View From an Irish Back Yard

The Man I Love
November 8, 2014, 4:26 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I was giving Shea a bath tonight and was smiling over his new antic. He looks up at me with his big blue eyes, and asks “Song?” and then shout-sings “Let Go! Let Goooo! Let Go!” finishing with a round of applause for himself.  I laughed and sang with him while I washed his hair, noticing he has a new little mole behind his right shoulder, in addition to four new canine teeth. I pulled him out of the tub and into a towel and then wrestled him into his PJs while he screamed and giggled and protested loudly.  He’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too.

And then I sighed, because I miss Frank.  He’s only been away from us for two weeks, a bit more, but it feels like forever.  He and I were long-distance when we first met, and then again after we were engaged, and off and on for work, so we’re used to doing the email/text/phone relationship thing.  But when you’ve got little kids doing cute things – and wearing you out! – the distance is much more noticeable.

I married a really good man, though.  I just want to take this opportunity to say that.

In Love at Newgrange, January 2007

In Love at Newgrange, January 2007

Someone asked me the other day, what stood out about Frank?  What made you take notice of him when you first met?  And I drifted into a misty haze of memory, and began to think out loud.

When I met Frank, in person, he stood out because he was the only one listening in a group of gregarious filmmakers who loved hearing themselves talk.  It was my third Heartland Film Festival, and I loved “my” filmmakers every year, but I was quite used to hearing them constantly promote themselves and their work – it’s nearly an unspoken law in indie film, at least if you want to get anywhere!  But Frank was not like the others.  He was certainly no wallflower, either – he was just confident, secure in his own skin, proud of his short film, “Emily’s Song,” and grateful that we liked it enough to give it an award.

In the weeks leading up to that first meeting, I had spoken to Frank a couple times over the phone and several times via email.  He had actually forgotten to send his film submission in, so my first contact with him was to ask if he still intended to enter the film as our deadline was fast approaching.  Where most people ignored my email, he responded straight back, all apologies, and mailed the film to me that day.  As luck would have it, because the film was a late submission, it went straight to the interns and then straight to me.  I watched it, loved it, and put it through to my boss and the film jury.  The rest, is history.

It’s funny, because I remember when Frank sent in his bio and headshot, I thought he looked very broody, a true grouchy artist! So when I saw him across the room at our filmmaker meet and greet, I introduced myself to him last, because I was a little anxious about what I perceived to be his aloof demeanour.  I could not have been more wrong!  Frank was, from the very first moment, warm, intelligent, friendly and sweet.  I remember we talked about Danny Boyle’s latest film at the time, “Millions,” which I loved, and reminded me in some ways of Frank’s short film.

I got to know Frank more and more that week, and I found myself making excuses to be near him, working certain events or theatre locations because I knew he’d be there.  I didn’t really think it was anything serious – I just enjoyed his company! The day I introduced him to Judy Stewart, the late James Stewart’s daughter and presenter of the Crystal Heart Awards for short films, I thought my heart would melt.  He was awestruck, a position in which I can actually say I’ve never seen him since, upon meeting his hero’s daughter.  It was a moment that was one of my favourites of my time at Heartland.

You know the end of this story.  We fell in love, I visited, then we were apart, I moved there, then we got married, then we all moved here, and now we’re apart again for a little while.  And today is our 6th Wedding Anniversary, which is an especially hard day to be apart.

But it just strikes me every time, how special and dear is my Frank Kelly, my artist, my filmmaker, my storyteller, my soulmate.  I’m so glad he wasn’t shouting for my attention back then (or now!).  Who knows?  Maybe I never would have heard him, or seen him, if it hadn’t have been for his very unique way of looking at the world and interacting within it.  What’s that line from the old song, “You say it best when you say nothing at all”?

Take that, Hollywood. ;)

Much love to my dear Husband on this day, and every day.

The Unpredictable

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”  – Woody Allen

It’s been over a month now, since we picked up our life and moved out of Indianapolis.  We crossed 2300 miles of open road, and passed through nine states. It was a real adventure, and one that continues! But more on that in a moment.

Devil's Tower Rear View (c) Frank Kelly

Devil’s Tower Rear View (c) Frank Kelly

I’m happy to report that the kids were real troopers.  There was the occasional whining around nap time, but mostly they adapted surprisingly well.  Even Georgie, the dog, acclimated herself to the cramped quarters of the minivan.  And the minivan herself ran remarkably well (now at 14 years old, 192,000 miles and counting!), the only mishap being a rock chip in the windshield 30 minutes outside our final destination! So we drove, both Frank and I, through wind and rain, mountain passes, flat prairies, through forests and over rivers.  We listened to all kinds of music and books on CD, and we had silent times, too.  We visited friends and family and we made lots and lots of memories.  There were tears of joy, and of pain.

Hyalite Reservoir

Hyalite Reservoir

I’d like to tell you about every moment, but I must confess, the two parts of our trip that stand out the most are The Disaster and The Unfinished Sequel. Continue reading

In Search of Home
September 20, 2014, 5:48 am
Filed under: America, Family, Home, Indianapolis, Seattle, travel | Tags: , , , , ,
Indianapolis Skyline from the War Memorial Mall, on Indy 500 Parade Day.

Indianapolis Skyline from the War Memorial Mall, on Indy 500 Parade Day.

It’s been just over a year since we moved, immigrated, back to the USA from Ireland.

Evelyn is going on 5 years old.  She’s started forgetting things, like how her Nana’s house looked, or what her little cousins’ names are, or who our doting neighbours there were.  She remembers a lot of funny little things, but not always the details and persons we so wish she’d recall.  Shea, on the other hand, was just 6 months old when we moved, now 19 months.  He remembers nothing from our former life, and only knows his Irish family from waving and blowing kisses to them over Skype.

Moving so far away from the people and places you love has to be done for a lot of really solid reasons.  And, once you’re gone, and homesick, and looking back and questioning why, somewhere along the lines you better feel, in your heart, that it was worth it.  The sacrifices led to something better.

Springtime, tree in bloom.

Springtime, tree in bloom.

My earliest personal memories come from the summer I was 3 years old.  I remember that summer in very vivid bits and pieces because it was my family’s first big road trip, from Bozeman to Seattle. My parents packed up our little black Buick Skylark, buckled my sisters and me into the back seat and headed  off, nearly 700 miles West.  I remember being afraid of everything on that trip – The Space Needle, the ferries, the shower in our motel!  I remember playing with my cousin, Paul, and I remember my Uncle Mac dropping an ear of buttered corn on the cob onto the floor and all of us laughing.  I remember my mother getting a bee stuck up her pants.  I remember posing for a lot of boring pictures. I remember the Sees candy shop with its little playhouse.  I remember my dad prying starfish off the rocks in a tidal pool and leaving them in the trunk of our car until the smell became unbearable. I remember rain forests, and my hooded rain coat and miniature villages on display in Victoria, BC.  And, perhaps the strongest sensory memory of all is simply the one of sitting in that back seat, in traffic, the rain drops racing each other down the widows, and listening to a Simon & Garfunkel tape over and over again.  “I’m sittin’ in the railway station, got a ticket for my destination, Mmmmhmm…”

I could be anywhere in the world and hear the first few bars of that song and be instantly transported back to Seattle, and my 3 year-old self.

I don’t know if it’s irony, or destiny, but by this time next weekend, our little family will be homeward bound to Seattle.  Yes – you read it right – after just a year, we’re packing up our things, selling what we can, saying goodbye to friends, and moving again.  And adding another 2300 miles to the distance already between us and Ireland. Continue reading

Jam, Goodbyes and Late Summer Ramblings
July 31, 2014, 3:04 pm
Filed under: America, Family, Food and Drink, Friends, Indianapolis, Ireland in General

It’s just after 9 a.m. and I’m finally moving.  The kids seem to get me up too early these days, but I won’t let the couch call my name again today (if I can help it).  I pour my first cup of coffee – my favorite – and watch it swirl and steam up inside the cup, like futures in a crystal ball.  I love watching that first cup of coffee.  I add a dash of cream and watch it follow a counterclockwise  swirling pattern.

Evelyn is sitting on the couch in her princess nightgown, swinging her legs and dress-up shoed feet in time to a song she’s making up.  Shea is napping and Frank is still asleep.

Evey's Flowers

Evey’s Flowers

It’s a beautiful, sunny morning, cool and clear but humid in nearly tropical proportions.  At least to someone who spent the majority of the last 6 years in Ireland.  I’m so thankful that this has been one of the coolest Julys on record in Indianapolis.  It’s still been a hot one for us, but not unbearable, particularly considering we still don’t have the air conditioning fixed on our minivan.  And it’s nice not to have to keep the air on all the time in house, too.  I wish I could keep the windows in the house wide open all the time, really, but that’s unfortunately not an option in our neighbourhood.

Cherry Pits

Cherry Pits

I’m making strawberry cherry rhubarb jam.  A strange combination, maybe, but it’s made out of the over-ripe stuff I have on hand, like all the best jams are (of course).  I’m pitting the cherries with my fingers and staining my cuticles.  Ah well.

Cherries get kind of a bad rap.  They’re kind of the Regina Spektor of the fruit world – lovely and worthy but a bit of work to get into.  Like drinking from a cup and saucer instead of a mug.  Like starting your summer plants early from seed instead of buying 2 inch plants from a store.  It’s a nice idea, but no one has time for that.  I think it’s sad that people avoid cherries for “easier” fruits like apples or bananas or strawberries.  When I was growing up in Montana, Flathead Cherries were anticipated all Spring.  Rainier Cherries, too.

I remember the Friday fruit stall in Drogheda would often have gorgeous piles of ripe, red cherries that didn’t attract any attention beyond small swarms of yellow jackets.   The proprietors would walk up and down in front of their stall with samples of the beautiful fruit, and samples of fresh Spanish peaches and nectarines, too, but couldn’t coax the aul’ Irish ladies to try any.  “I don’t like the stones,” they’d complain.  “I don’t like the fuzz.” So I bought some cherries, most weeks, and some peaches and nectarines, too, even though I was usually the only one in our house to eat them. Continue reading

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.


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


“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

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. 


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