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 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

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

Leaves, Rain, Love

(falling.)

Any seasoned spouse will tell you it’s important to spend quality time alone with your significant other… be it a weekly date night, a shared hobby, or even a night away once in a while.  It seems Frank and I don’t get enough time to do this (probably most people would say the same), but when we do it’s all the more appreciated.  We had a short getaway for our 4th Anniversary last week and I have to say – as much fun as it was to fall more in love with Frank, it was equally fun to reignite my fondness for Ireland, too.

There are so many places we’ve never been together in this lovely country – Cork, Galway, Kerry, Donegal, Clare… time, money and lack of transportation has really stifled our desires to travel for the present.   That’s why I am so happy to tell you we spent a very quick, very lovely day in Wicklow, the mountainous county just south of Dublin.  Our destination was the Glenview Hotel, situated in the lush forested hills west of Greystones.

Irish Sea Views from the DART

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There and back again.

Where to start.

PART 1.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that we’ve been working on getting Frank a visa to live and work in the States.  As much as we love Ireland, we’ve felt the call back to America for several years now, and we’d love to go back there with Evelyn and embrace certain opportunities that are easier to find there than here.  About the time Evey was just a few months old, we started the application process.  This entailed massive amounts of paperwork, locating old documents and records, doctor’s visits, immunizations, and lots and lots of money.  Every hurdle we jumped only led to bigger, more confusing challenges.  So, we’ve been ticking away at it for over two years.

Rose of Sharon in full bloom.

About three weeks ago, Frank got a call from the US Embassy in Dublin.  They told him his visa had been approved! This was wonderful news.  Except that he had to use it by August 3rd.  At that stage, we were looking at having to be Stateside in 2 1/2 weeks’ time or start over, including paying the fees again.  We were also told there was one additional paper we had to have renewed, one that usually takes several weeks to get.  So we just kind of kicked into high gear, asking favours of family and friends and strangers, started researching flights and frantically running around trying to figure out what might happen in only a few days time.  I was saying a lot of prayers, but I was also practically having heart palpitations every day over the instability of our immediate future.

This plaque at the Irish Famine Memorial in Boston included the poignant words of local Irish poet, John Boyle O’Reilly.

Thank God – it worked out at the last minute, as these things usually do.  Frank got the extra papers sorted and we found out more information from the Embassy.  We learned that he could fly to the States and activate his visa and then come back to Ireland for a few more months to tie things up here.  We also learned that I had to go with him as his main sponsor.  On Thursday morning the 28th of July, the Embassy called and told us Frank’s visa was ready and waiting.  So, while he took the train to Dublin to collect the papers, I booked the cheapest flights I could find – to Boston, of all places – and by Friday morning the 29th, we were on a plane headed West to the USA.

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Pen Pal

One of my best “dinner party stories” is a few years old, but it goes like this:

In the spring I turned 15, my family took a long road trip as we often did back then.  All six of us piled into the minivan and we set out on a journey that would take us down through Zion National Park in Utah, The Grand Canyon in Arizona, and up through Los Angeles, San Francisco and Eureka, California, into Oregon and Washington state and home again.  It was a trip of many “firsts” and some beautiful memories, but one in particular has made history.

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

It was while we were admiring the view at the Grand Canyon that I noticed a business card caught in the weeds.  It was that of an Australian cardiologist, Mr. Michael Davis.  I kept the card and when I got home, I sat down and wrote a long letter to Mr. Davis, telling him all about me and my life and how I had come to find his card.  I think I even sent a picture of myself – perhaps this man was young and handsome, looking for an American girlfriend? (I was quite boy-crazy in my teen years. :))

A few months later and my mother was bringing in the mail when I spied a handwritten letter with an Australian postmark!  I turned beet red, grabbed the letter and clutched it to my chest as I ran to my bedroom and slammed the door.  Mr. Davis had written me back.

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