Tuesday, November 29, 2016

An Awkward Pause

The show was over, so I made small talk with a couple people I knew as the audience filtered out of the theater. Eventually, the crowd thinned, and I made my way up the aisle to the exit myself.

On the way, I noticed someone who I used to be friends with. We'd shared dinner dates and common experiences and laughter in the past... and while we weren't really on those do-stuff-together terms now, it was more due to growing-apart and lives moving on than any sort of relationship strife. So, I leaned into a seat to say Hello.

It was a "Hey, it's good to see you, how have you been?" followed by a polite "Good, thanks..." and... then started busily texting into her phone...  sign of dismissal.

I sat there, perched on the arm of the seat, thinking, Hmm...  well, this is good and awkward. Now what? I opened my mouth a couple times, but eventually settled on standing back up and saying, "Well, I just wanted to stop and say Hello..." before making my escape to the lobby where someone who is actually a friend was waiting for me.

It was an odd interaction that had roots in I-don't-know-what...  I thought about it on my drive home. What WAS that? And, of course, you come up with a bunch of Maybe's.  But, in the end, what I settled on was Well. I guess, now you know? and let it go at that.

Not all endings need a reason.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Morning After

I am worried.

I am worried that we (apparently) elected a president that ran a campaign which glorified hatred.

I am deeply troubled by the angers that revealed about us.

You worried about the 2nd amendment with Clinton... I'm worried about the 1st.

I'm worried about marginalization. I'm worried about direction. I'm worried about racism and sexism and faithism (which probably isn't actually a word).

I mean, this is the short list.

But I have teenage children and they are listening. Perhaps when you have teenage children... especially ones with big hearts for the marginalized...  you have to find perspective quickly.

Last night, my kids were asking, "Mom... can we move to Canada?" It's always Canada. Surely, they have even more bears.

But no...  we're not going to move to Canada.  And here's why.

I do not believe that the world is going to end because Donald Trump is the president. Things may be rocky for awhile, and I believe they will be, but the world is not going to end.

We are not going to move to Canada because this is our home. And when you have a home, you love it and you protect it.

We are not going to move to Canada because someone has to be the helpers. Mr Rogers said to look for the helpers. Sometimes you have to be the helpers. And that's who we're going to be.

We're going to be the people who look for hurts and hold out a loving hand. We're going to be the people who give the oppressed somewhere safe to land. We're going to be the people who spew love when the words spinning around are ones of division.

You can call me Pollyanna if you want... if that makes you feel better. I choose hope over despair. And if that makes me naive in your eyes, I honestly don't care. I can love you, too.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Women, Worth, and the Supreme Court

The other day, I had an interesting conversation with my husband before he went to work -- which I would like to try to relay without throwing him under the bus. He'd been listening to NPR the day before, and the show had had a woman on as a guest -- who I will guess skews a bit into the realm of what I call militant feminism. She'd been talking about an experience she'd had, walking to the subway, where a man had been following her (whether that was because he was or just because he needed to go to the subway too) and the way that put her on edge.

Or at least that's my less-militant analysis of what she'd said...  My sense was that she'd used a lot more threatening language to describe the situation, and I could tell that my husband was skeptical of her experience.

But, while I wouldn't have used to same terminology that she did, I also understood her and we had an interesting conversation about what it can be like to be a woman in our culture.

That you ARE hyper-aware of your surroundings and if a man is following you -- not because you think all men are animals, but because you know that some are. And because you can't know which is which just by looking at them, you have to be a little on edge.

That I'm thinking about it as I walk to my car at night.
That I'm thinking about it if I'm running in the dark or somewhere not-well-populated.
That I'm calculating how much energy I need to save for if an extra burst of speed is necessary.
That if I pass a man going the other way, I check over my shoulder a few times to make sure he's still gone.

After he went on his way to work, I was left with my own thoughts. I began thinking of all the times I've experienced something that was unsavory but that I just accepted as an unfortunate cost of being a woman in our world.

Like the time I went to a country music concert and, in between sets, got into a seemingly friendly-but-innocent conversation with a guy about the stadium's sound quality. He asked me out... I told him I was married and kindly turned him down.  And after I'd moved my seat to somewhere in the stadium that had better sound quality, he took that conversation as carte-blanche to slap me on the ass every time he came down the stadium stairs. And how, even though it made me angry, I made myself laugh it off.  Because... I don't know...  Because it's what happens?

I began to understand in that moment why I have been so angry.

Because I have been angry. Uncharacteristically angry.

I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus. I believe in His love and, over time, I came to believe the value He places on ... well, on each and every one of us.

It was with mild annoyance that I viewed the Christian leaders initially come forward to push for Donald Trump's presidency. I've never been much for revering those in national Christian leadership -- I find it can be a fine line between respect and idolatry- so what they do or say doesn't often bother or thrill me either way. But I understand that they are often the face of how other people see who I say that I am.

It wasn't until the Access Hollywood tape and the ensuing/ongoing sexual harassment brouhaha that I started to get angry. I couldn't tell you how much of all that is or isn't true. Is it possible that Trump is telling the truth and every single one of those women is making it up?  Yeah. Do I believe that EVERY single one is making it up?  No... but I can admit that I could be wrong.

But what I do believe is that the attitude and beliefs he displayed in that AH video are real. And I don't think that they were in the past. I think that they are still very very much a part of his psyche and who he is.

So when, in the aftermath, I saw the same Christian leaders all giving the same general statement.... "Of course we don't condone the words he said, but Supreme Court."

But Supreme Court.
But Supreme Court
But Supreme Court.

It made me angry.  Really angry and disappointed and infuriated.

And it wasn't until I'd thought through everything after that conversation with my husband that I began to understand why.

We're worth more than a seat on the Supreme Court. I am worth more. And every woman I know is worth more. And it infuriates me that upstanding men who I should be able to trust to have my back are willing to sell me for a seat on the Bench.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

TT: The Night We Killed One

"Seven billion people in the world and you're overreacting because we killed one?"

"But --!"

"Seven. Billion. People. Quit complaining and drink your smoothie.  Geez."

Dad had always said to do whatever my brother told me. Ben knew best. Ben always knew best. I mean, didn't he?  So I closed my eyes and stepped over the corpse.

I couldn't call it a man anymore. Somehow, it made what had happened easier to accept. Stepping over a corpse was easier if you stopped thinking of it as a person.

Killing one was easier, too.

Ben stuck his hands in his pockets and whistled as he sauntered down the street. When I was younger, it would have been flooded with the yellow light of the streetlights. But, I wasn't younger and the streetlights were long gone - picked off for steel or glass or whatever anyone was buying that year. All we had was moonlight anymore.

I thought I liked it better.

Tossing my cup into a trashbin no one bothered with anymore, I ran to catch up with him. "Ben --!"

"I told you, I don't want to hear your snivelling." He'd already stopped thinking about it.

"But, Ben-- you forgot your knife."

Ben glanced at me, but his eyes were cold. "No, I didn't. You did. Go back and get it."

Do what your brother says. Do what your brother says.

There was no use in refusing. There never was.  I walked slowly back.

The man -- I shook my head -- The corpse --  still sat crumpled by the car. Of course it did. Where was it going to go? My feet felt heavier the closer I came until they felt like I could barely lift them anymore.

It wore a green jacket... the kind of green that the military used to wear.. and his hair flopped over one eye. If I let myself think of him as man, I could imagine him constantly running his hand through his hair to push it out of the way. But... he wasn't a man. He was a corpse.

He was a corpse. Because of us.

I squatted beside him and wrapped my hand around the hilt of the knife.  It was slimy with his blood, so I used two hands to pull it free. I imagined it sounded like it did when they pulled my tooth as a kid.

"Ah, sweet Jesus." I jumped. The corpse.  It -- he -- winked at me. He winked at me? "Thanks, kid." I looked back toward my brother in panic, but the corpse - man -- put his hand on my shoulder.

"It's best he doesn't know."

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Opening a Closed Door

I think that sometimes it's good to really know.

I found out how I really felt recently. I had a relationship that had petered out and I felt a lot of different ways about it... a lot of conflicting ways.

I had been sad.
I had been mad.
I had been indignant.
I had taken responsibility.
I had felt regrets.
And sometimes confusion.

Mostly, I was able to chalk it up to a relationship that I had gotten to have -- but that was now in the past.  Most of the time, I was okay with that. I had healed. I was at peace.

But sometimes I wasn't... sometimes I was still confused and angry and hurt.

In a whimsical moment of nostalgia, I wrote to them. It wasn't a big thing... It was a "Hi, how are you?" sort of email. It opened a door if they wanted to answer it.

After I sent it, as soon as I sent it, I thought, "Was that really a door you wanted to knock on? Was that a door that you want to walk through or is it better if it stays closed?"

I sort of hoped that they wouldn't answer the email -- so that I wouldn't have to answer the question. If they didn't answer, it wasn't on me. I would be absolved of the choice.

But, they did.  So I had to really think about it. Is this what I wanted?

I thought. I talked to someone. But I realized that I really didn't need advice - at least not from someone else. What I needed was to listen to myself.  I needed to listen to my heart and decide if walking back through that door was where I wanted my path to go.

And, in the end... it wasn't. It was a relationship that I valued deeply while I was in it. But I had changed, and there were parts of it that I just didn't want back. I didn't want to feel the same way.

So, I closed the door. Politely, nicely, kindly. But, this time, I closed it with the knowledge that it wasn't meant to be part of my future... and I was deciding with my eyes open that I didn't want it to be.

And knowing that makes it possible for me to move on and leave behind the sad and the mad and the indignation and the regrets. I can finally let those go, and I can move into what the future holds without looking back and wishing.

I can move into the future with a head held high and be confident -- because now I know.

Belfast and a Castle

Well, I realized I never finished the Ireland trip here....  so the last day! (As I can remember it!)

SATURDAY - Belfast and Cabra Castle

So, on Saturday, we woke up and enjoyed our last breakfast in Ballycastle, and then got in the car and drove down to Belfast. I hadn't originally planned on going to Belfast, to be honest. I'd never quite felt pulled to it (for what reason, I don't know), so I'd left it out of my trip planning.

But, after reading the Rebels of Ireland shortly before our trip, I wondered if maybe we could drop it into the itinerary. A friend of mine encouraged us to go and just soak it up a little -- but I wanted to be in Kingscourt by the early afternoon -- so I decided to go, but we only had a few hours.

So... mostly, the plan was to walk around and see what struck our fancy.

Honestly, I really liked Belfast -- way more than I liked Derry, and if I could do that over again, I'd spend a lot less time in Derry and a lot more in Belfast. We went to St Georges Market and walked around a bit -- sort of an indoors Pike Place. There was a guy in the middle playing music and it made me laugh because I knew EVERY SINGLE SONG from Celtic Thunder et al.

After the market, we just sort of wandered toward the middle of town. I thought maybe we might take a Black Cab tour (which we never did) so we headed in the general direction of where I knew we could pick one up.  We walked by a little bakery that had the most delicious-looking treats in the window, so we stopped in for chocolate eclairs and coffee, and took them into the park.

Where we watched the Olympics on a giant TV.

It's probably a good thing I didn't get a chocolate eclair until our last day.  Because it was the bomb and, if I'd known they were that good, I probably would have had one every single day of the trip!

After that, we wandered a bit... stopped into Avoca to do some shopping. Well, I did some shopping.  Joel.... waited patiently.  I hemmed and hawed over this pretty delicate knit scarf from an artist in Wexford.  It was sort of expensive. I didn't really NEED another scarf. But, I remembered what my friend Diana had said to me about souvenirs, and gave myself permission to buy it.  :)

I wanted to give ourselves plenty of time at Cabra Castle (and it was starting to rain) so we said Goodbye to Belfast and headed back to our car.

A couple hours on the freeway (which was an actual freeway!!), and we arrived at our final night's lodging. A night at a castle! Happy me!

This was totally different from anywhere else we stayed.... and I thought it was definitely fun! I'm pretty sure they reserve most of the rooms in the ACTUAL castle for honeymooners and their wedding parties, (plus I'd snagged a reservation pretty late notice), so we were actually in the courtyard -- in what I think used to be the stable quarters.  But it was lovely and comfy and I was happy.

I talked Joel into going on a walk with me through the woods on the grounds...

Joel's never going to go for a walk with me in Ireland ever again. Once we got halfway into the woods, it started to pour... and I do mean pour.  We were totally soaked by the time we got back, and had to sprint across the golf course and parking areas to get back to our room.

We spent our final evening in the hotel pub... We drank at the bar for awhile (took awhile to snag a table) and then had a leisurely dinner. Pizza and lots of Guinness!

And then that was it!

Sunday, we got up early and drove to the Dublin airport.... and home we went. :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Derry and the Northern Coast


We woke up this morning and went downstairs to the basement at our B&B in the Moy and had breakfast. Watching my husband try to drink coffee out of teacups with teeny-tiny handles is one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

And then we made our way out of town toward the Northern coast. We drove up through Dungannon (which I've been pronouncing wrong for nine years, btw), and stopped at Dungiven Priory. I enjoyed this little stop.  You had to walk a ways from parking your car to get to the ruins...  Unlike the ruins in the Republic, this one's graveyard was only old gravestones, and they purposely didn't keep them cleaned up, and it made the place seem more authentically ruined. lol I don't know if that makes sense.  

At the back, there was a path that you could climb down to an "environmental park." I'm not sure what this means... as it mostly led down to either, on one side, someone's farm. Or, on the other, an abandoned hydroelectric facility that appeared to be mostly used for teenage drinking parties (judging by the trash inside one of the buildings).  Behind the building, however, you could meander down to the little creek and I rather liked sitting on a rock and watching the water trickle by.

We continued on our way into Derry. I really enjoyed driving through Co Tyrone... I thought it was lovely. I think Joel enjoyed it because the roads were better.  Thanks, United Kingdom!  Derry was interesting... I think Joel liked it more than I did. For some reason, I found it a little suffocating - I don't really know why.

Derry is a walled city -- you can climb the stairs to the top of the wall and walk the entire perimeter -- which we did, stopping to read all the informational signs along the way.  It took me almost the entire perimeter to figure out what seemed weird about it... and I finally realized that, after a week in Ireland, it was that the English weren't depicted as the Bad Guys.

After walking the walls, we dropped down and walked through the Tower Museum -- Joel was really interested in the Siege of 16-something.  But they had creepy mannequins!  I'm always afraid those things are going to come to life. (I know. I have issues.)  After the museum, we found our way across the Peace Bridge and went to lunch at the Walled City Brewery, which was really good!!

By the time we made it back to our car, it was getting later in the day than I had anticipated -- so we dropped the rest of our plan and just drove to Ballycastle to check into our B&B. I liked our room there -- though I couldn't figure out the shower!  We walked into town and had dinner at the Diamond Lounge.  By this point, I was starting to wear out a little -- so we called it a somewhat-early night and went to bed!

FRIDAY - Northern Coast

We had to cut short some of our plan the day before, so this morning began with me sitting on the bed with the two days' outlines and pulling out a new plan for the day that would make sense. So after breakfast, we headed out on the  Glenshesk Scenic Drive.  This takes you out of Ballycastle into the surrounding farmland and eventually makes its way to Armoy.

From there, it's a hop and a jump to the Dark Hedges. This little road has been featured in the Game of Thrones series (which I have no interest in), and can get pretty busy -- but we were there fairly early in the morning, so it wasn't completely overrun yet. It's apparently ranked in the Top 5 of the World's Tree Tunnels -- which I did not realize was a thing -- but yay? It was pretty though... we walked a bit further along the road (which, in Ireland, is always a bit death-inducing) and came across a tree tunnel that we liked just as much (but nobody else cared about).  And then walked a bit on the grounds of an imposing old house that was now a golf course.

Well, the house wasn't a golf course. 

After making our way back up toward Ballycastle on another twisty road through farmland (Joel may not let me plan the driving routes anymore!), we headed out onto the Torr Road -- which is supposed to be a lovely (if narrow and turn-y) drive along the northern headland -- with gorgeous views of the coastline.

I'm sure it's lovely.

Unfortunately, it was rainy and foggy and we couldn't even see the edge of the cliff, much less the ocean.  Which I thought was funny.  Best laid plans...  At one point, Joel pulled over so he could drink his coffee before it got too cold. But, there was a gate into someone's sheep pasture across the way -- so I decided I was just going to go explore!  I left Joel in the car and trudged my way down the hill to get a better view of the coastline -- and the fog cleared just enough that I could make it out - and I found a little collection of old stone cottages along the way.  My shoes and clothes took hours to dry out, but I thought it was totally fun and worth it!

After that, we headed back west a bit to pick up a couple of the things we'd missed the day before. First, we went to Bushmills and took a tour of the Old Bushmills Distillery - which I thought was kind of interesting.  And you got whiskey at the end -- Too strong for my cup of tea, so I had a hot toddy instead. I just got comfortable with beer!!  We walked further into town for a bit of lunch at a cafe, which was a cute little place on the center square.

The sun was finally starting to clear by that point and it was getting later into the afternoon, so next was a stop at the Giants Causeway. Our B&B host had told us that we could save a bit of money by parking at the 6-pound train station, instead of the Causeway parking lot.  There ended up being no one at the train station to pay, so we just left our car there for free.

After a rainy morning, it really turned out to be quite a lovely day -- so after making our way to a perch on the Causeway, we just sat there for a good long while, enjoying the sun and the breeze and the water. It was quite beautiful!

When we'd had our fill, we made our way back to Ballycastle and walked into town for dinner and our last night at a town pub.  Neither of us were really starving and it was proving a bit difficult to find a place to eat anyway (nobody serves food there after 9)... so we just stopped into a chip shop for a bit of fish n chips.

The sign on the wall made the fish look about the size of a KFC chicken strip -- so that seemed perfect for the amount of hunger I was feeling. However.... it was actually the size of an entire fish. I always thought it was just Americans that served super-huge amounts of food at restaurants. But no. Everywhere we went in Ireland, I almost never was able to eat it all!  A few drinks at a pub, and then we made our way back to our bed. :)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Day I Visited the Village they call the Moy, Part 2

Tomney's Bar is an adorable place. It's like what you would imagine an Irish pub to look like... except better. You walk in to the first room, and it's all dark and wood-y.... but then there are more rooms beyond. So many of these little gathering rooms... plush leather-y couches to relax in, stuff all over the walls (but in a good way). I should have taken pictures, but I forgot... You would love it.

So we ordered a couple pints and made our way into the only room that had people it, a group of guys gathered around the TV watching a soccer match. Joel's been liking watching the different sports on TV while we've been here, so I thought that would be an okay place to start.

But then, I wasn't so sure. It sort of felt like intruding on their little place and I spent the next 15 minutes of the soccer match, wondering what the graceful way was to remove yourself from a room you just entered without being just as rude to walk out of it as you were to walk into it.

A touch miserable. (In hindsight, I was literally the only person who felt this way. Joel was just happy watching the game.)

Eventually, one of the guys started some small talk with Joel, and it was much more comfortable after that. Thank you, Mr Guy from Uruguay, whatever your name is. Not long after, we all started to warm up to each other and it was a pleasant evening. Seattle-ites are kind of like that, too. We'll like you... but we're going to hold you at arm's length for awhile until we've decided if you're okay.

I've discovered that I really love the small town pubs... but not so much the big ones. And this one went into the small town pub category. I thought the bartender was a sweet guy...  Another guy there, who I think was connected with running the pub somehow, was fun as well. He told this story (about Scotland Yard or something?) that I think was 10% true and 90% embellishment, but it was funny nonetheless. An older gentleman joined us at one point, and he struck me as someone who would be quite kind, and I enjoyed talking travel and politics and sports with him... until...

"Well, the next obvious question," he asked... "What brought you to this little village?"

I cringed inside... it was the one question I sort of hoped I wouldn't have to answer. "Oh... This is fun. I really don't want to tell you." I wrinkled my nose a bit and looked up.

The guy sitting across from me started laughing. "It's Ryan Kelly, isn't it?"

I sighed with embarrassment.  "Yes... but! Oh, I have no excuse. Yes."

I hoped that wouldn't ruin the good vibe... and I was glad that it didn't. The conversation fell away from that subject soon enough... and except for being introduced as "Ryan's biggest fan" *SIGH!!!*  -- This was not a moniker I claimed!! --to every new person that walking in the room, it was alright. I brought it on myself.

All in all, it was a fun night with a bunch of nice people, and I'm glad we did it. I felt very apprehensive about visiting the Moy, though I had doublechecked 97 times that it was alright...  but I'm glad I went. It was fun and my friend Diana was right. I would have regretted it if I hadn't gone to see it for myself.

The Day I Visited the Village that they Call the Moy, Part 1

WEDNESDAY -- Belleek and the Moy

We got up this morning and had a pleasant chat with our B&B hostess. Serious, you guys. I have eaten more sausage and bacon in the last week than I have ever had in my entire life.

Today, we were off to Belleek so I could do a little requested shopping for my mom at the pottery place -- and I'll be honest, a little for me, too. We walked into town, intending to have lunch at the Thatch Coffee Shop which I'd read good thing about.  I walked in and promptly walked back out. Too busy and too dark for me.  But we wandered back down to the cafe on the corner, whose name i can't remember but might have Lemon in it. I liked it much better... light and airy... probably too girly to take your husband to, but the food was good, light, and simple.

Over lunch.... I said... "So....  about this place we're going to tonight.... ok, it's the only weird thing I've done the whole trip..."

Joel raised an eyebrow at me. "Only? You've stopped to say Hi to every single cow and sheep we've encountered."

"Ok, I didn't know I was going to like Irish livestock so much. That doesn't count. I meant, the only PLANNED weird thing. So... this town....  it's Ryan's hometown." Ryan is a musician I met who, over the years, has become my friend. "He's not even there. I just wanted to see the place he talks about."

I got a "I will humor you but you totally owe me" look in return.  And I'll own that -- I so do.

It was interesting to drive across County Tyrone to the Moy. We'd just spent several days in the Wicklow Mountains and the West of Ireland -- both landscapes that seemed fairly rugged and hardy. They were the kind of places that you understood the people who lived there were made of tough stuff... that they endured hardships that they didn't really speak of because it was just something that came with the place.  I'm sure I'm romanticizing that... but that was the impression it gave off.

Co Tyrone was a completely different landscape altogether... rolling hills of green farmland, big full trees, nary a stone wall to be found... It feels peaceful, like a place that you can draw a deep breath and relax. Maybe it just felt a little bit like the Willamette Valley, actually.

We drove into town and checked into our B&B, which had this adorable Victorian vibe going on.  Different from anywhere else that we stayed.. so I liked it just for that. The lady who checked us in was super nice, and I liked her a lot.

"So." Basically, anything I say after that word is going to be weird. "When we drove in...  Okay, a super long time ago, Ryan wrote a song about this town.... and I noticed one of the streets he sings about when we drove in. Do you mind if we go out and hike it?....Just to say I've been there?"

So much owing, you guys.

It ended up being a five mile walk. In the rain.

With a mile on a highway that had no shoulder, sidewalk, bikepath, anything.

Basically, it was like "Here! Come to Ireland! Die on the highway!"

But I ended up walking through three lines of the song! That's worth it, right?  Okay, I know. So much owing. (There were also baby goats and cows to talk to. So awesome!)

Takin' a stroll over Drumgrannon's Hills

And back by The Major's Lane.
I walk the fields of Listamlet,

Eventually, we made it back and changed out of our soaking wet clothes and went to dinner at the hotel down the street, which was really good. I ordered an "8 oz" steak. I looked at it so quizzically when it was delivered that Joel asked me what was wrong.. "Nothing... I just... How is that 8 oz???"  It was huge.  But totally yum. It didn't need a thing but the steak.

And then it was off to the pub...

Connemara and Westport

Monday -- Tour through the Connemara region

Today, we left our little home in Galway and continued along our way.  After stopping to find an ATM machine and a gas station, we made our way out along the coast road into the Connemara.  I fear that I probably had a better experience than Joel.  He drove... I got to just sit and take it all in.

Connemara is beautiful... it's open and rugged...  We managed to drive through it on one of the only two days of Irish summer with beautiful blue skies and pretty white clouds. It kind of reminded us of driving through Montana on our way to Glacier National Park. I'm not sure I took many pictures... just drank it all in.

We drove up and down valleys through the mountains until we got to Clifden, where we stopped to walk around a bit and pick up some lunch... oh, and some shortbread. We started back to the Sky Road (which is amazing pretty) until we got to a castle gate. A short hike down a road through someone's farm (with cows and horses for me to say Hello to!) took us to Clifden Castle, which I thought was completely fun.

It's not a terribly old castle, comparatively, but falling apart and open, so it was fun to wander around inside the floor of the place.. peering up the tower, finding a little alcove with the prettiest of views -- imagining what it would have been like to be the lady of the house and whatnot.

Back to the car, we continued our way along the Sky Road with such beautiful views of the ocean and then continued our way up the freeway.  By then, it was getting fairly warm, Joel needed to change into shorts, and I needed to pee (again) -- so we stopped into Connemara National Park to use their bathroom and make some choices.  The day was getting in so we could either hike at the park or go to Kylemore Abbey but not both.

In the end, we chose the hike so up the mountain we went.  Climbing, climbing, climbing.... until we got to the top of the little mountain.  Again, gorgeous views.. you honestly can't do justice to the place with pictures, so I didn't much.  Just enjoyed the landscape,

On to Westport which was our home for the next couple days.  We had a lovely room... lots of space, and the B&B was a little bit in the country. With a cow and calf living across the road, which I loved. Poor cow... every time a car drove by, it had to moo at it.  We walked into the Wesport Quay for some dinner and then on to the pub on the corner, where they had a bit of traditional music played that evening,  Very nice day!

TUESDAY -- Day in Westport

Today, we had a little bit of a quieter day with a full day just in Westport. (If we come back, I would plan more of these days... and less days driving helter-skelter around the country. I sort of knew that coming in... but this is a good "skim the top" trip for our first time.)

After breakfast, we drove into town and walked to the bus station where we picked up a Tour of Westsport bus. It drove us all through town, giving a bit of history along the way, through the Westport House lands, and then down the highway to a pub at the foot of Croagh Patrick.  Here, we stopped for about 20 minutes for refreshments and chats.  I learned that the boy who served us, about 14 years old, climbs the mountain nearly every morning (a 2 hour climb) to open the church at the top, before coming back down.

We met a lady who was absolutely thrilled to meet us... she had a sister who lived in Dallas, Oregon and was absolutely tickled that someone actually knew where she was talking about.  And then we sat and chatted with a lovely couple from Wicklow and the bus driver before coming back to town.

A bit of lunch and then we came back to the B&B to rest a bit.  Joel took a nap in our room, while I spent much of the afternoon in the den (because the sun room was way too hot!) to catch up on our first few days.

We returned to Westport that night by way of a 2 mile walk on a bike path for a quick bite of dinner and on to a pub that I'd heard good reviews for the pub and their nightly trad session.

I'd told Joel the day before that I would be really happy if I had one experience that fit the stereotypical Irish pub experience... but truthfully, I didn't know if it really existed or if it was just a nice story of a place that once did... but had perhaps moved on.

We walked in and made our way to the bar -- where we made the acquaintance of Philip White. I'm fairly certain that Philip White was an insane leprechaun in another lifetime.  I was rather delighted to observe him all night... though I'm not sure he was entirely stable.  He actually sort of reminded me of one of the drunk characters in the town of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.  But he was sort of the inebriated greeter of the place... like at Walmart.

A short time later, we met an older gentleman whose name I never got... but who we spent the better part of the night talking with and who I thoroughly enjoyed. Opinionated and feisty... but I think lonely and happy to have someone to talk to. He had lost his wife of 33 years to cancer four years earlier -- and still missed her very very much Anyway.. we talked for about 3 hours or so... buying drinks, laughing, telling stories, and the like -- and I came home very happy. And very very drunk.

Also, I peed in the bushes.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Wicklow, Galway, and Clare

Saturday -- Wicklow Mountains and Galway

Breakfast was another lovely affair... the same Table of Cereals and Cakes was fully laden.  I was about to order one thing from the Menu of Hot Delights when a waiter walked by with a stack of pancakes for another table and I said, "Oooo, I want that!"  And they were DELISH. The pancakes had a slightly different feel to them, a touch crispy on the outside, perhaps like they had been cooked in a bit of butter? They were topped with cream fraiche and fresh berries. Simple but decadent.

After repacking, the lady at the front desk called a "cab" for us... which ended up being a swanky personal car driven by a lovely Irishman. (They're all so nice!) I had no idea where in the airport we were supposed to be dropped off and suggested we could probably figure it out once we got there, but he called the car rental place to figure it out for us.

After checking in at the rental office, it was time to actually pick up our car and head out on the road. In Ireland. Where the cars AND the roads are backwards.

Our first plan was to drive through the Wicklow Mountains to Glendalough.

I should rephrase that.

MY first plan was to have JOEL drive through the Wicklow Mountains to Glendalough. If JOEL had known this road was roughly the size of a bike lane, he probably would have made other plans.

It really was beautiful... It's a hardy landscape, all windblown and covered in heather.. and gorgeous. We stopped at the top of a hill to get out and take in the view of a lough down in a valley, and chatted a moment with a local bicyclist who was stopping to catch her breath.

"You can get down there, you know...." she told us. "There's a path that way....  Go on, you'll love it."

So we did.  It was a bit muddy in places, but it was fun, and probably one of the highlights of my day.  Really beautiful and quiet once we got down there.  Later, I looked it up and we were at Lough Bray.

Eventually, we returned to the car and went the rest of the way to Glendalough, where we meandered a bit through the Monastic village there, and then continued along the path up to the Upper Lake. A bit to eat at the cafe, and then circled back to the visitor's center.

From here, we took the 3 hourish journey on to Galway.... At one point, Joel decided he needed a break. SO I DROVE THE CAR. And I didn't crash it, so yay!  Driving on the left hand side of the road isn't so bad. It's driving on the right side of the car.

So eventually, we made it to Galway and checked into our new B&B.  It was run by an older couple, Mary and Patrick. I never did meet Mary, though I can attest to the tastiness of the breakfast she cooks! Patrick was adorable (Older Irishman. I'm not hard to please.).

We walked into Galway and meandered through town. I really liked the vibe of Galway a lot. There was something about the whole busker scene that I just really loved the feel. I would happily spend more time there, just out in the streets.  We stopped and listened to a few different acts... Joel got roped into participating in one. There is video... but I'm not sure it's appropriate for Facebook.  Funny, though!

I popped into a pie shop that I'd heard good things about, ordered a Guinness steak pie, and ate it on the streets... Yum!

SUNDAY -- Co Clare and the Burren

Sunday was our day to drive out to County Clare and do some exploring. We started after breakfast with a trip just a touch north to Claregalway, which I'd read about on a fluke, and the old abbey that's located out there. It was a lovely place...  and it was cool to wander inside. I am mesmerized by these old places that are still standing.

After that, we drove to Kilcolgan and another ruin called Drumacoo... in which I planned badly.  My directions took us out to the middle of nowhere, where you parked in half an alcove and trompled across someone's cow pasture.

Actually, I thought this part was totally fun.

Once we got there (and walked 3/4 of the way around the building to find the door), I discovered there was a parking lot if we'd come at it from the other side. Oops!

After that, I decided Joel could probably use a driving break and we pulled in to Ballyvaughan to visit the craft fair, and then walked down the road to the pier where I met Irish cows in a field. They would not be the first cows I tried to befriend.  For some reason, I feel the need to greet all the livestock I come across..

Next, we drove out to the Poulnabrone Dolmen, which was pretty cool.  It was interesting enough just to see the site of the Dolmen... but it's up there on top of the Burren, which is just the coolest landscape.  I loved hopping around up there on the limestone rocks. What a gorgeous place.

Then, it was off to the Burren Smokehouse where I intended to pick up some smoked salmon... but during the informational video that they played for us, we discovered that they were associated with the pub two doors down. So we helped ourselves to lunch.

The day was getting a bit long by that point, so we drove to Hag's Head and planned to hike up the Cliff path to the Cliffs of Moher, about 3 miles away.  It was a calm day and looked beautiful....  what we didn't realize is that the usual wind keeps the bugs away!  Which were pretty darn awful with no wind...  so we didn't make it all the way to the Cliffs of Moher site.  But the views of the cliffs along the path were just as lovely, so I wasn't disappointed.

We took a long scenic drive along the coast back to Galway and then had a few drinks at a pub on the Salthill Prom before heading back for bed.

Days in Dublin

Well, that plan to update you all on my trip fell right through from the get-go, didn't it? We've been so busy that uploading a collection of snapshots from my phone is the best I could before my eyes couldn't stay open anymore!

We have been here in Ireland for several days now, but are taking today as a bit of a rest day - so I thought I'd try and recap the trip so far.


We began the trip in Eugene with an hour's delay -- which, of course, made me a little antsy about getting to our conneting flight. But we made it to San Francisco with plenty of time to spare and were on our way to Dublin.

Joel broke his TV about 3 minutes after sitting in the chair, and despite the flight attendant resetting it, it was out of commission for the rest of the trip. They started our Irish trip early by fee
ding us shepherds pie for dinner. It was weird to be fed on the airplane -- I never go on flights where they do that anymore!

I really didn't sleep much... I took a 2 hour nap, but the melatonin and muscle relaxers I brought were in my bag in the overhead bins -- and it seemed too difficult/obstructive to get them out. so I just didn't go back to sleep after that.  But I was too excited to sleep anyway.. Instead, I spent most of the night flight waiting for the sun to come up.

As it did, I watched the bed of clouds beneath us...  They looked like a never-ending horizon of marshmallows.  And I thought about how this was a "Someday" trip.  The thing that you say, "Someday, I'm going to..."  And how my Someday had surprisingly become a Today.  And maybe how many things are there that I think of as Somedays that could actually be Todays with a little work and creativity.

Thursday-- Arrive and walk about Dublin

We arrived about noon in Dublin (which was 4am Seattle time), sped through Customs, and made our way into town to check into our hotel, the Ariel House. It's located in the Ballsbridge neighborhood -- in the shadow of the Aviva Soccer/Rugby stadium.  I loved both the area and the hotel itself...  It was originally 3 Georgian townhomes all side by side, built in the 1800s -- and the neighborhood was quiet, away from the city center -- but near the DART station and within a 20 minute walk to Merrion Square.

We enjoyed tea and scones in the downstairs drawing room before taking a stroll into the city.  Much of this day, we just sort of walked around and took everything in.  We wandered a bit up the canal, and through Merrion Square before stopping for lunch at a pub just south of Trinity College where I had my first fish n chips and first Irish Guinness of the trip.

We wandered over to the grounds of Dublin Castle, through the Chester Beatty museum... strolled up Grafton Street, and into Christ Church Cathedral.  After that, we meandered our way up to Old Jameson Distillery, which was just about to close, so we found our way over to the Black Sheep pub for a couple beers before we wandered back home for a somewhat early sleep.

Friday - Dublin Day

Today, we woke up and got dressed, and then made our way downstairs for breakfast. The dining room was set into this lovely sun room at the back of the house and felt so elegant. I'd heard good things about the breakfast at Ariel House and wasn't disappointed at all for our first experience of Irish breakfast (on crack). When you walk in, there is a table laden with all kinds of stuff... cereals, milk, natural yogurt, chopped fresh fruit, scones, cakes, fresh banana bread.  You name it. It's there.  On top of that, they had a menu at every table that you could also order off of...  We both started our first day with the "traditional Irish breakfast."  I hope they don't have this for breakfast every day... I feel like i'm eating Thanksgiving dinner every morning!

And yes, I did try the black pudding.  It's not awful...  but I do like the white one better. Also, Irish bacon is 50 times better than American bacon. Why doesn't our bacon look like that??

After breakfast, we wandered over to the soccer stadium and took a tour. Our tour guide was this dear older man who used to play rugby there, and I liked him lots. Okay, really, I just love old men. But now they're Irish. So... adorable old men with accents.

We took the train into town and visited Trinity College for general wandering, a gander at the Book of Kells (which was generally "eh", but the exhibits before you got there were quite interesting), and a trip through the Long Room. Oh, if only I had a library that looked like that!  After a turn through St Patricks Cathedral, we got on one of the Hop On/Hop Off buses out to Kilmainham Gaol.

I was glad that I had read that book on Irish history -- though I'm sure it's simplified a lot of things (and left me with my own questions yet unanswered), I feel like it's given me a good base so that I've been able to understand the historical significance of the things we'e seen.

The tour at Kilmainham was quite interesting... and I appreciated the emphasis they put on the role of women in Ireland's history.  Afterwards, we made our way over to Guinness Storehouse. I'd purchases tickets for their swanky "Connoisseur Experience"... and I was glad that I did.  Before the meeting time, we went through the self-guided tour and stopped off at the Gravity Bar for our included pint -- as they told us that the building's last call was about 10 minutes before our session would be over.  The Gravity Bar was cool... but it was SO crowded with tourists that it was difficult to enjoy it.

The Connoisseur Experience was the complete opposite.  You  are in a group of 16 people, max, and they take you back into a dark private bar for an in-depth Guinness tasting session.  It feels like a "gentlemen's experience".... very serious, very classy. Honestly, I loved it.  We tried samples of five different beers, learned a lot about the history of the Guinness company and their beers, and all got to pull our own pints -- which was fun, but made more difficult by the fact that I hadn't had lunch and HAD just drink two pint of beer.

Afterwards, we had a whole pint to drink yet, so made our way back up to the Gravity Bar. Nearly all the tourists had cleared out by that point, so we were able to find a seat at the windows and enjoy the gorgeous views until they kicked us out.

Then, I made Joel feed me.  We found a pub and I ordered a bowl of Lamb stew -- which is probably my favorite thing to eat here. Sorry, Lambs. You are cute, but you are tasty.

On the way home, we walked through Temple Bar... but it was Friday night in the summer.... and really too party-y and busy for my taste.  So I enjoyed the experience of walking through, but didn't feel like stopping anywhere.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Believe in the Truth

Several years ago, I was in a friendship that was not doing well. I didn't really have much hope for its future, but was walking that line where you're trying to decide whether you should let go or hold on one more day.

During that time, I journalled a letter to myself in which I cruelly laid out every reason I had to walk away.  It wasn't a kind piece - to myself.

In the end, the relationship healed, but I always kept that piece that I wrote. I told myself that it was simply a part of our history, and was worth keeping simply for that.  But, I eventually realized that I kept it as a sort of insurance policy.  I kept it so if there ever came a time where it all blew up in my face, there was something there to say "I told you so." (I know that sounds warped.)

A while ago, I decided that I didn't need an insurance policy anymore. I decided that I could let that go, and move forward in trust. So, as a symbolic gesture, I dug the letter out of the box I kept it in, clamped it in a pair of kitchen tongs, and set it on fire.

When the flames blew out, I dropped the ashes in a bowl.  But, there was one scrap that had survived the flame.  I picked it up, opened it, and read the surviving words:

"Believe in the truth."

There was a poetic romanticism in that which I liked.

Since then, those words have returned to me often. I am a girl that thinks too much. I can circle a question for days, analyzing every moment, every word, every nuance - trying to figure out what things mean.  "Believe in the truth" is a reminder to relax, to let things be, to simply enjoy.

I am a girl who has doubts about herself -- about who I am, about what other people think of me, about what I should be.  "Believe in the truth" takes the wind out of those doubts' sails. It allows me to believe in both the truth and in me.

"Believe in the truth" has become a sort of relaxing mantra... words that I repeat to myself when I feel that I'm starting to cave in to questions and doubts, gossip and criticism. It has become a reminder to let the swirling world go on doing its swirling, but for me to step back from it, to remember what I know, and to move forward confidently in that knowledge.

Believe in the truth.

Monday, August 1, 2016

I'm going to Ireland!

Ten years ago, I read this book:

In ten days, I am going here:

Actually, I have no idea where that is.  So that could be a lie.

The POINT is... in ten days, I'm going to Ireland!!!!  Omg!!!

I'm going to Dublin and Glendalough and Galway and the Cliffs of Moher and Connemara (maybe I'll visit Irish Mr Rogers) and a little town nobody's ever heard of in Co Tyrone and Derry and Giants Causeway and Belfast and a castle!  I'm going to visit lots of old places --- I live on the West Coast -- I think anything before 1910 is old!  And drink Guinness and eat... lamb and potatoes? I have no idea... ok, I'll try blood pudding once, but I make no promises for the rest of the trip... and visit lots of pubs and listen to music and...

I'm going to Ireland! Holy crap!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Depression 'Round and 'Round

2003. I was mom to three un-understandable children under the age of 3. (Poor family planning there.)

It wasn't my first experience with depression.  But, it was my first experience when I finally understood it for what it was. I owned it.

I was depressed.

So, I did everything you were supposed to do. I sought out counselling. I leaned on my friends and family. I went on anti-depressants.

I liked the first two. I hated the third.

I felt icky. I felt foggy. It helped with the unhappy emotions... but it numbed the good ones, too. I just didn't like them. I stayed on anti-depressants only long enough until I felt like I was out of the pit. Then, I learned everything I could about self-care and how it could help me stay off meds in my future.

Self care became my religion. I learned that I needed a night each week, just one night, that I could reclaim myself from the Land of Toddlers, and I guarded that night with reverence. Over the years, what looked like self-care changed. As my children went into school, the need for One Night lessened, but I replaced it with weight loss, healthy eating, and exercise. Self Care always looked different -- but it always had the same purpose.

Depression has returned more than once since 2003... but I have always been able to head it off with Self Care.  If I felt the darkness returning, I'd put myself a little higher up on the Priority List and I could hold the status quo until the dark receded again.

I started a new anti-depressant yesterday.

Self Care wasn't working anymore. Actually, it's not that it wasn't working. It's that I wasn't doing it. Every time I felt like I started to get my feet under me on the Self Care Train, I'd have to throw it out the window to deal with family crisis. I couldn't take care of myself AND everyone else at the same time, and I never chose myself.

To be honest, it's hard to not feel like I've failed. Like if I had just done a better job at all the other stuff that I know helps me to feel better, I wouldn't have to resort to medication.

Cognitively, I know it isn't a cop-out. Cognitively, I know it's needed and that there is no shame in it. Heartfully, I don't.

Perhaps it was a point of pride. "I don't need medication. Depression is a shitstorm, but I've got this. All. By. My. Freakin'. Self."  And now I don't.

Now, I really don't.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

An Old Story and A New Perspective

I went "home" for the weekend over Memorial Day, and thus had a couple of very long drives to fill. I don't know what normal people do during long drives -- but I always turn on the music and just let my mind wander.

For hours.

Sometimes this is awesome. Sometimes this is dangerous. Your mind can go in strange places with nothing else to occupy it! This time, my mind wandered to something that happened a few years ago.

I'd been at a party of sorts, and a friend that I hadn't seen in awhile invited me to join his group at their table. I was quite a lot hesitant as I wasn't on great terms with everyone there -- but after a little prodding, I finally relented and agreed to come.

It wasn't awful... I met a few people. I caught up a very little with my friend. Conversations split up around the table, as they do... one of the people there spoke to me and said, "Look... I don't mean to be rude, but..."

An aside in retrospect, anyone who opens a conversation with that statement is about to be. 

".... we'd like to be alone -- could you leave?"

I swear that's true.  If you told me this story today, I'd ask you if you were sure it happened a few years ago and not... in high school.

I don't really know what you're supposed to do in that situation. I hadn't butted in, I'd been invited. In the end, I just felt incredibly embarrassed -- and angry.  Though I've never really known if I was angry at the person who said it because it was rude and hurtful... or if I was angry with myself for being embarrassed.

I went home.

I've thought of that night from time to time, but always stopped at the embarrassment. But, as I turned it over in my head the other day, I realized something I'd never really thought about before.

I'd been embarrassed.. .and I'd been hurt...  but I think I also felt relieved. I'd enjoyed catching up with my friend and meeting some new people -- but I'd also felt terribly uncomfortable in such close quarters with the people I wasn't okay with at the time. And while it was embarrassing, it was almost relieving to have an "out" and to not have to suffer through it.

Sometimes time and distance give you a little perspective.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Are we Republicans or Democrats?

"Mom...  are we Republicans or Democrats?"

I looked up to see my teenage daughter, scrolling through her phone, but with an expectant look that waited for my answer.

I thought for a moment about what to say. "We aren't either. Your political beliefs get to be your own... and what I believe could even be different from what Dad does.  Yours don't have to be mine. That's kind of the beauty of it."

Her wrinkled nose told me that she wanted the easy answer, and maybe not so much the true one.

"Look," I said. "I don't think it's my job to tell you what your beliefs should be. I think it's my job to help you find what they are -- and to teach you to have the compassion and kindness to be able to understand why someone else might believe differently, and to not be cruel to them because of it."

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Kicking People Pleasing to the Curb (a little more)

Tackling my propensity to people-please is not new. It seems I've been struggling with it for years.

Just last year, I made "People Pleasing" my habit to give up for Lent. I'm not sure that I really made any giant changes -- though I did end up giving myself permission to re-order my own world. To put myself in a position where I would be less aware of things (or sometimes people) that irritated or hurt me.

I think the greatest value of it was that I really dug into the reasons behind my need to people please -- or more accurately, my insistence on letting other people's opinions matter so much -- and I began to understand it a little more -- and to get accustomed to the idea and the belief that not everyone's opinions had to matter.

Which put me in a great place for the next step of the journey.

A friend recommended the book, The Life-changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, by Sarah Knight,... and I'm really glad I picked it up.  I know some of you are likely turned off by the title... and honestly, if language is something that you can't take, this isn't the book for you.  Girl uses the F-word more often than I use the word, "the." No, I'm serious.

She talks a bit about not caring what other people think of you -- but I was glad that I had walked down that road myself last year.  She kind of glosses over the "how" or the "why"... and is just sort of flamboyantly 'Do it!'  I'm the kind of person who needs to understand WHY doing something or letting go of something is so hard  -- so I was okay with the glossing, but grateful that I had already done that work.

Where the value of the book really came in for me was sitting and deciding what things I wanted to care about... and what things I just didn't.  She walks you through four different categories of things that you give your time, energy, and money to -- you sit down and you really think through what you care about, and what you actually don't.

This sounds simple... but it was a lot harder than I had anticipated.  At first, it was hard to think of things -- and I honestly think that it's because we're not trained to do it.  We're trained to grin and bear. We're trained not to make a fuss. We're trained to not rock the boat, to go along. I was surprised at how many things there were that I usually said, "Well... it's not that bad... so I'll just do it." Once I learned to recognize that, I began to see all the places that I did it, and it came a little easier.

And then, you give yourself permission to let those things go -- to say, "it's totally okay that I don't care about this... and I'm not going to be mean, but I'm not going to let myself get roped into pretending anymore either."

So far... this has been really freeing. Maybe it's been only small things so far, but I feel like I have more emotional energy.

I spoke to someone that hates me.  And I didn't die.

I didn't forward a chain letter.... And I had no guilt.

I swore off all Pampered Chef/Candles/Leggings/Whatever parties.

I find I'm talking to myself a lot, and saying... "You know... you don't actually have to bother with this."

I let go of a lot more... but I am finding that the more I let go, the more room I find for the things that I really do care about -- and suddenly, those things have homes again.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

An Open Letter to Ryan Kelly

... as dictated, via Skype

Dear Mr Kelly... RK... Ryan... Dad?  I'm not really sure what to call you.  (Editor's Note: At this point, the interviewee made some sort of pant-y slurpy sound. Interpret as you will.)

Can we talk?  I feel like we need to talk. Honestly, I had high hopes for this relationship.  

Maybe I should start over.

This is Larry.  Your dog. The one you abandon for weeks at a time to go traipse around the world and be fawned over. We need to have a chat.  Not about the abandoning.. it's really pretty sweet at your folks' house. I'm good with all that.

It's something else...  I'm a Boston Terrier.  We are a small breed - in stature -- but just barely escape the fate of a purse-dog by looking a little bit like someone smashed our faces in with a 2 x 4.  That's not an insult.  It's that or "purse dog."  We'll take the smashed face.  Smashed face makes us a MAN DOG. It's cool.

Like I said, I had high hopes. By all appearances, you seemed to have all the necessary parts to make Man/Man-Dog relationship work to its optimum peak.

It started out well...  but then, things began to change.  I should have clued into it earlier... but I thought it was just one of your weird phases. Like when you were into Spice Girls.  Or Star Wars.  

That might be a bad example.

I'm starting to question that whole "necessary parts" thing. First, it was a Celtics jersey.  That wasn't so bad... I thought it was a one-time thing. "He could change!" I said.  But then, it was another. And another. There was a Yoda costume. Seriously, what is wrong with you? Are you 12?  

A coat. (I have a coat.  It's called fur.) Shoes.  Shoes.  SHOES.  SHOES!!!!!!!!  I have more clothes than you do, for god's sake.

I am a DOG.  I am a MAN DOG. MAN DOGs do not get dressed up! And for all that's good and holy, certainly not in shoes. Look, I know you love me -- and because I know that, I'm coming to you.  

Sir, they are taking away my Man Dog Card.  You should hear the mockery at the park. You think that's friendly barking from the other dogs?? I assure you, it is not. YOU MADE ME INTO A CALENDAR. You try living that down at Poker Night!!!!!

I'm starting to get emotional.  It's just...  It's just a little embarrassing, that's all.  And by "a little embarrassing," I mean, "DEAR GOD, MAKE IT STOP!!!!!!"

I am not above chewing all your basketball trophies.  Well, or that one.

*Interviewee sighs.. long long whimpering sigh*  

Look, I will see you when you get home from Australia. Any souvenirs better the heck be something I can chew on or there will be hell to pay. Running shoes can easily substitute. 

You've been warned.

Take care,

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Your Strongest Person??

"You're the strongest person I know."

It was a comment from a dear and old friend (she's not old... we've just known each other a long time!) on an old post that I recently reshared -- and I briefly wondered --

"Are you lost? Did you mean to write that here? Are you sure that you haven't confused me with someone else?"

I've thought about it a lot since then... perhaps because, lately, I feel anything but strong.

  • 2/3 of my children fell apart, and I've been merely scrambling to keep us all from being washed away in the debris.
  • I've been absolutely CRAP at maintaining my friendships -- people that mean the world to me, and I've been pretty much the worst at keeping up communication. I have been an awful friend.
  • I've destroyed my eating plan in the stress.
  • Running is a joke.
  • Taking care of myself has been on PAUSE since January.

I do not feel like I am winning at life. I can't be anyone's "Strongest Person"....  because... well, that's just sad.  They're going to need to meet some new people.

But maybe I'm looking at it wrong.

Maybe winning at life... maybe being strong....  maybe it isn't about having it all together. Maybe it isn't about being Pinterest Perfect. Maybe it isn't about perfect relationships and perfect environments and perfect... anything.

Maybe it's about stumbling through the things life throws out at you -- but refusing to give up. Maybe it's about slogging through the hard things, even if you're doing it badly, and coming out the other side, still breathing, still awake, still... trying.

Maybe the strongest people aren't the people who feel like they have life down -- but those who know that they don't but still give it a go, anyway.

I'll be honest... I don't feel like I have the goods to claim to be anyone's "strongest person I know" --  I still wonder if you've confused me with someone else.

But I'm going to give it a go.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Letting people be

For a long time, I felt unhappy.

People weren't being who I wanted them to be. They refused to fit in the boxes that I had created for them. They didn't choose what I wanted. They didn't say what I had planned.

I was unhappy and I felt frustrated. That all sounds very silly... but I was.

I had reasons that sounded really noble for why I wanted them to mold themselves into the people I'd designed. It was for their own good, wasn't it? If they could just change in the way that I wanted them to change... or choose the things that I thought was best for them to choose, they'd be happier. They'd be wiser. They'd be...

... who I wanted.

If I was honest, I wasn't noble. My intentions were far more selfish than they were loving.

And so, I stopped.

I stopped demanding that they be the people I wanted them to be. I stopped pushing and pulling them into my molds.  I stopped giving them lines and then being upset when they didn't say them.

Sometimes that meant that we walked away. We realized that who they really were and who I really was didn't quite work -- and so we quietly said goodbye.  Sometimes that meant we grew closer -- that putting away my demands allowed them to give more freely.

Sometimes it changed nothing, and merely allowed me to accept people for how they are... for who they are... and made me realize that if I wanted people to accept me for myself, strengths and flaws and all...  I needed to be willing to do the same for them.

Without judgment.  But with love.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

When the Coffeemaker Dies

My coffee maker broke last week. If you know me, you know that's a tragedy and crisis all rolled into one.

My Plan: Go to Target. Buy a new one.

On Saturday morning, my husband approached me while I was doing my hair. "So... I was looking online," he said, "and it looks like we actually have a few choices on coffee makers."

I immediately put down my straightener, narrowed my eyes at him, and accused, "Are you in Research Mode???"

My husband is a Researcher. It's genetic.

When our children were in the 4th grade, I picked them up from school, and on our walk home, they excitedly confided that "Dad said we're getting a new TV!"  I had to gently explain to them that when he says "I think we should get a new TV," what that actually means is "I am thinking about getting a new TV... but I need to look into what the best TV is first. For months."

Two years later, there was a new TV on the wall.

A Researcher Husband is not a bad thing. We probably have the best TV, balancing money and value and bells and whistles and reliability.

My van, which took months to "research," has all the features that I wanted.

But Researcher Husband and "IMMEDIATE COFFEE NEED" do not always get along.

I tapped him on the chest, and said, "Two days. You have two days."

And to his credit (and my amazement - and probably his mom's!), he had one ordered by that afternoon.

Coffee is coming, my friends. It is coming.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Where has all the writing gone?

I guess that I thought it would have come back by now...  the writing, the inspiration. I regularly look back on things I've written in the past and think, "Hey, that was kind of brilliant!" --  and I'd like to write like that again -- but it's like I'm a little empty.

I don't say that with self-pity or even a belief that it will be always this way.

I believe that it won't. I know that it won't. It always comes back... I just thought it would have returned by now.

Part of it is me... and that isn't a bad thing.

There was a relationship that I felt the need to write about and write about and write about - ad nauseum, really. But now... it's fine. And even when it isn't, I don't really feel like I need to explore it anymore.  I believe that's a good thing... it's just a writing-less thing.

I sit down and the things that I used to spark my imagination or my writing bug... they just don't quite seem to work. I could write... I could make it sound good. I can be good at faking it. But, it wouldn't be real... so I just never do.

Part of it is my stage of life.

I have three teenage girls, and the things that I really need to talk about... are them.  Or... probably more accurately, my feelings that I am complete ill-equipped to navigate raising a teenager in today's world. But, they're teenage girls - and I can't. It wouldn't be fair to them. I've worked hard to create a relationship of trust between us. It gives them the safety that allows them to confide the hard things - and me, the knowledge of where they are, and where I can help guide them. If I were to dump that out here, I would violate that... and destroy the trust that I believe is sacred and necessary and healthy.

The things that I need to talk about... can't be.

So, I haven't written - not much. But I miss it.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Byrne and Kelly's "Echoes" -- A Longtime Fan's Meanderings

You guys, I have good news. I have lots of good news.

First, my longtime favorite musical duo Byrne and Kelly have released their latest album, Echoes. Growing from their previous standby of adapting favorite tunes, Neil Byrne and Ryan Kelly have dived into the pool of their own songwriting, along with bandmembers Nicole Hudson and Peter Sheridan, to release an album of nine original songs with the added gift of one fan-favorite Irish tune. Their blend is getting stronger and they're beginning to really feel out, explore, and test the unique gifts and strengths that they each bring to the table.

Second, I am way less grumpy than the last time I wrote about an album, so yay!

You can't listen to Echoes without knowing where Byrne and Kelly come from, with several tracks that reflect on Ireland as homeland and give tribute to the places that mean something to them. Home from Home is the last track on the album, but was originally released as a single some months ago. It's a great song with a driving beat, catchy tune, and well-blended harmonies. Belfast opens the album with just about the most beautiful guitar solo you'll hear. Along with Nicole's violin later in the song, the instrumentals are lovely. The track as a whole is pleasing to listen to... but that's almost its downfall. You almost wish there was the teensiest bit more meat to it.

Land of a Thousand Dreams is one my favorites on the album. It begins with Ryan's haunting opening and builds in intensity. Neil's harmony in the second verse gives the song a surprising darkness. Varying cadences keep the song interesting, but the driving acapella bridge is by far my favorite part of the track. I'd happily listen to it over and over. Meeting of the Waters is the song that I have really tried to like... but can't get into. It's pretty and I like the Gaelic in the background, but I just can't seem to connect with it.

Tales of love and tragedy fill out the album in tunes that are both achingly lovely and incredibly fun. Come Away has to be my #1 favorite song. A moving story of regret, Ryan sings lead evocatively and leaves you so very sad. The combination of instrumentation is perfect in its tenderness and the harmony that pours forth in the second verse is beautiful. The Old Tweed Coat is an achingly sweet song of lifetime love that is a perfect match for Neil's smooth voice.  Seamus Brett's piano is truly lovely and lends to the beauty of the song. It's taken a little bit to grow on me, but I think it is.

Putting some fire into the album, Step It Out Mary is the one song on the album that isn't a Byrne and Kelly original, but has met with much fan enthusiasm when performed at B&K shows in the past. It's a fun upbeat piece that highlights both Neil and Ryan's strong voices. I especially love the increasing layers to the chorus as the song progresses. The Rag Man is truly awesome.  The music is intense and fun. You just have to hear it - there is so much to it! The driving beat is stellar, the story is great, and it's a perfect vehicle for Ryan's strengths.

The Garden is a powerful and poignant piece, headlined by Neil, reflecting on our childhood pasts. It has great harmony in the chorus and sets your feet tapping. Finally, Keep It Movin' is a light clappy song that's a lot of fun. Fans will no doubt enjoy listening for the tour stops that they might have been at!

It's a good album! It's always a little nerve-racking when your favorite artists do something new - will you still like it? Will you still like them? But, I think that, while perhaps a little different, it's a good direction for Byrne and Kelly and one I'm looking forward to walking with them!

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