‘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. 


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!)

I Am Ireland

“Sons and daughters of the Gael, wherever you be today, in the name of the motherland, greetings. Whatever flag be the flag you guard and cherish, it is consistent with your highest duty to link yourselves together to use your united strength to break the chains that bind our sweet sad mother — and never before have the scattered children of Eire had such an opportunity for noble service. Today you can serve not only Ireland but the world.”

Éamon de Valera, early St. Patrick’s Day message

My husband, Frank, has been working on a film project of late, another documentary in the same vein as the “140” project he did in 2010.  It’s called “I Am Ireland,” and it is a project that hopes to give a voice to the thousands of Irish folks who have left their homeland in search of a better future. It is, of course, a story that is near and dear to us, because we have lived it.  Even I, an American, feel its importance very deeply, not just because I married an Irish immigrant, and had two Irish babies immigrate as well, but also because I spent all those years on Irish soil, trying, struggling, to make a whole new life for myself in a new world.  I can relate to the loneliness, the frustration, the excitement, the promise, the disillusionment and the feelings of prolonged unrest one feels in making such a huge leap of faith.

So, what is the project, exactly? Well, you can refer to Frank’s blog for plenty of details, but the gist of it is this – we want Irish ex-pats to send us their stories, via smartphone video clips, to be edited into a feature-length picture of what it means to be Irish in a different country. You can talk as long or as little as you want. If all you want to do is say, “I left Ireland in 1999 and I never looked back,” that is fine. Or if you want to say, “I left Ireland six months ago and boy what a journey, c’mere ’til I tell ya… <insert 15 minutes of riveting Irish storytelling>” that is great, too.  We want to see your faces. We want to know who you are, why you left, what it’s been like, what people don’t understand. There have been countless documentaries, TV shows, movies, articles, books and recordings of Irish immigration in the 19th and 20th century, stories of teary goodbyes in Belfast and Cork and Dublin, “wakes” held by family and friends who never thought they’d see their loved ones again after they emigrated. But what is it like now? Perhaps it will even answer some bigger questions, such as why are people still leaving? What can and should Ireland be doing to hold on to her young people?


It can be about Irish men, women and children wherever they’ve moved – Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Poland, the USA… it can be happy or sad. We want to see your faces. It sort of reminds me of a children’s book we love in our house – “The Lonely Beast,” by Irish author/illustrator, Chris Judge. In the darkness of anger and despair and “I just want to go home!” that Frank was feeling last year, this seed of an idea sprung.  He was lonely. He wanted to find out what other Irish “beasts” were out there, and what they thought of this whole upheaval of their souls in pursuit of a more secure income.

It is also absolutely worth mentioning that next year is 2016 – exactly one century will  have gone by since the Easter Rising of 1916, which was one of the most pivotal events in the entire history of Ireland. It was a rebellion I did not understand myself until I had lived in Ireland for some time, and sought out the answers to my somewhat spotty and ambiguous Irish history recollections. The Easter Rising is a moment – six violent days, actually – of a battle for freedom that brings most Irish a great deal of pride, and continues to drive them forward in their personal and political battles at home and abroad. Next year will be full of 1916 commemorations, and the hope is that “I Am Ireland” will find its place among them.

The remains of the Dublin Bread Company at 6-7 Lower Sackville Street (now O'Connell Street) after the Easter Rising in 1916. Photo courtesy of the National Library of Ireland on the Commons (Flickr)

The remains of the Dublin Bread Company at 6-7 Lower Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) after the Easter Rising in 1916. Photo courtesy of the National Library of Ireland on the Commons (Flickr)

Here’s the thing – Frank has gotten a great response, in terms of interest.  He’s even been interviewed twice on Irish radio (always a bit tricky with an 8 hour time difference!). Everyone seems to think this is a great idea! But we’re still lacking in actual submissions.  He’s set a deadline for the end of this month, and would like to have at least 20 – 40 “testimonials” as it were. We’re not asking for money, or anything weird like that – just a few honest minutes of your time. If you’re an Irish ex-pat reading this – please! Send him your stuff. Break the ice. We’d be so so delighted. And if you have friends or family who are Irish and living abroad, pass the word along! Invite them to be part of a really special, historic piece of work.  And I promise, it’s bound to be good craic, too. :)

Here are some quick instructions/tips, and of course, feel free to contact me or Frank about “I Am Ireland” at any time!


End of an era.


Paddling at Santa Cruz on Memorial Day.

It’s the final week of May here in beautiful California, mild and sunny and relaxed. We had a nice Memorial day weekend of visiting with family, working on things around the house, and exploring the seaside boardwalk of Santa Cruz. I repainted my childhood rocking chair for the kids, from a tired brown varnish to a lovely blue-green.  The weather has been so good, I was able to do it entirely outside, leaving it to dry at night and putting on additional coats and touch-ups as time allowed. I’ve also been working on my patio garden a lot lately, which is now complete with an array of “old lady” flowers like petunias, pansies, lavender, sweet peas and geraniums, plus a few herbs and tomatoes.  Next step is getting a table and chairs so we can go out and enjoy our morning coffee or evening glass of wine.


Old becomes new.

I’ve tried to take some extra time these last few days, to stop and play with my kids, snuggle on the couch, go to the park, give them extra kisses, bake cookies, and enjoy doing some of the things that take a bit more time and attention than a normal day typically allows. As of Monday morning, I will be starting a new, full-time, awesome job. I’m both reflective and anxious, and ever so aware of what a huge change this will be for me, and us, as a family.

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The Care and Keeping of an Irishman

First things first – I’d like to take a second to thank everyone who reads “View from an Irish Back Yard” for helping me to reach 100,000 views in the last seven years of blogging. It’s been fun! And you helped me get there. Now raise a glass to the next 100,000! :)

Now, on to the real post.

Frank and I have been “together” since late 2006, but actually “together,” as in living in the same town and being engaged/married for more like seven years (since this blog started!). I love how, at this stage of our relationship, I am finally able to cautiously predict some things and anticipate what surprises might make him happy.

Irish care package

Irish care package

At the heart of himself, Frank is – and always will be – a proud 100% born and bred Irishman. Being married to a Paddy brings its own unique set of rules for this American girl, and I am learning more of the delicate complexities every day.  Below I will outline a basic day’s routine to serve as a resource to other “mixed” Irish/American (or Australian, or Canadian, or whatever) relationships, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, of course. :) *Disclaimer: this is of course another sweeping generalisation based on my own personal Irishman, and not to be taken too seriously for feck sake.

Lyon's tea for Christmas, from a wife who really knows her husband.

Lyon’s tea for Christmas, from a wife who really knows her husband.

1. Rise and shine.  Well, rise anyway. My sleepy giant does not like to be roused too early, or too late – give him at least half an hour to get ready for work.  Bring him a hot cup of tea with plenty of milk – Lyons is preferred, Barry’s a close second and, in a pinch, Trader Joe’s Irish Breakfast.  Yes, he can tell the difference. Do not disturb him while he listens to Ray D’Arcy’s live broadcast on his phone.  As he wakes, you can chat politics and current events from “back home” with him.

If it’s a weekend, a Full Irish Breakfast – or as near as you can manage – is a great idea (especially if beers were consumed the night before).  But you will have your work cut out finding rashersblack pudding (a.k.a. blood pudding) or white pudding.  You can make do with a couple pieces of American bacon, a couple breakfast sausages, Heinz baked beans, sautéed mushrooms, a fried egg, and toast.  Frank isn’t keen on the fried tomato, but that would be traditional.  For other breakfast variations, you can serve potato boxty, scones with butter and jam, porridge, or Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Flakes.

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My shout out to working moms, or moms who work, or pretty much every mom I know.

Freelance writing for a stay-at-home mom is a tough gig, let me tell you.  I’ve tried to keep my pinky-toe in the water for the last several years, and I have been blessed by some really understanding editors who are still eager to receive my work, even when it’s sporadic.  Lately I’ve been pretty busy with multiple assignments again, and I find myself daily having an inner battle of excitement (to be doing what I love) and frustration (because life with little kids doesn’t often go to plan).


It’s been a good lesson in time management, patience and, above all, honesty with myself.  And here’s the deal – blogging (for me), isn’t really writing.  It’s not hard to punch out a bunch of paragraphs about my life on my own time and without anyone expecting perfection.  Blogging, for me, is a bit self-indulgent. It’s the result of a random spark of inspiration and a child’s coincidental nap time (like right now).

But, writing as a job is really hard work.  It takes constant practice, trial and error, and a rubbery thick skin, to maintain. Hoping to improve one’s writing is all that and an extra shot of dedication, plus having the time and headspace to pitch your stuff and get yourself out there.  Trying to write for the last six weeks has driven me to the edge of my own sanity, and I wasn’t even working on anything very difficult. Of course, my elation at being asked to write a few things was quickly snuffed by a toddler who stopped sleeping, a 5 year-old who was constipated, a husband who had to work longer hours, and a dog with skin allergies. Now nearing the end of this little run, I’m finally breathing again, but am also looking back and wondering if I should keep it up or just get a desk job? Regardless, I know my kids and I need more breaks from each other.  A lot more.

 So while I’m mulling all this over, I’d like to tip my hat to some other moms I know who are trying to do stuff they love while caring for families of (mostly) small children.  We are a long-suffering breed, ha ha, who try to find snip its of time to work when our significant others are home (evenings and weekends) or during those few blessed moments the wee ones are sleeping, in school, at a friends’ house, or with a babysitter.  While I fill that space with writing (or staring blankly at the screen), the ladies mentioned below use their time in other fascinating creative pursuits. (And I’d like to remind you, dear readers, that there are weddings, christenings, birthdays, holidays and all sorts of things coming up that serve as an awesome excuse to patronise one of these good women.  Keep that in mind, and keep reading!)

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I’m having a stand-off with a bag of salad in my refrigerator.

About a week ago, I finally got serious about going on a much-needed diet. I’ve been carrying an extra 10-15 pounds of baby-belly weight around the world with me, and I was running out of excuses. No more, “I have to keep junk around for the kids,” or “I’ll start after the holidays” or “It’s too hot/cold/rainy/snowy to exercise” or “crunchy vegetables make my dental work hurt.” Maybe it was my recent trip to Victoria’s Secret to redeem a  “free panty” coupon, when I found myself hijacked into trying on sports bras in the dressing room, a shop assistant coaching me to “jump up and down to test the support” while I was in there. Looking at myself, I rather felt like a squeezed balloon.

Whatever it was, I decided it was high time.


I’m lucky, I know, I’m not as heavy as I could be. My habits aren’t appalling. There are certainly many, many, many people the world over who struggle with a bigger weight problem than I am currently addressing. But sometimes, it’s the lesser amounts of weight, on the more petite folks like myself, that is harder to lose. And, even after just a week, I already know these 15 pounds will be a lot harder to shed than even I expected. I sure wish I could put them in a bag and give them to Goodwill.

I’ve never been much of a dieter, aside from a stash of weight loss pills (now off the market) I used to take in high school to make my already thin body even thinner. My parents used to diet about twice a year, drinking shakes for breakfast and lunch like Tommy Lasorda, and I watched their weight go up and down with seasons and life changes and good and bad times. Even when I have needed to lose weight, I’ve always been on the sidelines, watching some wonder drug or machine or plan advertised on TV and think, “Man, if only it was that easy! Wouldn’t it be great if that really worked?” Because I’ve always known, deep down in my gooey chocolate core, that dieting would be much harder than that.

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The Wind Cries Mary(ann)

The last time I saw Jamie Cullum in concert was October 2006, at The Murat Egyptian Room in Indianapolis.  It was mere days before I was to meet Frank, and I was definitely in a bit of a funk. It had not been a kind year, in love terms, and the lead up to the Heartland Film Festival was always stressful. But I was beyond thrilled to be seeing Jamie play, for it was him and the tenuous balance of youthful angst and timeless romance his music evoked that I had come to depend on for salving my bruised heart.

Jamie at the Egyptian Room in 2006

Jamie at the Egyptian Room in 2006

I still remember that night vividly.  It was a smallish concert of a couple hundred people at most, and many of whom were not very familiar with the British pop/jazz singer/pianist. I remember elbowing my way to the front of the stage, since it was a standing concert, only to be bullied back a row by big grouchy bald men with telephoto lenses on their expensive cameras.  “I’m only 5’1″,” I complained, but they wouldn’t budge.

When Jamie came on, he was sipping a Guinness, energetic, friendly, ready to give us all a show we wouldn’t soon forget.  He sang all my favorites, all the melodies and words I knew off by heart, and he threw in surprises and stories and jam sessions besides.  He talked about our city, and how we should support great little music shops like LUNA. I was frustrated with much of the drunken audience, though, and blushed, crimson with embarrassment, when someone yelled up at the stage, “Welcome to American, motherf*cker!” Or, perhaps worse still, when the crowd sang along with his tender reminiscent song, “Photograph,” only to change the line “…from her mum” to “…from her MOM!”  It was as if the ignorant American twenty somethings needed to loudly correct his pronunciation just to prove an inane point.  But never mind.  I was not among them.   Continue reading