Staying Present in the Story

I've always loved reading stories to both of my children and introduced them both to books at a very young age. Being a designer I have always been attracted to books that are beautifully designed and illustrated and got great enjoyment browsing through the children's books in every book shop. The many benefits of reading to you child are endless and we all know them but how often do we read the story from start to finish while being totally present? There were often those evenings when they were very young when I was so tired that I might have tried to skip a page without them knowing it. Or those evenings when I had a list of things to do that you just needed to get to the end quickly so that they would fall asleep. I don't think I'm alone when I say it's happened to us all at some stage! What I've discovered since practicing mindfulness is when you are completely present in the story as you read it you will not alone be spending quality time with your child - you will also be experiencing looking at things in childlike wonder and you might really enjoy the story as it unfolds - even if you've read it 20 times before!

A Bank Holiday Well Spent

Every year for the last few years I have been saying the same thing "We should go to Bloom" but somehow for one reason or another we never went. Mainly because for a number of those years we had a mobile home in Liscannor so every June Bank holiday weekend when the Bloom Festival was on we were down there. This year as we are in the process of redesigning our garden we said " more excuses!". Then just when we thought "yay! I'm finally going to Bloom!" my poor little son got sick with a chest infection. I just thought okay, I'm going to be mindful about this as this is out of my control and there's nothing we can do about it - we'll aim for next year!

Bloom Festival...a real family fun day out

The funny thing was the one who was most disappointed about us not going was my son! After lots of couch cuddles on saturday and sunday he had a good nights sleep on the sunday night and was much brighter on the monday so after much deliberating - and major convincing from him we decided to head off. It was a late start for us (due to the deliberating and temperature checking) but again in the past I probably would have thought - it's too late it will be lunchtime before we get there. I thought - we'll be there by lunchtime so we'll have the full afternoon! As predicted, we got there by 1pm. After driving from Limerick we parked our car at the Red Cow Inn and got the Luas into Hueston Station where there were free shuttle buses going to and from the Phoenix Park where Bloom was on so it was stress free as we avoided the traffic and having to find parking.

Appreciating the tastes and smells...

Luke sampling some Innocent Smoothies

Luke sampling some Innocent Smoothies

Checking out the Cully and Sully Food Lab in the rain!

Checking out the Cully and Sully Food Lab in the rain!

On arrival I was very impressed with Bloom’s new ‘kids passport’ initiative, which gave my 6 year old son a wristband with a contact mobile phone number printed on it so that if he was to get separated from us in the crowd that we could be easily re-united. He's not one for wondering off but he was still happy out with his wristband! My daughter now having her own mobile phone was less impressed. As we arrived at lunchtime, we went straight for food and to say we couldn't have been in a better place was an understatement! We were surrounded by Ireland’s top food and beverage producers with the best of fresh food, artisan and organic produce, meat, poultry and fish and ‘Best in Season’ fruit and vegetables. We spotted two familiar places - Adare Farm and Country Choice (which we frequently visit in Limerick's Milk Market on a Saturday) - but these both had the longest ques - and with the beautiful aromatic smells wafting from both of them and knowing how their food tastes I'm not one bit surprised. The most popular items from the Country Choice stand appeared to be their iconic flash fried sirloin of Hereford with sweet carmalized onions, Country Choice honey and mustard salsa, mature Cashel blue, roast peppers and local Organic leaves all on a warm Ciabiatta. While Adare Farm had their roast suckling pork that would melt in your mouth with every bite.

There was also the Bloom Bistro that offered a more formal sit-down meal, or an informal café and seafood-bar which unfortunately we only discovered later that day. We were handed maps on our way in but I did think that the food options on this weren't explained very well and could have been clearer visually - and that's not the designer in me speaking as my husband agreed!

A Visual Treat in Garden Design

After we had sampled the food and we felt content with our full bellies we headed off to explore the gardens. The visual display of flowers, plants and trees here didn't disappoint and to see what some of the garden designers had created with their spaces was beautiful. We also managed to pause as much as possible to smell all the gorgeous roses and saw lots of bees To top it off there was even a Dispicable Me Garden with 2 Minions that made my son's day! After we had visited the gardens the rain unfortunately started to fall so we didn't get to spend as much time in the kids area as we would have liked but did get to check out strawberries and bluberries growing in the Keelings stand and my daughter also got to watch a visual tour of the Keelings farm which she enjoyed but to my son's dismay was over 12's. After my son got to sample some Innocent Smoothies we made our way back to the food stalls to purchase some produce and at this point there were lots of bargains on offer as the weekend was coming to an end so we stocked up on pestos, cold meats and even hand-made chololate and gourmet marsh mallows by Mallow Mia!

All in all this family day out was definitely worth a trip and something that we finally got to experience. After all the years of saying "We must definitely go to Bloom" I can now finally say "I'm glad we experienced Bloom"!

Stopping To Smell the Roses

Most of us are very familiar with the saying "Stop and Smell the Roses" but do we really take enough time to actually do it? Before I was introduced to mindful practice it is something I would have heard alot but did I ever really think about it - or actually do it?? While the meaning of this well known phrase is to slow down and take a moment out of your busy life to pause and notice the beauty around you, I have also found that actually physically stopping to smell flowers can be such a mindful experience in itself. There really is something so uplifting to walk into a florist and stand and notice the beautiful shapes, colours, textures and above all the wonderful scents that surrounded us. Or how lovely is it to treat yourself to a bunch of flowers? It doesn't have to be an elaborate bunch but giving yourself a simple bunch of daffodils is a way of practicing self love and going out picking wild flowers with your children is such a great way of practicing mindfulness and can be so therapeutic. I have also always loved trips to Dublin and been in awe of the flower stands on Grafton Street...each one as beautiful as the next but while I noticed and admired them I was always rushing to the next shop so I never really paused long enough to really notice them.

Joeanna Caffreys beautiful store at Avoca, Rathcoole

Joeanna Caffreys beautiful store at Avoca, Rathcoole

Less 'formal' flowers such as tulips have always been favourites of mine, and I adore flowering plants such as baby's breath (Gypsophila) and sweet pea as they have such a beautiful innocence about them. Another flowering plant that has become more common in florists are hydrangeas. I adore their shape and colour and always remember when my aunt who lives in the US introduced me to the world of Martha Stewart 20 years ago I fell in love with how she used hydrangeas in beautiful wreaths and place settings. So much so that my aunt made 2 beautiful wreaths from cream hydrangeas as a wedding gift to put in the church the day I got married and I also had boxed hydrangeas as the centerpiece on every table.

It's funny how a flower can remind you of someone or remember an occasion and giving someone a bunch is something that can mean so much - even if it's a simple bunch of daffodils. When I visited Avoca Rathcoole recently I was so excited to discover one of the prettiest florist ever! I was a little hut-like garden shed with the name Joeanna Caffrey written over the awning. Joeanna's creativity is evident from the second you set your eyes on the first bunch of flowers you see.

There was a beautiful range of flowers and as it was close to easter some stunning easter wreaths tastefully decorated with speckled duck eggs. There were also some shrubs in lovely baskets and of course there were my favourite - hydrangeas laced in beautiful tin containers! Each one blooming next to each other as if they were all cheering each other on! It really was such a lovely place to visit - while it's space was small there was a bench outside that encouraged me to sit down for moment to admire it all before I decided on which hydrangea was coming home with me!

Joanna also has stores in Avoca Dunboyne and Kilmacanogue and if they are anyway near as beautiful as the one in Rathcoole then I would highly recommend a visit - even if you just stop to smell the roses.

Putting My MoMe Cards to the Test on TV3

When I was contacted by one of the lovely researchers at TV3 to appear on their Boost My Business section of Ireland AM, I was excited about the opportunity but also very scared at the thoughts of appearing on live TV! Television was something I had never done - I was comfortable sitting in front of a computer screen but it was a first for me appearing on national television and the fact that it was going to be live - yes LIVE!!! - would normally have only added to my anxiety if I had allowed it to! 

After running my own design agency for almost 2 decades, I had done many presentations to clients but since I developed tinnitus I struggled a bit with these until I started meditating. So while I was getting back on track meeting clients and presenting my designs, being on television was another kettle-of-fish! I firmly believe that being mindful about the upcoming appearance really helped how I felt about it. I also had my daughters confirmation on the friday previous so that was a welcomed distraction as I said to myself "I won't think about it until after the confirmation" and that's exactly what happened - it didn't enter my head from that initial call from TV3 until the Sunday before my appearance. 

On the journey up to Dublin that morning at 6am, apart from doing my make-up followed by a 10 minute meditation and chatting to my ever supportive husband, I decided to use my MoMe Cards to flick through. I shuffled them around a bit and it's funny as the one card that kept coming up was "Inhale, Exhale, that's how you'll get through it". I joked about it with my husband a bit but I can honestly say it helped me breathe and forget about the cameras and the fact that it was going to be live and just relax about the whole experience.

I shuffled them around a bit and it’s funny as the one card that kept coming up was “Inhale, Exhale, that’s how you’ll get through it”.

When we arrived at TV3 everyone there were so welcoming. I initially felt at ease - still a bit nervous - but definitely not anxious like I would have been in the past. I realise 100% that as we get older, age definitely helps us deal with situations like this, but without a doubt I know that mindfulness and meditation helped me breathe and relax in a situation that in the past I would have worked myself up into a tizzy over!

Behind the scenes getting ready for my first live tv appearance and remembering to Breathe!!

It's a wrap! Such a lovely experience with all the Ireland AM team!

It's a wrap! Such a lovely experience with all the Ireland AM team!

Meeting Alan Hughes and below with the lovely Sinéad Desmond who was an absolute pleasure to meet!

Meeting Alan Hughes and below with the lovely Sinéad Desmond who was an absolute pleasure to meet!

We didn't have long to get set up as obviously everything on Live TV happens so quickly - but again - that was probably a good thing! I got the chance to have a quick chat with the really lovely Sinéad Desmond, but after Mark Cagney introduced himself to us it was time to go live! Even though there was no time for a run-through and have a chat about what questions we would be asked, Mark made everyone feel at ease. He was a complete gentleman and even noticed how I was using my cards to help me breathe! So, along with listening to my breath and not my tinnitus ringing loudly, and focusing on what Mark was asking me and not the cameras - I ended up really enjoying the experience in that moment so it was all over before I knew it! 

After we wrapped up everyone was so lovely. I got to have another chat with Sinéad Desmond - who was so friendly and approachable - and so genuine! It really was such a lovely experience and one that I am very grateful to the team at Ireland AM and TV3 for. I received such fantastic feedback from family and friends after the appearance and it also proved to be a great way of boosting a little business that ironically never ever set out as one! Thank you TV3!

There is Goodness In The World

What has struck me most about learning about mindfulness is that there is still kindness out there. There are still genuine kind people in the world. To be honest I had gone through some life experiences - both professional and personal that really made me question this and after running my own design agency for 15 years I frequently felt disillusioned with the fact that you had to be a little bit guarded with people in order to protect your business and I struggled with that. I am very open and trusting by nature and always struggled with that aspect of running my own business. In fact it was the side to running my own business that I didn't like. I didn't like the term 'Boss Lady' as it conjured up so many images for me like Meryl Streep's character in The Devil Wears Prada! I never wanted my staff to be afraid of me so I treated them like friends. I cared for them in a way that unfortunately most of them took for granted and some of them took complete advantage of.

I began to think that I was too trusting and it bothered me when I looked at my children and wondered how I was going to advise them about life, friendship and work without making them negative or cynical. both myself and my husband wanted them to have the trust and openness that we both grew up with but yet we wanted to protect them as much as we could. That is one of the reasons why I am so grateful I discovered mindfulness which has lead me on this journey.

When I walked into the room the first night of my MBSR Programme I got such a lovely feeling. There was a warm welcoming feeling from the people there. We were people of all different ages, there for different - but similar reason and all hoping for the same result - to better our lives through mindfulness. Some of us knew a small bit about it - some maybe knew more - either way we all wanted to learn. That was the start of me knowing that learning about mindfulness was going to have a positive impact on my life.

From that first night of my course until today I have been so overwhelmed with the amount of lovely and kind people I have met. Whether these people have been people I have met in person or just people who I have communicated with through email or my MoMe social media accounts the same thing has struck me - these people are all so kind.

Discovering Project Goodness

Apart from the direct contact with the people on my course one of the first people who reached out to me on this MoMe journey was a girl called Margo who runs an amazing website called Project Goodness which is basically a community dedicated to noticing and adding to the goodness all around us. When Margo contacted me first I did have that moment when I regressed into my old way of thinking and thought "why did she contact me?" and "Is she genuine?" I had been so trusting in the past only to learn the hard way that it was hard not to let my defences down completely - I was after all still new to the mindful world so it was only natural my defence went up a small bit but once I brought myself back to what I had learned on my course and what I had learned through meditation that I began to listen to my gut instinct and I felt a connection with Margo. I knew that she was genuine and I was so right. Margo is a beautiful, kind girl who has is dedicating so much of her time to her website and basically spreading kindness. She sent me a welcome pack that had stickers in it saying "I'm With Goodness". A simple clever little sticker that I believe has so much impact. I immediately put one on my mug at work, another one on my computer and my daughter and took the rest from me to put on her pencil case, school books and in her bedroom. She came home from school the first day after she stuck one on her pencil case and told me that a few of her friends had asked her about it and she explained that it was about being kind and I thought to myself " cool is that!" I thought that if these young girls were looking at my MoMe Cards and also seeing stickers like these that they might just help them be a little kinder to each other. A little more prepared for the very cynical, filter-driven world that social media was going to throw at them. A world that I thankfully didn't grow up in. Kindness needs to be nurtured, needs to be cared for and it's people like Margo who need credit for this.

It is this kindness that I have found infectious since I started my Mindful Journey. This kindness that has helped my develop something that started out as a little project into something that is  now a little business... this kindness has given me the energy I needed to reignite my creativity. So while I started my MBSR Programme to help me deal with my tinnitus it had ended up benefiting me so many other ways than I could ever have imagined and it's continuing to do so every day. I am very grateful for that.