Sunday, November 28, 2010

No Place Like Home At Christmas

For anyone who is torn this Christmas between putting their money towards a charity gift or a “real one,” the Jack and Jill Foundation’s short story collection There’s No Place Like Home at Christmas might just tick both boxes, at least for the under tens in your life.

This lovely hardback book has 29 stories in total, all centred around the idea of being at home for Christmas, tying in well with the important work Jack and Jill do, providing nursing support and respite for families of children with brain damage so they can receive care at home. Alongside yours truly, other contributors include Maeve Binchy, Ciara Geraghty, Niall Quinn, Eddie Hobbs, Cathy Kelly, Patricia Scanlan and, as they say, many, many more!

Why not pick it up this week and make it into a type of storybook Advent calendar to read with your kids? Healthier for the kids than chocolate and arguably healthier for the adults than spending the time watching endless analysis of our financial situation on the news!

The book is available for €14.99 in shops, or you can purchase online directly from the publishers Mercier for a special price of €13.49 on the link below...;_Jill_Foundation%29/571/

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fly me to the moon

I’ve always been a little obsessed by the moon. My mother recalls how as a baby I’d stare at it, craning my neck to see around the pram’s hood when it went out of sight. When I learned how to work my arms the staring was joined by pointing and ‘moon’ was one of my first words. The obsession lasted into my childhood, and even though it was a blow to discover it wasn’t actually made of cheese, the moon still holds a magnetism for me today.

So that’s why on my way home tonight, when I saw it hanging out so full and round, half hidden by a smoky cloud over Spar in Monkstown, I knew I had to take a detour down to the sea. By rights, I should’ve gone straight home, I didn’t have time to be faffing around, finding parking and the perfect spot to snap a photo of the moon. I should’ve been doing stuff back here, stuff that would be finished by now, people who would be e-mailed, washing that would be drying, phonecalls that would be made. And more of my novel would be written, because that’s what I should be doing now, instead of updating this blog. Which, by the way, I should’ve done yesterday.

I should feel guilty about all of that, but I don’t. I’m just happy with my photo of the moon, so happy, I want to put it on my blog and share it with you. And all of the little ramble to here, got me wondering what life might be like, what things we might share or learn or enjoy, if we all let go of our ‘shoulds’ every now and then, just for a little while...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Because I am a girl

As readers of this blog will know, I don’t typically use it as a platform for politics or to tackle the big issues of the day. For one thing, I usually blog to take a break from more serious topics, it’s a chance to be a little more reflective. For another, there are enough information sources online already, written by people who are much better informed on these topics than I am.

But when I was asked to be a guest blogger as part of Plan Ireland’s “Because I am a Girl” campaign, I knew I wanted to get involved. And that was before I’d seen the really shocking statistics.

For me, one of the saddest parts of charity advertising campaigns, particularly those around Africa, is how much it takes to actually shock. It’s just so easy to become immune, to switch off, to listen to statistics and numbers but not to hear.

Plan Ireland’s campaign is full of numbers, terrible numbers. Numbers of women who are not in school, who are born to teenage mothers, who have HIV and AIDS. But of all of them the one that really hit me was this one:

70,000 girls every day are forced into marriage.

Every day. That happened today. It will happen tomorrow. By the time we’ve seen the X Factor results on Sunday night that’s over 200,000 teenagers – some girls as young as 12 – who’ll be forced into marriages, ending their education and their freedom. Soon, they’ll have children, and if those children are girls, the cycle will begin again and again. Unless we do something to try and stop it.

If you have a chance read the blog, comment, watch the video, tell other people, start a conversation. If you have the cash, make a donation or sponsor a child.

Only last week a client and I were having a chat – a rant really – about how about 90% of marketing directors in Ireland are male and about how writing by men is usually classed as ‘literary fiction’ while writing by women falls into the ‘chick lit’ category. These imbalances are important, of course they are, and we should talk about them.

But there are other, more important, more life threatening imbalances taking place all over the world, today. And I think we need to talk about them as well.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

5 things I like about here

The last time I updated this blog I was in Brooklyn and I said I wasn’t good at endings. Today, I’m in Dublin, it’s a week since I’ve come home and I’m wondering if maybe I’m not so hot on transitions either?

The thing about this week is that even though my body has been here, for a lot of the time my head – and my heart – has been in New York. I’ve found it easy to disappear down some time and space tunnel where I start to play the “this time last week” game. You know the one. For me it came up particularly during unscheduled challenges – work stresses, an emergency dental appointment, eircom cutting off my e-mail – and suddenly I’d be three thousand miles and seven days away – walking the Highline from 14th street, writing at one of the long tables in the reading room in the New York Public Library, playing ping pong in Fat Cat’s.

It can be an enjoyable game, but an addictive one, so to stop it turning into some kind of post trip slump, yesterday I challenged myself to find five things that Dublin does better than New York.

To be honest, it wasn’t that hard. I live by the sea and to be able to get there in a few minutes, to see the waves and smell the air could account for numbers one to three at least. And then there’s the fact that living here I have a garden and in mine the climbing roses are still blooming, still bright orange, in November. Numbers one and two easily accounted for. Last night, watching Ireland versus South Africa in our fancy new stadium I reflected on how much better a game rugby is than baseball – even when we’re losing – which made three, and at a push for a fourth I conceded Superquinn in Blackrock is a nicer shopping experience than Associated
on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn where the cashiers only speak Spanish. But that still left an empty slot at number five.

Anyone reading this who knows me well will know that yoga has become a big part of my life, something more than just a way to keep fit. New York is smorgasbord of yoga with every different type on offer and during my nine weeks there I sampled quite a few. I went to top studios with top teachers, teachers who travel around the world to train other teachers, the teachers who go on to teach people like me. The studios have their own water filter water systems and decorative fountains and branded yoga mats and flip flops to borrow if you need to use the loo during the class. You could say they’ve thought of everything.

This morning I found myself in my usual Sunday morning routine, heading to my class in a small studio in Dun Laoghaire. I’ve been going there for a couple of years now and I know the teacher well, the other students too. This morning, there were seven of us and it was a Sunday morning both the same and different than every other Sunday morning I’ve spent there. We shared hugs and confessions about who’d been out last night. We shared the celebration of a first handstand. We explored some deeper ideas about how to reach your potential and laughed at how much harder it is to actually balance standing on one leg when someone is trying to help you.

New York yoga has a place in my heart and my hips and my hamstrings, don’t get me wrong. But give me Sunday mornings in Sunrise any day. So thank you Frank and everyone in the class for helping me find my number five!

PS - let me know if you've more to add to the list!