2017 MUST Be Better

This year...

2016 was a really hard year, I think we can all agree on that.  I know from me personally it was probably the hardest year I have had to deal with.  But this is a new year so I don’t want to focus on the bad –I want to focus on the good that is to come.

If 2016 taught one thing, it’s that your perception of any situation is everything. The way you perceive a situation will dictate the way that you handle it.  So I knew it was important to go into 2017 with the positivity that I would carry with me for the rest of the year.  Start as you mean to go on – isn’t that what they say?


On Monday January 2 I did something I don’t normally do. I organised myself for the next morning; clothes selected, make up at the ready, handbag packed – I even picked out matching socks! For 2017, I wanted to make more of an effort with my appearance. I spent most of 2016 with my hair in a messy bun, makeup-less, and wearing clothes that didn’t even match at times. In 2016 sometimes I just didn’t care. But this is a New Year so I’m going to care more. I’m happy to say that this is one resolution I have kept up so far. And considering we’re only a week in, that’s longer than most of my resolutions have lasted previously.

The next day saw one of the more dramatic changes – a good 12 inches was cut off my hair by my stylist at Colours.  New Year, new me. I cant really describe what a big change this was, so I’ll leave you with the before and after photos instead.

...And after!
…And after!

The final change to bring into the New Year with me was to make my lifestyle healthier. I one to see a change in my body.  People think that I exude confidence. But those of you who know me will know that I suffer with depression and self-confidence problems. At times in 2016, this depression crippled me and at one point I allowed it to takeover my life. It affected my confidence; it affected my ability to work; it affected my relationships.  The talk therapy and the meds definitely help, but I felt I needed an overall lifestyle change.


So I have started a new health and fitness regime.  I signed up for a year with Dan Sweeney Health and Fitness. As well as tailoring a workout plan to help me tone up, I have also gotten a lot of guidance around nutrition and my food choices. From what I’ve read from others who struggle with their mental health, diet can have an effect on recovery too.  Just like it does with the physical health.  So today is the day that I do my first big food shop for the new diet.  I can’t wait to see the results –  physical and mental.




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Finding A Rebel Rose

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Cork Rose Selection 2015
Cork Rose Selection 2015
Some of you may remember reading about my experience of entering the Cork Rose Selection in a blog post a few weeks ago, how I was nervous but excited, and very busy!  Just this weekend passed, Cork found their Rose in Aoife Murphy, and the Rose Class of 2015 have been clamouring to book tickets to the dome since!  Aoife is such a fantastic representative for the Rebel County and we are so lucky to have her.

Our newest Cork Rose, Aoife
Our newest Cork Rose, Aoife
The experience itself was a world wind tour of Cork such as I’ve never seen before, and I’m writing about it for two reasons – to create a record of the fantastic time I had, and also to tell people a little about it too.  I want to let people know what a confidence building experience it is, and encourage other girls to take part in future.  In The Rose Tour and The 5.30 News, I told you about my links with the mental health charity Suicide Aware.  I have become somewhat of an ambassador with this charity, and represented them throughout the Rose selection process.

So lets have a look at our last weekend before the selection nights.  It started out in Curraheen Greyhound Stadium on Friday June 6th.  We gathered there for the evening to mingle, chat, and maybe put a few Euro on a dog or two!  At every Rose event, we had the chance to chat with each other, which can be really nerve wracking – especially for me as I won’t always recognise faces.  Once I get chatting to new people and get to know them, I’m instantly comfortable and can carry a conversation myself, but my lack of sight does make me inherently uncomfortable with starting conversations with new people.  But, as with every group, there are always girls who are chatty and able to guide you into a conversation, and I was lucky that these girls surrounded me!  I feel that confidence can be a learned behaviour and can definitely be picked up from others, and often in these new situations I do find myself drawn to chattier people.

Dress ~ Verso Hair ~ Aisling Kelleher Makeup ~ Claudia @ Seasons Beauty
Dress ~ Verso
Hair ~ Aisling Kelleher
Makeup ~ Claudia @ Seasons Beauty
It was an early start the following morning, as Saturday was our day out on a non-stop Cork Rose Tour.  We started with photos in the Clayton Silversprings Hotel, and traveled to the Jameson Distillery in Middleton first.  As my null point is on my left, I did my best to stick to the left of photos so I would not have dancing eyes in every photo taken that day – though I wasn’t always successful in that!  We had a tour of the old distillery, whiskey tasting, and finally a complementary cocktail at the end of our tour.  I’d never been there before so it was really enjoyable – and the whiskey tasting wasn’t half bad either!

Dress ~ Verso Hair ~ Aisling Kelleher Makeup ~ Claudia @ Seasons Beauty
Dress ~ Verso
Hair ~ Aisling Kelleher
Makeup ~ Claudia @ Seasons Beauty
Next on our tour was the Titanic Experience in Cobh.  I confess I’m a massive Titanic fan and I’ll take any chance I can to learn more about it, and this visit lived up to every expectation I had – I’m going to go back over the summer.  While it is a very visual tour, my Rose girls couldn’t have been more helpful in describing different things they thought I might miss – like reading out the information on my ticket so I could figure out if my passenger lived or died in the tragedy.

After a yummy lunch in the Commodore, we traveled to Fota Wildlife Park – and the child in me got really excited when I saw the meerkats!!  Again, this was a really visual tour but my Rose girls were my eyes and described some of the funny things different animals did as we stared at them.  One thing I was happy I couldn’t see was the boa constrictor they had in the reptile house – I’ll avoid that part of Fota next time!  We finished our tour in Reardens Bar, but I admit I threw in the towel a little while after this – the tiredness was getting the better of my nystagmus so I knew it was best to head home and rest up the little dancing eyes.  Probably a good idea since our individual interviews were the following morning, and no way did I want to have shakey eyes for that!

Both selection nights have been well documented on social media, including on my page and the Cork Rose Selection page itself.  Again, late nights having fun with my Rose girls was a killer with the nystagmus, but I was having so much fun I didn’t let it bother me too much!  And it gave me my confidence back, it really did.  I had the confidence to walk out on a trip to somewhere I’d never been before without the backup of my friends that would be “used to me” as i say.  It gave me the confidence and helped me realise that when others see me, its just me; they don’t see my cane, they don’t see the things I can’t do, and they don’t just see me as “that vision impaired girl who needs lots of help”.  Finding that kind of confidence is invaluable, and I can’t thank the Cork Rose Centre enough for giving that to me.

Holly Barry & I having a little down time and some tasty fudge during Selection night rehearsals
Holly Barry & I enjoying a little down time and some tasty fudge during Selection night rehearsals

I Know It’s Up for Me, If You Steal My Sunshine

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Skin care in the sun eh?  I bet you’re all thinking SUNCREAM right about now?  A lot more than that can and does go into taking care of your skin in the sun though.  I’d like to think this piece will be useful to everyone with different skin types, as well as my friends who have albinism too.  And also, I’ll take this chance to point out that this isn’t medical advise in any way, shape or form – its just a rambling piece about my thoughts on the topic and what has worked for me in the past.

It can be hard to take care of pale skin in the sun, especially when friends are sallow skinned and seem to tan instantly – which makes them want to spend days sitting in the sun even more.  In the past I’ve happily taken part in these sun sessions, but guess what happened? Burnt scalp, burnt arms, burnt ears etc.  And aside from the dangers of anything more sinister than sunburn blisters, it is really painful and uncomfortable.  So here are a few of my tips:

1.  Check the weather.

There are apps for this so you have NO excuse not to do it.  All during the summer months, I check the forecast every morning to check how intense the sun will be, if there are clouds due, and what times of the day that sunshine is expected.  If you have business to attend to during the day, you might decide to do it at a time when the sun is less intense or when it is overcast.  Above anything else, its helpful to plan an outfit – especially shoes!  Trust me, you do not want to be caught in a pair of cute flipflops when rain is pouring down on top of you!

2.  Choose your outfits wisely.

If I know it’ll be sunny on a particular day, I’ll plan to wear light clothes that will cover problem burn areas like shoulders or the upper back.  You can still look bright and feel comfortable in summer clothes even if you are a tad more covered than friends.  Shorts or strapless tops are a major no-no for me in the summer months, it is just too easy to get sunburned in those or to fail to apply suncream properly to these areas.  A lot of people say black should never be worn in the summer either as it attracts the sun, although I wonder is that a bit of an old wives tale!

3.  Suncream!

There is more to skin care in the sun than suncream, but it is a big part of keeping your skin healthy.  Its important to pick a suncream that will give you the right protection of course, but also one that you’ll be happy to wear too.  It’s pointless buying a suncream that is intensely heavy because you won’t want to wear it and it will be irritating to even apply.  Personally, I have always found the sun spray types best as they are much lighter than traditional suncreams, and as they have a spraying nozzle, they are also easier to apply.  Even the higher factor coverage in these sprays isn’t as gloopy as the typical sun creams are.  Just remember to constantly reapply every hour!

4.  Wear makeup if at all possible.  And sunglasses!

This probably sounds a bit over the top right?  But remember, most liquid foundations do have an SPF level within them.  And its a lot nicer to have makeup with sun protection covering your face, rather than applying suncream.  Keep in mind that the coverage in makeup isn’t that high though, and check your own foundation for its SPF level.  Remember to keep sunglasses around you at all time – especially in Ireland because you may never know when you need them!  Invest in a pair with good protection from the sun too – UV rays can and do damage eyes year after year, and so a pair of sunglasses with substantial protection are a worthy investment.

5.  Do your best to sit in the shade.

Simple but effective, and you would think it goes without saying, but that’s not always the case.  I always have to be reminded to sit in the shade!  If you’re in the park with friends who want to sunbath, try and sit near a tree or statue that can give you shade form the suns rays, while still allowing your friends to bask in the rays.

6.  Look out for moles and skin changes. 

I can’t stress this enough.  Moles that have recently changed shape or colour should always be observed by your GP, especially if they are in an area of your body which has been previously sunburned.  For more info on what type of changes to look for, click here – because I’m not a doctor and this is just an opinion piece and not medical advice in any way!

Hopefully, this piece will be useful not just to those with albinism, but also to anyone who is looking to protect their skin from the sun!  Anything you can add to this list of skin care in the sun?  Drop me a line through the blog page! In the meantime, check out this sunny selfie I took with a meerkat in Fota Wildlife Park on the Cork Rose tour recently – the meerkat didn’t really cooperate though!


The Rose Tour and The 5.30 News

That title is a little intriguing isn’t it? Its been a busy few weeks to say the least. But often, when I put my mind to something, I’ll end up doing it alongside another project too, another project that is a world away from the one I just started.  So here’s the lowdown. Some of you may know that I’m heavily involved with an Irish mental health charity, Suicide Aware.  They work to promote positive mental health in communities and organisations around the country, and they also offer counselling for those suffering from mental health difficulties.  I really believe in the work this charity does, and I’m a public advocate of mental health services and service users.  Which is why I was honoured when they asked if I would speak about my mental health story at a national level recently.  And instead of me waffling about it, watch it here instead.

Only two days after this broadcast, I found myself getting ready for a meeting of a different kind.  An information evening about the Cork Rose selection. A few months ago, this same fantastic charity had asked me to represent them in the Cork Rose Selection process which is taking place over the next few weeks.  It is an amazing opportunity for girls from all walks of life to come together for a meeting of minds, dresses, shoes and other things.  Whoever is selected to represent Cork as a Rose will also have the chance to represent this fine county in the Rose of Tralee Festival in August too.  So fingers crossed! I have been to two Rose Centre events already, and I can honestly say I feel my confidence growing with the passing of each event.  There is such a welcoming atmosphere in the air.  And the thing I am most of afraid of – being the different one – doesn’t cost anyone else a thought!  What better confidence booster than that?  That ‘feeling different doubt’, as I call it, follows me around everywhere I go, and has done since I was a teenager.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d nearly say that it’s a symptom of the albinism!  But I can truly say I’m feeling myself shake off that doubt every time I walk in to a room with these girls.  And long may it continue – well for the next few weeks it will anyway!11143487_476575165824448_4252663570901157107_n