social spark Aisling Beatha


Welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy your stay, however short, and find something that interests and blesses you.

The tabs just below will take you to posts of particular topics. So if you are looking for my posts on food, fitness or creativity, you will find them there. You will also find my posts on thankfulness or other more contemplative posts, as well as a set of posts with traditional blessings from a number of different cultures.

You can find posts with labels not included in that list via the labels list over in the sidebar.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Book Review - By Light of Hidden Candles


My Review: Last time I read a book with shifting perspective I found it difficult to follow and did not finish it.  THIS time was very different and I really enjoyed the shift as each chapter rolled over to the next.
"By Light of Hidden Candles" by Daniella Levy shifts perspective between two characters in the present day written in the first person and a group of characters in the past written in narrative.  Alma and Manuel are the two main characters in the current era and I found myself rooting for them to find a united future, through all the difficulties they faced.  All characters are well written, taking into account the internal struggles each would have been facing.
Having traced my own family history a fair way (thanks to relatives who did a lot of the work if I'm honest), I have a suspicion that one particular family left their home nation due to religious persecution, so reading the chapters set in the past was fascinating as I learned details about the era of the Spanish inquisition that I had no idea about before reading this book. 

I have a few favourite moments from the book.  In one of the chapters set in the past the Jewish young lady accidentally has her head scarf fall from her shoulders and the Catholic young man stares politely at the ground while she rearranges her scarf.  That acknowledgment from him of something he understood was important to her, was beautiful, as was the blessing given to the main female character by her grandmother.

I also found moments that were insightful in terms of my own spiritual struggles, particularly a section that explored the way the two faiths address the subject of doubt.  To summarise, this is a book that I will come back to, only this time with journal and pen in hand and I am really hoping for a sequel.  I want to know what comes next for these two.

I received a free Kindle copy of this book for review, but all comments are my genuine review.

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Thursday, July 06, 2017

Eating out with Gastroparesis - "Company Policy" v "Manager's Discretion"

When your adult son has digestive conditions that mean he has to eat 6 small meals a day and you have a week coming up where you will all need to eat out for a number of days you start planning ahead and emailing head offices of a number of restaurant chains to ask PERMISSION (yes it's ridiculous) for an adult to eat from the child's menu.

Some are amazing and tell you that yes of course it is possible and anyone is allowed to eat from their children's menu at any time for any reason - YAY for Wagamama

Some do not even bother to reply to your emails even though this is the second time you have emailed them with a similar question - Yes I'm talking about you Bella Italia

And some give you this ridiculous response that feigns concern for your son whilst saying that any decision on allowing an adult to eat from the children's menu would have to be at an individual manager's discretion. - Yes, that's you Whitbread group.

Here's why that is not OK.
  1. Individual manager's discretion rather than company policy breaks disability legislation as my son's conditions are classed as a disability. Anything that would be classed as a normal part of living (and eating is part of that) comes under disability discrimination legislation.
  2. Individual manager's discretion means that any time my son wants to eat out he cannot plan ahead like any normal person, check out the menu online and think "Yes. I'll be able to eat there", he has to wait until he gets there and risk being turned away or have the embarrassment and expense of having to play phone tag trying to get hold of a manager, ahead of time in order to ask a question that should not need to be asked.
We've had people tell us he should just buy a normal adult portion and take half home or leave half of it or whatever. 
  1. It's embarrassing always having to ask for a take out box in front of friends and family and especially if it colleagues and so on.
  2. In my son's case he knows that if the full portion is placed in front of him he will be tempted to risk it "just this once" and pay for it later.
  3. Taking it home is all very well if you are going straight home, but does not work if you staying in a hotel room without a fridge or heading somewhere else (such as the cinema or for a shopping trip) before going home.
  4. Just leaving it is incredibly wasteful in a time when we are all being encouraged to be more careful with food waste.
  5. Why should he be forced to pay for food he is not going to be able to eat just so that he can eat with friends and family.
 These chains all have gluten free and dairy free items clearly marked on their menus so they are used to dealing with issues such as that around food, and willing to comply on those issues. Why can it not be company wide policy to also allow an adult who needs to, to eat from the children's menu?

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

School Governing

This week I did something for the last time. And it will be the first of many last times.

I am looking towards a house move later this year that will take me away from the area we currently live in and away from a number of things I have either been involved in, or places we have enjoyed visiting.  We already have some "last times" planned for visiting places, but this week was different.

In anticipation of our move I have handed in my resignation as School Governor, effective at the end of this academic year, in July.  A quick note for my American readers, our school year runs from the beginning of September to the middle of July, for more details on schooling over here, check out my previous post that goes into more detail: English Schooling.

What is a School Governor?
Almost anyone over 18 can be a governor. Governors play a vital role in shaping the education of young people by helping to set the ethos, vision and strategy for schools.

In our school the governors are set up to be a team of 10 who meet twice every term (3 terms in a school year), the first meeting being the one where we look at finances, health and safety, site and facilities, child protection, basically all the stuff that makes the teaching possible.  Then in the other meeting later in the term we look at performance and standards, what's going well in terms of the teaching and learning, where there are problems and what we are doing about them.  Governors are also involved in school between meetings, in meetings with key members of staff for any link roles they have, as well as observing the monitoring of lessons by the senior leadership team.

I still have meetings in school to do and even some training to undertake, but this week was the last Business meeting that I will be part of. I don't think it has really hit me yet, that I will be leaving this group of incredible people behind.  I'm not just talking about the governors team, I am talking about the whole staff of the school, we have over 400 children, and a large number of both teaching and support staff, and every single one of them works really hard to give these children the best education possible in what are often difficult circumstances.

I have been proud to be part of this school and part of this team, I truly think they are the best.
Windmill Primary School

When was the last time you did something for what you knew would be the last time?

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Why I Cover My Hair (part 2 - FAQ)

If you haven't checked out the post in which I share my reasons for covering my hair, please check that out here.

In this post I want to address some of the questions people have asked and the comments I have received.

  • No, I don't have cancer. 
  • Nor am I covering my hair because I am losing it for another health related reason. 
  • No, I haven't become a Jew, or Muslim, or Sikh, or Pagan, or any other faith that covers their hair, (but on facebook I DO know a number of women from each of those faiths and more that cover their hair). 
  • No, I am not covering my hair because of religious reasons, but I believe some of my reasons are spiritual (see my previous post). 
  • No, my husband is not making me cover my hair (for anyone that knows us this question is so funny).

  • Do I cover my hair every day? Almost. I tend not to cover on the days I wash my hair purely because it takes so long to dry, being so long and thick. But I am usually covering most other days, at least for part of the day.
  • Is all that volume my real hair under the scarves? No. I wear what is known as a shaper or volumiser under my scarves. The particular one I use at the moment is called a Wendy Beret Volumiser and it has a built in velvet headband. If you have looked at any of my wrap photos on facebook I'll try and explain in a bit more detail, the front to back volume you see is all me, so how far back from my head it goes, is my hair in a bun in the middle. I have the stuffing in my volumiser spread out in a donut shape and my bun sits inside that. However, in the summer if it gets really hot I may resort to a velvet headband on its own and skip the volumiser.
  • Do the scarves really stay put all day? Absolutely, yes, BUT .... the key to keeping scarves in place all day is that previously mentioned velvet headband. Velvet has a direction to its fibres and that is what works in your favour, if you get your velvet headband the wrong way round, your scarves will slide right off.

    And there's another BUT, in that it really does depend on which scarf I am using and which wrap style I am using. Some days there is a quick trip to the ladies room to adjust or even re tie the scarf because the ends are coming out of where I tucked them, but that doesn't happen often.
  • Where do I get my scarves? I'm glad you asked. My volumiser, velvet headband, and some of my scarves all come from a website called Wrapunzel. It's run by a group of observant Jewish women in America and yes, they ship internationally. If you are ordering from the UK be aware of tax and VAT issues if you order over a certain amount. I try and get around that by only ordering from them when my husband is in America on business.

    The rest of my scarves come from charity shops or occasionally ebay. I've paid everything from £1 to £2.99 per scarf buying that way and I have an awesome collection.

Finally I want to address some of the comments I have received, mainly the ones that begin with
"I like your scarves, BUT ..."

"BUT your hair is such a nice colour." "BUT your hair is so beautiful."

Well, thank you for noticing. My hair is still beautiful, my hair is still a nice colour. Or is it? I could have chopped it all off or dyed it bright purple and you would never know, heehee.

and then the doozie

"BUT I miss seeing your hair."

I find this comment the most interesting. Since when has any part of my body been there for anyone else but me and possibly my husband? Would you dream of saying that about any other part of my body?

The funniest thing about this comment is that it usually comes from people who I only see once a week or less, so for whom most of my interaction with them is on facebook. I went back and checked how often I showed selfies on facebook that did show my hair in the months leading up to starting to wrap. The most recent one I found was about 10 months before I started and honestly you can't really see my hair. You have to go back 11 to 12 months to find any photos where my hair is fully visible, and before that another year back to about the same time the year before. So really, if my main interaction with you is on facebook, how much of my hair were you actually seeing anyway?

If you've read this far, thank you!

I really don't mind people asking me, I don't mind explaining my reasons either in person or by pointing them in the direction of this post. I know, however, that some women do mind. So if a woman you know has started to cover her hair and you are wondering why, think about how well you know her and how well she usually deals with that sort of questioning before you ask. Maybe, instead you could just enjoy the fact that she has found something that makes her feel beautiful and celebrate with her.

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Why I Cover My Hair

Recently I have had a number of questions or comments on the fact that I have started to cover my hair most days. Since a number of those questions have come online, I thought it would be easier to write a blog post than to have to type out an answer each time. Then, when someone posts their question or comment I can point them in the direction of this post.

So, Welcome. If you have followed such a link this might be your first time visiting my blog and I hope you find something to interest you here.

When it comes to why I am covering my hair there are 3 types of answer,
  • The very short answer 
  • The short answer 
  • The long answer.

Let's start at the beginning shall we.

The very short answer 
The very short answer is that I am covering my hair because I can and because I like it. It really is as simple as that, and if that was enough answer for you, thank you for popping by.

The short answer 
The short answer is that I started covering my hair because it allows me to experiment with colour, texture and form in fabric in a way that is expensive to do in clothes, particularly for women of a larger size.
There was also a small element of protecting my hair sometimes as my hair is waist length and I usually wore it in a plait to one side so that it came forward over my shoulder. We use a gas hob for cooking at home and well, flames and long hair forward over your shoulder are not a good mix. But that really was only a small element of why I started this. Now onto the long answer.

The long answer 
The long answer as to why I cover my hair goes into more detail. I began covering my hair for both of the reasons stated in the previous answer and more but then I discovered lots of things about how it makes me feel, and those are the reasons that I continue to cover my hair, as well as the reasons I began.

First, the "more", You may not have noticed this about me, but I have an unusually HUGE head. No, seriously!  It might not look like it from the photos you see on facebook, but you should try going hat shopping with me and then you would see. In fact, a common family game when clothes shopping and we're bored is "Get Zoe to try on hats and laugh at her".  Even men's extra large hats are not big enough.  And yet, I have always wanted to wear hats; pretty hats, beautiful hats, smart hats, casual hats, hats for keeping warm (BTW Thanks Dana!!!), hats for keeping cool, etc and I can't. Covering my hair in the way that I do now, fulfils that dream.

When I cover my hair:
  • I feel more ready to face the day 
  • I feel stronger 
  • I feel more like a woman (go ahead, sing some Shania Twain, you know you want to)
  • I feel beautiful (in a world that tells me big is most definitely not beautiful) 
  • I feel connected to other women 
  • I feel like I walk taller, inside and out
  • and perhaps most importantly 
  • I FEEL MORE LIKE ME!  The me, I've always known was there, but no one else could see.
And that last reason should be enough, it is enough for me, it is enough for my husband, and that is all that matters.

In the next post I shall address some of the comments and questions that have come my way.

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