Archives for posts with tag: family

In an effort to try keep this Christmas a less stressful holiday, my wife and I decided to keep things simple this year. We planned and bought gifts early, and wanted to prioritise a family day out the weekend before Christmas. We wanted a day where nothing but having fun with our kids would be the task of the day – no last minute shopping! It sounds simple, but I’m usually unorganised at Christmas time, and therefore stress and tension creep in easily. Thankfully, our plan went well and we had a wonderful, family day. We also got to spend time with other members of our families – the in-laws, cousins and their family. It was wonderful.

The magic of Christmas was felt today. We had pizza at a very child friendly restaurant (Milano) that was decorated in festive splendour. We walked through streets lit with magical light displays. We got to visit a fairy-themed park and watch the kids ride a carousel, and eat chocolate filled crepes afterwards. It is definitely one of the days I hope to remember for ever. I’m also hoping our children will remember it as fondly. And it got me thinking about the happy memories I have of Christmas time with my parents when I was a child. There are many enjoyable moments, thankfully. One of the most memorable involved a lot of thought and action from my parents in order for me and my siblings to be surprised. I’m not sure how old I was at the time, probably about ten years of age.

The story involved the whole family at the time – my parents with their four children – heading to a Christmas Fair about two miles from our home. We arrived late in the afternoon so the visiting Santa was already gone. Four disappointed children were told that Santa left a message that he’d catch up with them soon. For the rest of that day we strolled around the various knickknack stalls and bought tickets to the raffle. We left with a few simple prizes and strolled home in the dark winter evening.

The next morning, we went to school as usual and then walked home that afternoon. A typical Monday for the average school going child. However, when we arrived at the back door of our house it was locked. Nothing strange, it usually meant my mother was probably gone to the shop, or a neighbour, so we just had to stroll around the block to the front of the house. In those ‘good auld’ days, a key was always in the front door. The four of us walked along the road to the front of the house. When we pushed open the front gate of the house we saw four wrapped presents on the doorstep. We ran and grabbed the gift that was left for us. A single letter was also on the doorstep, addressed to us all – a letter from Santa apologising for missing us at the Fair the previous day. He explained he had the presents wrapped and knew we were expecting something, so he dropped them off that afternoon. We stood amazed, we just looked at each other in awe – the idea of Santa calling to our house while we were in school, to drop off presents to us. It was truly an early Christmas present. It was magical!

Coincidentally, our parents arrived home ‘from the city’ within seconds of us finding the gifts. They were as thrilled as their four children at the sight of the presents and the letter from Santa. They celebrated this most extraordinary event with us. It is a lovely memory, and I still feel some of the excitement today when I think of it. The magic of Christmas is said to be in the time we spend with our family. Today was one of those days for me. I hope this Christmas brings such joy to others.

Merry Christmas.


Picture Credit

I had a few topics I wanted to discuss over the last few weeks but didn’t get around to it. Some of the delay is my procrastination to write and then there’s the critic in me that says I’d have to improve the topic / idea first. But seeing as this blog is mainly about me learning the creative crafts as I go through them – I’ll share this thought quickly and see how it goes / grows.

This thought is about some of the people of Cork, and their ‘issue’ about the identity the city holds in Ireland. As a Dublin man living in Cork for many years, I’m amazed by the amount of Corkonians that insist on mentioning to me that ‘I’m in the real capital now’ (boy)! Some locals even question why I decided to live in Cork, as if it were an unbelievable choice or forced infliction. You see, I think Cork is a great city and county. I love living here. Cork has so much to offer, that I would be hard pressed to leave it, ever. But, I also love Dublin – it’s also an amazing city that has a lot to offer its residents and it’s visitors. Comparable to other capital cities around the world, it can be enjoyed whether your purse had restrictions, or you’re one of the high fliers of this world. Ireland has a few great cities, and thankfully we’re such a small island that they are easily accessible.

Cork city is a great size – not too big, not too small – to stroll around and see all it has to offer. The food options are amazing and more affordable than Dublin. The local stouts of Beamish and Murphy’s are much nicer, in my opinion, than the Dublin version. I once contacted Heineken Ireland to send me a list of Dublin pubs that regularly buy kegs of Murphy’s so that I could enjoy a drink in my hometown. But the consistent emphasis from the people of Cork regarding ‘the real capital’ can be annoying. Not that I’m protective of my home town’s status, Dublin is a great city whether it holds a capital city title or not. I don’t see why Corkonians use ‘the capital city’ title at all – it makes no sense. I’ve never got an answer to why they believe Cork is the ‘real capital’ and/or why they want it to be?

A few weeks ago Cork hosted a Global Cork Economic Forum. It seemed to have been a great success. A comment I heard from one of the speakers was around this very subject I discuss here – why is Cork trying to be a capital city, it’s great the way it is!? I can’t recall who said it, but I totally agree with this speaker. Why not flaunt what you have, instead of trying to measure up to another city. No matter what you do, you can’t be some other place. You’re Cork, so promote that!!

His statement threw an image into my head of two daughters in a family, and the younger teenage sister is trying to be as good as, if not better, than her older sister. When a young man becomes attracted to the older sister, the younger one emphasises all her best qualities to try out-do the traits of her big sister. She wants to be the attractive one. It’s only when she grows up that she realises that she also has admirers, and she doesn’t have to compete with her sister at all. There’s ‘plenty of fish in the sea’ for them both to get what they want. They both have traits that people want. She realises that there are issues about being the eldest that will not always be attractive, so it’s great to be the second child!

So, in keeping with this analogy, I’m looking forward to the day the Corkonians realise that they have a great city and county to offer the world already, and they don’t have to keep criticising the rest of the family for being attractive as well. Alright boy!

A beautiful painting from another ‘blow-in’ to Cork – Victor Richardson.
Available through Lavit Gallery, Cork

<br /

The last few weeks I’ve been ill. So ill, that I had to relinquish my need to do everything for myself. You see, I’m not great at asking for help and regularly get bothered when others try to help me ‘without my permission’! However, when I found the simplest of human tasks a major difficulty (ie, breathing), it’s a bit easier to accept the goodwill of others. It happens almost every year now, but this year dragged on a bit too long for my comfort. And this resulted in me being a grumpy man!

The best thing for me to do during all this was to relax and let my body rest and recover. But that was a contradiction in my mind – how can I relax when my retired parents are having to travel down to my home to look after my kids while my wife was working?!? Huh? How? But, I had no choice. I could barely walk to the car to get to a doctor. I felt like sleeping half way through the ten minute journey to his surgery. I certainly slept when I got home after a ‘gruelling’ one hour trip outdoors.

I found my reliance on others to do my job very hard, and still feel weak at the thought of what had to happen. When I regained some strength and could participate in family life a bit more I was still angry at my body’s weakness to do basic things I need it to do. I was uncomfortable that this meant I needed the help of others. I got grumpy with my wife and kids over simple things and tasks. The kids were great through it all. My wife was great. Our parents were brilliant help at a moments notice. The only person that struggled through it all was me! I hated needing the help of others. I still hate it, and I don’t know why?

It brought back a memory of my life several years ago, when I was a student. I shared a house with the girl who is now my wife. I was studying for one last exam while she was finished all of hers. After several hours of cramming information into my exhausted brain I needed to take a break, and came down to the kitchen to have lunch. When I entered the room I was presented with a toasted sandwich from my caring and loving housemate. Instead of saying thank you, I got grumpy with her. She looked at me with a puzzled grin while I clarified that I could have made it myself, that I didn’t need her to do it. I was coming down to do it anyway. She’s a redhead, so she quickly told me what to do with the sandwich! 🙂 Thankfully, she got over it easier than I did, because years later I’m still acting like that fool.

Why do I generally struggle to ask for help? Why do I struggle to ask for help even when I’m too ill to do it myself? Why do I have to emphasise my ability to do it myself, when others take the initiative and do it for me? I don’t know. I had several weeks lying in bed where I could have analysed it more. Unfortunately, all I could do was try to keep breathing. Thankfully, my family helped me to achieve that. Obviously, their willingness to care for me is stronger than my ability to ask for that care. They hopefully see more in me than a grumpy man. I hope my kids will learn this trait, rather than pick up my one. And now that I can breathe easily again, I’m asking myself the questions to help me understand why I avoid and resist the support of others. Have you any input?

Before I move forward, just let me say “Thank you” to my family.


I started this blog to help me record the self-assigned task of learning to design, to be a designer. I’m doing all kinds of stuff at the moment to constitute a reference to ‘designing’, but I wouldn’t dare use the phrase “I’m a designer” at the moment. It got me thinking about this statement so I thought I better check it out, and according to this is the meaning of ‘designer’:

de·sign·er [dih-zahy-ner]
a person who devises or executes designs, especially one who creates forms, structures, and patterns, as for works of art or machines.

1640–50; design + -er

So, for now, I can honestly say I do a lot of devising of designs, and there is definitely some (and plenty more to come) executing of designs. So am I a designer now?

In someone’s eyes I am. My wife and her mother look at my work and see me as the designer in the family business. When they compliment my work I’m happy, but I shrug off their praise, and start explaining to them the mistakes I made to get the work done, the time it took and how I hoped it would be done better and sooner. I wish for the day I have more skill in executing projects I haven’t even started! I have a tendency to look at what I haven’t achieved before I acknowledge what I have.

So, to start using this blog as intended, I will state now that I have devised and executed some great designs so far. I enjoyed the process and the material is being received by customer (and intended target audience) quite well. I have ideas for more material and have learnt a lot over the last few design jobs to help me with the next few. I’m researching other work and drafting designs in the believe I am improving.

However, I’m doing all this design work on the side of my life, so I see it as a hobby rather than a career. And that is probably the issue for me. Other people are designers because that is what they do for a living, whereas I am just doing it in my spare time.

So, in the quiet corners of the blogosphere I’m stating now – I’m a designer. I hope to work on future projects that will take me outside my comfort zone. I hope some of these projects will be for someone else besides my wife, and payment is in monetary terms rather than love and affection. The latter, I hope, will always be a well paying client.

The infamous phrase ‘if a tree falls…’ throws out the question of existence and observation. So, if I create a design in this huge creative forest and nobody is there to appreciate it, is it a design? Apparently not. Thankfully my wife and mother-in-law are constantly listening for falling trees. They appreciate the small trees I have felled for the family home. We all hope that someone else in the village will recognise my tree-felling skills and ask me to do the job for them. In the meantime, I think it’s time I stopped writing and go get the axe!


I mentioned in a previous post that helping my wife with her ideas is what got my creativity flowing again. She wanted a small business with an online presence and I decided to help her with that.

For a few years she talked about starting this little venture – she was passionate about pregnancy and birth before we had children and even more so when she gave birth to our two children. So, on her birthday a few years back I presented her with a small gift of a domain name for the ‘business’ she dreamed of having. This was presented with a homemade token from me, offering to do a simple website for her. (I bought a MacBook a few months previously and was eager to try the iWeb app)

She was thrilled with the gift. Even more than I expected! On that day, the seeds of her business were taken from her mind and sown. We brainstormed ideas on how to develop her plan, and we tried to be practical as to what would work with our family and other time commitments. Some ideas were put into practice, and the cogs turned to produce stock and services. And from this we saw the seeds sprout and start to grow.

I never realised doing this work for my wife was going to help resurrect an old passion of mine. While drafted ideas for her website I also doodled ideas for a logo. These sketches developed into graphics that could be used for print and online. The structure of the website had to be worked out several times, and redone as demands and knowledge changed. The small seedling of her business and my creativity was growing into a tree, with several branches bearing fruit.

It was a lot of work for me to take on after my own (hectic) full-time job; plus my time with the children when I got home, as well as the cooking and cleaning…but somehow I kept going. In hindsight I recognise that my stamina to do all this was helped by my love for the design and creating process. It kept me up until 4am some days as I happily tried to get some more work done. I started noticing logo designs on everything, identifying which websites I liked and didn’t like. My mind often raced with more ideas, especially when I did finally go to bed early some evenings.

Over the last couple of years I have still followed this passion, but I try control it so that it balances with my family and work commitments. I have dropped out of other community activities in order to spend more time at home with my family and to give me time to design. There are days when I want to lock myself away from everyone so that I can just design stuff. Thankfully that doesn’t happen too often! Instead I’m using the time with my family to give me ideas and inspire my work. I’m recognising that helping others to plant seeds can produce nourishing fruit for everyone. I enjoyed last year’s harvest, and look forward to sowing more design seeds this year.



This ‘guaranteed Irish’ logo is a design I remember as a child; sitting eating my cereal and noticing how it played with the g + i initials of its name. I remember pointing it out to my father who never recognised it.