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

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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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

End of an era.

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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.

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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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Laggardly Pursuits

10929232_10153049229242915_2305852825431911778_nI am, for all intents and purposes, an introvert.

I like people, and I’d like to say I make a good friend, but it’s hard for me to make the first move.  One exception to this introversion is when I am the one in control of the situation, i.e. if I am the host, charged with introducing people to each other, making others feel comfortable in a situation, etc. I think I’m good at that. But in a way, it takes the focus off me.  I don’t like having the attention on me. (Funny, because I’m pretty brave about talking about myself on a public blog space! Ha!) But, even as a kid, I loved having a birthday party, but hated the part where I had to open presents or blow out the candles.  It’s even more acute now.  “Dear God, please don’t let them sing the Happy Birthday song to me,” I think to myself.  “I never know where to look.”

So.  I’m in a new town.  And everyone here is a stranger.

This morning I went to the 10:30 a.m. service at a local church, only to find out that this particular Sunday was a “fifth Sunday,” where there was only a 9:15 a.m. service followed by a hearty potluck.  I stood outside in the lovely sunlit courtyard, awkward, shifting my weight, trying to figure out what to do.  There was a sign directing “visitors” to a basket of name tags, only there weren’t any left.  No matter, I hate name tags.  I hate showing everyone that I’m new, that I don’t know how things are done yet, that I don’t fit in.  I circled the courtyard, hesitating outside the fellowship hall, wishing inwardly that I would meet a friendly face.  If only my old friend Porter from back in Indianapolis was a verger here.  I tried not to tear up.  It’s kind of been a rough weekend. I didn’t go in. I resolved to try again next week.

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Old Souls, Kindred Spirits and the Kindness of Others

"Tree" by Frank Kelly

“Tree” by Frank Kelly

Season’s Greetings to you all!

It truly has been a crazy year.

We were literally incapacitated by snow and cold for the first part of the year.  It seemed like every time I started up the car to drive the white-knuckled 5 minutes to work, Katy Perry’s “Perfect Storm” was playing on the radio.  And I wasn’t amused.  But we made it through.

Then the scariest night of my life happened on Easter, when a man broke in to our house while Frank was at work and I was alone with the kids.  I will never, ever, as long as I live, forget the complete terror I felt when I opened the door to Evelyn’s bedroom at 11 p.m. and saw him crouching in the shadows.  Never.  But we survived.  We got out.  We’re safe.  And not a day too soon, it seems, because a man was shot and killed on our former front lawn less than a month after we’d left.

We worked, we worried, we dreamed.  We decided to go, and go we did.  I got sick, and we had to sit in limbo a while. Then Frank had a job prospect, and we used the last of our savings to help him show he was serious, and ultimately, get that job.  So we moved, we settled in, and now, finally, our heads are slowly not spinning any more.

Writing this now, I am still amazed at what we have, and the difference even a year has made.  Where a year ago I would have been puttering around the house alone at this time, while Frank was bundled up working in a grocery distribution centre, we are together, and relaxed, warm and happy.  He is drawing on the couch – when was the last time I saw him draw? The kids are sharing a room, and fast asleep.  We are safe.  We are together.

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Cupertino

It’s the 6th of December and I’m walking the dog in a T-shirt, skirt and flip flops. It’s been a lovely, lazy Saturday morning so far, the right kind of day for pancakes and coffee and warm sunlight streaming in the windows.

We live in a beautiful apartment community just a few minutes’ walk from Frank’s Apple office building.  It’s quiet, green, full of families and impeccably clean.  I pass the one lone smoker as he has his morning cigarette on the outskirts of our group of buildings.  He smiles and goes back to his phone.  Though it’s a pet-friendly community, Georgie is one of only a handful of dogs here, much to the delight of the children when we pass the play areas.  As I walk her around, she stops to sniff at Redwoods and many other trees I don’t know.  Some have fluffy little pink flowers that fall like snow.

Pink Blossoms

Ha. Snow.  You know I’m a snow-loving gal.  And I will always prefer a white Christmas to a green one… but this year is going to be pretty special, nonetheless.

We’re just getting started with the holiday merriment in our house – we only moved in two weeks ago, after all. The nativity set is out, as are the Christmas books, CDs and movies.  The kids are eagerly opening their advent calendars each morning and Evelyn writes letters of reminder to Santa several times a week. Her personal elf, “Robbie,” keeps a watchful eye on her from different spots every day.  We have a mantlepiece this year, and even a real gas fireplace.

Watching "The Late Late Toy Show" from Ireland in our new living room.

Watching “The Late Late Toy Show” from Ireland in our new living room.

I love how homey our apartment feels already, how “us” it is.  Even though the last few years have been tough, this place in which we now live is proof that we’ve been blessed, and our lives have improved dramatically.  In Drogheda, we made do with what we had.  In Indianapolis, we lived with what we could afford.  Here, in Cupertino, we have finally gotten to pick some things we really like.  Within reason! We got a wonderful sectional couch at a used furniture place, a beautiful rug from Home Depot’s online Black Friday sale, a master bed and mattress from Ikea, two new lovely matching lamps from Goodwill, and two matching bookshelves by the side of the road for free! It’s still a work in progress, but it’s a place I like coming home to. It feels safe, and that is huge for me. The kids and Frank are more relaxed, too.  Georgie doesn’t have a big yard to run in, but I think she’s pretty happy anyway because she gets to go on walks at least twice a day now.

I still don’t know much about our area, which is the South Bay part of San Francisco.  I can find my way around a bit better these days, though I still get lost in Apple’s Infinite Loop, ha ha! It’s a very expensive place to live, but the people are pretty “normal,” especially in our apartment community.  It’s very international, with more places to shop for Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine than any other specialties.  There’s lots of traffic and there are lots of people everywhere… but we’re not far from the beach, and the mountains, and some stunning natural woods.  There are parks everywhere. I like it a lot.  I may even love it, before too much longer. 🙂 Continue reading