originally from Dublin but now lives and writes in Co. Meath. She has written for everything from the local paper to anthologies, online media, coffee cans, and print magazines. She is the Ireland North East organiser for National Novel Writing Month and actually enjoys the challenge of writing 50,000 words in just one month. You can find out more at and follow her on Twitter @wordfoolery

If this is your read of the ‘Letter to my younger self’ series – you can find out more here, auntyamo x

p.s. Grace really does love postscripts.

Over to her…

Dear Grace,

You don’t ever get letters, so I thought you might like one from me as you finish first year in secondary school. I’m 41 on this birthday, so now you know you live that long. Good news, eh?

I wanted to tell you, you know the other day when you were waiting for Mum to get a move on in Dunnes and you thought to yourself that you already know everything about yourself, where you fit in the world, and what you want to do with your life? You were right. Seriously.

Grace at 12 yrs old
Grace at 12 yrs old

No, you can’t stop going to school. It turns out that the whole education thing works out pretty well for you. You don’t know everything, yet, but you do know yourself very well. The stuff that is important to you is still important to me 29 years later. And get this – you’re still best mates with Marie, Sheena, and Kerri. Even better news is that you’ll pick up more friends like them, all over the world.

In case you think this letter is a hoax, here’s something only you know – you want to be a writer. You haven’t even told your adored only sister, Bronwyn. It’s ok, you can keep it to yourself for a while longer. But keep filling those copybooks with your novels, because one day you’re going to finish one. Actually, more than one. Just remember to keep writing, even when you try out other careers for size. Because yeah, Sister Katherine is as wise as she likes to pretend. You do actually need to do a bit of living before you can write about life. So yeah, that big romantic storyline with Louis in Geneva? Bad news, you can’t write that novel until you’ve fancied a boy and learned French.

Don’t roll your eyes at me like that. Your French is going to improve – a lot. You’ll be fluent before you know it, seriously. And men – yeah – they actually aren’t the enemy. I know, no brothers, no male cousins, no male friends, all girl school, no mixed hobbies. You are so confused. Oh I wish I could see the look on your face when you realise there’s 90% men in your degree class. And that some of them are nice. You are going to love college.

There’s one thing that doesn’t work out quite how you imagined. Please don’t be angry with me, I know how much you want this one. You don’t live alone in a small cottage in the woods. The one you’ve been saving up for since you were six. But please keep saving, I did use it for a house in the end, mostly. Some got spent on travelling – you were right, you love travel and it is WAY more fun without your parents getting mega-stressed over every tiny detail.

The thing is, the house I mentioned? Well I share it, and not with my friends, I share it with my husband and two kids. They’re nearly your age and they love books too. I know you’d be friends with them if time travel was possible. I even wrote them a book once with you in it as a friend for them. A bit like Famous Five, do you remember them?

Bronwyn will offer you all her old kids books soon, say yes, my kids are reading them now and they love them. That’s the other thing. Bron is moving on to Trinity now. You miss her horribly, but lean on your friends. It will get easier.

Grace tells me that this is her now (14 next birthday by the looks of things...)
Grace tells me this is her now (16 next birthday by the looks of things…)

What else? Stop resisting dental checkups – demand a different dentist. You are, as you already suspect, more stubborn than Mum and Dad. Other dentists are nice and I really didn’t enjoy losing that tooth. The stubborn foot-down-thing works for your CAO form, walking the Wicklow Way at 15, and picking up Art for your Leaving Cert, too. You’ll have the parents whipped into shape by the time you hit 18.

Spend time with Granny Ferguson. Trust me on this.

Consider joining Scouts. I do it with my kids and I love it. I think you would too. Don’t bother with sea scouts – I still have motion sickness at the drop of a hat. Your love of the coast is going to have to remain land-bound. Your yacht, Indigo Dreamer, will have to remain fictional, sorry.

So, you were right, you already knew nearly everything about life. Whenever I’m not sure about a decision I think about you. And every time I lost sight of you, I’ve gone wrong. So keep reading to two in the morning, keep writing, keep dreaming.

All my love, Grace
p.s. I know you won’t believe me but one day, about 25, you’re going to discover that you’re not chronically shy anymore.
p.p.s. Write back, we’ve always wanted a pen friend.
p.p.p.s. Try the wine when you go grape-picking – it’s nicer than you think
p.p.p.p.s. Yes, I still love silly postscripts.

Letter to my younger self – Dear Eileen…

I got an email from Eileen Harkin after she read one of the Letter to my younger self series. She was inspired to write one of her own. This is her first time to EVER share something publicly. I hope it’s the beginning of a whole new writing life for Eileen. 

Eileen was born in Camberwell, London. Her parents were both from Tralee, Co Kerry, and emigrated to England to find work in the late 1950’s. She loves talking, musing, reading, reminiscing, listening, learning, laughing, baking, walking, and advising.
Oh, And Irish Showbands!

Over to her…



Eileen - Notre Dame Days
Eileen – Notre Dame Days

Well Eileen, I know for sure and for certain that at the grand age of 16 you did not envisage for one minute how life actually would pan out for you. I’m not going to kid you, because I know how much the truth matters to you now, and I promise it always will. You will receive great love, lose most of it through no fault of your own, but prove yourself to be far greater a survivor than you have ever been given credit for. You will always be a worrier though, and I wish more than anything that was not the case…

Remember 4 years ago when you were 12 years old? Your over-burdening worry then involved trying to work out fractions and the binary system during your first year at Notre Dame Southwark Secondary School. Your dotty (and borderline bonkers) maths teacher Miss W was no use; neither was your Muvver, Mrs Burke. One evening you desperately resorted to asking Muvver for help with your sickeningly hard maths homework, even though you knew seeking assistance was a truly forlorn hope. Muvver gave her typical response worthy of the situation as she saw it – “If the worst thing in life you ever have to worry about is understanding fractions, you’ll be fecking lucky”. Wise words in some ways, but the utterly withering look of huffy disapproval you received from prim Miss W the following morning (after nervously explaining why your homework was full of unanswered & unassisted questions) will stay with you forever. You are right to feel mortified at the memory!

No matter, you are now 16 years old; and the troubling consequences of the failure of the Weimar Republic & the rise of that evil git Hitler are much more up your street. You will always love learning more and more about history – it will devour so much of your time, energy and your heart way into the future, and guess what? You will graduate with a Degree in your beloved subject, and you will never have to deal with “fecking fractions” or binary ever again! Result 🙂

You rightly are working so hard at school and doing the best you can, but the distractions and discord caused by the rest of the family are going to badly resonate with you for the rest of your life. I’m giving it to you straight kiddo; when you reach 50 years old, your beloved Dad Mossie will have already left the family for the third time. As you know, the first time was when he “ran off” with Miss O’R “the other woman” when you were 5 and a half years old. You have dealt with that so brilliantly over the years. Be proud of that! But the second time of his leaving will prove be the direct cause of your first serious nervous collapse; he will leave said Wife Number 2 for yet another woman (code-name Cruella, don’t ask, you’ll learn).

image (2)
Eileen & Dad. Such a wonderful sight to see. But his eyes are closed….a telling portent.

There will be a steady period of apparent familial utopia now you are 16; but when you are 24, smelly Cruella will cold-heartedly decide to cut all ties with Dad’s existing family, & Dad will succumb to her demands because he stupidly gave her control over all his money. And he will literally be terrified & s**t-scared of what she is capable of. Yes, it’s hard to believe; but that vibrant, charming, savvy, classy, once-strong entrepreneurial Kerryman that you love so much now, will literally be crushed by Ireland’s answer to Lucretia Borgia 😦

I can’t gloss over how broken-hearted you will be when he leaves you for the third and final time in your life; I have to say you will probably never get over his totally unexpected, sudden & mysterious death. You will be especially sad, because in the two years before he leaves for the last time, you were back in touch & had enjoyed so many heartwarming meetings and conversations that bode very well for the future…

50 years old is going to be a pivotal age for you mate; your oldest sister will not have spoken to you for over two years. Trust me, as unthinkable as that sounds to you now, you are very soon going to see the signs of things to come. You will look back and be proud of how you stuck by her in terribly unsavoury & vile circumstances over the many years; seeing things that nobody your age should have seen – you were a rock to her. Never, ever let that loyalty on your part be undermined by spin, bull or supposition. She might have forgotten, but you never will.

image (3)
Eileen and brother John. Who would have ever thought…”thick as thieves”!

Guess what? Your annoying little brother John will prove to be the person with the honest heart of the family. As usual though, he will be put down, cut down to size and made out to be the fool of our little clan – supposedly to make others look better. Nobody who really matters will believe it though, because John will be well-beloved by you & many extended friends & family. And imagine this; he will make you an Auntie!

And now to the real nitty-gritty that concerns you at present! I can happily enlighten you with these Facts, that I”ll categorise as ‘Will’ :-

1. Your best friend now (EMJL) WILL still be your best friend now & always
2. You will (believe me) look back and wonder why you ever fancied Hutch over Starsky
3. You will always have enough batteries to keep your portable radio going overnight
4. Clearasil & Anne French won’t clear your spots; growing older will do that
5. Splashing cold water on your boobs every night may well have worked, because you have got bazookas – yes I know, it’s unbelievable!
6.You WILL pass your exams & stay on at your beloved NDHS for 2 more years
7. Yes, you will indeed have sex – but saving yourself for that eejit McN was a total waste 😦
8. Children? Of your own? Nope. But strangely, it won’t bother you.

But here’s the real clincher….. two very, VERY important things happened that you always thought to be utterly unthinkable:-

1. You never ended up incarcerated in The Maudsley Mental Home in Camberwell

2. You married the “unattainable” (your fellow Notre Dame Girls’ verdict) Peter Harkin.

Yes, honestly! And don’t say “errmm….what?!” – because some dreams do come true, after all.

......Blimey.....I really married Peter Harkin! LUCKY OLD ME!
……Blimey…..I really married Peter Harkin! LUCKY OLD ME!

Love to you, Eileen xOx

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 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
* * * * *

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