Mother’s Day

In my novel Someone To Come Back To, Dr. Maggie O’Brien seeks the seclusion of the Adirondacks for some peace and to undertake some clear-headed thinking about her life. One of the things she finally faces with brutal honesty is her relationship with her mother and her contribution to that relationship and how she hasn’t always been fair to her mother. She realizes what most of us realize at some point – the breathtaking amount of work and effort her mother put in to ensure she and the rest of her family had a happy and as smooth running a life as possible. I’m sharing the excerpt here in honour of all the Mothers on Mother’s Day – enjoy!

“She remembered her last boyfriend Tim, and his pleas to her to leave the E.R. and get engaged, to become Mrs. Taylor and follow him to a life in the burbs, from where he intended to commute to work every day and leave her rearing their children.  His vision of domestic bliss had only revealed itself under the influence of a lot of alcohol at the staff Christmas party and Maggie had realized there and then their relationship was over.  It had spluttered on for a few more months, mainly due to their hectic work schedules but Maggie had finally ended it.

The idea of her as some sort of housewife, trying to juggle domestic commitments with raising children was the stuff of her own personal horror movie.  She could barely manage her life as a single woman, never mind trying to keep small people alive and cared for.  And there was the rub, the thing she didn’t understand, the thing she wanted to put under a microscope and examine forensically and the thing she was simultaneously terrified to look at.

She was a successful trauma surgeon, a key member of the E.R. team at Hillview.  She was an intelligent, accomplished woman, excellent at her job and committed to her work.  But that’s where her success stopped.

Her apartment was a disaster zone.  It was constantly a mess. She struggled to keep on top of the basics such as washing, ironing and cleaning.  Her bills were consistently overdue and she’d had her phone and power disconnected on more than one occasion.  She barely had time to shop, never mind cook and her diet consisted basically of take-outs and frozen dinners.  And this for a trauma surgeon!  She knew if she kept going in this vein she’d be bringing a major trauma on herself.

Then there was her social life. Apart from the occasional drinks with colleagues and the few times a year she met up with former friends from university, she didn’t have a social life.  She didn’t do anything.  She seemed to remember a time when she used to go for a run or a bike-ride but there just didn’t seem to be any time in her schedule anymore to do those things.  And then there was her sex life.

Hmmmm… she thought to herself, I’m back to that old bogey.  She simply didn’t have a sex life.  Other than a fumble with an intern about a year ago, she had zip, nada, zilch.

No wonder I’m swooning over some guy I met in the woods, she thought baldly to herself.

How was it her life differed so greatly from her father’s? He had worked the E.R. all his life and had always been impeccably turned out, not slinking into work in yet another crumpled shirt and the same pants for three days in a row.  He had eaten like a king and found time for a walk every day, his “constitutional” he had called it.  His bills were always paid promptly and she never remembered a time when their phone or power had been disconnected.  He had always had time to spend with each of his kids every day.  She barely had time to herself.  He had been her hero and she had grown up wanting to be just like him.

Hillview had welcomed her with open arms, delighted to have the daughter of E.R. legend Dr. Dan O’Brien on staff.  And she was doing her best to live up to that legend.  She’d always thought that was what she wanted and in the beginning it had felt great.  She’d been totally buzzed up following in her eminent father’s footsteps but after a few years and the sheer grind of the E.R. the buzz had started to fade.

She loved her job but lately it didn’t feel the same.  Was it the changing nature of many of the cases they dealt with such as the increase in stabbings, gun-shot wounds, and worst of all battered and abused children or was she burnt out?  Did she need to go into a saner part of medicine, to specialize, and work scheduled hours, maybe even just during the day?

Her father had worked E.R. all his life until the day he retired, he could never have imagined doing anything else.  Why then should she not be able for it?  Why was she struggling to balance her work life with some semblance of a personal life?  Why, for God’s sake, was she lucky if she had a clean pair of panties to put on in the morning!

The answer, of course was back in Bay Ridge in the perfectly maintained brownstone she had grown up in.  But it wasn’t the answer she wanted. It was the answer, the truth of which, she refused to acknowledge.  However, here she was in the middle of nowhere, a place she had driven over five hours to get to so she could have some peace and solitude to finally figure out exactly what it was that had been bothering her for months now.  She had promised herself it was a time for brutal honesty, so there was no point hiding behind half-truths and fairytales.

The answer took the form of Kitty O’Brien her indomitable mother and a woman with whom she had a less than straightforward relationship.  She’d always laid the blame for the type of relationship she had with her mother squarely at her mother’s feet but the thought had been slowly formulating over the past few months if that was strictly fair.  And now, sitting here on this glorious morning, looking at the incredible scenery before her and actually spending time alone, sitting and thinking, she had to finally face the unpalatable fact she hadn’t been fair to her mother at all, not one little bit.

Kitty O’Brien had been a doctor in her own right and if any of the comments from some of her father’s colleagues were to be believed, had been a brilliant and gifted physician.  However, her career had been sacrificed upon the altar of motherhood and domestic servitude.  Maggie was aware her mother had kept working for a few years after she was born and even after the birth of her brother Patrick but had never gone back to work after the birth of Lucy.  Maggie always assumed that had been her mother’s choice but now she wondered how much of a choice she’d actually had.

Even nowadays it was difficult to successfully juggle a career with a home-life, she was single with no kids and couldn’t pull it off.  She could only imagine how impossible it would have been for a woman of her mother’s generation, who, after dealing with the general criticism for choosing to be a working mother,  would have been expected to handle all of the child-rearing and housework as well.  As much of a hero as her father was to her, she never recalled him once cooking a meal or vacuuming the floor, much less cleaning a bathroom.

She cringed as she recalled her unadulterated adoration of her father while at the same time all her mother had got from her was grudging acknowledgement at best and snooty disdain most of the time.  No wonder, her mother’s response was a guarded prickliness.  She had kept the cogs of all their lives running so smoothly for so long, none of them had even been aware of it.

The house had always been immaculate, a perfectly cooked meal was on the table every evening, impeccably ironed clothes were ready to wear every morning, homework was supervised every night, football games, swimming, drama recitals and school plays were never missed, bills were paid on time and holidays were planned with military precision and no special occasion went unmissed.

In later years her mother had even volunteered at a local women’s health clinic.  Maggie had been vaguely aware of her mother being highly regarded by local women, obvious in the affection they demonstrated to “Dr. Kitty” whenever they’d met any of these women on public occasions.  However, she had been too focused on her father as the hero to consider her mother might actually be just as equally regarded.

“Damn,” Maggie swore to herself as she shifted uncomfortably in her seat, no wonder her father had been able to pull off a thirty year career in the Emergency Room, he’d had the unequivocal, total and absolute support of his wife who had managed every aspect of his life.

All he’d had to do every day was get up, put his perfectly ironed clothes on, eat the breakfast his wife had prepared for him and go to work.  He hadn’t needed to worry about where the food was coming from or who was going to cook it, how his dirty clothes were going to get cleaned and ironed and put in the wardrobe or who was going to pay the bills.

Of course he could just have fun with his children because the homework was already done and he’d never had to take time out of his busy day to carefully plan something as mundane as a family holiday, much less do all the packing for it.  It was easy to go and be super-doctor every day when you had a whole other human being managing every aspect of your life.

And there was the problem, Maggie didn’t have the equivalent of her mother, or anyone remotely close, to manage her life.  Disgruntled, she got up from the chair and went back inside the cabin.  She had finally faced up to what had been niggling at her for so long but how to solve it?  She was hardly going to find herself a wife any time soon…….”

 

Autumn – How I Have Missed Thee

It’s late October and a lot has happened since my last blog post back in January – and that’s pretty much the reason for the lack of blog posts!  In April I said goodbye to Australia and hello to Canada!  The amount of work involved in moving from one country to another cannot be underestimated – especially paperwork.  However, here I am now in Canada and loving it and I’m absolutely relishing my first autumn in six years.

Admittedly, there can be fewer places in the world more spectacular than the east coast of Canada in autumn, or Fall as they call it around here, and I am lucky to live in an older neighbourhood which is full of mature trees. During my daily walks I am surrounded by the golds, greens and reds of the native woodlands and my soul is soothed by the dance-like flutter of colours to the welcoming ground.

As my eye is drawn to the leaves at my feet I am struck by how different each one is – each leaf is its own unique combination of colour, shade and light. I’m fascinated how the same tree produces leaves of such varying hues but of course, despite coming from the same tree, each leaf’s story is different much like that of human beings.

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Autumn Leaves

Autumn, for me, is the season that asks us to consider perspectives, to have a look at life from another angle or at least consider that another perspective exists.

It’s one of the reasons I love this poem by Robert Frost.  It speaks of autumn and how his guest adores it and its stark beauty but she believes he doesn’t love it as much as her.  It addresses his guest’s perspective and her perception of him and in a subconscious manner his perspective of her.  In the end he concludes that despite his own love of “bare November days” she brings even greater enrichment of them with her praise as if it were a part of the autumnal landscape itself.

My November Guest

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me

Thinks these dark days of autumn rain

Are beautiful as days can be;

She loves the bare, the withered tree;

She walked the sodden pasture lane.

 

Her pleasure will not let me stay.

She talks and I am fain to list:

She’s glad the birds are gone away,

She’s glad her simple worsted gray

Is silver now with clinging mist.

 

The desolate, deserted trees,

The faded earth, the heavy sky,

The beauties she so truly sees,

She thinks I have no eye for these,

And vexes me for reason why.

 

Not yesterday I learned to know

The love of bare November days

Before the coming of the snow,

But it were vain to tell her so,

And they are better for her praise.

 

Robert Frost

Hot Cross Buns In January – Not Such A Good Idea

Just when you think you’ve successfully navigated the worst time of year for homesickness that bitch ups and hijacks you! And it was something so small, so insignificant that I didn’t see it coming…
One of my Dad’s favourite things to eat is a hot cross bun. He positively delights in putting those little beauties in the toaster until they’re lightly browned, then spreading some butter on them and sitting down and enjoying them with a cup of piping hot tea.
One of my son’s favourite things to eat is a hot cross bun… He needs it lightly toasted with plenty of butter on top and he will enjoy it with a glass of chocolate milk. Yesterday he lit up with excitement in the local supermarket when he spotted a packet of hot cross buns. Of course I bought them for him and smiled smugly to myself thinking – “breakfast is going to be easy tomorrow.” I had no idea what was going to be served along with it.

A Simple Hot Cross Bun – Seems There’s More To These Delicacies Than Meets The Eye!

This morning I watched as my boy smiled in delight as I presented him with his perfectly prepared hot cross bun. I listened as he “yummed” his way through it.  I grinned at him finding such happiness in something so simple and then I clutched my tummy as a bolt of homesickness shot through me so intense that it took my breath away.
I turned and fled to the kitchen before my son could see the change in my demeanour and dragged in a deep breath as a longing and yearning for home washed over me like a wave and, in that instant, threatened to drown me.
I held onto the counter top for strength as I wondered where the hell this had all come from.  I waited for it to pass but it didn’t.  Images of home assailed my senses instead.  The soft sand between my toes on Keel Beach, the smell of a turf fire, laughing with old friends and my Dad’s smile.  And that was it – I realised what had set me off – the inextricable link between generations epitomised by a simple smile.
My boy has his grandfather’s smile and this morning I’m sad that he hasn’t seen enough of that smile in his short life.
Don’t get me wrong  – I’m not belly-aching (even though I literally was!) I’m not complaining about my life – I’m incredibly blessed to have these opportunities to live in other countries and I’d be a miserable old bitch if I couldn’t explore this incredible world of ours.  However, there are times when you need home.  I need to go home.  I need my kids to spend time with their grandparents.  I need to see my father’s smile.
Now all I need to do is figure out how to make that happen

2016 – Farewell

The last day of 2016 is here and I, for one, am ready to bid it farewell.  It’s been a year of fantastic highs and some hard-hitting lows – a true rollercoaster.  However, there is one thing I achieved this year that I had dreamed of doing all my life and that is publishing my first full length novel – Someone To Come Back To.

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Someone To Come Back To  – Book one in the Omega Security Series

I’m a great believer in marking special occasions – as life is simply too short not to – and celebrated the launch of the ebook online with a wonderful party.  A few months later the paperback version was released and the first copies arrived in Brisbane and how wonderful it was to finally hold my baby in my hands!  I decided another party was needed but this time I needed to pop some real corks! Below are a few photos of the event back in August. I’d like to thank all those who have supported me on my writing journey so far – from all over the world!  It means so much to me that you love my stories.  I’d like to wish you all the very, very best for 2017 – much love, Roisin.

Bubbles & Books – A Perfect Combination!

 

The Marketing Director – Getting Ready To Party!

 

Me And A Much More Talented Lady – Brisbane Based Artist Julie Cane

 

My Beautiful Brisbane Book Babes!

 

CK And Me!

 

Feeling Slightly Like Shakespeare As I Sign By Candlelight

 

Looking Slightly Psycho With The Lovely Pauline!

 

My Babies!

 

My Thanksgiving Day

The washed out wintry light of the early morning sun was just starting to peep over the hedgerows.  The road was still damp from the rain that had fallen soft and slow throughout the night.  I looked over at my husband, his face deep in concentration as he wrangled our recently acquired left-hand drive camper van around the twists and turns of the Irish country roads.  I looked back to check on the dogs and I smiled as I spotted Billie peeping out at me from underneath the table and Zara sitting up on the seat, her head resting on the tiny lip of the window – determined not to miss a thing.

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Miss Billie

Zara in snow

Zara

I looked back out onto the road and I smiled some more, this smile warming me from the outside in.  We were doing it.  We were finally calling time on all the shit luck that had plagued us in recent years.  We had already covered the first few miles on an adventure we had planned for months.

We had no idea where we were going.  We had no idea what we were doing.  We had no clue as to what the future held for us but we were throwing caution to the wind and just going for it anyway. The presenter on the radio announced it was Thanksgiving Day in America and wished everyone a happy thanksgiving day. I smiled again, somehow it seemed appropriate that we were setting off on our journey into the unknown on a day when people celebrate that which they are thankful for. At that point in time I was intensely grateful to be physically putting some distance between me and so much that had happened in the years before.

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The Good Old Hymer!

A few months previously we had sold up everything  – our beautiful home, our cars and anything else of value we’d had.  We’d paid off the tax man and our debtors, glad to finally be free of crippling debt that had arisen from a business deal that had gone horribly wrong.

However, it wasn’t just our business that we lost in those few years but also the dream of being parents.  Our tiny babies lay dead and cold in a grave on a hillside in the west of Ireland. We were emotionally battered and our souls were weary.  We needed to step off the merry-go-round of life for a while and take some much needed time out.

And that’s exactly what we did.  For the next nine months we trundled along the highways and byways of Europe. We ate all manner of wonderful food and we washed it down with cold beers and fine wines.  We walked for miles on golden sands – I don’t think there is an inch of European coastline we missed.  We hiked through sun dappled  forests and swam in lakes the colour of earth and sky.  We gloried in freshly fallen snow and we skied and fell in love with the granite peaks at the heart of Europe which we’d never visited before and at night we warmed ourselves with the heat of a log fire and the local firewater.

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The Julian Alps in Slovenia

We got lost, gloriously lost and yet somehow managed to find our way.  We met great characters that enriched our journey beyond measure.  Bit by bit we healed and started to feel the joy of life flowing in our veins again.  We dared to believe in dreams once more and we even dared to dream.

A year later we found ourselves back in Ireland patiently awaiting the birth of the child we were told we’d never have.  From one thanksgiving day to another our lives had changed beyond belief and we had so much to be thankful for.  A few weeks later I gave birth to our beautiful baby girl – a precious gift that I will spend the rest of my days being thankful for.

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My Perfect Little Girl

However, on Thanksgiving Day I always remember that wintry morning in Ireland as myself and my husband bumped our way along to the early morning ferry that was to deliver us to Europe and from there to God only knows where.  I remember and give thanks for the small bud of hope that still remained somewhere deep within me.  Sometimes you’ve got to let go of all you think you know and just go – go with your heart and feed your soul.  You’ll be thankful for it more than you can ever know.

The Other Side Of The Window

It’s that time of year again when the old Celtic festival of Samhain gets celebrated in its more modern incarnation – Halloween – in various parts of the globe. This mostly takes the form of donning costumes, making lanterns out of  pumpkins and letting one part terrified and 99 parts hyper children loose on our streets, chanting the well worn mantra, “trick or treat.”

I happened to be out walking with my own children at dusk the other evening and I asked them what did they want to do this year for Halloween.

“Nothing,” the little fella replied.

I was somewhat surprised as he usually has a plan regarding his costume, for the big night, a few weeks in advance.

“Huh?” I asked, “nothing?”

“Nope, nothing,” he confirmed.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because of those creepy clowns,” he said in a voice that tapered off towards the end of his sentence as his eyes scanned the shadows, “they’re everywhere.”

“Yes, they’re everywhere!” His sister concurred in that all knowing voice reserved solely for use by big sisters.

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A bloody Creepy Clown!

I stopped walking.  I was a little bit on the concerned side at this point.  I don’t want a bunch of fools with nothing better to do than dress up as clowns and go around creeping people out turning my kids into a pair of agoraphobes.

“Hey guys,” I said, “come on, we’ve got to get this into perspective.  Those creepy clowns are nothing but a bunch of idiots with nothing better to do. And it’s not like there’s been any spotted around here.”

My children stood there in the half light, the looks on their faces telling me they remained unconvinced.

I soldiered on.

“Hey, those fools have more to fear from the people they’re trying to scare than the other way around,” I assured them.  “A few of them have been punched and beaten with baseball bats.”

The little fella seemed pleased with this news.

“Really?” he asked with a smile.

“Really,” I confirmed.

“Cool,” he announced, “I’m going to bring my baseball bat with me when I go trick or treating, that’ll send them a message.”

With that he walked on, quite happy now he had a plan to deal with the creepy clowns.

His sister looked at me.  “I’m not so sure the creepy clowns have too much to worry about from Baseball Bat Boy but I’ll think about it.”

“Okay,” I said as I fell in beside her as we resumed our walk.

My phone buzzed in my pocket.  I stopped to get it out.  My daughter walked on.  The night was nearly fully upon us.

Thirty seconds later I practically bumped into my daughter as I put my phone back in my pocket.  She was standing on a patch of grass looking at an old house.

“Creepy,” she whispered.

I looked at the house.  It’s one I am familiar with as its on one of my walking routes.  I’ve only ever seen it in the day time and it’s definitely on the creepy side.  However, here in the near dark of the night it looked positively sinister.

halloween-house

The House

“There’s someone watching us,” my daughter said, her voice hushed.

I looked at the house, in particular at the windows in the centre of its structure.  I’d initially thought it was abandoned but every time I walk past it I feel like someone is watching me. However, I wasn’t about to mention this to my daughter!

“Oh, I think there’s been too much creepy talk tonight,” I laughed nervously.

She looked at the house and then she looked back at me.

“No, there’s something in there,” she said, quite certain, “on the other side of that window.”

Silence fell between us.  I don’t believe in dismissing my children’s feelings on things. I’ve never uttered the words, “don’t be silly” when it comes  to situations where they feel uncertain.  I want them to develop and hone their instincts so that they learn to trust them, thereby following them and staying as safe as possible in an increasingly unsafe world. On the other hand I don’t believe in them scaring the shit out of themselves either! There’s a fine line that needs to be tread here and I was grappling to find my way along it in the Brisbane moonlight the other night.

Thankfully, Baseball Bat Boy saved my ass.

“Hey!” He shouted from down the street, “what are you two doing?  I’m getting creeped out here all by myself!”

“Okay!” I hollered back, “we’re coming!”

I placed my hand in the small of my daughter’s back and gently nudged her along.  There was no hesitation on her part but she was still looking up at the window.  The very same window I always feel there is someone on the other side of  – looking at me as I pass.

Later that night I dreamed of a house from my own childhood, a house I was terrified of. It was a beautiful old property surrounded by ancient trees and it had a huge, shiny green door with an enormous brass knocker.  However, to my ten year old’s mind, it always seemed dark.  Even on the brightest of days you could never see through its dark windows. I never saw a living soul at that house but always felt like someone was watching me as I walked by.  Other kids used to take a shortcut through its grounds or climb its trees on their way home but me, never.  I never set foot within its domain.

Was there something sinister there or was my fear of this house a result of my exceptionally overactive childhood imagination – something my daughter has in common with me.  I don’t know but I do know this: whenever I’ve trusted my instincts in my life, they’ve never, absolutely never, been wrong.

And on that note I would like to wish you a safe and not too scary Samhain.

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Inniskeen

I meant to write this post in the actual month of July but the month ran away with me! This is one of my favourite poems by Patrick Kavanagh.  It’s of a time in Ireland that has since long past but the vestiges of which could still be found in the west as I was growing up.

Enjoy.

Inniskeen Road: July Evening


The bicycles go by in twos and threes -
There's a dance in Billy Brennan's barn tonight,
And there's the half-talk code of mysteries
And the wink-and-elbow language of delight.
Half-past eight and there is not a spot
Upon a mile of road, no shadow thrown
That might turn out a man or woman, not
A footfall tapping secrecies of stone. 

I have what every poet hates in spite
Of all the solemn talk of contemplation.
Oh, Alexander Selkirk knew the plight
Of being king and government and nation.
A road, a mile of kingdom. I am king
Of banks and stones and every blooming thing.

-Patrick Kavanagh

Connemara Road

A Classic Stretch Of Irish Country Road

The High Nelly

The High Nelly – The Transport Of A Generation