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Tybee Island

Tybee Island GA

Ooh, adventure awaits us at Tybee Island, GA!

Tybee Island GA May 2017

I can hardly wait! THIS is what all of the work was about – a spectacular life!

Tybee Island GA

It’s a beautiful sunny day – hot, but not too hot… PERFECT!

There’s my girl, excited for our first day on the beach in our new home!

Tybee Island

Well, come on! Let’s get in the water!

Tybee Island, GA

While I wait for the rest of the family to catch up (I ran on ahead), I’ll take a few pictures… ooh, a flock of pelicans! (or pelican-like birds, I don’t know)

Ah, here they are… the rest of the family is here.

With my husband Brent and daughter Cassie here to oversee our beach towels, yes… get in the water, Nicholas and Savannah! WOOT!

Son Nicholas…. wearing his Doctor Who T-shirt over his white Irish skin. Smart idea, sounds like¬†he listened to his mom.

Ah, my son and my youngest daughter Savannah… she’s been waiting for beach day – hard to believe she will be 16 this year. UGH – boys STAY AWAY! (that’s the age I was when I met my husband!!!!)

Pure joy!

I love this shot! Their body language speaks for itself – it’s like I can hear their voices when I see this picture. Savannah giving a whoop, Nicholas chuckling.

What fun! There’s nothing like God’s oceans to bring absolute overwhelming delight. Everything we went through to get to our new life… all the detours and failures… this moment reminds me why it was all worth it.

My husband Brent (apparently taking a picture of me? Probably forever lost on his phone) and daughter Cassie (collecting shells). So… can you keep my camera for me? I want to get in the water! Why am I still standing on the beach???

Brent took this wonderful photo of Cassie… when I asked him to keep my camera, he decided to use it. ūüôā

From left to right… Savannah (head barely above water), me (arms stretched out for reasons unknown), Nicholas…. Cassie picking up shells

Savannah, me in the middle, Nicholas – oh WOW this was sooooooo much fun!!!!! I can’t wait to go back!!!!!!

Natalie Buske Thomas with husband Brent on Tybee Island GA

Me and my husband ~ Looks like we made it! Coming up on 30 years of marriage next year

Miss Cassandra and me… yeah, I’m the shortest one in my family. At least there are plenty of roommates to reach the top shelves for me.

I love when I capture a father-son moment… don’t know what they’re talking about here, just love that they enjoy talking to each other.

Savannah built a sand castle while we waited to dry off some before leaving the island

Aww, our day at the beach is over… we are some of the whitest people on the planet. Even with sunscreen we have to limit our time in the sun. Well, that’s OK, we’ll come back soon!

The family, walking slowly… tired from our day at the beach

Our first day at Tybee Island is over, but before we go… let’s grab a bite to eat at The Crab Shack! We’ll feed ourselves AND the alligators. Yep… real ones. I’ve only seen them at zoos. This will be interesting!

The day at the beach cost us only $4 for parking. My aunt Ann had sent us money for our anniversary this past February. She prefers that we spend it on dinners out instead of bills or errands. I saved it for a special occasion. And here we are! Her gift will cover the Crab Shack and part of another meal out too!

So, onward to The Crab Shack!

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Scooby Doo Gang

Halloween 2016

IMG_4866Me as Scooby Doo with the rest of the gang (my husband and kids)

IMG_4870My son Nicholas does a great Shaggy impression (the walk)

IMG_4867RUN!

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We went to Krispy Kreme for a free doughnut! MMMM!

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Brent got a “salted caramel” doughnut. The rest of us got the filled kind. Mine had both chocolate and vanilla filling, apparently I got the “zombie” one (I didn’t know that, I just picked it for the cute face!). It was delicious! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Shriners Fest

IMG_4627So much to do! Air show, dog show, midway, food, music, dancing, riverfront, and magical connections… where should we begin?¬† Well, I’ll start by thanking the Esteps for giving us VIP tickets to the festival!

IMG_4414It’s going to be a fine day!

IMG_4416It’s very hot, but gloriously sunny and excitement is in the air!

IMG_4417I love all the color! Umbrellas, the water, the sky, the flowers, the midway, everywhere!

IMG_4388 (2)Savannah (my daughter, right, in flag shirt) and I are hanging out in the air conditioned visitor’s center, waiting for activities to kick off.

IMG_4389 (2)Messing around, trying to take a picture of us via the mirror in the visitor’s center with my “old school” camera… First attempts were deleted (the ones I took). I asked Savannah to try. She’s not impressed.

IMG_20160624_151527Hmm, it’s called a CELL PHONE and it has a CAMERA, and it’s reversible so we can take SELFIES…. sheesh…. Savannah has my old cell phone that I bought in Ireland and is now just a tablet. She’s taken charge of the situation.

IMG_20160624_151538OK, but I’m not looking in the right place… where’s the lens?

IMG_20160624_151542Oh, there!

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OK, enough of this… things are starting to happen now!!! Let’s go PLAY!

ULTIMATE AIR DOGS

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VIP FUN!

IMG_4395Kicking off the festival on Friday evening… a VIP dinner with live entertainment

IMG_4397Chicken dinner by Bauerhaus Catering

IMG_4401Cake!

Also… a presentation by the Shriners, including a film and a silent auction, and a meet & greet with the pilots performing in the air shows this weekend

MIDWAY

IMG_4379Oh wow, the food smells AMAZING! There’s fish fry, peppers & onions, grilled smells, and more… MMMM! If I wasn’t already full I’d be tempted.

IMG_4514Python? WHY??????

IMG_4404The craving for an elephant ear has begun… haven’t had one in probably over ten years, twenty?

IMG_4405Everything’s more fun when the sun goes down and the lights go up!

IMG_4407Doesn’t this look like vintage America?

IMG_4409I love this couple I saw walking on the midway… aw, young love, holding hands while also holding her shoes! (Don’t worry, I asked their permission before posting this) LOL, I just noticed that he’s also holding her purse for her. He’s a keeper. ūüôā

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IMG_4410 (2)I’m intrigued by the “Large Walking Taco” – does it walk before or after eating it???

IMG_4410Good to see people starting to gather here on the Midway… I’m looking forward to the bands!

IMG_4412Ooh, but I keep getting distracted by the Elephant Ears! Walter bought one for all of us to try – it was HUGE – enough for everyone. I wasn’t sure about that first bite, but by the second bite I hit the sugar — MMM, yes, that was fun!

LIVE MUSIC

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This band is RETRO SHOCK and they are fully awesome!!!

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All three of them can sing, and the drummer is amazing too. They sang songs from multiple decades and they played ALL of them well. The songs were identifiable from the first set of notes and they stayed true to the song. We could sing and dance along, as our favorite music was done justice. AND – they made the songs their own too, as their smooth vocals gave old songs a new flavor. Honestly, I think I liked some of their covers better than the originals! I’ve seen a lot of indie bands and this band is seriously talented.

Their business card says “A premier Southern Indiana cover band playing classic party rock for any event” You can find Retro Shock on Facebook.

IMG_4402 (2)The Shriners Fest was Retro Shock’s 300th show. WOW! No wonder they are so good.

We stayed and danced into the night! Me and my daughter Savannah having a ball:

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Dancing in the street at Shriners Fest!

Snapshot 4 (6-27-2016 9-48 AM)Snapshot 5 (6-27-2016 9-51 AM) (2)BORN TO BE WiiiiiiLD!

And hey, guess what happened to me while I was dancing? Kevin Thomas from the Shriners Fest who booked RETRO SHOCK noticed that I was having fun… he asked me what I thought of the band. I said that I thought they were amazing and that I’d be putting them on my blog. I explained that I’m an artist and an author… and gave him my card to find my blog later, so he could see the photos. Well…. he asked what kind of art I do and one thing led to another, and in one magical moment I said that, yes, of course I’d like to donate an oil painting for the Shriners event coming up on August 20th – Ink and Iron Fest. The charity auction will benefit Autism Awareness. And hey, guess what? RETRO SHOCK will be playing at the fest! WOOT! I’ll be there, not only as the featured artist, but with my DANCING SHOES ON!!!

Snapshot 6 (6-27-2016 10-02 AM)CRAZY GOOD FUN!

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Snapshot 9 (6-27-2016 10-07 AM)Savannah – I love to see my girl smile! – Thank you for the music RETRO SHOCK! We thoroughly enjoyed it…and now the day is fading into memory….

IMG_20160624_210123IMG_20160624_210127But I just can’t leave… my husband is here now.

IMG_20160624_225539RETRO SHOCK is still playing… for one more set

IMG_20160624_225617IMG_20160624_225617 (2)Savannah took these photos – that’s me and my husband Brent on the far right (OK, yes, the short couple)

IMG_20160624_225617 (3)Me and my high school sweetheart, best friend, and husband of almost 30 years. It’s hard to explain but this was a magical moment for us… I looked at him and he looked at me, and it was as if he was somebody new. Later I found out that we both had a secret to share…My news is that I’ll be the artist for the next festival (I mentioned this earlier in this blog). That’s BIG news for someone new to the area, hoping to break in! When I couldn’t do my solo art show in Ireland I was heartbroken. But look at what’s happening – I have a new opportunity, and it happened to me when I was letting go… dancing as if no one was watching – or…. maybe dancing as if EVERYONE was watching, and loving me for it! ūüôā It’s a very big deal because we were both worried that I wouldn’t thrive here in Indiana. I had worked for over four years to earn the money for Ireland and then we couldn’t get our visas to stay. I said that it was time to dream a new dream, but… I wasn’t always feeling positive. Some days… well, it was hard. This chance to do an oil painting¬† proves that new dreams do come true. Indiana isn’t Ireland, but it could be magical all the same. It’s really up to me.

[Sorry, I can’t reveal Brent’s news yet… I will when I can.]

AIR SHOW

The highlight of the Shriners Fest is the amazing air show, so we’ll get to that next… but first, meet our friendly barista from the VIP Pagoda.

IMG_4624She makes a great Jim Beam and Diet Coke, just sayin’

IMG_4382The Pagoda

IMG_4382 (2)See the upper deck? We were able to get an outstanding view of the air show from there. I took hundreds of photos. It was hard to narrow the collection down for the blog. I also got a great view of the water show from the VIP viewing upper deck. I could so get used to this VIP treatment!

IMG_4419 IMG_4419 (2) IMG_4418 IMG_4418 (2)AND… now for the air show… I took these photos throughout the weekend.

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My personal favorite is when they created art in the sky

IMG_4451IMG_4452 (2)IMG_4452 (3)IMG_4452IMG_4458 (2)I just LOVE this group – their planes look like birds… and oddly there were some real birds who seemed to be mimicking their flying maneuvers… coincidence, or were the birds really copying them? Interesting!

More beautiful flying by the Vanguard Squadron:

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IMG_4474Change of pace:

IMG_4478 (2)IMG_4478 (3)IMG_4481IMG_4482 (2)IMG_4482 (3)IMG_4483 (2)IMG_4488Best place to view the air show! Savannah is enjoying a lollipop from the VIP lounge. They fed us every day, plus cold beverages and candy.

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IMG_4508The Werth & Richards Aerobatic Duo was AMAZING!!!! These stunt pilots are absolutely fearless. They fly within within inches of the water, and each other. They cross flight paths while all of us hold our breath. They spin, tumble, roll, and free fall… stalling engines, gymnastics… it was like watching a movie scene. WOW!

IMG_4529IMG_4530IMG_4534IMG_4535My son Nicholas and my husband Brent were able to make it to the last air show on Sunday – they LOVED it!!! Nicholas is usually sensitive to sound but he was hooked.

IMG_4557My oldest daughter Cassie also turned up on Sunday. She finished her stressful project, got it sent off to the client, and was ready to have some fun.

IMG_4562IMG_4622IMG_4623 (2)The U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet is super loud and super amazing

IMG_4623THE HORNET!!!

EVANSVILLE PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA

IMG_4515 (2)IMG_4517IMG_4518What a beautiful summer evening! Notice the large white flower in the upper right of the photo? There were flowers, trees, and landscaping everywhere. Truly a beautiful place!

It was a wild ride – what fun! Evansville, Indiana, I know that we are new to each other, but I think we can become the best of friends. The people are friendly, the sun is brilliant, and the energy is incredible. I love interesting people, indie musicians, and dancing with my family among strangers. Is anyone a stranger for long when summer feels this good? Thank you, Shriners Fest for a family festival that we were amazed and dazzled by.

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Nashville, Baby!

Nashville (1)THIS is what I was looking forward to from the first day when I realized that we were moving to Indiana by way of Ireland… NASHVILLE, baby! The appeal of living near the Indiana state border is that we can drive to several other states in two hours or less. Kentucky is just a stone’s throw away (perhaps literally, if standing in the Ohio river, where the border lies), and beyond Kentucky is Tennessee. It only takes 2.5 hours to drive to Nashville from our home in Newburgh, near Evansville, Indiana. We can also visit St. Louis, MO in about 2.5 hours’ drive. Southern Illinois is also an easy drive. If willing to add a bit more drive time… it’s about 3.5 to Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m absolutely thrilled to have so many interesting places to visit without having to travel far to get there – these are all inexpensive day trips! I’ll be photographing and blogging – come with me! ūüôā

Today’s trip – NASHVILLE! This was a gorgeous sunny day on June 7. We’d had a highly stressful week and today was no exception. The air conditioning unit had stopped working, Brent found out that he didn’t get a job he’d interviewed for, and… well, I won’t share all the miserable details, but we had a choice to make. Do we sit at home and sulk, waiting for the A/C guy to call? Or do we make a different choice?

Well, I know what “Irish Natalie” would have done! I would have packed the family up for a trip to the coast. Now, we can’t do that here… the Celtic Sea may be calling me, but it’s too far away now. That doesn’t mean that we should resign ourselves to our former vacation-less adventure-less life of waiting, waiting, waiting, for permission to LIVE. I found plenty of free things to do in Nashville. All we needed was gas for the car.

Nashville (4)We crossed the Indiana state border within minutes… We were soon in Kentucky.

Nashville (5)WOOT! It didn’t take long to reach Tennessee! I couldn’t believe it! I’d never been to Nashville before. I’d been using the anticipation of this day as an incentive whenever I felt upset about leaving Ireland. I promised myself that we’d go to Nashville as soon as we could. Just because we were living Plan B, it doesn’t mean that everything I’d worked for was gone. My family was still together. What will we do with this time? Everyone had already gotten into a habit of squirreling away with their various gadgets – online talking to others while in the same house with the people we love. Lightning-fast Internet made that possible. Gone was the unreliable and worthlessly slow satellite connection we had in Ireland. In its place was fabulous speed to connect, connect, connect – with everyone but each other. Well, well… let’s unplug, shall we?

Irish Natalie is also a bit more… assertive…. passionate… and VOCAL than the old me. I had a proper meltdown and off we went. Some things are worth fighting for. As matriarch of the family I need to recognize when it’s time to get up in everyone’s grill. Oh, they were all smiles before we were even halfway into the trip. See? ūüôā

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Nashville (7)Brent was feeling too tired… but look at him here, having fun already. He pushes himself to do work related things. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to do what’s even more important. Work and errands… who remembers what happens on a regular day? But when will we forget our first trip to Nashville? NEVER.

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Apparently we’ve reached “The Gateway to the New South”. Hmm, the more you know…

Nashville (9)It sure is a pretty drive through Tennessee!

Nashville (10)Almost there!

Nashville (15)WHEE! It’s NASHVILLE!!!! What a feeling, to see a place I’ve always heard about but have never been to. It’s like when I saw Tinkerbell at Disney World. Fairies DO exist! Wow.

Nashville (18)Oh yeah, it’s Nashville!

Nashville (19)We have arrived at our destination! It’s right up there… See the brown sign?

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Nashville (175)Nashville (176)There, you can see it now – Centennial Park… and YES, we are definitely seeing the Parthenon! This is supposedly the only real Parthenon in the world… (Why does it exist, and why is it in Nashville?) I’m excited about immersing myself in the beauty of this park. There are gardens to explore and the weather couldn’t be more gorgeous!

Nashville (21)First, let’s go on an adventure! The Parthenon awaits!

Nashville (23)Nashville (24)Nashville (25)Isn’t it magnificent? Let’s get closer, shall we?

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This is a photo op if I ever saw one…

Nashville (30)Oh dear, my legs are whiter than the concrete. And ditto for Cassie’s legs… sitting on the right. Hey, we fit right in when we lived in Ireland. Now I’m back to blinding people.

Nashville (34)Ooh, there it is!

Nashville (36)The art on the building is just amazing!

Nashville (40)This really IS Nashville! Ran into a young hopeful staging a photo shoot at the Parthenon… She plans to shoot me her promo details so I can give her a plug (I invited her to). Sweet girl, and certainly beautiful – I wish her all the best!

Nashville (41)Ooh, now this appeals to me! I wonder how many movies have been filmed here…

Nashville (42)Look at the ceilings! This is still outside the building. There are (paid) tours of the interior, but we didn’t plan to do that, which is good because we’d arrived after it closed anyway.

Nashville (43)Beautiful! I love these colors together.

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Nashville (47)Aww, me with my best friend… husband Brent Thomas. Our 30th wedding anniversary is coming up in February 2018. I’m planning to throw myself a party. I expect him to come as my date. ūüôā

Nashville (49)Another picture of me with my husband… Notice my necklace? Those are shells from Ireland. I picked them up at the beach in Dingle and near Cork. The earrings are a gift from my daughter Cassandra, I think from last Christmas. Thank you, Savannah for taking these wonderful photos of us parents!

Nashville (51)Meanwhile, our regular photographer can’t be bothered… Nicholas is busy taking pictures of…

Nashville (52)Well, of course… it makes sense that if you are in Nashville, Tennessee for the first time in your life, and standing directly across from a Parthenon, the most compelling thing to photograph extensively is the skid loader at the construction area. His comment? “It won’t be there tomorrow.” That kid fascinates me.

Nashville (54)My two girls…. Savannah and Cassandra

Nashville (59)I love this shot!!! I should frame it.

Nashville (178)Savannah, your smile always makes me happy!

Nashville (62)Oh there’s the boy… I guess he’s finally decided to visit the Parthenon!

I’m ready to see the gardens…

Nashville (69)Oooh, ahhh! The flowers reinvigorate my soul!

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Nashville (73)I want to drink it all in!

Nashville (72)Everything is so beautiful! I’m going nuts with my camera… I had to wade through hundreds of photos to pare them down to a reasonable stash for the blog!

Nashville (83)Do they pay the ducks to amuse the tourists?

Nashville (84)Pretty!!!

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Nashville (88)Cassie enjoying the beautiful Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville (89)Brent and Savannah looking at the water… we saw a variety of critters: turtles, ducks, pigeons, swans, fish

Nashville (90)Passing by the Parthenon from the other side

Nashville (91)Nashville (92)Brent and Savannah leaving waterside area… our day trip is ending… but we haven’t seen the gardens yet

Nashville (94)Ooh, swans! (pretty, but I’m glad they’re staying over THERE… me and swans have a history…)

Nashville (95)Glad to see he’s enjoying himself… Just after he took these shots he spent a great deal of time photographing a squirrel.

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I’m rather proud of that shot, with the bird perfectly framed inside the tree branch.

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I love how the sun has cast shafts of light in front of the bridge.

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Nashville (103)Back to the water front…

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Nashville (110)This bird wasn’t cooperating with me… I was trying to capture the shimmery colorful area on the back of his neck.

Nashville (111)It was so bright and beautiful… had to wear sunglasses most of the time, and even then it was hard to take it all in

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Nashville (115)Savannah shares my love for flowers… she can’t resist photographing them.

Nashville (116)Wow, she looks so much like me here.

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Nashville (118)Happiness is seeing a single delicate rose, perfect in every way… knowing how hostile the environment can be and how greatly the odds are stacked against it surviving… Shouldn’t it have a torn petal, a stripped stalk, or a pitted leaf? Yet there it is, a beauty for us to discover. This pink flower lives by rising above the thorns, reaching for the sun.

Ah… getting out for the day was a very good idea! What a difference perspective makes!

Nashville (121)Be the roses.

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Nashville (126)There’s my Cassie girl! She’s always loved a swing.

Nashville (127)Brent sneaking in a phone call… so busted.

Nashville (128)LOVE!!!!!! This beauty will get me through the whole rest of the month!

Nashville (130)OH MY! I’ve landed in Munchkinland! I’m half expecting adorable townspeople to come out and sing to me. Where’s my big lollipop?

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Nashville (133)OK, this is getting outrageous! So much color!

Nashville (143)LOVE

Nashville (146)A bird flying over a perfectly idyllic scene

Nashville (150)Well, it just lacked a little something before…. Why not add a butterfly?

Nashville (157)Don’t keep your eyes on the ground…. remember to look UP too. This beauty is in a tree.

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Can you tell that the sun is lower in the sky? We better wrap things up.

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We can’t see it all… We never even made it over to the art gallery, or to the other side of the park! We’ll have to come back again a different day.

Nashville (170)One last lingering look…

Nashville (173)Goodbye, Nashville, we love you! We’ll see you again soon!

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Bacon and Pistachio

Natalie Buske Thomas donating books to Newburgh LibraryI’m back, BABY! We left Ireland two weeks ago as of yesterday, my desk is a cardboard box, and my bed is an air mattress on the floor, but that’s no excuse for sitting on the sidelines. I got up this morning, showered with my mini hotel soap and shampoo, attempted something with my hair, applied makeup, and went on my first cold call to a library in my new town.

It was with a bit of trepidation that I entered the Newburgh Public Library – what reception would I have? WOOT! Meeting with Diana was delightful. We had a fabulous chat! She has the same passion for events as I do. I babbled at her for probably a good half hour and I could’ve stayed longer. I look forward to doing events at Newburgh. Thank you for the best, warmest reception I’ve ever had from a library cold call!

Indiana is good to me already! And, there’s… BACON!!!

IMG_4042Sorry, Ireland, “rashers” are NOT bacon! Bacon, oh how I missed you! This was the first food purchase we made.

But Ireland does butter BETTER…. I’ll dearly miss it. I could cry just thinking about it. Marie got me hooked on it and now… WHAT? Is it true? KERRYGOLD right there at my local Wal-mart!!!! And now in my new kitchen, natch! ūüėÄ

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IMG_4037Our friends Walter and Miki Estep gifted us with all of these goodies from the local Farmer’s Market! I was ecstatic to see the huge fresh tomatoes!!! After a second or two, my heart skipped a beat… I said, “WE HAVE BACON!” So… well, naturally…

IMG_4040BLT baby! That’s how we do it here in America. ūüôā

IMG_4039I also put tomatoes on my homemade pizza… MMM!

IMG_4043IMG_4044IMG_4045IMG_4046Thank you for the dinner help, Walter and Miki!

Next, let’s go to their house…

IMG_4049The pretty home of Walter and Miki Estep

IMG_4053Fun times await! (Miki, me in the middle, Brent)

Visiting with friends helps with the transition period. We’ve had to accept Plan B in just about every area of our lives, including where Nicholas would attend his first year of college. You might recall that he’d received a scholarship for a computer major at world class university UCC in Ireland… but we couldn’t stay. Where would he go then?

IMG_4064Here’s Nicholas with Brent outside of Ivy Tech. Nicholas wants a rare niche major that few schools have. World-class UCC didn’t have it, as they are a university, not a tech school. But, even though Ivy Tech offers what he wants, when Nicholas signed up for his classes here, one of the admissions counselors had never heard of his major! No problem, someone else knew exactly what he was talking about, and even gave him kudos on his high SAT scores. ūüôā

Nicholas was easily accepted into Ivy Tech in “Linux Server Administration”. The names of his classes all sound like gibberish to me, but he’s excited for school to start in August. (click on the photo below to see it large enough so that you can read it)

IMG_4095 (2)IMG_4065When Nicholas said that he was looking into Ivy Tech (on his own initiative), we were still in Ireland at the time, but we knew that we had to look into State-side options. I asked him if he remembered that my dad used to teach at Ivy Tech (and loved it!). He said he didn’t remember. Maybe on some level he did remember, or maybe this is another one of those strange “coincidences”. Nicholas has always had a special connection to my dad, even though Dad passed away about 12 years before Nicholas was born. It’s uncanny how connected their lives are (this connection is the inspiration behind the Grandpa Smiles picture book).

IMG_4066After only two years, Nicholas will be Linux certified and could be head-hunted. He plans to continue on with a university education though… unless he gets an offer he can’t refuse. ūüôā¬† Which can happen… this kid is very, very good. Look at the photos below:

IMG_4076Can you guess what you’re looking at here?

IMG_4078He’s made vents for it…

IMG_4079Power supply sticking out of the box

IMG_4080All of the ports are conveniently accessible…

IMG_4077He’s borrowed a monitor from Miki to use with his desktop computer, that he brought to and from Ireland IN HIS CHECKED-IN BAGGAGE. He had taken his computer apart, wrapped all of the components in tin foil, and then reassembled it. He couldn’t keep the plastic casing, so he built a case out of LEGOs and it was fully awesome. I’m looking for the photo of it to share. That’s how his computer was cased while we lived in Ireland.

This time around, I suggested my cardboard vacuum cleaner box because our shipment won’t be coming for another couple of months (he has only a few LEGOs with him – just the stray ones that were almost left behind). The computer needed a few minor repairs while in Ireland – which Nicholas diagnosed for himself & he asked Brent to help him fix (required tedious soldering).

Anyway, any kid who can do this with computers, set up his own private server and home network, and -ahem- get us into trouble with Comcast for his hacking (<—he’s promised us not to do that again!), is a kid who is going places in the IT world. He’s taught himself coding and Japanese. I’m guessing there’s a reason for that, but maybe not.

Nicholas – we’re proud of you. It doesn’t matter to me where you go to school, only that you are able to pursue what you dream of doing, and that you are happily using the talents that God gave you. Congratulations on landing a grant! WOOT! Every bit helps!

So, we’re getting back on our feet again…

IMG_4091Miki couldn’t wait to give me the prize she won at the art store. All I need is a blank canvas and a brush – I don’t have to wait for my art supplies to come in from the shipment!

IMG_4089IMG_4087For now I’ve placed my new oil paints on the shelf (left in the house) with Marie’s bookmark.

Cassie found us a convention for October, so I better get busy if I want to display something new! And… she might have a job working for Apple! The Irish connection there has panned out after all (Apple Headquarters based in Cork). But we’re waiting to hear if she can still do this from the United States. It is a from-home customer service job, so it’s possible. Cross your fingers!

Brent is at yet another meeting with a school principal as I write this blog. He seems to have landed two part-time retail jobs to get through the summer. He’s still working on the teaching position, but we aren’t worried. There are many open positions and he’s interviewing well. It’s really all about which school is the right fit for him. I look forward to seeing where he lands. Finances will be tighter than a blood pressure cuff, but we’ll get through it.

And… our youngest child is happy… Her simple wish was to have a pet turtle. I’d told her that it would be a long while before we were back on our feet again and we couldn’t get a pet. Even if it was an outdoors turtle? Right, even then. Maybe someday….

Or, maybe God hears the secret longings of a young girl’s heart. Because, what do you think showed up at our door? Literally AT OUR DOOR!

IMG_4072Here’s “Pistachio”, Savannah’s pet turtle… who probably crept up to the house from the woods. This is the step off our kitchen, where we can watch him from the glass doors.

IMG_4073We’ve discovered that he’ll eat bananas. Now that he knows we’ll feed him, he comes to the step every day. I don’t know where he scoots off to when he’s not there. He’s surprisingly fast for a turtle. Savannah goes hunting for him.¬† Sometimes she finds him, sometimes she doesn’t. But so far, he always comes back.

IMG_4074Isn’t he beautiful? Savannah is enchanted by him. He’s exactly the pet she wanted! God moves in mysterious ways. It may feel like good things are moving as slow as a turtle, but when they arrive, they are beautiful… and sometimes turtles move surprisingly fast.

God bless & never give up – xoxoxo, Nat

 

 

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Dream a New Dream

I’d originally written the “Ireland Forever!” post a few weeks ago, but I postponed finishing it until our plans fell into place. I didn’t expect it to take so long – wow, we were running out of time! I’m relieved to share that we will have a house in the States to live in. WHEW!

Friends are helping us with the house. It’s been stressful and exciting, waiting for things to play out. Last night we received the happy e-mail, “You got it!” So, I can now announce that we are headed back to the States very soon.

Wouldn’t you know it? God’s timing and all… the same day as our third (and final) immigration appointment, we found out that we were getting enough money back in taxes to pay for a flight home for all five of us! So, the worry about “how will we get back?” was immediately resolved. Oh… and the tickets were mysteriously, coincidentally, VERY discounted in a temporary flash sale that would expire within 24 hours! We didn’t hesitate.

I also worried about how we’d ship our household goods back. We trimmed the shipment down, keeping even less stuff. The guys said that they’d like to rebuild the TARDIS. They kept only the panels. They were willing to let it go, but they are on a quest to rebuild it and do it even better. Anyway, with that sacrifice the load was significantly smaller. I also let go of things I used for business. I believe those things will be replaced by something better. In the end, our shipment cost is much more reasonable. On the down side, it all fit into one room. On a positive note, I can start over. A fresh start is a good idea.

My other fears were also resolved:

Our property manager here was very understanding about the lease. We handled it with plenty of advance notice and all is well. We were able to sell the car back to the dealer. He was fully awesome! He said he’d be as fair to us as possible and we were relieved by the offer. With the money from selling the car we have the funds for the shipment and money toward the house. I mentioned before that our friends are helping us with the rest of what we need for the house.

Here we were, about to sign on to a very bad situation (a house across the road from a grain elevator that had water damage, a recent history of a squatter with dogs living in it for several months, many things wrong with it, in a high crime rate area). I’d even considered camping in a tent for the summer. You think I’m joking? No, I’m not.

Landlords want people to have JOBS. It doesn’t matter that we have good credit (we do, and that took time to achieve), or that we have had several successful mortgages (most of them fixers that we put many hours of sweat into), or that we are awesome people (and we are!) – nothing matters but employment.¬† People weren’t even answering my e-mails.

But cash on hand does help, and it helps to have fabulous friends who are successful and generous. I know people in high places. ūüôā So, we’ve got the house, a house far better than what I expected. I can’t wait to live there! The house is so pretty and I know that we’ll win the fight to get our lives back. It’s my dream house – I’m absolutely giddy!

And… Brent will have a job soon. He has already interviewed over the phone and he’ll meet in person shortly after he gets there. He’ll be fine. There are many openings in the area and he’s already been told he’s a strong candidate. Well, of course! He had an A average all through grad school, he’s a fantastic loyal worker, he has glowing references, and he’s a likeable guy. Sometimes he gets free stuff just for being Brent.

Money will be tight and our friends are going out on a limb for us, but I believe we can do it. We are bringing a part of Ireland back with us. We are strong. We are empowered. We can do anything that we set our minds to do. Of course if any of you want to help, I’m not too proud to reject your help. We’ll have no furniture to start with and plenty of bills to repay.¬† But of course I know that many of you have big needs of your own. That’s how it is with so many of us these days. With or without surprise generosity, we’ll make it. On that note, I have to say that we are blown away by our friends’ amazing offer to help us with the house. It’s not often I’m speechless… I literally couldn’t think of what to say. That’s a rare event for sure!

Other updates:

Nicholas has already been accepted into a tech school that offers the exact major he wanted. While UCC is a world class university, they didn’t offer the highly specific computer major he was hoping for. He has chosen to go into Systems Administration (Linux) – don’t ask me to explain it. After he finishes two years, he can apply his associates degree to a university transfer, where he would still like to add languages, especially Japanese.

It might be a tough road ahead for us as we adjust to our new lives, but I’m already looking for ways to have free adventures like we had in Ireland. I’ve found amazing natural parks and exciting places to explore, places I’ve never been and I’ve always wanted to go. We even have points to redeem for hotel stays or event tickets – our mileage from international travel counts for something!

I’m a different person going back to the States from the person I was when I left. I saw myself through my kids’ eyes and I liked the changes in me. They watch us more than we think they do. No matter what we say to them, they learn the most by watching how we LIVE. If I want them to be happy, fearless, faithful, and real, that’s who I have to be. Life is a whole lot easier when I let go.

These are some pictures that were on Savannah’s camera.

Natalie seeing Celtic Sea coast for first time

Me running ahead to see the Celtic Sea for the first timeNatalie Buske Thomas on coastal rockMe braving my fear of heights (not a phobia, just a fear of falling because my balance isn’t what it was when I was younger and in better fitness… but hey, look at me, getting back into shape!)Natalie Buske Thomas at Celtic Sea Coast

Me celebrating standing in the sea – I’m here in Ireland! I did it!Natalie at coast

Me looking back at Savannah – Let’s not wait for the guys, let’s GO on ahead!Natalie at coast 2I stopped only for the picture.

And… Cassie took these.

IMG_20160326_154358 IMG_20160326_154355 IMG_20160326_154343 IMG_20160326_154341 IMG_20160326_154339 IMG_20160326_154338 IMG_20160326_154336 IMG_20160326_154103 IMG_20160326_154054IMG_20160317_131255I’ve shown you this one just recently. I didn’t remember her taking this. It was at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Cork.

And Nicholas took these wonderful pictures – all of which I’ve shown you before.

IMG_5188IMG_3872IMG_3870IMG_3705IMG_3691IMG_3675IMG_3399IMG_3493 IMG_3491Natalie Buske Thomas with husband Brent Thomas 28th wedding anniversay in Ireland Feb 2016I want to be this happy person that my kids are watching. I want them to believe that their dreams will come true – they can make them happen! I want them to believe that when one dream ends, it’s time to dream a new dream.

There’s no excuse to fall into a dull and miserable life. The adventures of the Thomas family will continue! We’ll just be somewhere new.¬† Life has only just begun!

Hmm, I bet you’re curious now, aren’t you? Where are we going?

I’ll show you our pretty new house, but that’s all I’m saying. I’m leaving you with a cliffhanger so you’ll have to return to my blog to find out. And I blurred out the house number – no spoilers. HA! HA!

House 2Isn’t this a gorgeous house though? I love it!!! I’ve never had a house this pretty. I really really can’t wait to live in it!

Please keep us in your hearts and prayers for our upcoming travel back to the United States. We’re coming home! And I’m starting a new series of blogging adventures – are you in???

 

 

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A Dolphin in the Wild

Back when Ireland was just a dream, when it was a faraway fantasy world of rainbows and leprechauns, when it wasn’t a real place… when it was a mythical magical island that only existed in fairy tales… well, back then, I met Marie O’Halloran. She lives here. She could confirm that Ireland is a real place.

As if that didn’t rock my world enough, when I mentioned that I’d never seen a dolphin in the wild, Marie said that I must go to Ireland, where I will surely see a real dolphin in a real sea. In fact, I must go to Dingle, where I will meet Fungie, a very special dolphin who loves to chase boats.

It took me years to get here, years of hoping and planning, years of selling our possessions and saving whatever we could. I wanted a better life for me and my family. And… if God wasn’t too busy, I’d really like to see a dolphin in the wild. Just once. That’s all I ask.

Whenever this journey felt impossible, whenever life was too hard, whenever I felt defeated, I thought of the dolphin. I will see him, I will. For inspiration, my daughter Savannah gave me a beautiful dolphin necklace. I tucked that special jewelry away, and I’d look at it from time to time. I saved it, but didn’t wear it. I brought it with me to Ireland, and I put it out where I could see it every day.

Finally, I wore the necklace. It was April 19, 2016 – the day I saw a dolphin in the wild. My life will never be the same, because I now I know the truth. Dreams do come true, and when they do, it’s worth all of the effort, the heartbreak, and the fear.

IMG_3713I can’t believe we’re actually here in Dingle, Ireland. This is the day I was waiting for all of these years!

IMG_3716We’ve booked the dolphin tour.¬† As you can see, the tours are inexpensive. Because Fungie is a wild animal, they can’t guarantee that we’ll see him. If he doesn’t show up, there’s a refund policy. But, we’ve come all the way from America, and at this point, I know that I’m leaving Ireland and may never make it back. I may never get another chance! No, that’s unacceptable. I won’t take no for an answer.

I’d call the dolphin to me with my positive thinking – oh, you may laugh, but I have a magical way with animals. Even though I’m allergic to anything with fur, animals are drawn to me. They stare at me and come right to me. This happens in zoos, in parks, and in backyards. Sometimes this attention from the animal world is unwelcome, but other times I’m blissfully like Snow White and all the beautiful little birdies and rabbits and butterflies gather round me.

Would this mysterious phenomena work on a dolphin? Possibly. But I left nothing to chance. I prayed. I prayed for God to show Himself to me. Send me the dolphin. Let me see him. Please… I’ve come so far. I’ve had faith. And here I am. Just as You’ve asked. Am I going back home without even seeing a dolphin? After all that we’ve been through to get here? No, no, no! You have to send him to me.

Well… you’ll see for yourself. Fungie not only appeared, but he stayed by my side, even when I went to a different section of the boat! There was a boat full of people he could have chosen, and yet, he went right to me.¬† Cassie was amazed. She liked standing wherever I was because Fungie would soon appear.

Funny thing, it’s like I knew where he was even when he was far away from the boat, deep under the water. I’d look in the exact spot where soon a fin would appear above the surface. The sightings were fleeting – if my camera wasn’t trained on the water where he’d pop up, I’d miss him. But I somehow knew where he was.

Nicholas stood near me and trained his camera in the same location. We have many, many gorgeous photos of this most beautiful and amazing creature. I can’t begin to describe how deliriously happy I felt when I saw him. It took my breath away.

IMG_5047Our boat – love the name! Reminds me of Doctor Who

IMG_5042IMG_5046We’re waiting for everyone in my family to use the restroom. I’m restless and impatient. We can’t miss the boat! I’m staring down at the boat, wishing I was on it already.

IMG_3719We’ve left the dock! It’s beautiful! It’s everything I’ve dreamed of!

IMG_5081IMG_3724IMG_3728Getting close to that lighthouse now!

IMG_3732Near the lighthouse there is also a part of a castle wall or some other ruin. Brent would know… he was listening to the tour. I was too busy taking pictures and looking for the dolphin. No sign of him yet…

IMG_3723IMG_3805bIMG_3806IMG_3734IMG_3735Still no dolphin… beautiful sights though

IMG_3736IMG_3737Praying to see the dolphin – still seeing nothing…

IMG_3738WAIT!!!! Look out there! See it? See it? I do!!!!

IMG_3738bA DOLPHIN IN THE WILD!!!!!!!!!!!!!

IMG_3739Oh my, he’s coming right to me!

IMG_3739bI see him, I see him!

IMG_3740Aww, he’s going away already?

IMG_3741IMG_3742I see him! He’s coming back!

IMG_3743He’s right there, I know it!

IMG_3744THERE HE IS!!!!

IMG_3745Oooh, I see more of him now!

IMG_3745bI can barely contain myself!!!! This is AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

IMG_3746And back out he goes… he’s very fast!

IMG_3747IMG_3748He’s back!!!!

IMG_3749He’s there…

IMG_3750Just need a little patience…

IMG_3751IMG_3752IMG_3753THERE HE IS!!!!!!

IMG_3754IMG_3754bIMG_3755IMG_3756IMG_3756bIMG_3757IMG_5142IMG_5143IMG_5146IMG_5147Ooh, look at his sweet little face!!!!!

IMG_5148IMG_5149IMG_5167IMG_5168IMG_5169IMG_5170IMG_3758IMG_3759The tour guide warns us that he’s a wild dolphin and he might not be back to play. She distracts us by showing us beautiful places, but I’m still keeping an eye out for the dolphin to return.

IMG_3760IMG_3764IMG_3765IMG_3766Brent and Natalie in Dingle Ireland

In between dolphin sightings… my husband Brent and me… one of the happiest days of my life!!!!!

Brent and Natalie in Dingle Ireland

IMG_3767IMG_3772IMG_3773IMG_3774IMG_3777IMG_3779Ooh! Got up close to the Sea Arch – STUNNING!

But I haven’t forgotten about the dolphin, nice try Sea Arch…

IMG_3781IMG_3784IMG_3786IMG_3787Look who’s back!!!! I knew he’d come back, I knew it! OK, so I didn’t, but I’m thrilled he did!!!! WOOT!!!!

IMG_3788IMG_3789Hi Fungie! You make me so happy!

IMG_3789bIMG_3790IMG_3790bIMG_3791IMG_3792You have to be patient… he’s there!

IMG_3793IMG_3794He’s smiling! He’s happy to see me too!

IMG_3794bIMG_3794cIMG_3795OOH! He’s jumping! He’s really playing now!

IMG_3795bIMG_3796IMG_3796bIMG_3797I LOVE YOU FUNGIE!!!!!

IMG_3797bHe says “I love you too”!

IMG_3798IMG_3799Ah, we’re both getting exhausted… it’s time for the final goodbye I think…

IMG_3800One last wave!!!!

IMG_3801I’ll miss you! Thank you for letting me see you!

IMG_3802And then, he was gone.

IMG_3803DolphinTourVideo

Brent took these pictures from his phone:

DolphinTour1DolphinTour2DolphinTour3DolphinTour4DolphinTour5

DolphinTour6DolphinTour7And here are the pictures that Nicholas took of Fungie – he got some great shots!

IMG_5209IMG_5211IMG_5212IMG_5213IMG_5220IMG_5221IMG_5222I love this shot that Nicholas captured!

IMG_5223IMG_5231This is my favorite. I will miss you so much, Fungie. You will stay in our hearts forever!

Well, back to the beautiful scenery… Fungie is tired, and so are we!

IMG_3803IMG_3807IMG_3817See my red purse? I hung it there and almost forgot about it. That’s where I was standing most of the time, but I moved around the boat some.

IMG_3824Brent and Cassie on dolphin tour boat

IMG_3820IMG_3820bIMG_3821IMG_3816IMG_3830IMG_3831IMG_3832Well, we are sad to be back on land, but it was the most exhilarating, amazing, and beautiful experience! I feel so loved by that dolphin. I can’t explain it. I had heard that it is magical to see a dolphin in the wild, but I didn’t expect to feel that way for real. I thought it was an exaggeration… it wasn’t. Wow… I just… I’m blessed.

And now it’s time to explore Dingle. Marie had told us about Murphy’s ice cream. It’s been on our list for years – it was second to the dolphin of course! But now that we’ve crossed something off my bucket list, it’s time for ice cream! (My family is enjoying my bucket list – the girls have tried to add something to it, LOL!)

IMG_3835IMG_3835bIMG_3837 - CopyYou probably noticed that it’s chilly. I’m wearing three layers (a heavy sweatshirt, my hoodie that’s crammed with stuff in the pockets–that’s why I look oddly lumpy, LOL!–and my trenchcoat). But… we have to try the ice cream. And besides, the sun is shining in Ireland! What a truly gorgeous day we’ve had!!!!

IMG_3838I chose one scoop of Dingle Sea Salt — made right there from the sea!!!! And one scoop of Irish Coffee. Oh yeah!

IMG_3839I asked Nicholas what he got and he had the most cheesy grin. He got the Dingle GIN! He reminded me that the legal drinking age is 18 in Ireland.

IMG_3842IMG_3843IMG_3840This one’s mine – Dingle Sea Salt and Irish Coffee – MMMM!

IMG_3841IMG_3844IMG_3845Time to go shopping! This is our last Irish adventure… We’ll be headed home soon. I said I’d get a dolphin souvenir if I saw a dolphin, but I’d go home empty handed if I didn’t… I also said that I’d know my special dolphin keepsake when I saw it. Wouldn’t you know, the very first shop window had my dolphin in it??? It was FUNGIE himself, complete with the scar on his fin! And it’s beautiful. Want to see????

IMG_20160419_143901Can you see him in the store window? He’s above the teddy bear and the mug… he’s to the left of the big green mug, hiding behind the little shamrock jar. I saw that as soon as we started walking past Murphy’s ice cream. There it was! That’s my dolphin!

But could we afford it? We’d been doing everything on a very low budget. Most of what we do is FREE. Dingle was a bit more for us, but not that much. We had to budget for the special ice cream and the boat tour. That didn’t leave much for trinkets. Well, if it was too much I wouldn’t get it. Then I saw the sign – Everything 50% off! WHAT? Was this one of those magic stores that will disappear as soon as our family leaves Dingle?

My beautiful dolphin was only about $8 and he’s such a treasure! I plan to display him in our home forever! Do you notice the little notch on his fin? That’s what identifies him as Fungie.

IMG_3903Here’s what he looks like when the sun from the window hits him… I didn’t know that this would happen. He’s even MORE beautiful than I thought.

IMG_3907I have this beautiful keepsake wrapped in bubble wrap, in a cardboard box, wrapped in my clothes… it’s in my carry-on bag, all ready to go home with me to the United States.

OK, back to Dingle, where shopping was in progress. My girl Savannah found a precious necklace… from the same mysteriously inexpensive gift shop where everything was 50% off. We said YES to the pretty necklace. She hasn’t taken it off since!

IMG_3846Nicholas also found a couple of treasures. He had his own money and he bought two interesting figurines – small, they can fit in his pocket. Cassie found a Murphy’s Ice Cream pencil. Brent said he didn’t need a souvenir. Besides, he’ll see my dolphin forever, and he’ll likely build a shelf for it… I’m finally understanding that he is happy when I’m happy. Life doesn’t need to be complicated. He likes to build things. I like what he builds.

IMG_3847This guy had a bird on top of a dog on top of a donkey.

IMG_3848Can you see the green bird there on the dog? I missed it when he was walking on his back, doing tricks I think. A crowd was gathered around so it was hard to see.

IMG_3849Stopping to take pictures along the scenic coastal drive… we’re headed to the beach – our last Dingle event before we head back

IMG_3850IMG_3851

IMG_3854IMG_3857IMG_3858IMG_3860IMG_3861IMG_3862IMG_3863IMG_3864IMG_3866IMG_3867IMG_3868IMG_3869IMG_3871IMG_3872IMG_3873 IMG_3882 IMG_3881 IMG_3880 IMG_3879 IMG_3878 IMG_3877 IMG_3876 IMG_3875 IMG_3874IMG_3885Cassie identified this shark egg

IMG_3883I found a shell that I want to make a necklace out of. It has a hole on the top.

IMG_3884

IMG_3886 IMG_3891 IMG_3890 IMG_3889 IMG_3888 IMG_3887IMG_3893 IMG_3898 IMG_3897 IMG_3896 IMG_3895 IMG_3894Aww, our day in Dingle is coming to an end. We have one last stop through Killarney… where they have another Murphy’s Ice Cream! Here, we have to try the Sticky Toffee Pudding – Brent’s teacher friend Jen recommended it. She was student teaching here in Ireland. We were able to visit with Jen and her husband when they came through Cork and made the long detour to our remote house in rural Grenagh.

IMG_3900IMG_3899Sticky Toffee Pudding is.. hmmm… it’s like a soft cake type of thing with toffee bits in it, with a creamy ice cream on the top, with a syrup? Not sure if I described it well, but it was sweet and delicious. I’m glad we got a chance to try it!

I’ll wrap up my Dingle story with this beautiful picture of the three shells that Cassie found. They are tiny and fragile – see them compared to drops of water. She wanted one for each of us girls… She gifted the large reddish orange one to me, saying that the one with the “blush of color” seemed like me. She chose the smallest one for Savannah, and kept the third for herself. She wrapped them up delicately to bring home. I hope they make it! Surely we can glue them if broken? I thought of butterfly wings. Cassie thought of angels. They’re both!

IMG_3902

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ireland Forever!

IMG_3991IMG_3992IMG_3993We can’t stay in Ireland.

But…

IMG_3910Forever in history, our family’s time here has been officially recorded in the Irish Census! Archived, searchable records will verify that Brent, Natalie, Cassandra, Nicholas and Savannah Thomas lived in Ireland in 2016.

IMG_3911Every five years,¬†anyone residing in Ireland on census day must take part in the census. It’s illegal not to do so, regardless of whether or not one is a citizen of Ireland. And we just happened to be living¬†in Ireland on census day, one specific day that happens only once¬†in five years.

I really do have the luck of the Irish! The odds of this happening were less than 1:1,500 (365 days a year, minus the¬†days we’ve been here,¬†and rounding¬†conservatively).¬†I’m probably¬†the only person¬†on this island who was absolutely thrilled to take part in the census.

¬†We’ve also made our mark in other ways. We’ve been fingerprinted extensively at the local Garda station, for example (for immigration purposes). And Brent is on record as having applied to the Irish Teaching Council.
IMG_3996
¬†Sadly, the Irish Teaching Council registration process is where¬†we’ve fallen apart. Thus begins a long blog post that I’ve procrastinated writing. I’ll fill you in on the short version (which is already too long) of why we can’t stay here, and then I’ll show you all the good things that have happened to us while we’ve been going through this uncertainty.
We can’t stay in Ireland because the progression toward getting a work visa has come to a halt.¬†The latest rejection of Brent’s application involves¬†the Garda (Irish police) vetting part of the registration process. They’ve returned his application because Brent signed his name with his middle initial included, which is his legal signature: Brent W. Thomas instead of Brent Thomas.
The area for printing his full name contained only two blanks, for first and last name only. Therefore¬†the “W.” wasn’t printed on the front of the form. He¬†now has to explain the W.¬† Each of these rejections/corrections goes back and forth via postal mail. The teaching council high-lights mistakes and scribbles notes with a pen. Then they stuff the papers back into an envelope and send the original documents back to us via Post.

The teaching council application required a PPS number that can only be obtained via residency.  The only way to get a teaching job is by first registering with the Irish Teaching Council. Therefore, an American who wants to teach in Ireland cannot secure a job offer before moving here, only AFTER, which is a big risk for us to have taken. But we did everything that the teaching council requested and Brent successfully obtained his PPS number, by first establishing residency and by proving it via utility bills.

Well, this was a huge shock and headache for¬†our immigration officer!¬†We weren’t supposed to get a PPS number until we had permission to remain in the country. The officer¬†was floored that a) the teaching council requested this number before a visa was obtained¬†and b) the number was granted to Brent based on the council’s application request. Neither should have happened, since he shouldn’t have been able to get that number as a non-EU person without a GNIB card or a work visa. Yi yi yi! The agencies really need to have a talk.

Bottom line… Brent and I are highly unlikely to get a work visa, even if we had more time to play with. This became clear the more we talked with people face-to-face.
We met an immigrant who¬†has a master’s degree in his home country, taught for several years there, and was firmly rejected by the Irish teaching council because they evaluated his (country’s) teaching license¬†as not up to the Irish standards– even though his credentials were considered high in his own country. His wife has a good job here and they have two Irish born children, so they’re staying for now. But they continue to struggle. He couldn’t get a teaching registration so he’s driving a taxi (something Brent can’t do because we have no permission to work at all). They also had problems getting an Irish passport for one of their children, even though¬†the¬†baby¬†was born here.
It seems that the immigration rules are all over the place, with different rules for different nationalities, with some rules followed and others not, and stories varying widely depending on when people arrived in Ireland and who they talked to. Some immigrants have refugee or other statuses that give them instant access to all the benefits that Irish citizens have, including the right to work and free health care. Others are denied the right to work or any other right, and are at risk of deportation within two weeks of the expiration of a card or stamp. This has happened to more than one American who had purchased a home here, lived and paid taxes for several years, etc. 2015-2016 has been a tough time for Americans who planned to live in Ireland on a path toward citizenship.
Some of this seems to be political. For example, the U.S. recently deported an Irish immigrant and shortly afterward an American was threatened with deportation in Ireland. Coincidence or tit for tat retaliation? The politics involved in immigration always affect real people. It’s too bad that the countries can’t work together on these issues.
Also, the Irish tell us that a post-Celtic Tiger post-economic crash Ireland doesn’t want foreigners coming in, taking jobs away from the Irish. So, there’s that too… These are issues that the United States also deals with.¬† Everyone has their own problems.
Regardless of what the reasons are for the stricter immigration laws, based on the research and correspondence we had before we moved to Ireland, getting permission to stay was quite possible. Brent needed to register for the teaching council and then apply for jobs. I found conflicting information about work visas, but I had reassurances from several reliable sources that these things get sorted upon arrival in the country. The general vibe was “just be a good citizen”. If you’re not a burden on the Irish government, you can stay. That’s how it used to be.
Unfortunately times have changed. Our immigration officer said that if we’d moved here five years ago, he could have done so much more for us. But since then, immigration laws have changed – any American who is not yet a citizen of Ireland¬†is at risk of having their visa/card renewals¬†denied. And if you’ve newly arrived, you’re too late to the party… be gone with ye. Your chances of getting a GNIB card are slimmer than a dollar menu hamburger.
There are several recent examples and articles about this, but I’ll let you find those for yourself if you’re interested (I don’t like to link to third party sites if I can avoid it).
The teaching council registration process has also changed very recently, with some rules going into effect for the first time in 2016. So, while Brent may have had an excellent chance of getting in (with persistence) years ago, Ireland is cracking down on any program that could take jobs away from Irish nationals. The latest rejection: the teaching council is now questioning Brent’s still-has-the-fresh-ink-smell Wisconsin license. Satisfying their request¬†would take even more time that we don’t have–IF we could succeed at all.
I could go on and on with this, as it’s been a battle we’ve been fighting for months. But, I think you get the idea. Basically, we don’t have the time, the money, or the inclination to fight for this anymore. As we’ve seen our savings dwindle and our hopes fade, we’ve made peace with the realization that we can’t stay in Ireland.
In case you were wondering… The path¬†for me¬†to get¬†a work visa is even harder, next to impossible really. As a non-EU immigrant I’d need ‚ā¨50,000 ($55,000) provable annual income under the current standards. I’m an entrepreneur with a salary based on royalty checks and event sales, with no proof or guarantee of a consistent paycheck. But even if I could meet a regular proven/documented income standard, I’d still have to apply for an artists’ visa — and that process can take months, with no guarantee of acceptance. And meanwhile, neither of us can work in Ireland… at all.
Again, finding this information ahead of our move was virtually impossible – we were told over and over again to come over and give it a go… that there is “discretionary” leeway for immigration. That may have been true for many lucky people prior to 2011, but it’s not true anymore. 2016 is especially difficult for non-EU hopefuls who don’t qualify for refugee status or other special programs. I don’t fault anyone… everyone we talked to was rooting for us to stay. I don’t have any regrets, either. Moving here was the best thing we could have done – our family is stronger and better for it.
Nonetheless… it’s time to go. I’d expected that we’d have income within six months, tops. That’s not going to happen and we can’t extend our stay beyond this stamp. We need a work visa, GNIB card, and salaries… none of which is going to happen. With time running out, we have to use our remaining weeks here to reverse everything we’ve done to stay in Ireland: the lease on the house, the car we bought, health insurance that doesn’t cover the United States, and so much more.

card 1I fought so hard to get an Irish bank account. I was proud when my debit card came in the mail. Sigh… we’re now unraveling our standing orders and watching the account fade away.

card 3And here’s my Irish library card – It’s an awesome souvenir!

card 2My Irish health insurance card. WHAAA! This is something I’m truly upset about losing. We had struggled to find any affordable health insurance after we lost ours twice.
Brent ended up going to the VA (veteran’s administration clinics/hospitals) for his care. During this time, he fell down with a very serious case of shingles. He would have been to a doctor much sooner if he’d had his old insurance that included local, convenient clinics. He wouldn’t have had to wait until he could take time off from work and graduate school to go to the VA (nearest facility was out of town). We’ll never know if it would have made a difference if he’d come in sooner, but the VA doctor thought so. She said his case was so advanced by the time he was seen that he almost lost his eye. Over a year later, one side of his face still has no sensation – not in the skin, not inside the mouth, not even his gums. His teeth feel “wooden” on one side. He continues to suffer from the nerve damage to his face.
The opportunity to buy affordable private health insurance was one of the best benefits to moving to Ireland, and one of the top reasons why we chose to move here. We needed help and we got it. I’m grateful for the months of peace of mind while we had it. We’ll figure this out, but I’m upset. For those who said, “if you don’t like it [the Affordable Health Care Act], leave”, I have words for you. We left. We had wonderful coverage for a short blessed while. But we can’t stay. And when we return to OUR country, where we are CITIZENS, I will not put up with any of my fellow Americans telling me to leave if I don’t like what my country is doing to me and my family. Other countries don’t want us either. So, you’re stuck with us and I’m stuck with you. I hope we can get along better this time.
Also, we’ll have to figure out how to help Savannah with her chronic incurable eczema. She was HEALED, completely HEALED here in Ireland, as we’d hoped would happen. Due to the high humidity here, her hands are completely and absolutely normal for the first time in about eight years. She had immediate improvement upon arrival. She says that her skin healed the rest of the way after putting her hands in the Celtic Sea! ūüôā This is wonderful… I’m trying not to think about her having a regression when we return to the States.
And on that depressing note.. I don’t want to dwell too much on what we’ve lost, or what we stand to lose. Let’s talk about what we’ve gained by living here in Ireland.¬†Like this bit of goodness…
We have another lasting record of having lived here in Ireland. Savannah was in the Irish newspaper!
Mallow Star 2There she is, in the blue shirt (right), in the photo below:
Mallow Star 3 Knitting Group
Savannah¬†joined a knitting group at the library in Mallow, Co. Cork, Ireland. She, at age fourteen, is by far the youngest member of the group. But she’s been loving it!
She was befriended by the women I call “The Knitting Circle Ladies” (ladies is probably not the right word to use… some of those women are hilariously raunchy). Savannah has told us many stories. All I need to do is create a fictitious murder plot and this group could star in a mystery novel!
While some of the ladies come only for the craic  (pronounced /crack/, meaning fun conversation/party), the tea, and the biscuits (cookies), Savannah has knitted a gorgeous sweater!
She was working on a project before we left the States, I’ll show you that one first. She created her own pattern for this. It may be hard to read in the photo, but she’s knitted the word “hello” on it.
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She definitely doesn’t get¬†her¬†knitting talent¬†from me. I’m lucky if I can use school glue without making a mess of it.
As if¬†her designer original “hello” sweater wasn’t enough,¬†this beauty (in the photos below) is the original (no pattern) sweater that she knitted while at the library knitting group. Notice that she has added sleeves this time and a fancier stitch on the front. I don’t know what it’s called and Savannah is still sleeping this early morning, so those of you who knit will have to figure it out from the photo. ūüôā
I have to point out — the sweater looks tiny in the photos, but it’s actually an adult sized sweater that fits Savannah perfectly. I think it looks like a doll or baby sweater in the photo. I should have asked her to model it!
Her skills have soared while living here in Ireland, don’t you agree?
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 IMG_4011IMG_4012IMG_4013Yesterday she attended her last knitting group meeting at the Mallow library. It was definitely bittersweet. There was, of all things and bizarre timing, an American bluegrass group performing in the library on that same afternoon.
Some of you might recall that our family used to play bluegrass with a group, and also as a family at nursing homes, senior centers, church, etc. Savannah shared about that connection and she was also quite the star.
The ladies asked her to sign the books we’d given them. (Savannah’s Inky Imagination features her artwork and Savannah is a cartoon character in our Dramatic Mom comic. Both are available in paperback & ebook, FYI!)
And then, at the end, the ladies gathered around her and touched her shoulders, hugged her, said sweet farewells to her, and told her to send the library a Christmas card. Well, that was absolutely the most perfect thing to say! Savannah told me that she almost cried when they said goodbye to her, but when Savannah mentioned the Christmas card, her face lit up. She’ll enjoy making or choosing a card for these wonderful and wild Irish ladies.
It’s not a forever goodbye, but a forever connection.
I never forget who is kind to my children. {{{{Hugs and Gratitude to the Mallow Knitting Group}}}}
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¬†Next I’ll talk about Nicholas. Nicholas took a photography class through the UCC “Short Courses”. It was his first college course. He loved it! He came away from it with nifty skills, fabulous photos of our adventures here in Ireland, and a sparkling letter of recommendation for his application to UCC.
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¬†About UCC… Do you remember his excitement when he first saw the Harry-Potter-like campus? Well, he finally finished his essay, after many grueling weeks of procrastination and angst. Nicholas then applied for two programs (schools/majors): Computers and World Languages.
Nicholas¬†was accepted into BOTH!! UCC is in the top 2% of universities in the WORLD… Wow. I couldn’t be prouder of him! He was even offered a SCHOLARSHIP in the computer programme!!!
SCAN0022<<Subject: Congratulations on your offer of a place at University College Cork
Local Time: April 21, 2016 10:58 AM

Dear Nicholas,
Your application for the BSc (Hons) Computer Science in the College of Science, Engineering and Food Science at University College Cork has been reviewed and I am delighted to inform you that your application has been successful and that you have been accepted for a place on this programme.
I would be grateful if you could please indicate on our online application system your decision.  On receipt of your decision, I will send your official full offer letter to you by email before posting it to you.
Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Regards,
********
Non-EU Undergraduate Admissions Coordinator
UCC International Office

<<

Subject: Congratulations on your offer of a place in BA World Languages at University College Cork
Local Time: April 21, 2016 12:55 PM

Dear Nicholas,

Thank you for your application to University College Cork.

I am pleased to inform you that your application for the BA World Languages at University College Cork has been successful.

I note that you have also received an offer for the BSc Computer Science degree. I would be grateful if you could please let us know for which programme you wish to receive an official Letter of Acceptance by replying to this email. Once we receive this confirmation, we will prepare your relevant official Letter of Acceptance and send it to you by email.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely,
******
Non-EU Undergraduate Admissions Coordinator
International Office, UCC

SCAN0019Again, it’s worth a second mention… Nicholas was offered a SCHOLARSHIP to the Computer Science programme – 25% off the tuition! What a thrill! Unfortunately the tuition is still out of reach if Nicholas has to also pay for room and board, instead of commuting from home as planned.
Nicholas is disappointed (I’m putting this gently. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster ride we’ve all been on) that he can’t go to UCC, but I’ll share his new plans soon in a blog post I’ve already started writing in my head called “Dream a New Dream”.¬† This kid is amazing and I know he’ll be successful wherever life takes him. I’m sure the journey will be full of magical surprises.
On to child 3… I’ve done this in reverse order this time, from youngest to eldest.
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Cassandra was the first one accepted into UCC, for graduate school. The process for getting into graduate school is a bit different and apparently faster. She was accepted right away, leaving us to wonder if poor Nicholas didn’t get in (I’m so glad he did — even though he can’t attend, it still matters greatly that he got in!).
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However, Cassie was more excited about three separate offers to submit her CV (resume) to Apple headquarters in Cork! She did that, all three times… She still hasn’t heard back. Perhaps she will yet. Apple has from-home opportunities that could supplement what Cassie will be doing State-side. But, the point is… she is eager to land her first job. She worked hard for her Magna Cum Laude honors and her Math degree. She’d like to put her skills to use to make money!
Meanwhile, Cassie is also an artist.¬†We have news to share on this front, but I have to explain it a little bit first. Cassie does freelance commission work on occasion. She’s worked for a few clients for several years now. Here’s an example of her work on the side of a van. If you live in Florida, you may have seen this superhero character of Cassie’s:
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Cassie also has a series of graphic novels based on her KiLA iLo web comic. Well, the two worlds collided recently, and she’s had a flurry of commission work AND a surprising development: Cassie sold translation rights to her KiLA iLo book series! I can’t share details at this point, but… The first check has already arrived!
No, it’s not much, but for a recent college graduate with student loan bills looming, she’s much relieved that she will be able to pay her first installment and several months beyond. This happy news means that she can breathe a bit easier while applying for her first full time job.
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About Brent… he’s still applying for teaching positions, but now his focus is State-side. He’s done a couple of over-the-phone interviews and he’s made great connections, but he’s at the point now where he has to meet with head masters and panels in person. As soon as he’s able to function post jet lag, he’ll make appointments to follow up his interviews.¬† We feel confident about this. The hard part will be waiting for the salary to come in. This is his Go Fund Me campaign if you want to help.
IMG_20160317_131255About me…
I had an invitation and FREE tickets to the London Book Fair, but I couldn’t go. I couldn’t risk that¬†the rather flimsy stamp on my passport¬†was going to pose a problem getting back into Ireland – nor could I spend the travel money when I knew that we’d have to come up with $$$ to go back home.
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I also had to cancel my art show – remember that I was accepted to do an exhibit at Friars Gate Theatre in Co. Limerick, Ireland?
Unfortunately I couldn’t get¬†a show date¬†until February 2017 (it would have been a month long solo exhibit! WHAAAAAA!). So, to say that I’m disappointed would again be putting it mildly.
My library events hadn’t yet been scheduled (they wanted me for summer events), so there’s nothing to cancel on that front — I just won’t be here when they try to contact me. ūüôĀ
But, I’ve scattered my books across Ireland – in libraries, in the hands of people I’ve met, as a thank-you to the knitting group who was so kind to my Savannah, at Friar’s Gate Theatre, and to the church that was so welcoming to us. I’ve given away all the books I brought with me, and even ordered more.¬† Also, I painted an Irish landscape that I’m shipping back to the States.
I’m here, in Ireland. I’m making the most of it!
Our Irish adventures aren’t over yet… I’ve saved the best for last: our trip to Dingle, Ireland. The most magical experience happened – one that has had a profound effect on me. I will never look at life the same way again.
I’ve made the most of my time here. And isn’t that all any of us can do? All of life is an adventure. The best we can do is to make the most of our time.
Ireland forever!
[See update: Dream a New Dream]
Posted on

Double Rainbows

By this time we knew that we were in trouble. Immigration appointments hadn’t gone well. Everything was starting to unravel.

What do we do now? Should we sit at home, defeated, waiting until the inevitable happens? My advice to my three kids- ranging in age from young teen, teen, and young adult -means absolutely nothing if I don’t live the words I say. I’ve told them “bad things happen that aren’t your choice, but your attitude is up to you“.

I could have stayed home, sulking and fretting. My attitude was my choice. But the Celtic Sea coast was sitting out there, sparkling and free, costing nothing but a little diesel to visit – just waiting for someone like me who, with a little faith and a little luck, may just find herself under a glorious double rainbow.

As the Mom of the house, my attitude can drag down or lift up the entire family. It’s a heavy responsibility sometimes. I’m glad I chose the sea.

These pictures were taken on March 13 and March 29, 2016. Both locations are a short drive from Cork, Ireland. I know that there are many photos here. It was hard to decide which ones to share!

IMG_2813That’s a lighthouse, on top of the faraway hill.

IMG_2994Another view that puts the lighthouse into perspective – it’s quite far away, but still visible from the coast

IMG_2996Hmm, I’m thinking that I’d like to go out on that ledge. It’s not that high really, right? No one is around to stop me.

IMG_2997See my husband Brent and daughter Savannah? They don’t know where I am. I’ll go for it.

IMG_2998This is a bit higher than I thought, and slippery too. The moss is wet. Of course I’m holding the camera and not always watching where I’m going. This adventure may not end well.

IMG_2999Ooh, this is what it looks like at the end of it. I wanted a closer view of the waves crashing on the rocks.

IMG_3000Hmm, looks like I was wrong about no one noticing where I was… Nicholas took pictures of me when I was up there!

IMG_2789IMG_2792I took great shots from that perspective.

IMG_3001 Brent and Savannah – shots taken from the ledge

IMG_3002Oh, they see me now. They’re probably waiting for disaster, but I didn’t fall!

IMG_3003Well, I’m getting a little too close to the edge now. I shouldn’t push my luck too far.

IMG_3004That moss is slick… I’m lucky I didn’t slide off the edge.

IMG_3005I feel proud of myself for doing this. Somehow over the last decade or so, I began to feel old. I developed a fear of heights – or maybe a fear of falling. But I conquered this wall of rocks. I’m capable of more than I think I am. And I’m not old. I never will be if I choose to be young.

IMG_3006Just think of the view I would have missed if I hadn’t climbed the ledge!

IMG_2802Me, proud of myself for taking on an adventure all by myself. I know, it’s not “that” high, but it was high enough to put me in a bad state if I’d fallen. And I didn’t fall!

IMG_3007Savannah walking along the beach. Plenty of Irish locals were out that day, when the sun was out. Mums were pushing babies in strollers across the sand. The wet sand is so dense and compacted that it’s like walking on a sidewalk. There’s such a wide area to walk – very good place to get some fresh air and exercise.

IMG_3008Savannah, eating her packed lunch… if we bring our own food, these trips cost us nothing but gas for the car.

IMG_3009Nicholas with camera in hand – his photography is awesome! He’s learned a lot from the photography class he was taking through UCC in Cork.

IMG_3010I love the natural things that drift ashore – the girls have had a ball looking for treasures

IMG_3016There’s the lighthouse again… this time with a gull in the shot

IMG_3020Savannah between the lighthouse and the gull, just because

IMG_3021What a tender age… Savannah turned 14 a couple weeks before we left for Ireland. She’s listening to music and growing up a little more even as I take this picture.

IMG_3029Every soul leaves its footprints

IMG_3038Nicholas, absorbed in his photography, quickly becoming a man. Where did my little boy go?

IMG_3047Aww, he’s still here! Me and my son Nicholas.

IMG_3049Cassie, looking for shells – That’s why she’s not in many of these photos. She’s off on a mission!

IMG_3052Savannah running on the beach, wild and free!

IMG_3055IMG_3056IMG_3057IMG_3058IMG_3059And THAT’s how we do it!

IMG_3060Time to say goodbye to March 13. Our March 29th trip is next – ooh, that’s glorious!!! Don’t stop reading yet!

IMG_3436I asked the kids what souvenirs they wanted from Ireland. The girls said that they wanted a sweatshirt. Nicholas said that our photos are souvenirs. For Easter we surprised them with Ireland sweatshirts, European candy (some if it is delicious, but some of it is quite nasty, LOL – that’s a story for a future post!), and a plan to take a family picture of us wearing the sweatshirts (we bought one for Brent and me too!). So, everyone got what they wanted – thanks to Aldi who had a “special buy” on these sweatshirts! WOOT!

IMG_3445Easter morning…

Now for our trip to the coast on March 29. I brought my tripod to take family pictures. Brent was kind enough to set it up for me. Then he was kind enough to climb back over the rocks and go back to the car when I wanted another family picture in a remote area. I hefted it back over the rocks though, and I didn’t fall. Anyway, we pulled it off! We got our special family picture!!! And… a perfectly magical day!!!IMG_3470

Thomas Family photo on the Celtic Sea coast Ireland March 29 2016I love this picture! I’ll definitely frame this one. We took it a few minutes after we arrived at the coast. The wind was brisk and we were freezing! It was hard to get a shot without our hair blowing in front of our faces.

IMG_3472That’s better – hat and jacket on!

IMG_3473Get ready for some truly breathtaking views!

IMG_3474IMG_3475IMG_3478IMG_3479Savannah, wearing my hoodie over her sweatshirt. She didn’t expect it to be this cold. It’s the wind! Yi yi yi…. but, wait a little while and the weather changes in Ireland. It calmed down and warmed up some after we’d been there a while. We also found a gorgeous remote sheltered area that we enjoyed all by ourselves! First we had to brave the chilly winds though… and Cassie decided to sit some of that time out in the car. I’m glad we didn’t give up… the rest of the day was beautiful! Wait and see…

IMG_3480IMG_3481tut tut, it looks like rain… will my camera lens handle it?

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Oh yes, it’s looking like a good shower…

IMG_3488IMG_3489IMG_3491IMG_3492This guy is enjoying the weather! Great windy day for lift off!

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See how changeable the weather is? Misty, rainy, sunny, windy… repeat…

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I love these shots that Nicholas took of Brent and me when we didn’t know he was looking.

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IMG_3707¬†¬† This next batch is also from Nicholas’ camera:IMG_3703 IMG_3702 IMG_3701 IMG_3700 IMG_3698 IMG_3696 IMG_3691 IMG_3690 IMG_3679And now back to photos from my camera:

IMG_3496IMG_3497Nicholas – couldn’t be happier!

IMG_3498IMG_3499IMG_3500IMG_3501IMG_3502IMG_3503Sun is starting to peek through… look for rainbows!

IMG_3507IMG_3508No rainbows yet… more rain!

IMG_3509Should we pack it in? Cameras are getting wet…

IMG_3513What do you think, guys? Call it a day?

IMG_3514IMG_3515Well, maybe just a few more minutes…

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If we stay long enough…

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Maybe we’ll see something new… What’s over here?

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If you wait in the rain long enough, you may just see…

IMG_3537IMG_3538IMG_3539Or…. maybe TWO!

It’s a double rainbow!

IMG_3540IMG_3541I’m calling Brent over – do you see it? Do you see it?!!?

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IMG_3550IMG_3551Me, running to catch the rainbow before it’s too late!

IMG_3552WHEE!!! I’m under a double rainbow in IRELAND!

Cassie didn’t see the rainbow from where she was sitting in the car, waiting out the cold/wind/rain. All she saw was me twirling in some sort of blissful state on the beach, LOL! To get an idea of what she saw, here are the photos Brent took in rapid succession. You have to imagine seeing all of this without knowing there’s a double rainbow in the sky!

The whole thing only took a few seconds, but… well, do the rainbow dance with me!

IMG_3553 IMG_3558 IMG_3557 IMG_3556 IMG_3555 IMG_3554Natalie under  rainbow on Celtic Sea coastDreams do come true!

Just like rainbows, some dreams appear only fleetingly… but they are glorious! And when the dream fades, it’s time to dream a new dream. Rebuilding is hard. But we are stronger than we think we are.

Shortly after the double rainbow, Nicholas disappeared around the bend, where those rocks were… Where did he go? What’s over there? I ventured over… and it was BEAUTIFUL! That’s when I begged for another round of family pictures!

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The kids on Celtic Coast March 29, 2016IMG_3625IMG_3619IMG_3618IMG_3617

IMG_3629IMG_3624IMG_3623IMG_3622IMG_3621

IMG_3631 IMG_3630IMG_3870IMG_3871Nicholas takes over the shoot… why are we using the self timer when he’s standing right there with his own camera?

IMG_3877IMG_3876IMG_3874Except that he takes forever, fiddling with the lens… he makes us giggle… and that’s a wrap. ūüôā

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IMG_3816IMG_3827IMG_3838IMG_3839IMG_3857IMG_3858IMG_3859 IMG_3899 IMG_3898 IMG_3884  IMG_3881           IMG_3866 IMG_3860

IMG_3899IMG_3614 IMG_3613 IMG_3612 IMG_3611 IMG_3610 IMG_3609 IMG_3607 IMG_3606 IMG_3605 IMG_3604 IMG_3603 IMG_3602 IMG_3601 IMG_3600 IMG_3599 IMG_3598 IMG_3596 IMG_3595 IMG_3594 IMG_3593 IMG_3592 IMG_3591  IMG_3589 IMG_3588 IMG_3587 IMG_3586 IMG_3585 IMG_3584 IMG_3583 IMG_3582 IMG_3581 IMG_3580 IMG_3579 IMG_3578 IMG_3577 IMG_3576

IMG_3575 IMG_3574 IMG_3573 IMG_3572 IMG_3571 IMG_3570 IMG_3569 IMG_3568 IMG_3567 IMG_3566 IMG_3565 IMG_3564 IMG_3563 IMG_3562 IMG_3561I guess it’s time for this perfect day to end.

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Posted on

Easter Festival at Mallow Castle

The Easter Festival in Mallow, Ireland was held at the Mallow Castle. There was a castle bouncy house with an ACTUAL castle in the background. There was live music, face painting, and of course the castle itself. Unfortunately the event had a low turnout due to the near constant rain… but we had a ball. We had a private concert on the castle lawn! I danced & coerced the family to dance with me. It was one of the best days of my life! Many photos to share:

Mallow Castle, Ireland

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We don’t know if we can stay here in Ireland. Was this all a big mistake? If we had known then how hard it would be, would we have gone? If we had known long ago how many things would be painful, would we have done it? It’s hard to keep it together, given all that we’re going through (and another appointment with immigration looming). But we went to this Easter festival, determined to enjoy it. As we were walking in, live music was in full swing. A familiar song was just starting– as if it was playing just for us.

It’s a long song… and we were walking closer to it as we entered the castle grounds. My eyes were a little misty or was that the rain?

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The rain didn’t stop the kiddie train.

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IMG_3331IMG_3333Nicholas, Cassie, and Brent taking pictures. Savannah just finished taking a picture… and obviously I’m taking a picture right now. ūüôā

IMG_3329IMG_3465 (103)OOH, so that’s where the music is coming from! See all that grassy lawn in front of the tent? Of course my immediate thought is “I see a DANCE FLOOR… at a castle in Ireland!!!! Oh yes!”

IMG_3470At first we started off slow, with county music and line dancing (me and Savannah). When we stopped, the singer said, “Where’s our line dancers?” So, naturally I took that as an invitation to return to the dance floor… and soon things got wild!

This is the song that got us moving:

Savannah and me, dancing to Uptown Funk! WOOT!!!

IMG_3349IMG_3351IMG_3352IMG_3353And… we moved right into this song:

Both of my daughters joined me for Happy!

IMG_3354IMG_3355I don’t remember which song this was… Savannah and me:

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When the rain came down heavily we ducked under a big tree.

IMG_3480We didn’t have to stop dancing though… And one song we just had to SING LOUDLY from our tree

 

They performed “Sweet Caroline” and I thought of my friend Jay Lehman who sings that song at piano bars. When they played a second Neil Diamond song, Brent was my dancing partner. Nicholas took these photos for us.

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IMG_3500 (138)IMG_3503 (141)IMG_3358Had to thank the talent for giving us such a fabulous time & priceless family memories!  IMG_3356

Time to check out the castle!

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IMG_3379IMG_3380IMG_3381Cassie at the castle!

IMG_3382IMG_3383IMG_3384Brent at the castle

IMG_3385Nicholas and Brent

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IMG_3389IMG_3390IMG_3391My three kids! I love all of these shots of them, so I’ll put them all in!

IMG_3392IMG_3393Somebody asked if they could join in the picture, LOL! I guess they didn’t mean it though (this time)

IMG_3394IMG_3395IMG_3396Savannah girl, my youngest

IMG_3399Me & my husband Brent in the Mallow Castle

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Some of Nicholas’ castle photos:

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IMG_3552 (190)IMG_3558IMG_3551 (189)IMG_3548 (186)IMG_3574 (212)IMG_3400IMG_3404Savannah wanted to visit the face painting booth.

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She looks so happy – what does it look like? I want to see!!!

IMG_3409 OOH!!!!!!!

IMG_3411So pretty, Savannah!

IMG_3407Thought this ice cream truck was funny

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IMG_3415IMG_3416Leaving the Easter festival…. on the way back to the car park, had to stop to take a closer look at this grotto. A dove flew into it right as I took the picture! It doesn’t show up very well, but you can see it on the left, near the top:

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