View From an Irish Back Yard


Heroes, Inspiration and Big Questions
July 8, 2014, 1:43 am
Filed under: America, Family, Film, Indianapolis, Literature, Music, Writing

Lately, I feel like people are thinking, “Oh Geez, here come those complaining Kellys again. Never happy.”

If you follow our Facebook or Twitter accounts, read my husband’s or my blogs or keep up with us in any way, you will have seen a lot of up and down commentary from us over the last good while. Job frustrations, money woes, loneliness, homesickness for Ireland, challenges with the kids, and certainly a lot of anxiety since our home intrusion back in April. But mostly, I think, our admitted dissatisfaction comes from a passionate and unquenchable desire to be something more. To hold on to our dreams, and work hard for them. To leave a mark. To mean something. And the knowledge that we are not “getting anywhere” at the moment.

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Me, full of dreams, back in 2009.

I’ve found myself asking a lot of questions lately. Does everyone dream big, but only a few achieve? Why do some people never “get there?” Is it a matter of work, or belief, or opportunity, or luck? If God puts talents and desires into each of us, shouldn’t we fight for them, and try our best to see them through?

I know, when looking at famous examples throughout history, a lot of dreamers had to sacrifice things like family, friends, even health and certainly money, in order to follow their hearts. Some of these people were selfishly obsessed with money or fame. Some were simply driven by belief in what they had to offer. I’d like to think that Frank and I are part of the latter group. We both, and together, have deep, sincere, heart-felt, nearly primal dreams we dream every day. They don’t really involve celebrity, power, or fortune, but rather a better life for our kids and a greater feeling of satisfaction and some pride in what we’ve been able to give back to the world.

We are, both of us, story tellers.

Frank, full of dreams, back in 2010.

Frank, full of dreams, back in 2008.

Yet, it seems unpopular in our world today for anyone past the age of, oh, say 25, to dream. That’s kid stuff. If you haven’t taken a risk or made your mark by then, you need to give it up. It’s selfish and foolhardy to pursue personal ambitions past 30, much less 40! And when you have kids? Don’t even think about it.

It’s like we’re perpetuating a myth, generation after generation of us, raising children with hope and encouragement, only to squelch our own ambitions before they can fly if they don’t succeed within an accepted time frame. We watch our parents and grandparents give up, and we dream for a little while, and then give up, too. We tell our kids to dream, and then watch them close the door when their own little ones come. And unless you’re extremely driven, or lucky, or cut-throat about it, you won’t break free.

I find this ideology incredibly frustrating. And I feel like I can’t sincerely tell my daughter and son to aim high and reach for the stars if I won’t allow myself, or Frank, to do it as well. Continue reading



Bookends

“Old friends, old friends, sat on their park bench like bookends.”

When I was in college, my summer job was working as an interpreter at a living history farm in Bozeman, Montana.  Looking back, I could not imagine myself landing a better job than this – dressing up as a circa 1900 woman, cooking on a wood stove, talking to visitors, learning how to crochet and embroider and sew on a treadle machine, getting to try a huge array of interesting vegetables from an ever-expanding heritage garden, and, best of all, learning from the bottomless well of knowledge that was our volunteer base.  We had everything from blacksmiths to gardeners, spinners and weavers and musicians, all historians of sorts, all (or mostly) lovely, wise, fascinating people.

Karen at the Tinsley House with our first attempt at cheese making, summer 2001

Karen at the Tinsley House with our attempt at cheese making, Summer 2001

My favourite days on the farm were usually Saturdays, particularly early in the season when it was still a bit chilly.  If it was raining out, the house would be dark (no electricity!) and visitors rarely came down the wooden sidewalk.  Those were the days when I would build up the fire in the wood stove, make a big pot of cowboy coffee, and sit around the table with my boss, Dave Kinsey, and one of my very favourite ladies, Karen James.  I was only a teenager, but they never, ever made me feel small.  We would talk about the farm, Western history, our town, our lives, local politics, and so on.  And, usually, Karen would bring a truly magnificent coffee cake.  We’d sit there, cozy and pleasant, eating piece after piece of this sinfully buttery cake covered in sugary walnuts and cinnamon.  We’d drink gallons of coffee, ignoring the grounds sinking to the bottom of our cups as we topped up and poked the fire.  I know it sounds funny and a little naughty that I loved those peaceful mornings when nobody would come around the house looking for a tour!  But it was those sweet friendships we were forging that I found myself looking forward to all week, and missing when the job was over for another summer.

A few years later, when I was working for Heartland Truly Moving Pictures in downtown Indianapolis, I formed similar bonds with many of the staff.  I still remember when Kevin Swiontek would poke his head in my office nearly every morning with the same single worded question: “Coffee?” He’d usually accompany the query with a gesture of drinking a cup.  I would smile, grab my purse, and join the group that   also usually included my friends Claire Brosman and Kristi Gross as we walked across the street to Nordstrom’s coffee shop.  Somehow, we all needed those few moments of camaraderie at the start of our long days, just a short break to get a breath of fresh air and ask how everyone’s weekends went.  It brought us closer as friends and co-workers.  And if it was a good day, or perhaps a particularly bad day, I would treat myself to Nordstrom’s “old-fashioned” coffee cake, which was the closest confection I’ve ever had, before or since, to Karen’s wonderful cake.  This one was probably factory made, but still buttery, rich, and sweet with nuts and cinnamon.  So the same comfortable association lived on, even in another time and another city. Continue reading



Family
April 27, 2014, 3:08 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

Families are hard work.  There are always members, be they brothers, sisters, uncles, fathers, cousins, who will feel ostracized.  Perhaps, that was even their intention.  Perhaps not.  

We fight.  Sometimes we make up.  Sometimes we sit in silence, miles away, waiting for a phone call or a visit or a letter that doesn’t come for years.  Or may not come at all.  We misunderstand.  We try to make our own values fit the people we love, even when that dress will never, and should never, be altered for someone else.  

And we hold ourselves back from the others, too.  We tell ourselves we’re the black sheep.  We remind ourselves of things said or done, maybe years ago, that put up walls between us and the ones we love.  And we wonder if we still love each other.  

I feel like the older I get, the less I understand about life.  The longer I’m on this earth, the more I realize that my days here are nothing I ever expected.  But, for better or for worse, I want my family to know that I love them.  

You can’t do anything that will make me stop loving you.  We’ve crushed each other with harsh words and unkind deeds, some on purpose, some unintentional.  We will never be able to understand some things about each other.  But I love you, now and always.  And when the storms of life come, I will link arms with you, even though we’re miles, states, countries, continents apart! You can’t do anything that will make me stop loving you. 

And I thank you for loving me, too. 



East Side Indy
April 11, 2014, 3:35 am
Filed under: America, Crime, Family, Indianapolis

My head is throbbing.

I am jumpy, skitterish, probably unnecessarily anxious.

Today was a long day – getting Evelyn off to pre-school at 8:30, coming home to catch up on dishes and try to work on an article, then work at Starbucks 12:30, taking Frank to work at 5:30, then getting a babysitter and going to do a film review this evening.  I missed dinner and didn’t have much of a lunch.  I felt almost jovial coming out of the movie, stopped in to Trader Joe’s and headed for the highway home.

At the stoplight just before I69/465, I clicked on the little indicator that says how much gas I have left – oops, only 7 miles until empty.  And I was in the wrong lane to turn around.  So I got on the highway, nervous and scanning the exits for a gas station.  This wouldn’t do – I had to get off at Lawrence.  I wasn’t going to end up stranded at night on the highway with one headlight and no one to rescue me.  I drove down a street that, while well lit, was not where I wanted to be.  I had to pull in to the first gas station – really the only gas station – I could see, and as I did, I noticed there were police cars parked askew in the lot and a couple officers having heated debate with some young girls.  I tried to stay nonchalant, but a voice came over the speaker and told me I’d have to pre-pay inside.  So I locked the car and walked through the police cars and in to the station.  I waited in line, listening to the shouts and curses of people in the store.  I could feel my face flushing, a rushing sound filling my ears and a sort of desperation as I willed the line to move faster.  I paid a polite cashier and quickened my steps back to the car, where I put $20 worth in my tank.  A well-dressed man on the other side of the pump filled his car and shook his head at me, saying, “I’m just dreading this summer, when those crime rates are gonna climb even higher.  A few months from now, I don’t even want to see.  It’s already started.  These young kids, they just don’t care, don’t even care about living.”  I nodded soberly back at him.

I finished pumping my gas, wished the man good night and safe home, and got back in my car, locked the doors and got back on the highway.  But the more I thought about it, the more I began to feel the chills of reality.  He was right, and I knew it.  Everyone around here knows it.  This summer is going to be bad, unless something changes. Continue reading



Kiddos – the hardest job on earth.

I love kids. I always wanted kids.  Yet, every day it seems I ask myself, “Am I really cut out for this?”

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“In The Night Garden” always works magic.

I started babysitting at 11, was a camp counselor as a teenager, volunteered in the church nursery in my 20s and was even a nanny for a stint in Ireland, so I know all about changing diapers, giving baths, making babyfood and bottles, playing games, calling time outs, and all that stuff. But it’s the bigger stuff, the life training stuff, that really throws me curves with my own kids.  Like I said to Frank just yesterday, with any other job, if you’ve tried your absolute best and still failed, the world won’t stop turning.  But with your kids, if you’ve tried your hardest and failed, that’s not good enough.  Frank says everyone has frustrations and stresses with life, and kids, and he’s right – but sometimes I wonder if “everyone” has better coping mechanisms than I do?

It’s Saturday morning, just before 7 a.m.  Evelyn has woken me up (and subsequently, Shea, too) with a cheerful, “Good morning!” I get up and go about turning on cartoons and getting her breakfast.  Shea is grouchy and smells sort of sour behind the ears, like he spit up during the night.  He was whinging all night long anyway, probably too hot sleeping in the bed between Frank and me.  I rearrange dirty dishes in the kitchen and find some clean ones so I can bring Evelyn her cereal, milk and juice.  She is drawing at the coffee table and politely says, “Bank you Mummy!” I put Shea down so he can crawl while I check my email.  He crawls over to Evelyn and pulls a piece of her drawing paper off the coffee table – of course the piece of paper her breakfast was sitting on.  So cereal, milk, paper, all over the carpet, wet and stinky and soaking in.  I get cross at Evelyn for not watching Shea, even though I know I should have been watching them both.  I call the dog to clean up the first layer of mess, then I come in with towels and cleaner to try and soak up the rest of the milk.  Throughout my cleaning, I have to keep moving Shea so he won’t crawl into the mess he just made and I scold Evelyn for not playing with him as a distraction.  When the mess is sort of clean, I put Shea in his high chair and proceed to toasting some bagels for our breakfast.  I look over and he does his beamy chin-in-the-air smile at me while eating something he found stuck to his high chair.  I thought I cleaned it last night??? I wait for his bagel to cool and hand it to him.  He throws it on the floor.  I scold him, pick it up and examine it for dog hairs, in which it is covered. Guess Georgie gets to eat his breakfast, too.  I pull the shade on the kitchen window and sit with Shea to watch the sun rise.  And even in this sweet moment, I sort of want to restart the day.  Actually, I feel like I’m not ready to begin the day at all.  But there is no mountain of covers big enough to hide me from my needy, lovely, children.  Continue reading



Reverse Culture Shock
February 6, 2014, 3:37 am
Filed under: America, Family, Indianapolis, Ireland in General, Parenting, Writing | Tags: , , ,

Well, seeing as you’re still reading, I guess I’ll keep writing.  For now. :)  I’m happy with a lot of the posts I’ve achieved with this blog over the last several years, and I don’t really want to give it up.  So if you’ll just be patient with my few, sporadic, posts, I’ll try to focus a bit more and put stuff up more often.

After the last post, a kind woman who has been through a similar situation expressed the feeling PERFECTLY as “reverse culture shock.”  Yes, I’d say that’s exactly what we’re feeling after this most recent move back to the USA. I know it’s what I’m feeling for sure.

It’s been a little crazy. :)  We were so worried, and anxious, and upset, when Frank didn’t find work for so long.  And health care (or the lack thereof) really, really got to me.  I wasn’t even thinking about President Obama or all the debate or even where we were going to find the money – I just wanted the security of knowing we’d be taken care of!  And after being turned away and hung up on and treated like dirt when I just wanted the basics for my family, I was very, very upset.  Finally, as you know, Frank found work and the benefits are really good.  In fact, they just went into effect for us, which is good because Frank and I were turned down twice for Medicaid for “lack of paperwork,” even though we provided everything and more that they requested.  The kids, however, were covered by Medicaid for some reason, so they’ve been “safe” for the last few weeks. Whew.

Then, just as we prepared to celebrate, I got very sick all Christmas week.  Explosively sick.  Was it our Dec. 23rd Chinese take-out, or was it an evil predatory virus?  We will never know.  As soon as we’d gotten back on our feet from that one, the weather came in to play.  As you probably also know, it’s been an insane winter for the Midwest.   Continue reading



Out with the old.
January 1, 2014, 2:33 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hello friends – Happy New Year to you!  They’ve already celebrated back in Ireland and we have another 2 hrs or so to go here in Indianapolis.  So, wherever you are, I wish you the very best for 2014. 

Here’s a very abbreviated update of what’s up with us – I hope to write more at another stage, but it’s just not coming to me at the moment… and I’m not not sure how or if I will be using this blog in the New Year, for while I write about a lot of things, the main theme of “View From an Irish Back Yard” isn’t as pertinent now that I’ve moved back to the States!  On the flip side, however, you can certainly read my husband’s new blog, which details his feelings on moving over here! 

We are settled in a bit more, though still finding our way.  The biggest, best news is that Frank was hired on as a night shift supervisor in a local warehouse.  We had just sent the last of our savings for December’s rent and had no idea what we were going to do… and out of the blue, Frank was interviewed and hired on the spot just a few days later.  It was like something out of a Christmas movie, I swear to God.  So that has been an enormous sigh of relief for us, and we hope in the coming months to figure out just what this income allows us to do and how our lives fit around the unfamiliar schedule.  

We HOPE to do a lot of things in 2014… pre-school and then Kindergarten for Evey… some dance and swimming lessons for her as well… driving lessons and a driver’s license for Frank… travel around the area for some fun day trips with the kids… visit friends and family we haven’t seen for years… more freelance writing for me, if at all possible… paying back  A LOT of people… and basically finding our way as an independent family, learning what we like and where we want to be and what dreams for our future are most important (and perhaps most realistic).  This last year was certainly a stressful one, but I hope that we continue to grow closer and dearer to each other as a family.  Sometimes daily frustrations feel like they’re pushing us apart… but I pray that we will always come back to one another, love and forgive and support each other, all four of us, and Georgie, too!

Thanks for reading along, as always.  I know this isn’t my typical posting style.  If you have any thoughts or ideas that might help me find a new blogging path, I welcome them!  I’m feeling a little bit lost, truth be told, but my fingers are still itching to write.  So tell me what the people want!  I’ll try to accommodate. :)

Until then, Blessings, and Happy Holidays, to you and yours. 

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The Kelly Kids wish you a Merry Christmas




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