Monday, November 25, 2013

Giving Thanks

"Ah there's yer wan again going on about her hospital appointment - JEEZ enough with it!"

Now I can understand people saying that about my Twitter and Facebook posts - another hospital visit post = YAWN!

I don't blame you, any of you for saying that, for thinking that because the reality is that I do post about my hospital visits a lot and that's for the simple reason that I am in hospital a lot.

I am under the care of the Renal Team and the Haematology Team in Tallaght Hospital and I also see a Dietician from time to time - being sick is almost a full time job, but I already have a full time job and loads of interesting hobbies so at times, it's hard to find the time to be sick.

Those of you who know me, know that I was diagnosed with Myeloma in January 2007. Myeloma is an incurable cancer of the bone marrow.

I am kept on a very short leash by the hospital - kidney clinic every six months and haematology every two months without fail. There are sometimes in between visits for issues and minor complications. I have lost count of the number of times I have been an out patient and inpatient.

A friend said recently that when she told a work colleague about all my hospital appointments, the colleague said: 'That's like a death sentence". A wee bit insensitive you might say but sometimes people say and do strange things when they learn of your illness and circumstances.

For me, it's a very small price to pay for being well.

So the reason for my post is that I recently had a scare when some proteins were found in a sample I gave at the renal clinic. Proteins are the villains in my Myeloma story - they are like the Lex Luther or the Joker to my Myeloma Superman or Batman! They are sooooooooo not good. The renal team admitted to me that they were being super cautious but at the same time proteins are proteins and so I was called in for a repeat test.

I  had to wait for a week for the results. Needless to say during that week every possible worst case scenario went through my mind. The Myeloma is on the march again and I will get the news just in time for my birthday and Christmas. Lovely!

  • What if I have to be in hospital for Christmas - away from Bryan and the kids? 
  • What if I have to have another Stem Cell Transplant? 
  • What if I don't respond?
  • What if there are complications and I can't have new treatment? 
  • What if.......? 

Myeloma is a dead weight that I carry around all the time and the what ifs are there all the time but in the last week they were magnified and in High Definition just sitting there in front of me.

Since my diagnosis and treatment in 2007, I have really gotten my life back and my diary is full of wonderful stuff. In the next month I am going to turn 45, I am going to be a judge for the new Oliver in the local Musical Society, I have Christmas parties and dinners, I have Santa stuff to do, I get to be a radio head twice a week now in KFM the local radio station where I get to interview so many wonderful people. I have plans in my diary all the way through to next Spring at this stage and the idea that the Myeloma might have come back means that all of these plans might have to get scrubbed out.

These plans are great to have but they all pale in insignificance when it comes down to it and what it would mean for my family. I don't want to be the Mom who is sick [AGAIN], too weak to walk up stairs, too weak to drive, too sick to get out of bed, so sick I have to be in isolation for a month in hospital and I don't want to be a sickly wife who places the burden of care and work onto my husband. It's unfair.

I had imagined the worst - that's what we do, that's what I do. I was preparing myself for the absolute worst case scenario. In a way I am constantly preparing myself for THE worst case scenario because it will be the case someday. I just don't want that SOMEDAY to be any day soon as I have so much left to do.

I have so much life to live and I have so much of my kids lives that I want to be here for. We have great plans for our retirement, Bryan and I, and I want to be around to be an outrageous old dear who wears purple and dyes her hair!

I was very relieved to get the news last week that the proteins are behaving themselves. It must have been a blip or something on the particular test. If only the people in the labs knew what these blips do to patients like me!

Thankfully I am still in remission. I have made it through another year of living with Myeloma. I missed some of my targets - I had planned to get through the year with no admission to hospital but that didn't happen thanks to a serious infection in March. But it's another year notched up. 7 years and counting......

I can look forward to my 45th birthday on November 29th, to Christmas at home with the family, to our 18th wedding anniversary on December 29th and to a New Year of great plans and resolutions.

I have a lot to be thankful for and I don't take any of the time I have for granted. I don't take the wonderful moments everyday for granted, the little things, the memories made are all so precious. That's a gift that serious illness gives ......... every cloud and all that .......

So next time you see me posting about yet another hospital visit, perhaps you will understand the significance for me of getting through each and everyone of these visits with a clean bill of health.


He made much of the time he was given

A piece I wrote for the Irish Catholic Newspaper in memory of Father Martin Clarke RIP who passed away on 23 October 2013: 

I met Father Martin Clarke for the first time at my interview for the job of Communications Officer with the Catholic Communications Office back in the Summer of 2000. I was nervous about the interview panel but he immediately put me at ease. I came to learn this was one of his many human qualities. I was successful with my application and began work as Communications Officer with the Catholic Communications Office 13 years ago this month, in November 2000.

At that time the Catholic Communications Office (CCO) was in many ways being established in Maynooth as a result of the merger between Father Martin’s office as Principal Spokesperson and the Catholic Press and Information Office in Booterstown. This movement and change was part of a much wider restructuring of the Councils, Agencies and Offices of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference that was taking place at the time. We had a small team of three people, so I had to very quickly learn the ropes of what was and still is a very busy office.

I joined the CCO just before we entered into a very challenging time for media relations and the Catholic Church in Ireland. But Father Martin was a wonderful teacher and mentor. He was patient and kind in the way he dealt with people. He had great attention to detail which he honed during his time studying and then practising law as a solicitor. When Martin gave me a project to work on, I could always follow the details because he had laid them out so meticulously.

Martin always had a wonderful rapport with young people and this obviously came from his work with Catholic Youth Care and Saint Kevin’s Young Adult Community in Dublin. I was always struck by his energy and positivity concerning all his pastoral responsibilities.

A late vocation, Father Martin was a happy priest and he was always willing to share his vocation story and journey as a way of inspiring others to seize the moment, to aim high. He was prayerful and spiritual and always took great care in his pastoral duties.

Martin had a great sense of humour and some of his puns were often just what a particular moment needed. He also had an amazing recall for quotes which he used to great effect in interviews with the media.
I worked with Martin from November 2000 to November 2003 in the CCO. Some of the big issues we worked on in those days were: Child Safeguarding, Policing in Northern Ireland, the 2002 Abortion Referendum, the establishment of Day for Life in Ireland and the 2002 meeting between the Northern Ireland Church Leaders and the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair. It was under Martin’s stewardship that the CCO began to embrace new communications and established the first website for the Bishops’ Conference. While times were challenging they were also exciting and Martin was always very encouraging to his staff when it came to additional learning and training.

When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 Martin was one of my first visitors. He sat with me and listened, he prayed with me and offered great support to my family. He encouraged me and assured me that there is life after a diagnosis with serious illness. The way he bore his own illness and the many health setbacks he had, was inspiring not only to me but to anyone who knew him.

I think I am a better person for having known Martin for just a few of his 66 years and the world is certainly a duller place now that he has left it. May he rest in peace.

Brenda Drumm

PS After writing this article I recalled a birthday present he got for me one year 'ABBA GOLD'! I am still playing those tunes Martin. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

There are Reasons

Guest post by my daughter Emma Tobin, age 16 

Things change and friends leave. And life doesn't stop for anybody. I wanted to laugh. Or maybe get mad. Or maybe shrug at how strange everybody was, especially me. I think the idea is that every person has to live for his or her own life and then make the choice to share it with other people. You can't just sit there and put everybody's lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can't. You have to do things. I'm going to do what I want to do. I'm going to be who I really am. And I'm going to figure out what that is”. ~ Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Everyone is taught to be selfless. It’s something that people value, maybe because if there’s someone who’ll give and give and never ask for anything in return, that might make their life easier. We lean on people a lot, we really do, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, there’s something infinitely right about that, but we have to remember that other people feel things too.

Do you remember when you were a kid and suddenly you were hit with the realisation that every other human being on this planet feels things as strongly as you do, everyone else’sthoughts are as wild and loud as yours? Everyone else has a smile they can use when they’re breaking apart inside, everyone else feels like screaming sometimes. Stephen Chbosky gives one of the most convincing and accurate accounts of growing up that I have ever read, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a book that everyone should read. Even if you’re a grown-up, it shows you that everyone, at one point, feels young and confused, and there’s nothing terrible about the fact that you might still feel like that.

There are so many people who just give and give, whose nature it is to bleed their heart out for other people, and if you’re not one of these people you cannot possibly imagine what it feels like when you’re bled dry and you realise that the people you’ve given everything to don’t give a damn. You cannot understand what it feels like to have someone you’ve bled for shut the door in your face and pretend that you never did anything good for them. I really hope you aren’t one of the people who leave, because it hurts, I can tell you, I know, when someone does that to you.

It makes me really angry when people do that, and it makes me really sad to have to pick up all of the pieces again. Please, don’t do that. Don’t be that person. You don’t want to be that person. Likewise, if you’re a giver, remember that you have a life to lead as well. Chances are you’re talented, beautiful, wonderful; you’re the kind of person people envy. You’re the idealist in a world of cynics.

There’s this wonderful quote that’s been floating around the internet, and it’s possibly the most accurate thing I have ever read, “The loneliest people are the kindest. The saddest people smile the brightest. The most damaged people are the wisest. All because they do not wish to see anyone else suffer the way they do”.

People have a hard time finding a reason to stay alive today. I refuse to ignore this; I refuse to remain silent on this subject.People. Commit. Suicide. They do it all the time, and most of the time it’s nobody’s fault, but we can all help the people around us. We all have the power to give someone a reason to live. We all have the power to make a difference. Don’t think that there’s nothing you can do. There is no ‘type of person’ who will commit suicide; there are just people, and those with no hope. People are not insane if they commit suicide. They are just in a very, very bad place.

If someone is beautiful, you tell them, just not down a dark street in a creepy manner. If someone has a nice smile, you tell them. If you see something in another person that they should recognise, and realise, and feel good about, you tell them that it existsPlease don’t use people. Be a friend, don’twalk away, don’t hurt people. It is not okay to hurt people. You have no idea what you’re doing when you decide not to care anymore. You may be the only person in the wide world left to care.

This may be difficult to believe, but I care about you. I care. I will always care. If you need to talk, I will talk to you, I will try to help. I will not walk away from you. If you’re having a hard time, talk to somebody. There is always someone who will listen, and understand, and care.

So don’t give up. There is always a reason to live. You just have to find it.


Emma Tobin

Copyright 2013 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Two lunches diverged in a wood

TWO lunches diverged in a yellow dining room, 
And sorry I could not eat both 
And having just an hour, long I stood 
And looked down as long as I could 
To where they lay in the canteen; 

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two lunches diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less tasty,
And that made all the difference.
to my waistline.

Boring sambo today instead of roast lamb 

if you want to read the original and the best poem here is the link

Happy lunch munching 

Monday, October 7, 2013

12 little words

One email
One sentence
One envelope

Three year friendship

No explanation
No warning
No reason

Just Ended
Done and

Three year's erased by
12 little words

Copyright: 2013 
Brenda Drumm 

Friday, September 27, 2013

"To make much of time"

Guest post by my daughter Emma

The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant. ~ Richard Curtis – Doctor Who.

There’s a mistake that people make when they look at their lives, because they think that everything that ever hurt them should be shut away and forgotten. I came across a beautiful thing while I was reading Slaughterhouse 5 earlier this month. One whole page in the novel is taken up by a drawing of a gravestone, and on it are the words, “Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt”, and I sort of stumbled around the school for quite a while with that page open in front of my face, trying to take it in.

That naturally brought me along the avenue of thinking what I might like to have on my gravestone, because all the best ones have a message, a message from beyond the grave, something that defines the person whose remains now beneath the ground. I thought that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I wrote on mine, “Everything was beautiful, and everything hurt. But that’s okay. When it hurts, you know that it means something”.

That brought me to thinking that perhaps the things we lose define us as surely as the things we have, or even more so. We’ve all lost things. Some of us have lost parents or friends, whether it’s because they died or an argument took them out of our lives. We’ve all lost pets and books, phones and toys and little bits of our lives we wish we could remember. Our losses define us so much more than anything else, because humans never appreciate what they have until it’s gone.

I came across a very touching poem written from the point of view of a young girl who had committed suicide, and she’s looking down at her family. She noticed how that year the Christmas tree didn’t go up, and her friends stared at the presents they’d wrapped for her and cried, and wouldn’t come out of their rooms. She was confused by all of this, because these people had treated her with what seemed to her like indifference when she was alive. Watching them cry and scream and miss her, she became more and more agitated and regretful of what she had done, because it was only from beyond the grave that she could see how much she had meant to them.

I suppose the lesson in that is to show your love for the people around you. If they call you at two in the morning crying, sit up and listen to them, offer to drop over the next day, include the people you love in your life, because if you don’t they’ll fade away from you. Some people need to be reminded that they are loved more than others, because in their minds if no one in the world loves them then there’s no point in existing.

Most people need others to witness their passage through life and knowing that; we should always try to pay attention to the people around us. We should make sure they know that someone is watching, and someone cares. You can never tell what’s going on inside another person’s mind, because most of us are very good at smiling even though inside we’re dying, so just be there. Be a friend, be the person who cares, because you don’t want to end up running your fingers over the beaming Santas on the wrapping paper of a gift that suddenly has no recipient.

If our lives are a pile of good things and bad things, then we have a duty to do all we can to keep adding to our loved ones’ pile of good things. We have duty not to turn our backs. You don’t get to be indifferent; you can’t afford to do that, because if something happens you’ll never be able to stop blaming yourself. People seem to have this idea that their time is too precious to share, and they scramble to do things and leave their mark on time, but eventually all things are forgotten, and every achievement fades away. Immortality is a myth, so stop hoarding your time and start giving it to the people who need it. Stop clinging to every second and pay attention to the people who need your time.

I used to be so obsessed with achieving things. Publishing books, ‘winning’ at life, getting A’s, all these superficial things, but in the end they mean nothing if your smile hasn’t touched the heart of another person. I’ve decided that whatever I do in life, its primary purpose will not be to make me happy, but to make others happy, and if by extension that can make me happy, then fine.

I think that in order to realise the value of something, you have to lose it. The key to being happy is appreciating the things you have while you have them and not just because they’re gone now. When we are old and struggling to keep our eyes open all we have to do is count the scars to know that we lived and we loved and dying is okay, because at least we did something that meant something. At least we felt things and went places, at least we laughed and at least we cried.

I will not count success by the things I own, or whatever great things I might do. I will look at my heart and trace the outlines of the people I’ve loved and they will be the most precious things I have in the end. They will remind me that I’ve lived when I’m trying desperately not to die. The good things and the bad things will all add up to make me who I am. I’ll know that the people I used to know will be looking at their hearts someday and I’ll be there. That’s all the knowledge I need to be content in this life.

Emma Tobin

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Look at me - six years in remission today

At times during my treatment for Multiple Myeloma (cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow), I wondered if I would ever live to see myself write a line like that - but here I am on Thursday 26 September 2013 celebrating six years of remission.

It's a great feeling. I was reading through my 2007 journal last night and this is what was happening six years ago:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When a Mother dies

When a mother dies

No obituary will appear in the paper

No headlines on national radio

No breaking news item

ticking across the TV

Because she wasn’t famous

Or a celeb

Or a star

But that doesn’t mean

she wasn’t important

or any less loved or missed

She will be headlines forever

in her family home

Her obituary written each day

in the words and memories spoken about her

Breaking hearts instead of breaking news

A celebrity shining out of the family photos

She was and still is everything to each person

who met her, knew her and loved her

She won’t be discarded with yesterday’s newspaper

or moved on with the arrival of the next big thing

She is eternal inside a private heart

Full of love

Raw with loss

Brenda Drumm

18 September 2013

Sunday, September 1, 2013

On a day like today

On a day like today
When there's school uniforms to iron
Lunches to make
I'm not thinking about it coming back

On a day like today
when the washing machine has broken
and the kitchen is flooded
I'm not thinking about biopsies and blood tests

On a day like today
when there's grocery shopping to be put away
and dinner to be prepared
I'm not thinking about prognosis

On a day like today
when there's lego to be made
and birthday cake to be had
I'm not thinking about dying

On a day like today
Or any given day
I'm mostly not thinking about cancer


Copyright: Brenda Drumm 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Celebrating Jane Austen



This year marks the 200th Anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice and Salterbridge House is an ideal place to celebrate Jane Austen. Set amidst beautiful grounds above the river Blackwater, it was built in 1750. Substantially altered in the 19th century, the house and oak panelled hall sets the scene for a feast of Jane Austen activities on Sunday, 6th October. Regency dress is optional, with a prize for the best dressed participant. Changing rooms will be available for those who wish to complete their toilette on arrival.

Dr. Sophia Hillan, author and lecturer on Irish literature will speak about "Cassandra's Star, Jane Austen's nieces in Ireland". This talk expands on her successful recent work: May, Lou and Cass, and brings new and exciting detail to the topic. Signed copies of this book will be available to buy on the day.

Our imaginative chefs have created an Austen inspired three course lunch for you to enjoy at your leisure.

In the afternoon Empire Line Productions present Ladies of Jane, Scenes and Musings from the Pen of Jane Austen. This theatrical delight is a must for all Jane Austen fans who will be treated to an unforgettable bouquet of amusing, tender and dramatic scenes from her much loved novels. Directed by Mary Curtin, starring Judy Donovan, Rachel O'Connell and Vanessa Hyde, Ladies of Jane is perfectly suited to performance in the gracious surroundings of the oak panelled hall.

Date: Sunday 6th October 10.30-4.30

Venue: Salterbridge House, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford:

10.30 am Coffee with a short talk about Salterbridge House

11.00 am Lecture Cassandra's Star : Jane Austen's nieces in Ireland

1.00 pm Luncheon in Salterbridge House Dining Room

2.45 pm Theatre Ladies of Jane, Scenes and Musings from the Pen of Jane


4.00 pm Afternoon Tea in the drawing room and Costume Parade & Judging

Full Day ticket( numbers strictly limited) EUR75 with all refreshments.

Lecture only /play only ticket EUR25 per session.

Booking: 058 54952/ 087 2030763

Susie Wingfield , Salterbridge, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford

Proceeds from this event are in aid of the Lismore Hall Restoration Fund. Cheques to: St. Carthage's Cathedral, Lismore Hall appeal.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

After a while

After a while
you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul

and you learn love doesn't mean leaning and company doesn't always mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts and presents aren't always promises

and you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and and your eyes ahead with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.

And you learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much

So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers

And you learn that you really can endure, that you really are strong and you really do have worth and you learn and you learn

with every good-bye you learn.

Author: Veronica A. Shoffstall

Monday, July 1, 2013

Please Choose Life

I am a big fan of the radio and it's always on in the car tuned to local, regional or national stations. The choice of show depends on who is in the car with me, my mood and whether or not there is a breaking news story that I need to follow for my work as a Communications Officer.

This morning I was in the car by myself travelling to work in Maynooth so I happened to switch channel at 9am to see who was on and who is away on holidays - it can be hard to keep up, especially on the National stations.

I heard Miriam on the John Murray Show and heard her mention Donal Walsh so I stayed tuned in. I had just pulled into the car park in work when her interview with Donal Walsh's parents began.

Now if you don't know who Donal Walsh is, then you missed an opportunity to listen to and to learn from an amazing young man who sadly passed away recently. Donal Walsh, while living with terminal cancer, went on National TV to talk about his desire to simply live and to plead with young people who so often and so readily choose suicide - to STOP and to choose to live instead of choosing to die.

You would have wanted to have a heart of stone to be unmoved by this young man and his parents who so clearly loved the very ground he walked on.

Anyway back to Miriam this morning and her interview with Donal's parents. Miriam took them back through DOnal's life and what he was like as a baby and then up to the point where he was diagnosed with a tumour in his knee when he was just entering his teenage years and when all he wanted to do was to play sport.

The interview was sensitive and you got a real sense again of the boy who had just made the transition from boyhood to being a man. I felt at times like I was sitting at their kitchen table as they got bad news, followed by good news and then more bad news. I was almost there with them the day they got the awful news that there were no more treatment options for Donal.

I cried as I listened to a father who back then was trying to be strong and for whom it still took every ounce of his strength not to cry today on national radio. I found it particularly hard to listen to Elma, Donal's mother as she spoke of her son. I know what sons are to their mothers, especially Irish sons as I am Mum to a little boy of 8.

The last think Donal's mother said today as Miriam signed off the interview was that Donal will be waiting for her ....... Those words will stay with me forever.

Her faith is so strong. Her joy in the short life of her son was palpable today.

Donal's parents said that he has left them with a lot of work to do - he started something while he was in his final few months on earth that I hope will in some way help and encourage young people to choose life. In fact I hope it will encourage people of all ages to always choose life.

I am living with an incurable form of bone marrow cancer and I know it is hard for those who love me. As I listened to Donal's parents today I thought about how I am on the other side of where they are - they are parents mourning their son. I am scared every day that I will be the parent of children who are mourning me.

It's very hard - impossibly hard and overwhelming at times.  I get angry when I hear of another person who has died by suicide. I can't help it and you will have to forgive my anger at people who I know are sick and suffering too - people who are in despair and who can't see a way out. I do my best to understand and I know that there is a black hole and people often can't help but fall into it but I have fought every day since my diagnosis on 10 January 2007 to live, to survive and to squeeze every last drop I can from this life. It's hard for me to understand a senseless loss of someone by suicide.

I hope that Donal's life and the witness he gave in the short time he had on earth can make people sit up and actively choose life especially in a world which so often seems to be weighed on the side of the culture of death.

I hope that I can grow old surrounded by the people who love me and whom I love.

For Donal, for me, for all those fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses - please choose life! It's always worth it.


PS Never underestimate the power of radio!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Happy Stem Cells Birthday to Me

This day six year's ago I was spending the first of two days in Saint James's Hospital in Dublin having my stem cells harvested as part of my treatment for Multiple Myeloma - a cancer of the blood/bone marrow. 

It was cutting edge to watch all the machines and the stem cells literally being sucked out of my blood as it was taken out and put back into my body through my central line. The care I received was fantastic and we had great fun despite me being sick with nerves and still a little sick from the chemo I had received the previous week. 

I was one of the lucky ones whose stem cells mobilised and were harvested. After two days on the machine they had harvested enough for not just one, but two stem cell transplants. 

The first of the stem cells in their little bag of life 

It was an extraordinary challenging and yet miraculous time for me and for my family. Each part of the treatment had its own side effects and problems but it was all well and truly worth it. 

I spend two weeks in hospital for the process of harvesting my stem cells and the second day of harvesting was on the Friday of the June bank holiday weekend. Even though I had been on the machines and had a very intensive day I persuaded them to send me home on the Friday evening - day two of the harvest - so as I could be around family for the long weekend.

On the trip from Saint James's Hospital back to Tallaght I was very woozy from the drugs and the effects of having my blood taken out and put back in so I said to the ambulance driver 'I would be a cheap date tonight - one drink and I would be singing' and he very quickly retorted 'what time will I pick you up at?'. It's funny what you remember from a day like that. 

Me and My Collected Stem Cells May 2007 

Here's to my wonderful stem cells which worked and which kicked cancer in the butt and here's to my stem cells waiting patiently for me in Saint James's should I need another transplant.

Onwards and upwards [well once I have today's hospital visit over]. LOL

Happy Bank Holiday Weekend and here's to health, the only wealth you ever need. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cherishing Childhood

Our childhood is what makes us who we are, and it’s also what sustains us when we enter into the sometimes crushing reality of adulthood. This world isn’t easy to live in. The monsters you once thought hid under the bed don’t hide anymore, they walk the streets, and they are every bit as frightening as when you lay huddled beneath the bedcovers at night after a bad dream.

When you grow up, you enter into a world of jobs and mortgages, a world of endless responsibility; a world that can gobble you right up if you let it. You learn that bad things do happen and that they happen every second of every day. As you grow up you begin to learn about the past, and the depravity of your own species through the ages. The boogie man comes knocking at your front door with a gun and a smile, and life stops being fair and becomes ugly.

It’s easy to get lost in the big bad world, which is why your childhood is so important. It lets you exist in a time where things are simpler, where you see the world through a keyhole and the grass is green right where you stand. You get to exist in a place where all the fairy tales are real, when you might still get your Hogwarts letter, where life is made of wonder and you don’t scare so easily.
But once you grow up the simple truth is that life can be hard, brutally hard, and you need somewhere to go, memories to sustain you when it feels like you’re being suffocated under the life you’ve made for yourself. You need to get be able to remember back to the days when you felt you could be anything in the world, from a princess to Pok√©mon Master. You have to be able to remember when the world was an idea, when the doors were opening instead of closing and when every crack and crevice was full of magic.

But sadly there are many people who had their childhood taken from them, whose lives have always been complicated. These people deserve to be given a chance to salvage their own childhood, and they can’t do it on their own. Those of us who had a happy childhood have to help them, have to allow them to enter into our world. Force them to watch every single Harry Potter movie and make them read the books you read when you were a kid. Bring them to the beach and make them build a sandcastle, give them the memories they never got to make.

The gift of a childhood is the greatest gift you can give another person, because within it lies the pathway to everything else, the basic understanding of love and the simplistic goodness that we all need to fall back on. We could all use a little childish logic now and then, giving things because it’s right, not because you want to look good, doing things without expecting anything in return.

Maybe your childhood wasn’t perfect, maybe your life has never stopped being complicated. Maybe your parents taught you things you wish you didn’t know. Regardless of the lot you were dealt as a child - as an adult, as a parent you have to be the one to teach your children what you wish you had been taught, and you must always be mindful of the millions of children in the world today who have no childhood because their world is consumed by war and poverty. Their world is broken, shattered, along with every dream they ever dared to dream.

English poet John Betjeman said, "Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows."

Cherish your children and give them a childhood worth remembering, because it’s the foundation that holds them up.
Children and young people reading this – you too must cherish and do your best to enjoy your childhood – you owe it to your adult self!

Emma Tobin

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Being Young

Guest post by Emma Tobin

Being young today isn’t easy, because it means being massively stereotyped, it means being prejudiced against. We’re viewed with scorn because of what we do, because we spend time on Facebook and Twitter and because we don’t give our elders respect they haven’t earned. We’re seen as a bunch of atheists who live in a world where evil is glorified, where violence reigns supreme. We can’t shop in large groups, because we’re seen as a threat.

That’s the brush we’re tarred with, and that’s what’s expected of us. We have opinions, we’re smarter than people give us credit for, yet still it’s presumed that we are slaves to fashion and the constant victims of peer pressure. We’re viewed as invertebrates - bowing under social pressure, unable to stand on our own two feet, more likely than not to drink and take drugs.

That’s not who we are. We are the people who will have to search for peace, because we know that war is no longer the answer to every little problem, we know that bombing each other is not the only way to settle an argument. We’ve grown up in a world plagued with nuclear threat on all sides. Everyone is packing now, because for a long time that’s been the only way to be safe; the promise of mutual annihilation. We’re the people who will have to find a cure for cancer, who will continue to save and preserve human life.

We are not the people who will waste away in virtual worlds; we are the people who will take virtual reality further than anyone has gone before. We will make the future masterpieces in film, we will write the classics of the future; we will be the pop stars, the rock stars, the singer/songwriters of the future. We are not the dirt under your shoe, we are the ground that will hold you up when you grow old, we are the people who will actually give you your pensions. We will be the honest bankers; we will speak the words that will change the world.
We are the young, and the stupid, but we are not delinquents, and we do not deserve your condescension, your mistrust. We will learn from your mistakes and build a better world for ourselves. Right now, we’re the people you think you can look down on, but in a few years we’ll be you, and you have a choice to teach us to appreciate the young people who will take our place, or to be just like you. You are the people with the choice to make. You have the power to empower us, and to empower future generations.

Being young has never been easy, but it doesn’t have to be impossible and it doesn’t have to be so hard that we do everything in our power to escape it. You can give us the power to be noticed, to be heard, make us responsible people who don’t need to turn to alcohol to feel grown-up, who don’t need to turn to drugs to escape the world you’ve made for us. You were young once. I mean, you’re the people that The Breakfast Club is based on, so you know how we feel. We’re not criminals, we’re the start of a new age, and you have to accept that even though we seem alien, we’re going through the same things that you did.

We strike out against the world because it seems to close in on us, drowning us in rules and quashing our every attempt to express who we are, who we’re turning into. We don’t walk around shops wondering what to steal; we wonder what will look good on us. We don’t look at you and see victims; we look at you and see people who were just like us once, just as scared and confused, turning to music to make us feel alive because we don’t quite know how to live yet.

We’ve had it proven to us one hundred times over that children can’t rule the world, and we’re not asking you to hand over the reins to us. We just want the right to grow up in a world that appreciates us, that really listens to us and that isn’t so afraid of us that we have to be ruled with an iron fist. This is your world right now, but one day it will be ours, and you need to consider just what you want the future rulers of the world to be like.

Do you want them to be criminals, or do you want them to be smart, confident people who aren’t afraid of becoming like you?


May 2013

Emma Tobin is my daughter and she is 16.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wonder by Emma Tobin

Guest post by my almost 16 year old daughter Emma:

“If you are a dreamer come in
If you are a dreamer a wisher a liar
A hoper a pray-er a magic-bean-buyer
If you’re a pretender come sit by my fire
For we have some flax golden tales to spin
Come in!
Come in!” ~ Shel Silverstein

Our world is almost indescribable. How do you put something that encompasses the entirely of our existence in a single word, one definition that’s supposed to explain everything? Here is a planet with seven billion people attempting to live at the same time, a planet with hundreds of languages, countries and religions; a race of people full of untold stories and brimming with secrets. I try not to put the world into words, because as Oscar Wilde said, ‘to define is to limit’.

Still, every so often I like to sit back and simply…wonder at the beauty of it all and the ugliness too. We’ve realised ourselves that there cannot be beauty without some imperfection in the equation, and while we have a lot of imperfection, without it we could not know beauty. Our world can be all at once grotesque and exquisite. We have committed terrible acts as a race, as individuals, but we’re also inherently beautiful. You’d be surprised how widespread this belief is; Marilyn Monroe said that ‘imperfection is beauty’.

This is a world full of dreamers, and that is perhaps our redeeming quality. I’ve always found that of every great power on this earth, dreams outstrip all. They are restricted only by our imagination, and they’ve led us from strength to strength. Of course, dreams aren’t always pretty things and in many cases they’ve led us to death and destruction.

Dreams are what drive us to be great, to always tell ourselves that we can go further, we can do better. The fact is that dreams have changed the world, for better and for worse, and they will continue to do so until we’re just a radioactive shimmer in the air. You can’t limit imagination or willpower and so you can’t limit those who dare to dream. Our minds span farther into the universe than technology will ever be able to transport us, and reside deeper in our hearts than any scalpel can probe.

Jesus Christ dreamed of a peaceful world. In His life He demonstrated how massive a task He has given to His followers. Born in a land where those who weren’t ignoring the problems were baying for blood as a way to resolve them, He told people to love their neighbours and even though it seems like a losing battle, every day His followers work towards a peaceful world.

We sweat and we bleed and we die for our dreams, because they’re worth it, and that’s what makes them more powerful than hydrogen bombs and guns and all those superficial instruments of power.

The world is an amazing place, but I believe that we don’t make it less beautiful by living on it. Some say that the world would be better off if humans never came to exist, but I think that despite our imperfections, without us the world would only be a sad shadow of what we have made it.

However, we have a duty to ourselves and to the world, which has given us room to grow and new places to discover, to make sure that we never end up as radioactive shimmers in the air. We have a duty to pursue world peace with single-minded determination and to keep our hopes and our dreams alive. We’re a long way from peace, and there’s still a chance that world peace may be impossible, that there’s no way to keep seven billion people happy at the same time.

Instinctively, I see two problems that are making peace impossible, and those two things are the reasons for innumerable atrocities throughout the turbulent history of international relations. They are ignorance and intolerance. Simple in themselves, but the 20th Century showed us just how easily these two things can put the world minutes from total annihilation.

Ignorance leads to fear, which is the reason that the Cuban Missile Crisis got so far out of hand. Intolerance built the concentration camps and fuelled the minds of those who committed terrible acts there. There’s no clear answer to achieving peace, and it will take many more decades of baby steps to get anywhere close to it, but I don’t think I’m alone in believing that when all is said and done it will be worth it.

You don’t have to be idealistic to realise that the world is a wonderful place, and a flawed place, but it is a beautiful place, so every so often I urge you to sit back and indulge in a healthy dose of awe.


Emma Tobin

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Guest post: Motherhood by Emma Tobin

Mothers are the hands that hold us up until we learn to fly, and often those hands have a hard time letting go of us, the baby bird whose wings are strong enough to carry it now. They’ve held it up even when their arms shook, even when they wanted nothing more than to throw down this tremendous burden and run away.

Sooner or later, we all lose our mother, and it happens to some sooner than it happens to others. Some of have to learn to fly faster than others (and some of us never learn to fly), but a mother isn’t something that can be completely taken from us. Whether or not you believe that there is a chamber in our heart nobody talks about where those we love reside, there is a connection between a mother and her children that defies life and death and distance. Even when the umbilical cord is cut and even when we’re forced out of safety and into the infamously unfair world, we are always connected to our mother.

Even if we never get a chance to get to know this person we see reflected in our eyes and in the way we smile, our mother can never truly leave us so long as we are the person that she loves more than her own life. So long as we are the people she’s fighting Velociraptors for in her nightmares, then she is the one person who will love us even if the rest of the world knows that we’re a complete brat.
Unfortunately, we can’t control the way our mother feels, and we can’t control it if they don’t really live up to their title. Which is why we learn that the person whose uterus we inhabited isn’t always the person we call mother. People aren’t perfect, and not everyone is strong enough to be a mother. So don’t limit yourself to the belief that just because this person who gave you their genes doesn’t feel the way they should, that you don’t have someone you can call mother. Just like everyone has a soul mate, everyone has someone who is willing to give them a mother’s love. They can be hard to find, and sometimes we’re already flying before we realise who was holding us up the whole time.

Mother’s Day is a tribute to those who call themselves mothers, who have given everything again and again just to get us off the ground. They don’t get to stop holding us up, but they get to see us look down and notice that without them we’d be falling.

Don’t hold back, spare no expense, but always remember that it’s not about getting the right DVD, it’s about the expression of love that you show even in handing over the wrong DVD. A single day each year isn’t too much to ask for the lifetime of dedication that goes into having a child. This woman gave up so much so that you could be alive, and the fact that you’re here means that even if a certain accident happened prior to your birth, it became a gift the first time she looked into your eyes, or heard you laugh.

You can’t imagine the kind of love that consumes a mother when she sees her child for the first time. It trumps anything they’ve felt before; they look into your eyes and they’re scared because they know right in that moment that they’d die for you. Without hesitation, without a second thought, because nothing on this earth could hurt them more than losing you.

Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be elaborate, because you could give your mother anything under the sun and it would be worth nothing compared to what your life is worth to her.

Copyright: Emma Tobin 2013

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A guest post by Emma Tobin

This is a poem written by my daughter Emma. Emma is 15 and she is the most talented writer, as yet undiscovered but something tells me that 2013 is her year. This is a poem she wrote following our failed attempts at sending Chinese lanterns skywards on New Year's Eve 2012: