Saturday, January 26, 2013

Doll's Knickers

This morning Isabelle got a little glimpse of what she has missed out on by not having had the opportunity to meet her Grandma when she realised that this little pair of doll's knickers was made by my mother.

Look at the detail on them...properly hemmed at the waistline and the lace sewn on with a double row of stitching. That's just a little panties, it wasn't even going to be 'seen' as such, but it was just one of the many many beautifully crafted doll's clothes my mother made. Not alone that, she also made lovely dresses for us and it wasn't unknown for us to snuggle up at night wearing hand-made brushed cotton pyjamas. Our hats and gloves were always made in our favourite colours with matching or co-ordinating bobbles on top.

My mother had six children yet not one of us ever felt lacking for one-to-one time. We knew we and our dolls were special. We didn't have many or expensive toys but we never noticed that. In those days Santa Claus really did make toys. I remember one Christmas Santa delivered a beautiful doll's wardrobe which he must have painted just a few hours earlier, having first waited many long hours for six excited children to fall asleep. There was a little 'wet paint' sign hung on the door which was finished just like real furniture with those cute animal transfers typical of the 1970s.

When the recipient was finally given permission to carefully open the wardrobe, she was thrilled to find it filled with intricately crafted outfit after outfit, pyjamas, dressing gown, vests, knickers...all either carefully ironed and folded on one of the shelves or hanging neatly on tiny real wire hangers made by my father. It must have taken months for both my parents to complete that toy though it probably cost next to nothing in financial terms.

Other Christmases there were doll houses made from scratch, complete with hinged windows, doors and handmade furniture. (which withstood years of battery, I clearly remember the upturned tiled roof was a super see-saw!) a huge rag-doll called Flopsy, complete with amazing clothes (in fact to date I have yet to see a rag doll so lovely), quirky stuffed toys...and the thing is...I don't think my parents were that unusual.

What one of us thinks we have the time or ability to do all those things for our children? Personally I wouldn't even know where to start trying to make a dolls dress, properly made with darted bodice and pleated skirt. Though I can knit quite well (painstakingly taught by my mother when I was about 15) sewing is just not my forte. I have never knit an item of clothes for a doll. I do bits and pieces of crafts, baking reading aloud and suchlike with my children but it pales in comparison to what my parents did for all of us.

What has happened? By and large families were relatively larger and poorer than they are now, and yet mothers had time and the will to do all that. I know we never had a shop bought birthday cake or a dinner out of a box. We had home made bread, pies, real toffee and fudge, even our easter-eggs were made by my mother, and nobody thought that was unusual. If that happened now you'd be Queen of Pinterest. We'd seek acclaim on FaceBook and Blog about our skills. (Well I would anyway!!)

The saddest thing of all is that the history and memories of those times in my country are horribly marred and distorted by the heinous acts of brutality and abuse inflicted by some. It has come to the state that if you say something good about the past the answer is quite likely to be "Ah yea, that was nice for you...but..." The permission to have happy memories has all but been snatched away. Part of the far reaching effect of sin. The innocent are tarred with the guilty.

Well, as I look fondly at that little pair of dolly knickers, I'll tell you this...I'm not ashamed to say my mother was a great father was and is a great man. They were the norm. People were good. They were selfless and hard working and uncomplaining. I'm not going to apologise that I had an idyllic childhood. It's not wrong to have a good childhood even if another child does not. What's wrong is that that child is not treated well, or cared for, or loved. God wants all children to have a happy childhood, not that everyone is dragged down to the lowest common denominator. Let's aim to raise the bar. Let's aim to emulate the good parents of previous generations, not throw ditch water at them and trample on their memory for something they knew nothing of.

I am convinced my mother was a great saint. I am convinced that many of the adults I knew growing up were great saints. I honour their memory. I am thankful for a happy childhood. My heart breaks for the lost childhoods of the past just as it does for the lost childhoods of today. The  abused children whose suffering at this moment is brushed under the carpet because it serves no politically correct agenda. The non-national teenagers and young adults who as I write this are victims in this very country of human sex trafficking, who are going to be raped by men of my generation tonight and who some pimp is going to become rich from.  The women who in this week weep lost children, all 55 million in USA, all 7 Million in UK. The uncounted Irish lost...

Oh yes my heart breaks for human suffering and all the more to resolve that children will have a happy childhood like I had...that dolls will have little garments made by loving hands, that children can play in their pyjamas in a warm room in a secure environment knowing they are cherished. How to do that? By protecting families. By protecting marriage, not ripping it to shreds.  By protecting the relationship between woman and man. By not succumbing to the idea that everyone is there to serve me, to give me pleasure, to fit my plan or purpose. What a selfish way to live. The parents of the 50s, 60s 70s and earlier knew how to GIVE. Maybe they didn't have psychological studies or parenting gurus to consult, but they knew that a little pair of lace knickers, small enough for a dolly made for the turning out of secure adults. The investment was total. I hope to God I can live up to even a shadow of that standard.

Thank You Mammy...I am forever grateful for the hours you spent stitching tiny clothes, making dinners and passing on the knowledge of secure love. Thank You. xxx

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Little Bit Of Geneva In All Of Us

When I was quite a newly-wed, my husband and I travelled to France to spend the Easter holidays with a friend who was in his class in Med School.  Six of us made the three day journey from Ireland to the French-Swiss border in two cars-our friend's (who was staying on after we returned to Ireland), and ours.  So the journey home comprised of five of us my little old Toyota  Starlet.

 The five of us (not counting all our luggage) included my husband the driver, two young women, a 6 foot something young man and me...6 months pregnant.

The poor tall student  bravely tried to be chivalrous to the pregnant lady, but every so often his long legs just had to be afforded the slightly more generous leg space of the front seat.  Comfortable it was not.  However, it was my first trip to France so I was delighted in spite of that.  The trip promised the added attraction of visiting Switzerland, possibly the most picturesque place I've ever seen, reminiscent of The Sound of Music...just gorgeous.

Well we did visit Switzerland, I have clear memories of a mountain picnic and me slipping and sliding on the snow of  the Swiss-French Alps, admiring the view of Mont Blanc and trying to ignore the fact that the only footwear I had brought was a thin pair of slip-on shoes. 

 We ate cheese stew in the village of Greuyere and we went shopping in Geneva.

Now I have to remind you that at that time, Ireland was and always had been pretty much one of the poorest European countries.  Luxury was the exception and high end designer brands were more or less sold in a designated corner of one or two expensive department stores.  In Geneva there were no department stores that I could see of.  Every designer, brand-name and luxury item had it's own designated store.  A shop selling just ONE brand?? Wow!  Everywhere you looked was luxury and opulence.

(Orange juice in Geneva and me looking quite nicely pregnant and sitting beside our long-legged friend!)

  Not a single person was cheaply or shabbily dressed (apart from us that is:-))  From shoes to shades to designer pedigree dog, everything was the best on the market.  The cars were all top of the range.  My goodness...even the Policemen looked like they were off a Hollywood movie set with their cool boots and chains.  John and I looked and looked for something we could buy as a souvenir of our holiday.  In the end, the only thing in the entire country we could afford was 


(we still have it!)

It cost us an arm and a leg!

Well anyway, I remember commenting to John on that trip to Geneva that it would be very difficult for a person living in that sort of material opulence not to be touched by it.  It's easy to resist the lure of consumerism and materialism when nobody around you has any money.  It's a different matter when you're the exception.  Then it's a struggle.  If everyone around you is wearing Italian designer clothes, you could be tempted to feel a bit inferior in your Marks & Spencer outfit.  You have to make a constant effort to not succumb to avarice and envy.

So here's where I get to my point...WHY do I think I need an iPad?

A few years ago we were visiting friends in Scotland.  One of the husbands works in IT and he was explaining to us what an iPod was.  His wife showed us her new iPod nano and how she could hold all her songs there, so tiny, such a clear quality sound...


Christmas came and on cue, a blue iPod appeared under the Christmas tree, along with a black one I bought my metal fan husband.

Oh wow! I couldn't believe it! All my...songs...all 300 of them!  Before long I had discovered podcasts, games, it was beyond my wildest dreams.  I'd rave to anyone who was interested enough to listen how they could find the best podcasts, how you could listen to them while you were cleaning. Just Wow!

That was until a few years later I heard of the iPhone.

I got it for my a box...

Now this really was beyond my wildest dreams...
Even opening the box was a sublime experience!

We could never have even imagined an iPhone when I was growing up.

It came just in time for me to be in hospital with my little girl.
It would help pass the time.
  I could keep in touch,
 I could update her blog.
 In fact it was the hospital which was the trigger for getting it.

That was an iPhone 3GS and I still have it.

Last autumn when our little girl started to become noticeably breathless indicating that she needs her next operation, I joked to John that I'll need an iPad for the hospital.  I was half joking whole in earnest and as time has ticked by I have been thinking more about getting one.  Maybe an iPad mini? I've priced them. I've looked at them, I've asked around. 

So when we met the surgeon last week and he indicated Louise's operation will be in the next few weeks I had a little panic...I've no iPad...what will I do??!! Who will lend me one??!!

A few days ago John asked me  'Why do you need an iPad?'

I had no answer.  My phone does everything an iPad can do.  If I want to watch movies we have a little DVD player.  Last time it was actually a small radio John brought in that kept me most company.  I have a pile of books I'm dying to read but never have time.  One thing you have in hospital is time...plenty of it.  Once Louise wakes up she'll need her Mammy, not an iPad.  

I had to admit it...I don't need an iPad.

Do I want one?


  The way I want to go to Disney World, 
the way somehow everyone wants to go to Disney World.

Do I need one?

Definitely not.

I wanted an iPad because other people have an iPad.  They look cool and fun.  They're bigger than my phone but mainly I wanted one because I had unknowingly stepped onto the ever increasingly slippery slope of consumerism.  My iPhone 3 is beyond magic to me.  It tells me how to get where I want to go, I can watch a (little) movie if I want, I can photograph my children, I can Facebook my friends, it tells me how to get rid of that stain or what to make for dinner.  There's beauty and news on there, or a debate if I so choose.  How did I get to the point where I was looking at it a feeling a little bit...well...shabby...compared to my friends who have an iPhone 5 or an iPad, or something else I'd like.

I think it's because there's a little bit of Geneva in all of us.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

So More Doctors Smoke Camels Do They?

OK, this isn't going to be a 'get your life in order, girl, it's the New Year don't ya know' sort of post.  It's more a bit of me throwing my tuppence ha'penny into the wind and maybe somebody might benefit a bit from it.

I've said before on this blog that the most important relationship in a family is that of the husband and wife.  Not the mother and child, not the Dad and the boys or Dad and the the girls, not the 'keep the children entertained and happy at all costs', not the spouses and their careers and most definitely not the mother and the iPhone.  Well I haven't said not the mother and the iPhone before but I'm saying it now.

Long ago in the early days of cigarettes smoking was thought to be harmless, you know..More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette...gave the impression that cigarette smoking was actually endorsed by doctors.  Some went so far as to suggest that smoking was beneficial to health.  We know now that that is rubbish and anybody who lights a cigarette for the first time now is fully aware of the long term and multiple health, financial and social consequences of their actions...a fool in other words. Not so of the generations who first experienced the 'joys' of social smoking. It was chic and fashionable. They were blissfully unaware of any consequence and so could not be blamed for the ill health they or their children suffered down the line.

I'm going to propose that this generation is in the midst of something similar. Only the consequences aren't so much related to the damage to our health.  I think the consequence is the damage to our personal relationships and in particular to marriage.  This is the first generation where practically everybody has access to unlimited information, unlimited entertainment, unlimited everything the internet has to offer, the city that never sleeps...Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, always there, undemanding and fun.  We've launched headlong into the online party and we're all having a great time.  I think that's fine.  Except...we should know, there's no such thing as a free lunch.  Internet is free (we think), Facebook is free, so is Twitter, so is Pinterest, YouTube and all the rest.  So what's the price? Is there a price? Are we paying it? I think we are...or we will, unless we realise that like smoking, the internet can cause damage. Oh yes, even to us adults whose job it is to guide and instruct those entrusted to our care. 

I think part of the price that will be paid for the convenience of the entire world in our back marriage.

That sounds a bit dramatic, and it is a dramatic thing to say. I'll say it again your marriage.

I have brought this topic up in conversations a few times over the last few months.  The response I've received has done nothing to convince me that marriage is not damaged, not by the internet per se, but rather by the way we use it.  And I think it is happening to the best of marriages. I recently spoke to a newly married couple about the danger of iPhones/iPads and so on to a marriage relationship which by it's very nature needs conversation, intimacy and time to grow and thrive.  Both of the spouses cheerfully admitted that their evenings are typically spent each on their respective iPad and not much conversation would pass between them.  The frightening thing was...BOTH of them thought this was normal and fine.  

We only have one computer in our home-a laptop.  With the number of people with 'things' to do using the computer, it's been a built in protective to any one person overspending time online.  Firstly it's obvious you're on the computer, it's cumbersome and you can't do anything else at the same time, apart from watch some brain-dead television perhaps.  Introduce smart phones to the picture and it's a completely different scenario.  It's so easy to flick, or slide, should I say, the phone on and check updates, statuses, tweets, pins. It is as Oscar Wilde would say...The Maximum of Temptation With the Maximum of Opportunity.  That's fine when your time is your own, but what when the constant checking is done in moments which out of justice belong to someone else?  Your spouse. Is it a form of stealing? Stealing time that belongs to your marriage and to your spouse.  I certainly know that there have been plenty of moments when my husband was trying to converse with me and I've been distracted with something on Facebook or in a Twitter discussion or some other online activity.

No matter how altruistic our internet conversations or discussions are, they should not be at the expense of the person to whom we have promised something more than the view of the back of a computer or criss-crossed fingers holding a phone.

Marriage is more important.  If you are Christian, and believe Christian teaching...Marriage is nothing short of our path to Heaven. A reflection of God's spousal love for US.  Wow!! That's pretty big eh? Big enough to be worth protecting from the storms which blow from every angle. 

Internet addiction is being named more and more by psychologists. I think as parents we tend to see the dangers for our children and teens, while at the same time missing the elephant in the room...our own internet follies.  It's very hard to correct teens for something we ourselves are guilty of.  We practice and display temperance in every other area of our lives and yet our children can at times find it hard to get our attention.  In some ways I think the phenomenon is similar to the smokers of old.  The internet is new.  It can do so much good, it benefits our lives no end.  But we need to proceed with care, knowing now what we did not know ten years ago...the addictive element to the internet.

Like any habit, good or bad, practising it is what makes it become part of us.  So how we treat the internet should be one of the habits we are constantly trying to develop for the good.  Allocating specific times.  Setting time limits, making a list of what we want to do or check while online are all useful tools.  I don't think banning the computer is a good throw the baby out with the bathwater, you cut off the friends you maybe only know online...and I've said repeatedly, they are real people and not unimportant.  Sometimes just becoming aware of a trap is enough to help us to avoid it.  A method I've personally used from time to time is to change my passwords and ask one of my older girls to key in a new one for me.  It just reduces the temptation to constantly 'check' as I have to find her to log me on. I'm still in touch with what's going on, I'm still joining in the fun but it's just a simple tool to help develop the good habit of using the internet and my time properly. 

So as 2013 begins, my personal goal is to become an internet master.  Master of what I do online, master of the time I spend and most importantly, master of knowing that my husband is more important than my slick Tweets, than my Facebook likes, than the most beautiful of Pins and even more important than my very, very profound blog posts.

And now I can't share this till tomorrow as my teenage password holder is asleep in bed. Oh well..

Happy New Year everyone!!