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Women’s Little Christmas

There is a sweet little tradition in Cork – I’m not sure if it’s an Irish thing or native to Cork. But today, the sixth of January is Women’s Little Christmas. It’s a night devoted to women, to let their hair down and celebrate. The idea is that typically women cook Christmas dinner and essentially work all day to create a lovely holiday for their loved ones. Today is their payback. Men take care of all household duties and women either host parties or go out to celebrate with their friends, sisters, mothers and grandmothers. Some say the idea is a bit offensive, encouraging sexism. But, I think it’s sweet. And it’s huge in Cork, where I live. I’ve never actually celebrated it – I’m off to a birthday party tonight – but love the idea of it!

Friendship

Tonight, I am thankful for friends.  I feel incredibly lucky to have such amazing people in my life.  I absolutely love the fact that I have people who I talk to every single day – sometimes about nothing, sometimes about everything!  I love how sometimes time will pass – a year, ten years – and I find myself with a friend as if not a minute has passed.  I love the silly laughter, the ability to forget the cares of life and just giggle like girls.  I love the deep conversation, where we make plans to solve all the problems of the world.  I love the people who call me or send me texts “Oh my god – this happened – what should I do?”… and I can ask them the exact same question – and do!  I love having amazing people who let me vent on those days where it seems the world is falling apart!   I’m thankful for friends who lend me their husbands to help with stupid projects that I feel paralyzed to handle.  I love having friends who laugh at me and the crazy situations I find myself in.   The wine nights.  The Skype calls.  The ‘stop-everything-I-need-you’ calls.  The friends I can look to for advice and those I can help along the way.  And then the friends where you forget all the cares of the world, and just laugh.   I love that I have friends in so many different places, from so many different backgrounds, with different life paradigms and interests.  I love my friends who love on my kids.  I love friends who have known me at various stages of life.  And those I haven’t known long but with whom you ‘just click’.

Friendship is a truly beautiful thing.  We are shaped by the people we spend time with, and I feel incredibly lucky to have such beautiful, smart, funny and amazing people in my life!

When you can’t control circumstances, you can control character

“There is only one person responsible for the quality of the life you live. That person is you.  If you want to be successful, you have to take 100% responsibility for everything that you experience in your life.”

– Jack Canfield

Do you agree with this quote?

I love the sentiment.  It is freeing to know that you have the power to shape your own life and happiness.  It is easy to blame people or circumstances when we look at our lives and see that it doesn’t measure up, but that isn’t really a fair assessment.  We all face challenges – sometimes very different challenges –  nonetheless, we have the ability to create the life that we want.

The idea of taking 100% responsibility for your life essentially puts your own destiny in your own hands.  This is an empowering and freeing thought.

As much as I love the sentiment, and strive to apply it in my own life, I do believe it is flawed.  What about child abuse?  Rape?  Kidnappings?  The loss of a parent, spouse or child?  People who have been imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit?  These may be extreme examples, but I believe such extremes are the exceptions to this rule.  Child abuse, for example, can greatly affect that child’s course of life as they enter adulthood.

There is absolutely no way to say that a child was responsible for that type of experience.  It would be just as impossible to say that abuse did not affect their lives.  A person abused as a child is not responsible for what happened to them, but they don’t have to be held back or defined by their circumstances.

The irony is  abusers often blame their victims.  I have a friend who was beaten badly by her mother throughout her childhood. Her mother even kicked her out of the house as a young teenager, threatening to kill her! As crazy as it sounds, my friend adored her mom.  She would tell me how her mom used to come into her bedroom and cry over her at night.  She kept the abuse a secret for most of her life, until recently when some extended family members said some things that let her know that her Mom had painted an entirely different picture, casting a bad light on her.  When she confronted her mom, she half-expected her mom to deny the abuse… but she didn’t.  Her response? “You deserved it.”

I think the only way for a person who has experienced such horrors is to accept, fully – 100% – that they did not deserve it.  Every child deserves to be loved and cherished and protected.  In order to take 100% responsibility for their lives, they have to deny 100% responsibility for such atrocities.  It’s important to re-frame your mind and understand you deserve love and kindness and good in life.  Understanding this empowers you to become the type of person you want to be, to break the mould and forge a new path – of success, happiness and love.

I understand abuse is an extreme example.  The point is, we may not ALWAYS be able to take 100% responsibility for the circumstances in our lives.  We have the power to shape our lives by wisely choosing our friends, people we look up to, how we spend our time, habits, our career path, etc – these actions will shape our experiences.  But there are exceptions.  When you are unable to control the circumstances in your life – you can still control the person you will be.   You can choose your thoughts, your actions, your own identity.  We all face difficult circumstances, some we can’t always control.  But we can always control our own character.  

Character

 

My favourite example of this is Oprah. She was raised in poverty and abuse, and yet never talks about this – it doesn’t define her.  Her name is equated with success.  Her character, her choices, her actions, define her.

We all have the same blank slate, so long as we choose to see a new day as a blank slate and not be defined by the things that hold us back!

 

The Best Hot Chocolate in Cork

My kids and I have a bit of a competition going on.  For the past few months, we have been on a hunt to find the best hot chocolate places in Cork.

Bethany and I are tied in our opinion that O’Connails Chocolatier offers the best tasting hot chocolate.  There are so many flavours to choose from, and my kids and I always make sure to choose something different so we can work our way through the menu.  The white hot chocolate and the praline milk chocolate are our favourites so far.

David and Clara disagree with us – when David first tasted O’Connails hot chocolate he said, “This is the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted!”  Tonight, however, he and Clara agreed that Butlers offers the best tasting hot chocolate.  The kids had the cookie hot chocolate. “I feel like I just drank four Oreos!”  The free chocolate truffle *might* have influenced their decision! 😉

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(My littlest has been quite enthralled with her newly lost tooth)

But for novelty, we all agreed on the Web Workhouse.  For me, it lacks atmosphere – it feels like the internet cafe that it is.  But my kids had never been in an internet cafe and loved it!  The hot chocolate is very cool.  You choose white, milk or dark – they give you a cup of steamed milk and a chunk of chocolate on the end of a spoon that you stir into the hot milk.  It’s a very fun way to drink hot chocolate.  “It’s not just hot chocolate, it’s an experience”

 

Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe it’s 2016!  I’ve always loved the idea of a fresh start, and in reality, every moment holds the opportunity for a new beginning.  But there is something about the blank slate of a New Year.

Who do you want to be?  Who are you?  And how does that person align with the person you want to be?  What interests do you have – have you pursued them?  What do you want to accomplish in life?  What’s holding you back?

know what you want

The irony about goals and dreams is that they evolve. Maybe this isn’t true for everybody, but it’s true for me.  Life is fluid and the most important thing is to move forward, in the direction of your passions and goals – those goals may change.  There’s a quote that says, ‘Go as far as you can see.  When you get there, you’ll see further’

It’s true.  The secret is in starting.  Discover, explore, live fully and keep going!

One of my own personal aspirations for 2016 is to write more.  Some of my writing goals are outside of this blog, but to start the year off I have decided to write – and post – every day for one month.  I have a lot of things going on in my life, and I can use that as an excuse for not writing often lately – but no excuses!

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You can be or do anything you set your mind to!  Here’s to 2016 being the year when we do.  May all your goals be reached, your heart full of happiness, your life full of love as you follow hard in the direction of your dreams!

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How to redefine your life in 3 (easy to understand – not so easy to apply) steps:

The real secret to change is wanting it badly enough.  Desire is an incredible motivator. So, you want it. How do you attain it?

Read

 Reading changes you.

 “In books, I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own”

Reading expands your thinking. It opens your eyes to new viewpoints, thoughts and ideas. It is nearly impossible to read a plethora of books and be close-minded. Reading expands who you are as a person; not only your intellectual understanding of a subject, but your mind and perspective. Reading ignites your passion and is a fabulous motivator.

 Want to be a master in your sector? Read 100 books related to your field or the subject you want to attain mastery in. Reading one hundred books on one subject will give you depth and breadth in your understanding. The repetition – as well as opposing stances – will forge within you clear and strong insights. Books are living and powerful. Reading this many books related to your field will not only increase your mental mastery and ability to articulate thoughts with authority, but will spur new thoughts and create new ideas.

Friends

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”

If you find yourself in a place where you are not surrounded by people who push you forward and encourage you in the pursuit of your dreams, it’s time to change your circle of influence. How do you find such high quality people? Intelligent, interesting, positive people like to spend time with other intelligent, interesting and positive people. Become that person.

Friends give you a new perspective and show you different trains of thought. They make you laugh, smile and are there when you cry… but don’t let you cry too long.   Friends come into our lives for different seasons and purposes, with a few lucky lifers in the mix. Understanding that life is fluid helps you to enjoy the people in your life without holding on too tightly to those who hold you down.

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“Five years from today, you will be the same person that you are today, except for the books you read and the people you meet”

Mindset

Perhaps the single most powerful, and yet challenging, indicator to your success is your mindset. Your thoughts shape your actions and your actions define who you are.

How do you change your mindset? It takes determination and time but there are some practical steps you can take. Meditate, choose to be positive, write out your goals, write out what you are thankful for, and (looping back) spend time with people that motivate and inspire you. And read lots of books!

“To change your life, you have to change yourself.  To change yourself, you have to change your mindset.”

 

 

 

What is the best way to learn French?

What is the best way to learn a language? Apart from having the interest and passion to do so, the learning process has to be fun, enjoyable, slightly challenging but motivational enough to keep you going. It must have the core principles needed to attain mastery – repetition, grammar, continuously growing vocabulary and the ability to naturally combine words into usable sentences.

My friend, Eoin Kennedy, CEO of Zone Digital, teamed up with Natasha Lynch, Director & Owner of the Essential French College recently to bring  all these elements together in the newly launched app “Essential French”

I’ve been playing with the app, and am slightly horrified at how far my French has fallen! The app feels like a game with different levels.

It starts off with a quick run-through of vocabulary. The second stage has the French vocab written and spoken, enhancing both visual and auditory learning. You are presented with three possible translations and have a time limit to choose the correct one. You need to get at least 80% correct to see the next level. The app is targeted at leaving cert students, so this is equivalent of a B1 grade. The format of the third phase initially looks the same, but it’s all in the details. The translations are much more difficult. The differences are small, spelling or punctuation or the proper use of “de, du or de la” for example

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Personally I found this level MUCH more challenging and had to do the same level three times in order to see the next level. There is a cute little blonde cartoon caricature of Natasha, cheering you on throughout the lesson “Allez! Allez!” (Let’s go!)… I’m wondering if that is part of the drill or only comes up if you’re taking too long. I’ll have to improve my speed and let you know!

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The last stage of the first lesson allows you to construct phrases yourself, giving you a variety of words to choose from to piece together.

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As you progress, there is a timed element, so you can race against yourself to beat your own score.

The app is formatted in such a way that it offers both repetition and variety. Repetition is vital for mastery and variety is essential for motivation. The lessons are fun, and feel more like a game than a lesson.

The app officially launched on Wednesday. I’m posting a few photos from the launch event. But they did a soft launch a few days previous, only revealing access to the app via snapchat.   Since the app is targeted at Leaving Cert students, the medium to reach them is simply brilliant. I can’t quite get my head around snapchat. I’ve half-joked that I must be too old for it. But last night I watched Natasha’s snapchat story. She is absolutely brilliant. She shares the French and English translation for the videos she’s taking. I found myself laughing out loud at her antics, while repeating the French phrases.

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Clearly her fun, personal approach is working, as the app reached the top free educational app in the app store before it even officially launched, topping popular language apps such as DuoLingo.

I’m so excited to keep using this app and get my French up to par, and even more excited to see the limitless success this app will see!

It’s available in the App Store and the Google Play store. The first level is free and you can purchase a second and third level for €5.99.