A Power Worth Harnessing

*This post is a repost of a piece I wrote for the Ógra Fianna Fáil website – click here to see the original piece.  I like to keep my politics and my blog work separate, which is why I’ve made one or two changes to the piece below.

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It’s fair to say that LGBT Pride marches haven’t been as traditional in Ireland as they have been in other cities and countries around the world for the last number of decades.  Those Pride festivals most prominent in my memory were the ones I would see covered in newspapers, like San Francisco and London.  As a child, I remembered thinking how pretty all the colours were and how everyone taking part looked like they were having a great time.  Of course, it did not dawn on a child to think such a colourful and populated march would be intertwined with a community’s fight for their equal rights as citizens. It just looked fun!

Fast forward to Dublin Pride 2015.  My third or fourth Pride march in so many years. I can see a definite shift in the mood of 2014 and 2015 from both onlookers and those marching. During the 2014 Pride marches I took part in, there was a mixed feeling of, well, pride obviously, for our friends, co-workers, neighbours, parents etc.  But there was a definite underlying feeling of foreboding as well, a feeling I would attribute to the knowledge that a referendum on equal marriage rights was coming down the line.  Even in twenty-first century Ireland, a society that was largely (though not entirely) accepting of all lifestyles and communities, there was a distinct feeling of fear at the fact that those who stand both with them and against them in society were to vote on extending civil marriage rights to same sex couples.  A fear that those born with civil marriage rights by virtue of their heterosexuality, those who are somewhat oblivious to the difficulties and discrimination faced by LGBT people and their families, would soon be deciding on the rights of one group in society.  That would make anyone nervous – right?

My dear friend Arthur Griffin and I showing our support at Dublin Pride 2015
My dear friend Arthur Griffin and I showing our support at Dublin Pride 2015

There was a difference in Pride 2015, and the world in which we live could not be more different. Different yet exactly the same in many respects.  Different, because Ireland had voted to extend civil marriage rights to all her citizens, different because both our LGBT friends and their allies alike had come together to ask Irelands public to treat them all as one, and to help bring an end to discrimination and hateful attitudes towards LGBT people, families and couples.  And Ireland delivered on this call for equality – with a 62.07% vote to allow all her citizens equal marriage rights.  I like to think that even the United States delivered on Ireland’s vote for equality – that weekend, a little over five weeks since the Marriage Equality referendum, was marked by the United States Supreme Court declaring that marriage equality was a right befitting each and every citizen of the States. I like to consider our little nation a bit of a trail blazer in that respect, don’t you?

But in some respects things are the same: the same because our LGBT friends’ relationships are just as valued to us and them as they always were, things are the same because, well, hell hasn’t frozen over Ireland because of a Yes vote. And things are the same because a vote to extend civil marriage rights to same sex couples hasn’t led to the loss of legitimacy of heterosexual marriages as was warned by some – my parents happy marriage of 27 years wasn’t instantly invalidated just because my friend and her girlfriend now have the explicit right by law to become wife and wife!  We have a lot to celebrate as a nation during this Pride Month and beyond.

We assisted in mobilising a majority to help in the fight for rights of a minority, and no matter what the cause was behind it, we should take pride in ourselves for that too.  I hope that this fight can take place in other parts of society where there are still major inequalities to be dealt with; education, disability rights, children’s rights, parental rights… the list goes on.  If Ireland could mobilise itself again to fight these societal inequalities and to help put an end to them, well, that would be  a power worth harnessing.

Pale Skin Beauty by Guest Blogger Holly Barry

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Holly Barry is a fashion, lifestyle and beauty blogger and columnist with Hi Magazine, someone i would definitely describe as a style expert.  We met recently, through the Cork Rose Selection process.  I even remember her first style tip to me – “You’re hair is perfect, if you want to keep it for tomorrow then sleep with a scarf tied around it”.  Sure enough, she was right!  I’ve asked Holly to do a guest piece on pale skin beauty, as it is a question I get again and again!  So have a read below – and visit the Along Came Holly website and Facebook page for more!

Holly & I at a Cork Rose event
Holly & I at a Cork Rose event

When it comes to pale skin there is always the fear that makeup will either look too dark or completely wash you out. I am a believer that your makeup routine should change according to the season. In winter I always find that my makeup tends to be a little heavier but in the summer I always go back to a light, natural look. This is especially important for us pale skinned girls (when we are not covered in tan!), so embrace your skin tone and give this makeup look a go.

It all starts with the base, firstly start with a strong SPF. Year round I always wear an SPF on my face. Although this is important for everyone I would recommend a strong SPF for us pale girls. Vichy has a great range of these and even has an SPF 60. Although this may seem high, at a minimum I would wear 50 during the summer. We have to keep our skin looking young and those dreaded wrinkles as far down the line as possible! On top of that I would start with a base. For the summer I always switch to a BB Cream. It is much lighter and gives you that dewy, sun kissed look. I have tried many and find the best for pale skin is the Garnier BB Cream. Thankfully they understand that pale skin requires extremely pale makeup! This one offers great coverage without looking cakey. Then to set that put a layer of Rimmel Stay Matte powder, to make sure it stays put for the day.

The Naked Flushed palette will be your best friend! This can be used for so many things which makes it a great product to invest in. Here you have your contour powder which can be used to extenuate your cheek bones, a blush and a highlighting powder to give you that summer glow. Not only this but you can use the contour powder in the crease of your eyelid and the highlighter under your brow bone, on your eyelid, on the inside corner of your eye at the tear duct and on your cupids bow. Naked Flushed is a no brainer!

With the summer heat, okay maybe not always in Ireland but maybe on your holidays, waterproof mascara is a necessity. There are so many great ones available; one that I always go back to is Maybelline Waterproof Great Lash.

Then onto the finishing touches. To keep those brows in place Maybelline Brow Drama ensures that there are no fly aways. And lastly, a small layer of Vaseline rose on your lips to give them a hint of colour with a glossy finish.

Holly's recommendations for pale skin beauty
Holly’s recommendations for pale skin beauty

Make sure to give this look a go and if you do tag me on Instagram or Twitter @Along_CameHolly.

I would love to see your finished makeup look!

Holly x

www.alongcameholly.com

Take a look at Along Came Holly for more info
Take a look at Along Came Holly for more info

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!

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Iris Dances Around the Room

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Nystagmus – a mouthful of a word.  A condition I am still trying to understand.  But a condition which has effected me along with albinism since birth.  Medical and health professionals describe Nystagmus as “an involuntary, often rapid, movement of the eyes”.  This description will ring true for so many sufferers of nystagmus around the globe.

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There are a number of nicknames given to it; ‘dancing eyes’, ‘wobbly eyes’, ‘shivering eyes’, the list goes on and on.  For me, I personally used to call them “my shivery eyes”.  And I was really lucky because all throughout my schooling, my friends were used to it.  Once or twice we even used it to scare a stranger – my shakey eyes were my party piece if you like!  We used to have great fun with it.

It was in later life that I began to have a few issues with it.  Teachers would often remark that I ‘had a dreamy look’ while they taught me.  This seems to be a common complaint of educators of children and young adults with nystagmus – the lack of eye control and increased movement leads teachers to think you aren’t paying attention.  This is further compounded by additional sight issues if they ask you to go through what they have just written on the board – nine times out of ten you obviously cannot read it.

On a personal level, there are definitely things I find will exacerbate my nystagmus.  In general, most people tell me it isn’t very noticeable unless I am straining to focus on something.  But if I have been stressed out – exam time for example – the shaking gets far worse and becomes very noticeable to myself and others.  Similarly, if I have had a run of 2 or more nights where I haven’t had enough sleep, its a similar situation – more pronounced shaking.  The video below was recorded during a week where I was heavily reliant on my laptop – spending almost 5 to 8 hours finishing assignments.  All eyeball and eyelid movements you will see in this video are entirely involuntary.

This was definitely one of those times where it was at its worst.  But as I said, most of the time, those instances are few and far between.

So, have I described nystagmus correctly? And how do my readers find it affects them or their child/children?  I’m sure its not the same for us all.  For further information, check out the Nystagmus Network!

10 Things to Remember During Leaving Cert Season

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1.  For the love of God, STAY CALM!

Everyone will tell you this; your parents, the local priest, all your teachers, and especially your friends.  In fact, you may have friends that will brag about how calm they are.  Remember, this is a front they’re putting on.  Its near impossible to stay perfectly calm before you sit the Leaving – it is kind of a big deal.  But don’t let it take over your life.  At the end of the day, it’s a long exam over a few weeks in June.  Think of it that way, and don’t put the ‘college pressure’ on while your sitting it.

2.  Do not, under any circumstances, organise a ‘study group’ with friends. 

Harsh but true.  Study groups during school hours are okay, and some schools encourage students to study in groups during free periods.  But a group with anymore than three people will end in a gossip session about who wore what, or how last weekends rugby game went.  It’s even less productive when its a group of close friends.  If you do set up a study group, pick two different topics to cover over 90 minutes and take short breaks.

3.  Limit your procrastination.

Procrastinating over study will be a problem in your academic life forevermore.  And if you can find a way to avoid it, please let the rest of the world know!  It’s pointless advising you not to procrastinate, so why not procrastinate in a productive manner?  If you want to go shopping for something, make a list of household or personal items you need, and time yourself to see how fast you can get around the shop or department store.  Maybe a good use of procrastination time would be to clean out your room or wash the family pet?  Again, limit your time.  Even organising subject notes is a good use of procrastination!

4.  Eat well.

Study fuel is key during Leaving Cert season.  Fresh fruits, cereal, flavoured milk and smoothies are all study favourites, and for the most part they can be healthy too.  The key to study fuel is twofold; it must be tasty and it should be healthy and energising.  Avoid heavy meals and foods that encourage bloating like bread or a greasy bag of chips until after an exam.  You don’t want to be sitting in the hall trying to write about Shakespeare and growing a food baby at the same time!

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5.  Schedule some nap time.

There’s only so much study fuel you can consume during the weeks long study regime before you’ll start to burn out, so don’t forget to set aside some nap time during study time too.  The most productive naps are the ones that last between 10 and 20 minutes, so you can stay fresh and alert without getting too sleepy.

6.  Make up rhymes to remember tricky formulas or theorems. 

This is a great way to remember phrases or formulas for your Science, Maths or English papers.  The best thing to do is try and make a rhyme out of a short phrase, or better yet even sing information along to your favourite songs.  For example, if you want to remember the stages of mitosis, the phrase ‘I Party Monday And Tuesday’ is handy – Interphase, Prophase, Metaphase, Anaphase, Telophase.  You’ll be rhyming and learning in no time!

7.  Buy two of everything. 

Stocking up on study supplies is crucial for surviving the Leaving Cert.  Past Leaving Certee’s will tell you numerous stories about how they ran out of ink or how their calculator battery died half-way through an exam.  So make sure to have a well stocked pencil case, the Noah’s Arc of pencil cases if you will.  Two biro’s of each colour, two pencils, two erasers, two rulers, two compasses, and two calculators.

8.  Make plenty of flash cards.

Well-written flashcards are the saviour of any crammer in the run up to an exam.  Most people will use them to remember key points in all subjects, but a hidden trick is to devote some cards to themes you know will come up, and themes you can’t always remember correctly.  They will come in handy for younger siblings studying after you too, which earn you major brownie points with the parents.

9.  Pack your bag the night before.

This advice from the mouth of Irish Mammy’s all across the country, but to give them their due, its true.  There’s nothing worse than the mad rush the morning of a maths exam when you’re trying to find your pencil case or a calculator.  They were both on the table the night before and have now vanished – are there Borrower’s living in the house?!

10.  Be kind to yourself

Goes without saying really, doesn’t it?  You’re doing your best, be proud of it!

And remember…..

All this advice applies to studying when you’re in third level too!!

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Me & My Albinism

If you took a look at me here’s what you’d see; an average looking 21 year old student who looks a bit younger than what she is, and is a little too short for her age, who sometimes looks grumpy but has an infectious smile and laugh when you bring it out in her. You’d see a girl with golden blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin that is, more often than not, covered up by makeup that’s a few shades darker. One thing that would not be obvious at a glance is my hidden disability.

So what is my disability? A mouthful of a thing called “occulocutanious albinism”. A condition that primarly affects my sight but also gives me pale skin and stops me from tanning. Its pretty severe; I can only read the top letter of the eye chart in a doctors office – and that’s on a good day! Strong sunlight, my workload and the length of my day all have an affect on how “good or bad” my eyes will be during the day. It sounds pretty awful, and when a doctor or nurse who doesn’t know me reads this on a chart, I get look of pity which is unbelievably uncomfortable! It’s genuinely not that bad though – I absolutely love my life. I love my family, my friends, the course I study in college, the politics I’m involved in and everything in between! Don’t get me wrong – it’s not all sunshine and lollipops because I do have some awful days. But don’t we all?

What I’m trying to achieve by keeping a blog is to reach out to others like me, and others who are just interested. I want to let people know what college and life in general is like for someone looking out at the world with imperfect eyes. Hopefully I’ll achieve this without rambling too much and you’ll all find it interesting too!

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