Thursday, 30 December 2010

Till we are called to Rise


I frequently find myself drifting back to memories from this time a year ago, when I was so blissfully unaware what was just a week ahead of me.

It's like she's still out there, the year ago me. Somewhere on the time continuum she is tidying up the wrapping paper from her daughters first christmas and discussing baby names with her husband for their unborn child. She's happy and in love. And I want to hold her hand as she begins to face the pain ahead of her, the months of being strung along, the awkwardness of finding herself pregnant and alone. But I can't. Instead I whisper to the wind:

We never know how high we are
till we are called to rise
and then if we are true to plan
our statures touch the skies
(emily dickenson)

Let's hope that 2010 will be safely filed away forever as the worst year of my life.

Only onwards and upwards for 2011 please! No more looking back, there are new frontiers ahead of me: Home owning, raising two children, figuring out what kind of a career I want (now that I'm all grown up), and who knows, maybe I may enter into the scary world of dating this year...

Thank you all so much for your support and listening ears this year, It's meant a lot.

xo





Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A Mummy For Two Years

Molly turned two last week. Unfortunately her birthday was spent unpacking boxes and hanging curtain poles, but it all needed done and she won't remember. I can hardly believe it's only been two years, It seems longer. So much has happened, so much has changed. I feel different, Motherhood changed me. It was like I found myself for the first time. I found something I could do, something I was born to do. Does that mean I'm great at it? No No No, but I do know how to do it and no one else can be Molly's mummy but me. It's my job. My vocation.

So much has happened in the last two years. I became a mum, I got pregnant again, I lost my husband, I moved house, moved country, returned to live near my family for the first time in 7 years, I found there is pride and solidarity in single parenthood, I met and named my son, gave birth to him pain relief free ( I like to drop that one in whenever I can ;o). And after all that, we've set up home again.

That's a lot for just two little years. When I look back at photos of myself from two years ago, I barely recognise myself. Who was that girl? I'm starting to agree that "A person is a collection of selves. We change over time, we never stay the same on our journey to the grave."

And then there is the Mollster. I can't believe how much she has changed in the last year. She took her first few unassisted steps a few weeks after her first birthday. Now she runs and climbs everywhere. These days she is a pro-jumper she just seems to bounce everywhere. A year ago she hadn't uttered her first word, now I can have a full fledged conversation with her. And now she is a big sister. And the best big sister I can imagine. She adores her little brother. ADORES him. She can't stop kissing and hugging him. His name is the first thing she says in the morning 'Wheres Finch? Mummy!'
She likes to join in on tummy time with her baby bro
She is a wonder. Making friends and winning fans wherever she goes. She won't let anybody push her about. Strong willed and full of dances. I love her. I like here.

I stumbled upon this image a few months ago and have been saving it for the right occasion. It is beautiful but it makes me teary.

Happy Birthday My Girl.


Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Painting Clothes

Hello there. How's it going?

Me? Well, I haven't been out of my painting clothes in over two weeks*. I've been ripping up carpet, stripping wallpaper, damp proofing and painting, painting, painting. I feel like it will never end. It's a little overwhelming but also very exciting. I can't believe It's mine...ours, all three of us with our very own bedrooms. I can't wait to get to the fun part of moving in furniture and hanging pictures on the walls.

In the meantime here is a picture of my boy, beautiful, smiley, very fond of rolling over and allllwaaays awake. I thought babies were supposed to be sleepy? Not this one, he doesn't like to miss a thing.

I want to point out that the shirt he is wearing here is actually Molly's. With a little bit of sleeve rolling they can fit the same clothes, crazy.

* Ok, Ok, I got out of my painting clothes once to see one of my hero's in the flesh. Mark Kermode, aka The Good Doctor, was doing a Q&A session and film screening in Belfast last week. If you're a movie lover you should definitely tune into the Kermode and Mayo Film Review Podcast. Even if you don't agree with him on everything you'll appreciate his convictions/rants and you'll have a little chuckle along the way.

This is my starstruck face, not the most flattering of faces, it has to be said.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Unveiling of Finch's Secret Middle Name


Confession, I was extremely, embarrassingly late in registering Finch's birth. Here in the uk you need to make an extra special trip to 'The Registrar' (sounds like a bad thriller). So a full twelves weeks after Finch's birth I shamefully made my way to 'The Registrarrrrr'. Finch was all cosied up in the Baby Bojrn and Moll was toddling by my side. I wandered in and began with my red-faced apologies for my tardiness.

-------------------------

Lady no.1: I was just saying to (lady no.2) that this couldn't be a birth registration because the baby looked far too old


Me: Yes, yes I'm so sorry, i'm terrible, I've just been so busy with these two


Lady no.2: You know your child benefit won't be fully backdated?


Me: yes, i'm sorry.


---------------------------


It wasn't until I was working through some of the details on the form, namely the fathers details and my maritial status, that 'Lady no.1' looked up at me and said 'Ah , yes, you have been busy'.


'Uh yeah'


However, I am grateful for my tardiness on this issue. It gave me extra time to think carefully about his name. Names have been on my mind a lot lately. Should I change mine? if so, can I change the kids? Would I get consent to do so? Would I go back to my 'maiden' name? or should I chose a new one altogether? Blah Blah Blah.


With all these questions, doubts and ideas bubbling around in my head I had a good long think about Finch's name. I've never doubted his forename for a second, it is brim full of meaning and I love it. But, for reasons that shall remain unsaid for now, I felt he needed an extra middle name. But what?


As the precedent had been set, It would need to have meaning, the 'I just liked the way it sounded' approach doesn't really work with me. I started to think of the names of admirable, history-making men. 'Bartlet', the president from West Wing came to mind.


And then I stopped myself. I wised up. He already has Atticus freakin' Finch as a role model, perhaps I should give the little guy a break, and maybe even a bit of a reality check. He's human and fully capable of making mistakes, perhaps even massive ones. Just because he is 'The Man of the House' doesn't mean we'll be sitting at his feet asking him to pass on his wisdom and guidance. And Then I smiled. Because there had been a name (or a word more so), all along, just waiting for me to realise how perfect it was.


Around a year ago, In the midst of 'the unravelling' I became addicted to the debut record from Mumford and Sons. These songs were pretty much on repeat for about 6 months. One evening when I was listening to the album in the company of friends, my oh-so-special-lady-friend Ms. Heather Kerr jokingly said to me "um, Alli - did you write these songs? Are you a secret member of Mumford and Sons?". I laughed But I also breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn't just me that thought these songs were so fitting for my crisis.


One particular song that spoke to me was this:


(Me and Heather now jovially refer to each other as 'brother' due to this very song.)


Hark


I won't go into it line by line, but I assure you, each sentence resonates strongly with me. It acknowledges the pain and desolation I feel but reminds me that whilst 'it may steal my innocence [but] it will not steal my substance'. It tells me that I am 'not alone in this'. It is particularly this verse that strikes deep within me:


"You are the mother, the mother of your baby child, the one to whom you gave life. And you have your choices, and that is what makes man great, his ladder to the stars"

I got to see Mumford and Sons in concert a few months ago. It was my first night away from Finch. I waited for this song anxiously, knowing it would bring up a lot of emotion in me. There were tears, there were hugs, there were even a few strange looks. But who cares, I threw my hands up in the air, closed my eyes and let the little bird inside my soul fly freely for a while.


(Photo taken of that very night by the very talented Mr Darren Anderson)


Upon falling in love with this song I researched the meaning behind the title. Timshel is Hebrew for 'Thou mayest'. The word is explored in John Steinbeck's book 'East of Eden' :


"The Hebrew word Timshel, which means ‘Thou mayest’ - gives man a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. It says the way is open... and throws it right back on a man.


‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods - for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.


And I feel that a man is a very important thing — maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed — because Timshel: ‘Thou mayest.’"


Timshel - It is resplendent with significance. It speaks with sorrow about the choices his father made. It empowers me by reminding me that I do have my choices. It is because I could run away that makes the staying so much sweeter.


And So this is my son's not-so-secret-anymore middle name. Finch Timshel Steen Magee. It's quite a mouthful and will probably not be used very often. But it's still important, at least to me. I could name him after all the most influential and nobel men in history but at the end of the day, he is his own little person with his own little (and large) choices to make. As his mother I cannot make his choices for him, I do not own him. Kahil Gibran says "you may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts." I must surrender to the fact that he has been granted free will, free choice


- Thou mayest.




Saturday, 6 November 2010

A Parliament

(Again, apologies for the poor quality of photos, still can't find my camera so they are still taken with a hijacked iphone)

This halloween we were a parliament of owls. I took inspiration from this tutorial and made us all little owl costumes. We attempted trick or treating but most people didn't answer their doors. In the first house that did, Molly ran straight into their hallway and took a tantrum when I told her we had to leave. At the second house Molly began shoveling marshmallow treats in her mouth, started to choke and had a mini vomit-fest right there in the doorway. Methinks she might be a little too young for this trickin' malarky. Finch tagged along too, so I really was chancing my luck.

I felt a little disappointed by the amount of people who wouldn't open their doors. It really doesn't matter if you have no candy, just open up your door, ask the kids what they are dressed up as and tell them they look great. That's all it takes.
Anyway, the whole day turned out to be a bit of a downer. After spending at least three evenings toiling away making the costumes until 1 am, we wore them for a maximum of 30 minutes and were seen by about 5 people. If I had gotten them made one day earlier we would have stole the show at the fancy dress contest in the town hall which was awash with only store bought costumes. Ah well, there is always next year.

They did make pretty cute owls though :o)

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Ode to the Apartment


8 months pregnant at the University of Ulster art show.

Only 6 months. That's all this little place has given shelter to our sleepy heads. It was always meant to be temporary. I've hung pictures and done my best to make it homely and it has served us well. but it has felt transitory and i'm ready for something more permanent. A garden to play in so we won't feel cooped up. A table to eat at, instead of dinner time spent with me leaning over the ktichen counter whilst molly kicks about in her antilop.


Pre-apartment and post-Canada I'd spent a few months intermittently living at my Dad's abode. Intermittently, considering there was an interval of a few weeks I was sleeping on the floor at a friends apartment which served as my refuge when father/daughter relations became strained. Sharing the same roof seven years after I'd left for my university dorm came as a bit of an unwelcome shock for both of us.


I had almost written off the significance of this apartment until I started to remember those pre-apartment days. It's only in looking back to those days that I realise how far I've come. Days when I could barely look at molly without feeling awash with fear and dread of my future. Days, and even weeks, when I didn't looked at Molly at all. I shudder to think of the distance I put between us back then. And I feel like I was robbed of the joy of motherhood for that period.


I filled my afternoons with long car journeys through the back country roads, where I'd hold raging imaginary arguments, yelling at the window shield and thumping my fist off the steering wheel. And the evenings were so long, at first filled with frantic and desperate phone calls followed by tightly bound rocking fetal positions(which isn't easy to do when you have an actual 6 month old fetus inside!). Then It became just about filling time, somehow, distracting myself from the unraveling that was going on around me. I was looking through photos with my not-so-wicked-stepmum when I found this one of me sewing for a craft fair. She accurately commented that "they where long and difficult nights". They were.


But the emphasis is on the were. This is my epiphany. Already, I am able to look back and see I have come a great distance in a very short space of time.


Somewhere along the way a corner was turned. And having a place just for me and moll was a big part of that. A place where I could no longer shirk my parental responsibilities. Where we could begin the work of undoing the damage done in those previous months, the distance i'd put between us. I needed to learn how to relate to her again, under these new terms, the 'sole parent' terms. Slowly I have gained in confidence and now It is only occasionally that I mutter 'I can't do this' under my breath. Because I am gradually learning that I can, many days it's simply that I must. 'Needs must' and all that. sometimes however, there are moments when everything is just perfect and my sole parent status is...preferential.


Recently I was given the task of drawing myself a lifeline and marking significant events along the way. Naturally, most of the marks on the line occurred within the last five years. But it dawned on me that ten years down the line, this era in my life will most likely become summarised by just one little notch. Trauma fades, time heals and someday i'll get a better perspective on this time.


6 months is not very long but it has provided a bridge from one precipice to another. So thank you little apartment.


** Still waiting on getting keys to the new house, there's a bit of a technical difficulty on the sellers side but I should hopefully have keys v.v.soon**







Saturday, 23 October 2010

Overwhelmed.

Folks, I am....trying to find a dramatic enough word to describe how tired I am. How busy. How overwhelmed. I'm moving at the end of the month. there is packing to be done, moving, painting. Molly has chosen to become inexplicably clingy to me and it makes parenting doubly exhausting. And Finch? well he's just the boy who doesn't like to be set down. Ever. He'll be four months soon and I still haven't got a full nights sleep. I know that's to be expected but it doesn't make me any less sleepy.

What's the worst, is that I've become one of those people who always talks about how busy they are, how tired, how they never have time for themselves. I've always hated people like me. Oops.

And when I do get a window to sit and breathe, I find myself just looking at the clock, counting down to when I have to return to my reality. I am a single mother of two children under two. I'm so tired that I feel pissed at everybody, I'm slowly developing a crater on my shoulder because It feels like everyone has it easier than me. Deep down, I know that if we were to truly see everybody's lot in life we'd pick our own every time. But what I know and how I feel are very different.

Rant Over.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Checking In.

There are so many things I want to write about, but alas, I'm having trouble finding time to write. So for now, here is a little photo tour of what we've been up to, please excuse the poor quality of photos, I haven't been able to locate my camera lately (it's probably buried under one of the many mountains of mess building up around me). Thus, these photos are mostly taken with friends Iphones which I frequently hijack.
This perfectly encapsulates the essence of Mr Finch. He is one seriously happy and giggly boy

I recently partook in a little evening with friends which involved some outdoor cinema. It was a magical evening of tasty food, twinkly tea lights, a full moon, and a crackling fire pit. We dragged the sofas outside and got cosy under blankets whilst watching So I Married an Axe Murderer and High Fidelity projected onto the side of a very pretty farmhouse.

Molly and Finch sport their matching pj's. I've never been a big fan of dressing siblings alike. But pj's are different and it's not so tacky considering they are opposing genders.

Molly had her first trip to the zoo. There was a lot of 'wowwww's that day.

...an attempt at a family photo and how I spend a lot of time these days, balancing them both on a knee each. They get along so well, I can barely believe it.

This is where Finch spends a lot of his waking time. I'm probably instilling a bit of a bad habit, he might turn out to be a very clingy toddler after being carried everywhere as a babe. There is rarely a day we don't go out for a walk.

Molly is getting to the age where she can enjoy crafts *excitedly clapping hands!*. Egg box cartons and yogurt pots are at the ready.



Thursday, 7 October 2010

Pecha Kucha

So just recently I did a spot of public speaking. To say I was nervous about this would be a bit of an understatement. Pre-speaking anxiety resulted in more than a few nights of interrupted sleep (never mind Mr Finch's night feeds) and one little occasion of rocking back and forth repeating 'I can't do this'. My dread was partly due to the sheer lack of 'me' time I was getting to prepare, but mostly because public speaking turns my knees to jelly and makes my mouth feel like I've been eating fists full of sand. Opinionated - I am, Outspoken - that's me. But throw in some lights, a crowd and a microphone and I'm a mess.

That being said, I survived.
The platform was Pecha Kucha Night in Belfast and the theme was 'Curiosity'. My speech was pretty disjointed and covered three different curious areas:

+ I spoke a little bit on how the process of knitting/sewing had awoke my curiosity in the creative process behind manmade items which hence resulted in my greater appreciation for craftsmanship.

+ Then I lapsed into a little nostalgic rant on how we should really look at things upside down more, Including The World. It really is quite curious.

+ Finally, I closed by distributing my belief that perhaps social networking isn't just sheer 'nosiness' in each others lives but can be a valid tool for healthy curiosity and genuine sharing. Because if

...'Our Greatest Fear and Greatest Desire is to be Known'

...then the fulfillment of our greatest desire depends upon the curiosity of others. Oui, Oui?

Round of applause, thank ya very much. It was a fun experience and It was nice to feel a little bit proud of myself for 'facing my fears' and all that. Altogether, a great night out, the other speakers were both interesting and funny and it's a quirky way to get to know other creatives in your area, kinda like grown up show and tell.




Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Sneak Peek

Just a few photies from my soon to be home. They aren't the best photos, I felt the watchful eye of the estate agent as I was taking them.




This carpet has gotta go.




Tuesday, 14 September 2010

+++


Remember the 'granny chic' house I was lusting after? Well, there is a sold sign up and I will soon be the proud owner of all it's vintage charm. I cannot wait to get painting and start hanging pictures. Should be at least another month till we three are calling it home.

Here's little snap of me enjoying a weekend away with friends (and Mr Finch). My new Primark booties haven't been off me since I got them last month. Here they be teamed with a vintage shirt and some high waisted jeans.

And Ms Mini Magee seems to be following suit with her love of fashion. This little lady knows how to don her garb in style. I promise you this is not a staged photo, the shades and bag combo were completely of her own making:
I've been desperately trying to find the time to do some crafti-work lately. Last month I made my Pops a laptop case for his birthday and I'm hoping to make a few more of these beauts for my Etsy shop (remember the days when I had a Etsy shop? I barely do).
That is if I ever manage to detach myself from Finchums, even now I am one handed typing whilst feeding him. Normally the evenings would be my most productive time as Moll would be down for the night. But baby brother seems to like to party on down at night. So 'Me Time' has been postponed till 10pm every evening, when I am much more inclined to crash out in front of the tv than toil away at my sewing machine. Still I will find a way somehow...


Saturday, 4 September 2010

My Own Shining Armour


Being single again means I am again feeling the pressure society puts on us all to couple up. I do the best I can to dismiss this pressure. I tell myself at least a handful of times each day that I must learn to be happy alone, that I can't just spend my days waiting for someone to make me happy, I must find happiness within. And I'm getting there, somedays, sometimes.

Besides, knights in shining armour do not exist. I know that now.

So I dress myself in my own armour. Made up with the mantras of modern day womanhood

who needs a man anyway

enforced with a (debatably) healthy dose of cynicism

they just cheat

and then for maximum self defense I build a bullet proof vest of self doubt

at least they do on me

From behind my shield I whisper.... When will I just be held again?....Kissed?

When will I offload my armour, strip off the 'Mum' costume I sport everyday and just be figuratively (and literally) naked and yet not alone.

Ever?

I pay lip service to the advantages of singledom. I tell myself this is just the way I want it.

But really

When lovers kiss in movies

I look away.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

I'm Right Where I'm Supposed To Be

A few days before I went in for induction I wrote this on a piece of paper and stuck it on my mirror. It's come in handy over the last few weeks, whenever I feel overwhelmed and want to scream, cry, rock back and forth, run away... I catch a glimpse of this and am comforted by the assurance that:
I'm still working on my birthing story post. Let me warn you, It's becoming longer and longer. I want to remember everything so I'm gleaning every single detail from my memory and recording it.

Until then, here's a picture of me and the man of the house
And this is an accurate depiction of family life. Notice Molly taking a tantrum on the ground, my fake smile and the fact that Finch's head looks like it's about to roll off! Good times, good times.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Meaning of Finch...


When I returned to Ireland in January I was in a state of desperation and clutching at anything to fix my marriage. I'd made the 25 hour journey back with Molly as my home had become 'emotionally unsafe'. I had spent two weeks sitting next to a man who couldn't decide wether to discard me like an old pair of socks or cling to me and beg me to save him from himself. I was constantly looking at him sideways and asking him if he was ok, literally motioning a thumbs up signal with a questioning look! What I was really asking was 'right now, in this second, am I in or out? Am I a keeper or not?'.

When I arrived in Ireland I begged my family and friends not to hate him, I pleaded with them to see that he was 'not himself' that he was ill and needed help. I was contacting my doctor and inquiring about how to have him admitted for psychiatric care. I frantically text messaged friends and family with prayer requests and organised a day of fasting on behalf of my marriage. I met with his closest and oldest friends and spilled out every detail of our marriage in the hope that they could help somehow. It actually resulted in one particular guy flying over to spend a week with him. A week where we all sat waiting to hear a positive sign that things were improving. But there was nothing positive to report. The more he talked, the more resolute he became.


After a month I had clutched at all my straws and exhausted every last effort. I was deflated and bereft of hope.

Hope?

What could that word mean to me now? I thought i'd been so desperately hoping that whole time, doing all I could, anything at all, to repair things.

But I have learnt and am continually learning that hope is not an action, not a task that I can execute. It is not a phonecall, an email, a late night vigil at old make-out points to offer up some sort of sacrifice. And hope, does not stick to an agenda.

Hope is the thing with feathers,
that perches in the soul
and sings the tune without the words
and never stops at all....

I had run out of all ideas and had no words left. But there was still a tune to be sung. Not by me, but by the little bird in my soul. In february I had a scan and learnt that the child living inside me was to be a son. That afternoon was particularly traumatic, a story for another time perhaps. A few days later I found myself wandering through Belfast seeking out the perfect little bird necklace. I wanted something to carry around to remind me of the Emily Dickinson poem which had became my personal mantra.

Something I could look at and visualise the little bird who kept on singing even when I didn't know what to hope for anymore, but whose tune kept me getting out of bed every day, kept me eating, kept me alive.

I was looking at a pendant of a little swallow in flight when It suddenly dawned on me. The name we had chosen if Molly was to be a boy was Finch. The name had been drawn from To Kill a Mocking Bird's protagonist, the most admirable Atticus Finch. A noble man fighting against the odds for justice. That afternoon as I stood looking at the depiction of a bird in flight I felt so struck by the avian significance of the name Finch.

Finch - the little bird, living within me, my hope. I no longer needed a necklace. I had the approaching due date instead. Hope was growing inside me and someday I would give birth to my hope.

And I did....
He will forever be a reminder to me that life does not follow an agenda and sometimes we don't even know what to hope for. But we are stronger than we know we are and there is beauty around the corner we could not have dreamt of.

Sometimes in the form of snuggly, sleepy, magical, newborns.

Thank you Mr Finch.

*** The top picture is a beautiful painting my wonderful friends in Canada had commissioned for me when I told them of the significance behind my chosen name! so beautiful! ***


Friday, 16 July 2010

Introducing Finch Steen Magee



8.6lbs of sheer perfection and delivered in a birthing pool PAIN RELIEF FREE! Birthing story and a little insight into his name to follow. Just give us a little chance, we are still in hospital for another 24 hours.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Dear Mr Bump,


I'm trying to be patient and all, but I'd really like to meet you soon. You have a lot of people waiting who love you and are looking forward to snuggling with you. Including your beautiful big sister who will just adore playing with you (though it may take a little while for her to master this art - you'll be pretty small and sleepy and even a little grumpy at the start).
Maybe you've heard a lot of unhappy noises over the last 6 months, crying, shouting and such, but please don't let that taint your view on the great big world. Life is beautiful and quite the adventure.

So come on out and greet us, we aren't scary.

Love you,
Mum-ee.