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.


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


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.)

Continue reading

Growing Up In Ireland

The light is yellow tonight as I walk up the hill toward our little neighbourhood grocery.  Ireland is the only place I’ve ever been where the streetlights cast an egg-yolk-yellow glow, bathing everything the light reaches in sepia tones.  It’s cold as I puff up the hill and I know I’ll be glad to return to our blazing coal fire, but for now it’s good to feel the fresh air on my face.

Image Copyright Frank Kelly © 2012

Street Lamps by the Old Jail Wall

I pass a few people on the streets, some in track suits and sweats, buying beers for a night in, and others dressed to the nines for a night on the town.  I can see the pubs and clubs of Drogheda are in for another bustling weekend.  I don’t actually feel like I’m missing out on anything there.  I avoid a group of rowdy teenage boys as I near the shop and I dodge the usual debris – empty beer cans, a losing scratch card, a crumpled cigarette box.  Inside, the shop is warm and full of people even though it’s nearly 8 p.m.   Continue reading

God Save.

HRH Queen Elizabeth

 Wow. when did I get so political? 😉

No, I’m not going to vent or preach, promise, especially after the last one, but I would be remiss to ignore The Queen’s visit to Ireland.

I don’t know how much this is being covered in the USA, but since HRH arrived in Dublin this morning, her every move has been shown on live TV. The cynical side of me knows that the good ol’ media is there just in case… you know… just in case something bad happens, i.e. any violence breaks out. She’s also being given extensive coverage because the public actually aren’t allowed to be on the streets to catch a glimpse of the enigmatic royal wave, so we have to see her on the telly, just like she’s back in England.

Continue reading

The Big Three

Hold onto your hats, folks… thar she blows! 

There are three things – three BIG things – that do my head in about living in Ireland.

Bruscar Bin

1. Rubbish/Litter
2. Bad Drivers
3. Bigotry

Now, if you’re an Irish citizen and have already written me off, just give me a chance before you get your panties in a twist!  I am in no way claiming that America is perfect (I don’t need to be reminded of our many, many shortcomings!). I am also not accusing the majority of the Irish population of perpetuating these problems. I am simply putting these out as my least favourite observations of this mostly brilliant nation and hoping you’ll commiserate or maybe – maybe??? – someone will read and mend their sorry ways. Or at least think about it.

Continue reading

The two things you ‘never’ talk about.

Religion and politics, right?

In sensitive, politically correct America, we learn from an early age it’s not polite to bring up either topic. In Ireland, pretty much the opposite is true.

St. Peter's Catholic Church, Drogheda

Now, my perception could be very easily skewed  for a couple reasons – I live in a  friendly, smallish town where people are curious about “Yanks” and like to heckle them a bit. Even acknowledging that, however, I noticed early on  that the people speak quite candidly (and often bluntly!) about religion and politics. It still takes me off guard!

Continue reading