Making time, the Irish way

I was driving home last night with a shameful haul of used books from a local second-hand shop – it’s an addiction, really – when I looked into my rearview mirror and noticed the sun setting behind a row of palm trees. It occurred to me that we’ve lived in California more than 2 1/2 years, and I’ve yet to sit back and watch a famous palm-tree framed sunset here. That’s kind of crazy.

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There are lots of things we’ve not done here in that time. We’ve never been to Yosemite, or Napa, or Lake Tahoe, or Hollywood, or San Diego. We’ve never splurged on the Monterey Bay Aquarium or Hearst Castle or Disneyland, we’ve not been to Alcatraz or the Winchester Mystery House, and I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve dipped our toes in the Pacific.

Why? Is it time or money or having young kids or what? I guess it’s just life! Weekends are so packed with preparation for the week ahead, and plans to do the above have often been cancelled due to illness or lack of funds or simple logistics.  Continue reading

An Irish Christmas

It’s dark and quiet as I sit and listen to the clock tick this early morning while I drink my tea. I’m back in the corner of the couch in the kitchen I’ve sat in a thousand times before, contemplating Christmas, family, and jet lag.

We’re home in Ireland for Christmas!!

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Tea and a bun, Heaven!

This is the first time Frank and the kids and I have returned to Ireland since we left, over 3 years ago and I am so happy to be back! We flew in on Friday morning and, while I’m sorry to say my body clock is still adjusting, we’ve been having a great time. The weather has been cold and dry, just the way I like it, and every day we’ve been walking in the sunshine, meeting friends and family and feeling a little like we never left! Sure, there have been changes – new shops have replaced old, friends have had children, neighbors have passed away – but the countryside, the streets, and the feel of the place is very much as it always was.

I put Shea in a stroller on Saturday morning and pushed him up the road and right into town. Walking along, I nearly cried. (I’m a very nostalgic person, if you couldn’t tell before!) I pointed out familiar landmarks as we walked and he shouted and pointed at things that excited him.  I could smell coal fires and vinegary chips and drifting cigarette smoke and wet grass and my heart was full of love for this place that brought us all together, even when things so were hard sometimes.

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Christmas Cakes at the Moorland Cafe

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The Journey

A few months back, I was up to my eyeballs in the stress of a Huge Opportunity*.

It was the kind of thing one alternately hopes for and yet fears, one of those “that would never happen to me, but what if it did?” things. This Huge Opportunity took over my life for the better part of two months and brought out some of the best and certainly some of the worst of me.

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Bathroom Selfie before the Huge Opportunity

In the end, I didn’t get there. I made it part way, but I couldn’t quite grasp the brass ring. As crushed as I was amidst the lingering self-pity and embarrassment of defeat, I was actually relieved.  I knew that I’d done all I could do, that I’d worked very, very hard, and, in the end, that maybe I did not really want the Huge Opportunity after all. Maybe, as cringingly cliche as it sounds, it was the taking part, the experience, the journey that mattered.

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St. Peter’s in Drogheda – Where I often went to ask questions and regroup when the world was getting on top of me.    (photo copyright Frank Kelly)

It’s funny, for a long time, I looked at my experience in Ireland as the ultimate failure. I moved there with such a hugely naive and starry-eyed outlook – so common to young Americans moving overseas. I thought I would be moving up in my career the moment my feet hit the ground, for who, in all of Ireland, wouldn’t want a vivacious girl with film festival and journalism experience? Continue reading

Another Perspective

It’s that time of year again – I am officially an “Apple Widow,” as Frank works late most nights and into the weekend, trying to get ready for Apple’s biggest launch and keynote of the year. His job there has a lot of great perks – plenty of vacation and sick time, free outdoor concerts and summer beer bashes, fun “toys” to use on the job, etc.  – but they definitely get their money’s worth out of him in August!

So I’m feeling a bit lonely, like a single mom at times, as I work full time at Stanford and still have to do all the pick-ups, cooking, shopping and chores during the evenings. I love my kids, and they’ve actually been pretty good this week, but it makes me lonely for my husband and brings to mind another time when I was separated from my love and in the company of small children.

You may remember that once, over eight years ago, I was a nanny in Dublin for three children, ages 6, 3 and 1. I committed to staying six months, but only lasted six weeks, and my time spent in their home still comes to mind more often than I’d like to admit.

When I left, I was angry, hurt and utterly humiliated.

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Be who you are, be the change

I remember Election Night 1992 very well. My sisters and I stayed up late to watch Rocky IV (as you do) while my parents were out at a party, and we switched it off to hear the final results.  We heard the newscaster read the percentages and say that Beverly Barnhart had won our precinct, and that my father had lost.

As a kid, the word “lost” only seems to matter incidentally when you’re playing Clue or watching baseball or running a race. But when you’ve just spent the last several months, including an entire childhood summer, helping run an underdog’s campaign – stuffing thousands of envelopes with literature, walking hundreds of miles canvassing, squirming through painful debates, posing for family photos, and being told in no uncertain terms by neighbors just how much your father was hated – hearing the word “lost” tends to feel a lot more dramatic.

President George Bush also lost that year, to Clinton, and I remember feeling a sense that nothing was right in the world anymore.

Still, my family was not beaten. My parents continued to campaign for others they believed in, mostly Republican, sometimes Libertarian, or Constitutional parties. We walked in parades.  We put leaflets in people’s doors. We listened to Rush Limbaugh in the morning and watched Crossfire at night. We listened to patriotic music in the car on our way to Homeschool Legislative Day in Helena. From a very young age I got used to marching with a giant sign every year for Right to Life, and volunteered hours at their Winter Fair booth, handing out pins and plastic fetuses and balloons, even though I didn’t really understand it.  As a tween, I manned Republican Headquarters when it was housed in an empty shop on Main Street, though I seem to recall I spent more time pushing the wheeled office chair across the hardwood floors than answering calls or handing out bumper stickers. And when I was 11, I sent Ron Paul $50 of my own paper route money to help with his senatorial campaign in a state in which I did not live, just because I knew how much my parents believed in him.

As a teenager, I worked as page in the Montana State Senate. I studied the founding fathers and Adam Smith. In the summer of 1998, I went to Summit Ministries in Manitou Springs, CO, to further my political education.  Even though I really just went to meet boys, I came away with the knowledge that the three worst things a person could be in life were – Democrat, Gay or Atheist. I proudly spent my entire flight home trying to convert a poor British man (who was well up for the challenge).

(I hope I haven’t lost you yet.)

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Welcome Spring

My thoughts are a jumble these days, thus why I have not done much writing.  If you could open my brain, it would look like that corner drawer in your kitchen, overflowing with nails and screws, dried up glue and birthday candles, tangled string and electrical cords that belong to something, pens that don’t work and single doll shoes, tweezers, guitar picks and countless green grimy pennies.

That’s exactly what my mind is like right now.

I think about writing when I’m in the car or putting on my make up in the morning or walking to my office building – “I should write that down,” I say.  And then I forget. Little snippets of somethings that aren’t really a story or a proper blog post, but too important to throw away completely.

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It’s my first Spring working at Stanford, and it is beautiful.  Where once the space was inhabited by endless parched, brown grasses and the hum of bees and birds squawking in the trees, it is now cool and lyrical and very, very green.  If only my body could drink from this rainy fountain of youth every February and March, coming back fresh and soft and curvy, glowing with life the way the hills are right now. It always smells good on campus, usually of eucalyptus and evergreens, but right now the aroma of Spring is so strong it nearly makes your nose hurt.  There must be a thousand blooms around every corner, and sometimes the tiniest, most inconsequential looking flowers are the most powerful. So while the Birds of Paradise pose in the background of every tourist’s selfie, it is the nearly nonexistent and nameless species crowded in bushes around bike racks and doorways that you’re really smelling.  Continue reading

‘One Day in December’ – a Kickstarter film campaign

I met an Irishman today. He was an environmental health and safety worker, giving out to someone in the room next door, and my ears perked up to his Dublin accent right away. I couldn’t help but interrupt their conversation, watching as his gruff demeanor melted away when he started telling stories about “the old days” back in Eire. 

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Ever since meeting Frank, I find myself responding warmly every time I hear the lyrical (usually!) tones of a Paddy.  Around here, it might be a coworker, or student, a restaurant server or a tourist.  And even though we’ve moved back to the USA for now, whenever I meet an Irishman (or cailin), it feels a little bit like home.

Isn’t that funny? I’m American, through and through, have lived in three very different parts of the country over the last 30+ years, I’m loyal to baseball, bluegrass, peanut butter and I Love Lucy, yet… Ireland’s got me, too.  It’s sort of like being accepted into a family – standing on the sidelines, shyly observing, and then a gregarious auntie or uncle comes along, throws their arms around you and drags you into the room, and before you know it, you’re singing tipsy karaoke and offering to wash the dishes. That’s Ireland to me.  My adopted family, the lot of them. My heart bleeds green, white and orange every bit as much as red, white and blue. 

This is why the short, One Day in December, and the eventual feature, Ten Days in December, are so so dear to me.  These films are going to tell my story, our story, of our Ireland. A modern Ireland. A lovely Ireland. A hard Ireland. I want to open up the photo book of my heart and let this beautiful, romantic true tale unfold before you. 

I think Frank said it before – if we do not raise the funds for “One Day…” we are not giving up.  This is the story of our lives, quite literally, and we have every intention of seeing it through.  But if we can make it this January, with the help of our friends and “fans,” that would be brilliant. If not, we’ll work to develop the feature script and no one will be out a penny (until the next campaign!). 

Thanks, everybody, for supporting us thus far – 61 backers and $4,679!  We’ve got one more week to go! Keep your eyes on the Kickstarter, and on our lovely, talented, amazing actors (who we are kind of falling for ourselves!), and we’ll get there! 

Go raibh míle maith agat! (Thank you very much!)