Marilyn Monroe. A cliché for blonde, curvaceously sexy beauty, a breathy singing voice and a tingly sugarplum laugh. Think blonde Betty Boop. This is where I will start.
I teach English for a living. The end of my maternity leave with baby Betsy is looming ever so more closely and my mind is trying, trying (struggling, struggling) to return to the classroom. Exams are on the horizon. I will return just in time for mass panic and revision. Some will be revising for the first time. I will be asked what it was I was ‘on about before’ at the start of the year previous to when I left, which didn’t seem relevant then but suddenly it does. ..
Must inspire. Use them words gooder please class. Something not quite right about that…
So. One element that I will upon which I will revise, advise and ultimately despair will be…
Having recently finished the cute, romantic and tasteful The Red Notebook, I feel inspired by the main female character ‘Laure’ ( what a gorgeous name) to an introspective excerise. In the novel, Laure kept a moleskine red notebook and tracked thoughts and feelings. Now, I don’t fancy that especially. No. I am not a diary girl anymore. However what I did like was her list of ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’.
In a bid to be positive, in order to counteract the terror in our world (as many blog posts now address), peace starts with us. We can only control ourselves and our own goodness. I will start with my personal joys. So simply put:
I like smelling my coffee. I might not always finish drinking it (my husband’s bugbear), but I consider it was a wasted beverage if I didn’t inhale the first aroma of scalded beans.
I like reading a book that makes me want to finish it. Life is too short to read a dull book. It is no crime to put down the book and leave it unfinished if it is not cutting the mustard.
I like tasteful and cute tidbits. I am loving the new cafe culture in Ireland that envelops charm, health and wellbeing in a pretty setting.
I love the concepts of simplicity in beauty. I may not be able to fully do it, but I sure like looking at it and thinking about it. I will get myself in trouble if I step into Sostrene and Greene anymore. (Try and stop me though!).
I love how my little girls smell like biscuits. A combination of bath gels, cremes and just their baby essence makes a wonderful vanilla, peaches and cream mixed with pixie dust scent that cannot be bottled.
I love Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. uplifting, inspiring and magical for mood enhancing.
I love the feeling of clearing out an area and moving on what is unnecessary, leaving space to enjoy what is left.
I love evening times with my husband.
I love looking at pots of jam. I pick them up, turn them over, admire. I rarely eat jam. I like the pretty pots though.
I love a good conversation. As a poor conversationalist (I don’t feel this is a consistent trait I have ) when I do get ‘in deep’ I love it.
I love cycling a bike. Mr Paper has gotten me back into this activity again and we go to Lough Boora in Offaly with the girls to search for fairies. This is the place to find them on our hired bicycles.
I love my girls’ hysterical giggles when they both fall over like clowns, dramatically and with no pain.
I love going to bed. Snuggling into cotton sheets with plump pillows and a promise of relaxation. It may not always happen- but that moment of potential always does.
Well thank you Laure. This trick works. I didn’t even notice that my likes quickly turned into loves- but they did. I urge you to try it sometime. Counteract the badness out there with a whole bunch of positive thoughts.
‘When I was seventeen’ sounds like a plaintive yet jolly Ed Sheeran song and maybe this is a bit like that. Blasting about castles on hills ( Love that tune really. Watch the Tune if you fancy a soundtrack to this tale). Like Ed, I am feeling retrospective. Nostalgic? A tad. I turned 37 recently. 37 is not quite 40 so I am not quaking, yet it is sufficiently far enough away from 25 to make me older which is scary. The massive marker for me is the fact that 20 years ago I turned 17. 17 was a milestone for me in many ways and to think it was 20 years ago…wow.
Aged 17, I was approaching my Leaving Certificate. I studied really hard until the final three weeks whereupon I was set upon by lethargy and despondency. I still did quite well. This means I started college at 17 and finished my degree by the time I was 20. Mentally and emotionally I was a toddler. It was like sending Rugrats’ Chuckie to college. I had the smarts, I loved books and reading but the real world was a major challenge. I spent most of my college days furtively slinking about the concourse, searching for an elusive lecture hall, stomach growling in time to mixed tape tunes spitting out indie ballads on a fizzing Walkman.
Princess Di died when I was seventeen. I was so caught up in my delayed teenage angst bubble, having spent the summer working away from home in a live in hotel, that I hadn’t heard the news until my mother told me. It was a week later. I was so out of the real world that I hadn’t even realised! This is being seventeen. Being oblivious. Where were you when you found out Princess Diana died, they ask. Indulging in my introspective bubble, I say. Searching for myself!
Music is pivotal for the seventeen year old. I had moved on from the younger days of Oasis, Blur, Pulp and was now fazing out to repeatedly rewound hearings of The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony. I walked in stony faced, Richard Ashcroft style again and again, going God knows where. Wherever I went, it was directly. Like Ashcroft.
Natalie Imbruglia (Torn) and All Saints (The Beach) featured strongly. Seventeen meant I still loved my rock music of the early nineties but I was beginning to feel more. I wanted meaning. Music knew this. Music gave me lyrics full of yearning and chords that flipped at my heartstrings like a practised violinist. No wonder I missed poor Diana’s death. I had my earphones on.
I never drank water in 1997. I swear. Bottled water was hysterical to me. Why pay for what was free?! Coke was my drink. Water was too watery was my childish reason to forego said fluid. Therefore I was largely dehydrated most of my youth hence headspins and dizziness, fatigue and the shakes. I had no clue that this was due to a lack of water! That was seventeen for me. My teenage angst was fixable with H20.
Coffee tasted yuck to me. Now it is my life juice. The difference between 17 and 37. The difference being I am tired from responsibilities and not just growth spurts.
In 1997 I was size ten and thought I was huge. In 2017 I am several stone more than that and sometimes think I look OK. That is the difference in twenty years. You get used to yourself.
So, at 37 I am happier than I was at 17. I am content with life choices, more confident and relaxed with my self image. Like The Sunscreen Song warns us, I didn’t appreciate youth when I had it but I really don’t think I would do it differently. 17 was hard work.
I mean, I was really thirsty. I got that sorted. Only took twenty years.
By the way, when I was 17, I wanted CDS (the latest thing) for my birthday and clothes. Levis. For my 30th I wanted sleep, time to read and a day at a spa. 17 year old me would laugh out loud upon hearing this and then recoil into a cynical, overthinking, daydreaming fantasy world.
Dodo. Susu. Soother. Pacifier. Paci. Dummy.Whatever you call it, they are all the same. A rubber teat on a piece of hard plastic that can make or break your day.
We call it a dodo here in our house.
It seems fitting. An extinct bird that features in imaginative worlds. Lewis Carroll life. Having a child is a bit like falling down the rabbit hole (or through the looking glass) so a dodo, to me, is an apt title for the manmade comfort.
My eldest was first offered a dodo when she was seven days old. I was of the No Soother (unless neccessary) Brigade. I wasn’t activist or anything. I wasn’t vocal. I had not noticed them in other children’s worlds. I hadn’t bought one. I hadn’t thought of one. I just hadn’t realised we needed one. I had never had had children and my own Mother said that my sister and I rejected ours so I wasn’t aware of the comforts for a child. My mother in law loves dodos and can remember how much sucking her own thumb was a pleasure. She was right. Gigi was in ICU when she was seven days old (another hairy tale for another day, just know she is all good now). She had a large operation and her nurse asked if we could give her a dodo. Having no other way to spoil or treat her at that age, I fervently nodded through tears, yes, yes please. Anything.
It began there.
I find that a tiny child with a dodo is nodded at and cooed at like any other until they find their feet. Then Judge Dodo arrives.
The Judge is a look. A frown. Pursed eyebrows. Thoughts without words. Eye talk. Eye judgement.
Gigi will be three at the end of this month. She is taller than many four year olds. Her favourite dodo (the only one she wants) is a pink butterfly Tesco brand one. We have five. She has it for sleep and often in the car. She calls for it when times are tough or when she is tired. We have a pot where the dodo lives and the dodo must be put there when not required. Often Gigi tells me that she is not a baby and dodos are for babies but this is usually when she is full of energy. If it disappears, she is devastated.
Gigi was sick a few months back- a common virus. On the Sunday of that illness (day five of the bug) we left the house for a trip to a local castle and grounds. After a walk, Gigi wanted her dodo. She was drained. We let her have it and then it was sandpit time. I saw a little girl (aged about four) spot Gigi. She pointed and shouted, ‘Look Mammy that big girl has a dodo’ . The mortified Mammy of the little girl loudly talked about her own little girl ‘s dodo-love to ease our comfort but it was there. My tall child looks five and not two. The social stigma had been acknowledged. The other Mother had not judged me and was far more uncomfortable than I but her child’s proclamation had uncovered her as a Judge Dodo victim. My Gigi is tall. She will gather stares for having a dodo. Should her height mean she shouldn’t have one? Should I be removing it cold turkey? Cold dodo even?
Judge Dodo has become very prominent only recently to me. He has probably been around for a long time but I wasn’t aware of his presence. My cousin and her husband are doctors and have a four year old cousin’s husband is a paediatrician. Their boy had a soother until recently. They both talked to me about the judgement they felt in the town they lived in (in the UK about one hour from London) if their boy was out with his soother. It was a grievance between them. Judge Dodo was pacing the streets with a gavel and they were in the dock.
I remember the online barrage the Beckhams received for an image of a four year old Harper with a soother. I think being in the public eye can be a personal choice but I did think this was very unfair treatment of the family. Judge Dodo, you see. Context plays no part.
My youngest has copied her sister. She loves her dodo more than anything and spends her day asking for ‘my dodo, my dodo’. At 18 months, Judge Dodo has left her alone so far. She is walking and running about so it won’t be long. If I don’t take it away, she will be in the firing line. My dilemma.
I feel awkward about it all. I know that I shouldn’t care but I do. The Judge has gotten to me. My child’s crèche were very shocked to know Gigi still had a dodo at night. She has it in the car too but they don’t know that. I ask her for it before we go in the door. Gigi hands it over happily. The oldest minder at the crèche tells me she hates seeing a child in public sucking a soother. Oh it looks terrible she pronounced as if the child was nibbling on a hand grenade with lewd images etched upon it and sentenced all errant parents to ten years hard labour being a social stigma.
I know she was telling me this as she knows. She knows our secret. The moment my child is in the car, comforted by the presence of her Mammy and homeward bound, she wants her dodo. And maybe her blankie.
It puts me in mind of how I feel putting on my jammies when the evening jobs are done. Happy. I am not refusing her that secure feeling. She looks so content.
Social pressure is alive and strong in the parenting world. It spans far and wide beyond dodos but today I focus on the dodo. I hate admitting this too but it is also gender based. A dad with a toddler and a dodo often gets less judgment than a mum with a toddler and a dodo (unless you are David Beckham).
We are so hard on mothers.
Mothers are so hard on themselves. We make each other feel dreadful.
I am sure we will have dodo fairies and all coming one day to take the offending items away but until then, my tall almost three year old and I will face the objections of Judge Dodo.
Easter was always about Lent ending to me. As as child, Lent was an insufferable length of time that stretched to infinity. I didn’t enjoy going to school. I didn’t eat sweets at school anyway. I just loved some timeout over the weekend with a book and a bar of chocolate.
I still do.
Suddenly Lent came along and stopped you in your tracks. Sacrifice? I may as well have given up happiness!
Easter started with Pancake Tuesday. It was fine.It just had that aura of the ‘beginning of the end’ about it as I attempted flipping pancakes.We were ten miles away from adventurous at all times in my house so the pancakes were basic with honey, lemon and sugar. I only add the good stuff now. Nutella. Strawberries. The pancakes seemed to cause arguments. We never had a decent frying pan for them, just the one pan from all…
I refer to the (unanswered) post above and will continue our tale.
My father, having had his triple bypass operation cancelled whilst on the table and under anaesthesia, was assured that his operating would take place the following Wednesday. (These ops only take place on Wednesday in St James’s hospital- if you are cancelled it means the long wet week again before your next opportunity). Each day he was assured. You are definitely on the list for Wednesday. You are top of the list. You will be seen to Wednesday. We prepared. Wednesday the 9th March would be IT.
I got time from work to be there. My sister planned flying home for the recuperation. My mother struggled through another week of cheap B&B life, in and out of the hospital, washing clothes in a sink, in the hope the operation would finally occur and we would begin the end period- recovery.
The morning of March 8th and my phone rings very early. My very distressed mother tells me that the operation had been cancelled at twelve pm that previous night. He had been in bed. The nurse had arrived in and told him that he wasn’t on the operating list for the next day. Not so much cancelled as not even planned. My mother contacted me as early as possible rather than upset my night too. She told me he was quite upset. He wanted to leave the hospital and swore he wouldn’t stay there that night.
My mother had been suspicious earlier that day as they had moved my dad to another ward. He was being taken away from the post op and into the regular ward. Mam looked for reassurance the operation would still go ahead. The nurse reassured her. All that day they had been reassured.
I got to the hospital as 11 am the day the op should have been happening. My dad was sitting in a hallway in a chair with my mother and all the luggage. A bit like Paddington Bear. He begged for no fuss. Could we just leave, he pleaded. He was upset. His lip shook. No one had been to speak to him. No explanation given.
I went to the cardiac unit and stopped at reception. I politely yet firmly requested to speak to Mr Toland (surgeon). I was told he was in surgery. I said I would wait. Helpful staff did their best and the Head Nurse promised he would speak to me soon.
Less than an hour later, after my desk stand off, I was in a waiting room with my trembling dad. I have rarely seen him so distressed and never so emotional. The surgeon and his team swept in. I was grateful they had come to speak to us but very annoyed that I had had to beg.
The surgeon was instantly cold to me. Hostile even. He pulled his chair knee to knee with my father. Told him again how his heart was in very poor condition. All the stuff we were told the week previous. My dad was cowed by the volume of people in front of him and tried to say what he felt. When I attempted to speak, the surgeon did not look at me and RAISED HIS PALM to silence me. I let him continue speaking about nothing new to Dad.
I then spoke. I said that it wasn’t good enough. Eye roll from surgeon. It wasn’t fair. Huffed breath from surgeon. That Dad and mam were living a sub-life waiting with no sight of an end. He bit at me. That is the system, he threw at me. That is not our fault. You should write to your TD. I told him that Dad had not even been given a reason for this second cancellation. ‘Emergencies’ he spat. One word. Nothing else. Bear in mind this guy’s opener was to explain how poor my dad’s heart was. Was he not an emergency? This surgeon is world weary. He is overloaded. He had no time for me and my attempts to protect my father, in fact he was openly agitated by my presence and opinions. His silent but sizeable team were but ornaments to the discussion. His support group whereas Dad only had me.
My dad said he wanted to leave. He couldn’t take another week waiting. Surgeon says it was no problem. Of course it wasn’t. They would call him again. Oh by the way, he would need a new MRI. The old one was out of date, he concluded.
Five weeks in hospital. Yet they still didn’t tell us this until now. That op had never been planned for that Wednesday or even the one before.
This surgeon swept out with his followers. I look at my dad. Trusting this man to cut him open just because he spoke a little to him about county football. This is so unfair. The inability for some Irish people to speak for themselves due to our censured, hypocritical, stigmatised and theocratic past allows these ‘gods’ of surgeons to play ludo with their lives.
My dad came home from hospital that day.
On the 3.45 train from Dublin. The train. The long walk to platform 8 from Houston. He still had his hospital stickers on. He was white and dizzy. He slept in starts.
This is the man who had been brought to St James in an ambulance from Tullamore hospital, a hospital which hadn’t let him out due to his poor condition. A hospital who had told him that his condition was so bad he needed monitoring until this operation, this triple bypass occurred.
It is Friday 24th. We are still waiting.
Where is dad since? No hospital called. No doctor. No MRI.
He is on my couch watching The Chase with an allergy to the topic of hospital.
My mother is losing weight daily with worry. My head is wrecked with it all.
Write to your TD. That is the medical advice we received. Be an activist for the reform of the health system when I need to prioritise my own family. That is the advice of the professional.
This state of ours is disgusting. We ignore the weak. We ignore educational needs. We ignore the struggling. We bail out bankers. We let large companies off their tax bill. We stamp on our own to look good to the rest of the world. This country hasn’t changed much since its inception.
I am appalled to tell people this story.
I get advice. Tricks. How to wangle the medical system. Can you believe that? My father who is the most honest tax payer of all time cannot get his urgent heart surgery because he isn’t a corrupt loudmouth.
It is April 6th. Almost a full month since we left the hospital. We are nowhere near being finished. Every time my mother calls my phone, my heart skips a beat. Every time my father drops off to sleep in the chair, I shudder.
Look at yourselves Minister and Taoiseach. Feel the guilt.