Sunday, February 28, 2010

"The Irish don't know what they want and are prepared to fight to the death to get it."- Sidney Littlewood

I chose this quote because it made me laugh , and because it says so much by saying so little, I believe there is a lot of truth in its message.

Before moving to Ireland, I began reading books by Irish authors. Initially, I wanted to start to learn more about Irish history, but I got side tracked. I read some books by William Trevor, Maeve Binchy and Colm Toibin. Although I enjoyed the actual stories and the writing, I found the underlying familiarity most compelling. There were characters and reactions and relationships that I had seen before. I just couldn't put my finger on what that was. It was very difficult for me to put the connection that I was feeling into words. Was it my Irishness?

What does it mean to be Irish anyway?

Over the years, particularly around St. Patrick's Day I would get a mass email that went something like "You know you are Irish when..." and then it would be a list of funny drinking-related criteria. Then there is the "Irish Goodbye" (just leaving a party or a bar without saying goodbye to anyone usually in a huff), something I have performed countless times.

Author Tim Pat Coogan writes in the preface of his book "Ireland in the 20th Century":

"The Irish worldwide are one of the globe's success stories, emerging from slum, swamp draining, coal mining, brawling and boozing illiteracy, to the scents of the rose garden of the white House in the case of John F. Kennedy."

Examples like these (the Kennedys are even more revered in Ireland than in Massachusetts it seems) are the type that stir the feelings of pride in Irish people. Drawing from your culture to find hope that anything is possible and strength that you can overcome anything, is such a valuable gift. And the Irish seem to have it in spades. Being in Ireland conjures up thoughts about my great great grandparents leaving this country, and how they would feel about me being able to come here under such good conditions. Proud (of themselves) I hope.

Having said that, there is also something about sharing common challenges, flaws or hardships that help groups relate to each other. Like the opening quote for today- it seems admirable, but isn't it really just dumb?

My sister gave me some books by Colum McCann for Christmas and among them was a book of short stories that take place in Ireland. One of them is entitled "Everything in this Country Must" and is a story about an Irish Farmer whose favorite horse was stuck in the river during a storm and was close to drowning. The man and his young daughter struggled to pull him out, but were not having any success. Finally, the farmer was overjoyed to see headlights coming towards them through the storm. Help was on the way, only when he realized that the car was filled with British soldiers he was filled with hate and anger. The soldiers worked hard and eventually rescued the farmer's beloved horse. The farmer was sullen and withdrawn when his daughter invited the soldiers back to tea. At the end of the story, the soldiers drove away and the farmer went down to the barn and shot the horse.

This is the kind of story that feels like a familiar Irish story. By no means do I want to dilute the very long, very oppressive, very real experience that the Irish have had with the British. The ideas of hating one thing more than you love another, cutting off your nose to spite your face, finding the only power that you can when you feel powerless even if it hurts you, are the tragic elements of the Irish. There were so many conditions in Irish History that contributed to the fear of being vulnerable, the secrecy, the belief (hope) that if you don't think about it, it will go away and the reflex of putting down people or groups that you are afraid of.

All cultures have their history, both positive and negative. Learning about your culture and trying to understand it with some objectivity can really help you understand yourself and those that you came from. It is only when you start to learn that you can DECIDE which elements to identify with, which to perpetuate and also which to leave behind. Just try not to forget that those who came before you are part of the reason you are able to be who and what you are today.

These are just a few of the thoughts and observations that I have had. You will see this subject again!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Why do we love the sea? It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think." ~Robert Henri

It seems that I have always lived near water. There are times that I appreciated it more than others. Whether it was the Atlantic Ocean, the Hudson or East Rivers, The Sea of Cortez or Dublin Bay, my encounters have been more circumstantial than deliberate, or have they?

As far as swimming goes, I would definitely consider myself a pool person. Though there is nothing like the ocean in perfect conditions, clear, clean, good waves, no creatures! I just love being near the sea. Seeing it, smelling it, watching people swim in it even on the coldest of days, and taking in the sailboats and ferry boats that are out there every day.

It's still quite cold on most days, but the ground has dried up enough so we can play outside a little more. The boys have gotten more daring in the playground since we were last there!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Shrove Tuesday marks the beginning of the Lenten journey in a celebratory way. We're on this 40-day path." - Diane Archer

Hmm. Never heard of Shrove Tuesday. Or Pancake Tuesday. I actually only knew of Fat Tuesday because it was the name of a bar, in Baltimore, maybe a chain, in the '80's. Whatever you want to call it, it is the day before Ash Wednesday. I would like to do something or give something up, and I am late on deciding what that will be.

From Wikipedia about Shrove Tuesday:

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, Shrove Tuesday is often known colloquially as Pancake Day or Pancake Tuesday. In the UK and for those who follow the Anglican tradition elsewhere it is known as Pancake Day; in Ireland and other countries following the Catholic tradition it is known as Pancake Tuesday.

A traditional pancake is slightly thicker than a French crêpe. It is served immediately after preparation. Long ago it was traditionally served with a meat-based stew (also a luxury then).

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Nothing could cure me of the notion that Cork needed me and that I needed Cork. Nothing but death can, I fear, ever cure me of it." -- Frank O'Connor

Hey, I haven't had kids for that long and they have only been in school for 6 months. I am not yet programed to live by school vacations. This one surprised me a little. But we knew that we had to take advantage, and I begged Tom to take a day even though he is taking lots of days in a few weeks when we go to NY.

"We'll go to Cork and look up your ancestors" I said. Thankfully, he was able to do it and we semi -blindly booked a trip to Mallow, Co. Cork, which is near where we think Tom's Mom's family came from. After discussing it with a few friends, we decided there is not much to see or do in Mallow, but we really need to see West Cork. I picked Bantry at random and we just winged it.

Turns out, it really is a must see. It was great to be away and experience another part of Ireland. The boys were great. They have always been great travelers, and I was thankful for the recent regression on the potty-training front. Two kids in diapers are much more convenient on the road than 2 kids just learning to use the toilet. I am not saying that I plan to discourage them- just that I appreciate the ability to keep the car moving. It was A LOT of driving, and Tom did a great job.

We covered a lot of ground, but we did not make it to Mallow. That will be another trip. As well as Kilkenny, which we tried to visit, but the kids fell asleep just as we arrived, we couldn't find a good parking spot and it was really starting to rain. Kilkenny deserves a full day trip anyway. The more I see, the more I feel like I have to see.

Beautiful West Cork

A Brave man walking on this road. We couldn't help but notice how fast people drive on these narrow, windy roads. There was one guy fanning a controlled fire from the road just beyond a sharp bend- be careful guy!

Late afternoon on the way to Glengariff.

Goleen- little town where we made a pit stop.

This is a picture of a National (public) School in a little town in West Cork. Very Little House on the Prairie, no?

Dad & D-man looking out at Mizen Head, the Southwestern most part of Ireland.

That is a big cliff behind us- this picture does not do this spot justice. But T-man looks very cool.

These horses really liked Tom!

A glimpse of the beautiful scenery on the drive from Bantry to Mizen Head.

Just a house we passed that looked very Ireland-y.

This is a cow next to our car. He was in the road, but he kindly let us pass by.

Just one of the MANY castle-y type structures (that's what we were calling them) that you see as you drive around West Cork.

At the Michael Collins Statue in his hometown of Clonakilty.

Walking in Clonakilty.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Grasp the subject, the words will follow." - Cato the Elder (234 BC - 149 BC)

Some Valentines Day Biscuts that I made in the Cooker!

We have been living in Ireland for six months. Enough time has passed that we are really feeling at home and connected, but we continue to learn new things all the time. Even though we speak the commonly used language (the national language of Ireland is Irish), there are many things that are known by different names than they are in the U.S.. Of course your mind does not skip a beat when someone refers to the motorway, but the first time someone asked me if I was "wrecked", I became very self-conscious. (It means tired and we had just flown overnight). They might have also asked me if I was "knackered".

So I put together a little list in case you come to visit. Or have had minimal exposure to England, British people or British movies. Or if you need help understanding what my kids are talking about.

Lots of fun Great Craic ("crack")

Stroller 1. Buggy (preferred)
2. Pram
3. Pushchair

Shocked Gobsmacked (gob=mouth)

TV Telly

Garbage Can Bin

Eggplant Aubergine

Gas Petrol

Vegetables Veg. just veg.

Vacuum Cleaner Hoover

Garbage Truck Bin Lorry (yes, my name is truck)

Cookie biscut

Santa Santa, Father Christmas

The police The Guards

Fire Dept. Fire Brigade

Dr. Office Surgery

get in line queue up

rentals lettings

diapers nappies

Lawyer solicitor

French Fries Chips

Reservation Booking

Backyard Back Garden

Toilet Paper Toilet Roll

Stove Cooker

Day Care Creche

Well, I'm off to bed. the chisellers will have me out of the scratcher very early tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"The best way to make children good is to make them happy." - Oscar Wilde

He's here! My beautiful little nephew. I am really feeling a loss not seeing him in person, holding him and hugging his mom and dad. I am so happy for them, and for him because they will be such wonderful parents.

I am not sure what the secret is to making children happy, but I try to remind myself that they see themselves through those they love. I think that this little boy has a lot of happiness ahead. Congratulations KG & Meg!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

"Silly is you in a natural state, and serious is something you have to do until you can get silly again."- Mike Myers

He really loves to put diapers on his head- says he's a doctor.

D-man took this one.

This one too- action shot of me engaging in one of my favorite actions.

And my most favorite- being with my family!

After a busy week of school, appointments, swimming and playdates we really took it easy this weekend and goofed around in the house. Well, Tom went to the Six Nations Rugby yesterday. Ireland vs. Italy at Croke Park. This tournament is a huge deal and Ireland won yesterday's match. Tom had his first "man-date" - he invited a guy that we met at last week's Black-Tie dinner. They had a good time, this guy is really into Rugby. Unfortunately, he misunderstood the invitation to be a double date and brought his wife along. Apparently she was very cool about it and was happy to do a little shopping on Grafton Street. We should actually do a double date with them.

So there were lots of puzzles, Fireman Sam, smoothies and silliness. Just what I needed. We wrapped it up with a family trip to the pool and both boys were kicking around by themselves (with armbands) They love it and smile like crazy when they are swimming. Ahhhhh.