Why I’m Marching

It’s been a year since the last March for Choice.

It’s been a year of highs and lows.

Among the highest of highs was the Sunday I spent on a windy beach, refreshing my twitter feed and growing increasing ecstatic about what I was seeing, as some of my fellow citizens voted again and again to show compassion and recommend sweeping change to Ireland’s abortion laws, which, thanks to an amendment introduced at a mad, dangerous time in 1983, are among the strictest in the world.

Our abortion laws are, thanks to the eighth amendment, at once black and white and myriad shades of grey. If I am pregnant in Ireland, I am considered exactly equal in law to a foetus. The grey comes in when adults and children are taken to court because of the law, with the foetuses in their uteruses granted the same level of legal representation as they are.

Doctors have kept a decomposing woman on life support because she happened to be pregnant because of all the grey around our laws.

The Attorney General issued legal proceedings against a 14 year old child, pregnant following rape, compelling her to return to Ireland because the foetus inside her had a right to life because of all the grey around our laws.

Savita, a woman whose glorious smile we are familiar with for all the wrong reasons, was kept in pain and anguish as she miscarried her very much wanted baby, and died because of all the grey around our laws.

I’m marching for these and many other reasons.

I’m marching because of the black, and the white, and the grey reasons people have for needing and wanting and having abortions.

I’m marching because while there are shades of grey, people of privilege like me will always have more options when it comes to healthcare, including access to safe and legal abortions.

I’m marching because I am healthy and alive despite the eighth amendment, not because of it.

I’m marching because, as much as we might want it not to be so, this is part of how we make change happen.

I’m marching because I can’t leave it to someone else.

Why I’m Marching

This One Is Actually About Budgets-Part 1

I became slightly addicted to reading personal finance blogs over the summer, in particular http://www.frugalwoods.com/. I don’t have a lot in common with many of them, in that neither I nor my husband have a huge desire to retire early and travel the world or live on a homestead, but I have been thinking about money and independence and what those two things mean to me and to my husband and to us as a couple.

I have never been great with money. I only ever managed to save with a very specific goal in mind and I love stuff. In college, I had the enormous privilege of:

  1. Living at home.
  2. Having tuition free education, something I am thankful for every single day.
  3. A great, well paid part-time job that I was easily able to fit around my college schedule.
  4. Good health, enabling me to juggle numbers 2 and 3.
  5. Not having to worry about bills, food and paying rent, another thing I am thankful for every day-the money I earned from my job and fairly regular babysitting for a family down the road was all mine.

My best friend worked close by and we’d work all summer, saving as much as we could, then we’d go to London for a week and blow most of it on clothes, having a good time and letting our hair down before resuming our studies. Again, this is something I am really, really thankful for and I couldn’t have asked for more from my parents who facilitated me being able to do this.

When I was in college, the Government of the day set up a crazy good savings scheme, the SSIA. It was a no-brainer, you got an extra 25% when you saved into these accounts. I set one up and when I started a ‘proper’ job after graduation I upped the payments. I did not save much beyond this, but I was still living at home with minimal bills. This was the heady days of the peak of the Celtic Tiger and the madness of this time is best illustrated by the fact that I was able to buy a house, with the assistance of my parents (have you realised how amazing they are yet? I thank them every day, in my head at least, for the privileged start I’ve had in life) despite:

  1. Having just graduated and not having a long track record of working.
  2. Having only the savings I had managed during college.
  3. Having no lump sum in a deposit account.

So here I was, 23 years of age, a home owner who had never really had to plan her spending, save and budget with a long term goal in mind or be responsible for all the bills that come with running any household but especially being a homeowner. And I continued to like All The Things. Stuff was my friend and while I was never a candidate for a show about hoarding I was a very good consumer.

Looking back, I don’t know how the process of buying a house didn’t change my mindset around finances. I mean, you’d think if anything would signing up for a 40 mortgage would. But no, there are more tales to tell.


This One Is Actually About Budgets-Part 1

Observe the Daughters of Ireland, Marching Towards Bodily Autonomy.

We’ll be marching on September 30, once again looking for Ireland to repeal the eighth amendment of the Constitution which makes pregnant children and women equal to a zygote. We first marched in 2012, following the death of Savita. I was clueless on that march, but sheer emotion drove me to get out on the streets in a way I never had before.

We’ve marched on gloriously sunny days dressed in summer clothes. We’ve marched in the pouring rain wearing matching REPEAL sweatshirts. We’ve protested outside the National Maternity Hospital and listened to Graham Linehan tell us once again why Ireland needs to repeal the eighth. We’ve shared stories on social media and tried to engage with family and friends.

We’ve watched ‘balanced’ debates where those who think I am equal to a zygote have been allowed to lie unchallenged. We’ve listened to politicians obfuscating on women and children’s rights. We’ve seen glossy, expensive leaflets from supposedly ‘grassroots’ campaigns which use cartoons and childish imagery to try to convince people that Ireland and its women don’t need abortion.

I have cried tears of frustration many times. I have spent a Sunday refreshing my social media feed as I saw the Citizens Assembly, a group of  – I loath the phrase but I suppose it is what it is – ‘ordinary people’ listen and nod and agree with those who made the case for trusting women and children, and vote in a way that showed they cared.

I wrote this last year, around the same time. Since then, nothing has changed for women. Thousands have travelled, each with their own story, but each exiled by Ireland. I want the next march to be the last one. I want to know that the next generation of daughters won’t have to do this ever again.

Observe the Daughters of Ireland, Marching Towards Bodily Autonomy.

Back to School(ish)

My work mirrors the school year, in that September is a time where things start getting back into gear. I’ve had a great summer, with nearly a month away from the office, and plenty of long evenings in our garden and time for other projects. This week it will be back to normal and I’ve cleaned and tidied my desk in readiness.

As part of an overall plan for our finances and lives, we’ve both been bringing lunches to work every day in an effort to trim some of our expenditure. I love cooking and want to eat the healthy things I know are better for my body and my wallet. I’ve acquired a small lunch-sized cool bag and I’m going to be realistic about what I need to eat to keep me going, especially on those days where I’m at my desk for the guts of 12 hours.

I’ve realised I don’t need any new clothes for the work year ahead. My self-imposed clothes buying ban continues, and just this morning I realised I had two dresses I had completely forgotten about – it’s like having something new without having to buy it. I’ll probably have to get my two pairs of winter boots resoled at some point, but they’re comfortable and solid so I’m happy to bear that expense.

Back to School(ish)

Tiny Sparks of Joy

An easy week in work and a not so onerous one next week.

Getting to the gym every time I wanted to.

More new to me Chalet books on the way to complete my collection.

A reorganised bookshelf and finding a book I was afraid I’d decluttered in my zest for organisation.

Nowhere to be this weekend. Last weekend was busy, it’s nice to have absolutely no plans for a change.

Tiny Sparks of Joy

This Time Nine Months Ago

I could not:

  • Do a 40 minute spin class
  • Do a 20 minute kettlebell class
  • Do a 30 minute weight class

The main resolution I made at the end of last year was that this year I would put some sort of exercise regime in place. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had ups and downs, some days where I couldn’t face going, a sore back that put me out of action for a few weeks and a spin class that took me two weeks to get over.

It has all been worth it. I haven’t lost a lot of weight or dramatically changed my shape. I see it more as an investment in myself and my health. It’s a pretty nice feeling knowing what your body can be capable of when you work at it.

This Time Nine Months Ago

In And Out

I cringed upon seeing a tweet from a regular contributor to national newspapers referring to the problems for a country when ‘incomers’ bring up the birth rate.

I am married to an ‘incomer’ – but I suppose this isn’t a problem because he’s also technically ‘one of us’ due to a sheer accident of parentage.

I often feel I’m on the outside in Ireland when it comes to social issues. I have to explain why I won’t support religious charities and why, as a couple, we’ve made certain decisions.

I am an insider because I’ve been raised here by parents who were also raised here by parents who were raised here. Some of my ancestors must have been ‘incomers’ at some point, if the story told by the origins of various surnames scattered throughout my family history is true.

I feel like an outsider when I’m told in an authoritative tone that the contribution of ‘incomers’ to a birth rate means problems do arise.

At least we’re in enough that the whims of a capricious president doesn’t put our legal status in jeopardy. But we’re just out enough that it feels some people think we’re a problem because of the choices we’ve made.


In And Out

Tiny Sparks of Joy

Pulling out the slow cooker for the first time in months, which meant coming home to dinner even though I was out all afternoon.

An unexpected extra 45 minutes before I had to leave the house today.

The red bricks on the front of our house in the September sunshine.

New to me Chalet School books arriving in the post.

Two gym sessions down this week, and another planned for Friday.

Catching up with two friends I don’t get to see half as much as I’d like.

Tiny Sparks of Joy

The Dreamers

The first time I went to New York was on a family trip when I was 21 years old and the city was still digging through the remains of the World Trade Center. On a sunny, freezing cold day we got a ferry to Ellis Island and did a tour. The five of us had a chance to crowd around a computer and search the database. Both my parents knew many young people from their respective home towns had likely passed through immigration in the building we sat in, and sure enough just searching through lists using a couple of search terms threw up familiar names, sometimes a little misspelled (probably due to accents and things getting lost in translation during what must have been a fairly noisy, busy process), and always young. They were 16, 17, 18 or 19 years of age, setting off I suppose with dreams and hopes of their own. They can’t have been that different to my and my siblings who were of similar ages and had and still have dreams of our own.

In 2011, we went to America on honeymoon and spent the last few days in New York. I felt a real urge to visit Ellis Island again so on a sunny, warm day we got a ferry there and did another tour. This time, it was me and my brand new husband sharing a computer and we did similar searches and once again I was wondering why I was so moved by simple lists of names, ages and places of birth and why I would feel a connection to those people and hoped life had turned out ok for them.

My husband is an immigrant. He wasn’t born in Ireland, but he grew up here. Thanks to a strange twist of fate his parents came back here and so he has dual citizenship and, thanks to various legal immigration and citizenship arrangements so do I. We’re white, we’ve both got transferrable skills and we’d both qualify under the proposed new immigration rating system to go back to New York once more and work there. We’re not really dreaming about that right now, for many reasons. Your dreams change over time – be they the dreams of a 17 year old boy still queasy from weeks spent on a rocky ship seeing a city for the first time or a couple who aren’t worried about impressing immigration officials standing in a huge hall.

I don’t know how my husband or I would cope if he was sent ‘back’ to his country of birth. His parents did everything above board, but that’s just the luck of the draw. They had dreams when they left to make a life somewhere else and have children and work and build something new. My husband shouldn’t have to live with an immigration based sword of Damocles hanging over him and, thankfully, he doesn’t and nor do I. But when I organised our files yesterday and sorted through paperwork from different countries letting us know who we are and what we can do and, in essence, what a country thinks of us, I began to think about the Dreamers in New York, and everywhere else in America.

I think about them, and the lists of those young people we saw on a computer screen in Ellis Island, and the hopes and dreams they have and had. And I think of the poem every Irish school kid has to analyse for exams rendering it devoid of meaning until you can read it for its own sake, WB Yeats’ The Cloths of Heaven. And I hope that those in the US who can do something about the Dreamers remember to tread softly, because they are treading on people’s dreams.

The Dreamers