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Starting Over

IMG_4068Our new bedroom – sleeping on $8 air mattresses from Wal-mart until we can afford beds (which could be a few months at the rate we’re going!)
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Do you remember how we raised the money to move to Ireland? We sold about 80% of everything we had, including our house. This gave us the funds to move our family of five and a small household shipment thousands of miles away, where a fresh start was waiting for us.
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Then, when we had to come back, we let go of even more things. We now have about 10% of what we used to have. We are starting over.
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Before you feel too sorry for us, remember that we had AMAZING adventures of a lifetime in Ireland and we are VERY fortunate to have a house at all, let alone a nice one. Also, the air mattresses are surprisingly comfortable.  And…
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Ah, well… it still sucks to sleep on the floor.
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But before we dwell on that, let’s review what Ireland did for us.
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1. Health Care: We had affordable health insurance (around $257/month in Ireland instead of $1,200/month in the United States!). This was a blessed relief after a nightmarish couple of years – see “Shingles” post.
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2. Cost of Living: Food! We were delighted by a bountiful harvest of affordable fresh food. We could buy large bags of frozen vegetables, huge sacks of potatoes, inexpensive meat, and more. Housing! We paid affordable rent for a fully furnished house (that’s how we were able to sell our stuff and move to Ireland). Recreation! We could also visit amazing places – with no cost to us other than petrol for the car.
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3. Freedom and Safety: We felt safe and relaxed. It was like going back in time to the 1980’s. Sure, there are drugs and criminal activities in the “bad” parts of the Irish cities, but crime is still a shocking event. There’s no such thing as an “active shooter drill” in Irish schools (our Irish friends were horrified to learn that this is regular practice in United States primary schools). The Irish kids roam freely in the streets without any supervision or fear. They walk to libraries and to the candy aisle of the local grocery stores, chatting happily without a care in the world. This was what it was like when I was in school – I walked to the downtown area after school activities let out. I’d go to the public library. I’d read Peanuts comics and wait for my dad to pick me up. No one ever thought that this was a dangerous thing to do, because it wasn’t.
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4. Peace: We didn’t have to parse our every word. We didn’t have to worry about what social issue was currently too hot to handle. We didn’t have to worry about which stores/restaurants/airports/roads were currently overtaken by protesters. The week before we left Minneapolis the airport was a hotbed of activity. The police were there in full riot gear because protesters had “shut down” part of the airport. The day before we left, flights were canceled due to a snowstorm. We feared snow much less than we feared potential violence due to protesters vs police. In stark contrast, both the Cork and Shannon airport were open and relaxed.
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Unfortunately, we can’t fix America. But leaving is no longer an option, as we can’t handle another international move. So we’ll have to figure out health insurance, jobs, and food here in our own country.
IMG_4067Our toothbrush holders, courtesy of Aldi
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In Ireland we existed on our dwindling savings, my book royalties, and the kindness of friends who donated to Brent’s student teaching fundraiser. And we made it, whew! 🙂 We were all set with housing, car, etc. We could also afford to get sick (not that we wanted to!), now that we were sporting new health insurance that actually COVERED medical costs!
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I made low budget meals that stretched into days of leftovers. We put a spending freeze on everything. We’d muddle through until a teaching job came through for Brent…
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Except that it never would, not in Ireland. (where’s the AGONY emoticon?)
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As I mentioned in an earlier post, the immigration process had reached a critical point, as our original stamp had run out and we were living on an emergency second stamp — granted to us because Brent’s teaching council registration was still in progress. Proof of residency in Ireland was required to get the PPS number that the teaching council required. Teaching council registration was required before Brent could get a job and apply for a work visa. A work visa was required to get permission to remain in the country beyond our temporary 90 day stamp. The cat caught the mouse while the mouse caught the cat, but the dog was mixing things up by chasing them both… Bottom line, we had run out of time to get jobs in Ireland.
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Meanwhile, something strange and mysterious happened.
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I was teaching a German lesson in the dining room. Living in Ireland didn’t excuse Savannah from school. I’d shipped her textbooks to Ireland, even though it was hard to focus on her studies. Today was one of the rare occasions when we were actually getting things done. We were working through a dialog via a German language program cassette when Brent interrupted us.
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He stood in the dining room doorway with a blank look on his face. I waited for him to say something.
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Hesitation, followed by,  “I didn’t do it on purpose.”
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“What did you do?”
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He said that he didn’t work Plan B on purpose.
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To understand what he meant by this, I have to fill you in on our approach to our new life. When people work on Plan B, that’s what they get. We’d had a lifetime of Plan B, Plan C, Plan D and even the occasional Plan F. We agreed that we wouldn’t even IMAGINE a Plan B unless it became absolutely certain that Plan A (living in Ireland) was impossible.
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But our Plan A philosophy weakened considerably after our second immigration appointment. I went to bed that night feeling hopeless. Brent couldn’t sleep.  He stayed up late, looking for answers via our slow satellite-based Internet (ping, ping, ping to space, then back again to rural Ireland off the boreen).
IMG_20160302_143358The boreen – only one car can fit at a time, especially on the very narrow parts (this is a wide area, believe it or not!). People move off the road to let people pass, when they can – parts of it are impassible due to steep drop offs on both sides. In that case, someone backs down the boreen until they can pull over… this can take a while, if the impassible area is in the walled section that is incredibly narrow with little room for error… backing up while winding around the worst of the boreen was Brent’s driving-on-the-left ultimate challenge. European driving extreme version!
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Back to Brent’s Internet search:
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Brent wondered how hard it would be to apply for a teaching license in Indiana. His Wisconsin license had finally come through. We didn’t want to move back to the same area that we’d worked so hard to break free from. Twenty years of living in the same general area had run its course, especially when winter temps dropped to -20 or lower! But how hard would it be to transfer his license to another state? Just in case… you know, in case of Plan B.
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Are you wondering, Why Indiana?
Brent is a true Hoosier, born and raised. Our firstborn daughter was also born in Indiana. My father lived and died in Indiana. Brent and I grew up there. Many of our childhood friends are still there. The cost of living is not as low as in Ireland, but lower than the upper Midwest (MN and WI). The weather is better. Fall and spring are longer. Winters are milder. Summers are incredibly hot and humid though. THAT I dread.
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I’m not a Hoosier — only those who are originally from Indiana can claim the title. My family is from upstate New York, near Syracuse and Oswego (Clay, Phoenix, Fulton, etc.). My dad was in the Air Force and moved away from NY when he was a young Airman.  After his first Vietnam War tour he was stationed at Grissom AFB near Peru/Kokomo, Indiana.
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We lived in base housing for a while, which I don’t remember much of. I do remember when my parents took me and my cousins to Santa Claus Land in Santa Claus, Indiana, where I danced with Rudolph and told Santa what I wanted for Christmas – in July. Remember this story – it’ll come up again later.
Santa Claus LandMe, dancing with Rudolph at Santa Claus Land – Santa Claus, Indiana
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After two Vietnam War tours, Mom was done with the Air Force. She’d been through two babies with a husband overseas. After what seems to have been an ultimatum, Dad left full-time active duty for part time Air National Guard. We moved back to NY.
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A few years later Dad saw a job advertisement for Zimmer in Warsaw, Indiana. He got the job and we moved to Indiana during a hot humid summer shortly before my ninth birthday. I didn’t like being the new girl who talked funny and “wasn’t from around here”. I remember meeting another new girl. She was from Texas and she talked funny too. I never did like the Indiana heat, but I did warm up to the Indiana people and its transplants.
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Here’s a brief review of our life since, for those who don’t know me, and for those who’ve probably forgotten these details:
Prom Natalie and Brent
I met my husband Brent in high school, where we were high school sweethearts, attended our junior and senior proms together, and graduated high school together. I went to Purdue University after high school. Brent joined the Army, where he was stationed in Germany. I left school at the end of my freshman year because I got married and planned to move to Germany, which I did. We lived there for three years. The Gulf War happened, which extended Brent’s tour. When his tour ended we moved back to Indiana. We lived in Muncie and attended Ball State University together. We graduated college and had our first baby – not in that order.
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After Brent graduated college, the semester after I did, he landed a job in Minnesota. It was the 43rd resume and the first one to say yes. Twenty years later, we were still in the basic commuting area of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis/Saint Paul as of 2015. During those twenty years we’d lived in an apartment in Edina for a few months (too expensive, way our of our league), then we bought a house in North Minneapolis (big mistake, HIGH crime – should have visited the house after dark before buying!). We then settled in the small town Cannon Falls, Minnesota where we bought a cute little house–but filthy and a fixer!–and had two more children.
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We fixed up the little house, outgrew it, sold it for a profit, and moved to our beautiful hobby farm. The hobby farm was located between Cannon Falls and Red Wing, Minnesota. Our neighbor across the long gravel road became our children’s piano teacher. Our neighbors down the road (the house with the barn in the photo below) sent their children to my house, where I taught dance and theater from my home studio. They also had their own home business. Our one-lane gravel road was surprisingly active. Those were good years of raising young children and enjoying a steady paycheck.
Walking to piano lessonsMy daughters walking to piano lessons, down our gravel drive, across the road and up the gravel drive to our neighbors’ house – near Vasa, MN
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And then it all crashed in on us…
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Brent’s job suffered salary-freezes, pay-cuts, buy-outs, lay-offs, and the beginning of the end. We suffered serious financial hardship after the first round of pay-offs. As luck would have it, the pay cut and salary freeze happened immediately after we accumulated more debt than we’d expected (we made a few mistakes in buying our hobby farm house, long story).
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When we knew that his current job was never going to rebound and he’d likely lose it altogether, the search for a new job was on. The search fell to me, as I have a knack for finding information and I’m also a writer. More importantly I was available and he wasn’t. That’s the problem with “working from home”, but also a blessing. When family needs arise I can take as much time off as needed. Of course if I don’t work I don’t get paid, so there’s that…
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Anyway, I searched high and low for a new job for Brent. I submitted his resume over and over again for federal vacancies. I put his hat in the ring for private sector jobs too. We heard crickets. There was absolutely no response from anything.
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Dozens and dozens of applications later, Brent finally got called for an interview – for a federal job that was closing/merging the very branch that was interviewing him! WHAT? Why interview someone when you know that the branch is closing? That’s the government for you. So that job went nowhere. He got a nibble on a Washington, D.C. based job. That too went nowhere (Thank God! I didn’t want to live in D.C.!). By now (after two years of steady applications) we’d had it with government jobs.
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Well, time had run out. Job or no job, we had to do SOMETHING. We’d had a brief glimpse of the good life, but living from paycheck-to-paycheck had quickly gone downhill.  We sold the hobby farm before we were in danger of losing it. We bought a smaller house over the border into Wisconsin. It was cheaper to buy than to rent. But oh how I hated to buy another house, knowing that I’d have to sell it in three to four years!
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For us the American Dream was simply out of reach. My attempts to find my own employment–beyond writing and art–had been met with a frustrating end (another long story). We needed a radical change… a new life.
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Brent went back to school to become a teacher and I spent my days selling my books, our possessions, and our house so that we could move on after graduation. Brent attended graduate school at the same time that our oldest child was also attending college. They  graduated at the same time too.
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With both Brent and Cassie in transition, life was temporarily paused. If we were ever going to make that radical change, the time was now. We may never get another chance. But moving on was far from a spontaneous idea. I’d anticipated our window of opportunity long before.
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I’d been working toward the dream of a new life for the past eight years. My mom was dying, Brent’s job was dying, and my kids were fast becoming adults. Was I going to sit and watch everything slip away or was I going to fight?
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Well, you know how the rest of my story goes. I fought and I won! I did it! I really did move to Ireland. I spent more time with my children and husband in the past five months than I had in the past five years. I regret nothing.
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Brent’s unemployment could have been the straw that broke our family’s back, but it wasn’t. We didn’t sit around wringing our hands during those long months of waiting for his teaching license to come through. We were out collecting shells at the Celtic Sea coast, dancing at Mallow Castle, and seeing a dolphin in the wild. In the evenings, at home in our house on the boreen, we were nestled in the family room eating homemade pizza and watching TV.
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Now that you’re all caught up, I’ll bring you back to how we ended up in Indiana by way of Ireland:
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So, Brent didn’t mean to work on Plan B, but he accidentally landed an interview for a teaching job in Indiana. How does anyone accidentally get a job interview? I waited for the explanation.
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Brent said that he wanted to see what was required to teach in Indiana. He chose an “almost” random place – a city we’ve never been to, but where one of our childhood friends lives. He filled out the forms to see what questions he’d have to answer. He did NOT click the submit button. He did NOT apply. Honest.
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All he did is upload his documents and partially fill out the form. He went back into his account to see what happened… and he still can’t figure out how he got a job interview.
Here’s a screen shot of his application (note the words in red – not my addition, this is how it was in the screen shot):
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We’re thinking that the school was probably trolling through uploaded documents, but that’s a bit crazy, given how hard it is to get a job even when all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed. Landing an interview from an unsubmitted application is nutty! This bizarre situation left us with a decision to make. Is it time to consider Plan B?
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When mysterious connections happen, such as landing a job interview for a job we never applied for… are we really prepared to reject the opportunity? Indiana was the likely answer to our prayers, darn it. I wanted God’s answer to be “Yes, you can live in Ireland happily ever after”.

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I don’t always get what I want.
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Plan B: I want what I get.
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Living in Ireland wasn’t perfect. We were under a great deal of stress. We couldn’t stay on the island forever–soon our money would be gone and we’d have no way of getting ourselves back to the United States. No, we had to face up to our problems. We had to go back home and deal with all of the things that we were running away from.  We had to start over, and we’d have to fight harder this time around.
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It is a fight we’ll win. When I feel discouraged, I cling to the bizarre twists of fate that give me hope, like when unexpected places from long ago resurface. Everything’s connected, isn’t it? Remember the story about my fond childhood memories of Santa Claus Land? I was startled to discover that we now live only a short distance away from it. The amusement park has been remade into “Holiday World”, but it’s still there, bigger than ever. After we get back on our feet we’ll go there. I’ll recreate one of my childhood pictures–over forty years later! And yes, there’s still a Santa Claus in Santa Claus, Indiana.
Santa Claus Land 2
 And now back to the present…
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The pressure cooker of life was squeezing me yesterday. Our rental car contract had been mistakenly left open even though the car had been returned. The rental car company was charging my near-the-limit credit card EVERY DAY for the past week for a car we don’t even have, eventually running the tab up past my limit. It’s been a nightmare trying to get the charges reversed and we’re still messing with that. In addition, there have been some snags with the house. That too is unresolved. And… The manual reel mower I bought doesn’t work – the settings won’t go up high enough to avoid scalping the lawn. We returned it, but the refund is not showing up in our bank account. If it doesn’t show up soon that will be yet another fight.  And meanwhile, the grass is growing.
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In other despairingly bleak news, Brent found a wood tick embedded in his skin this morning. He pulled it out while he was showering to prepare for his job interview. Now, of course I’m freaked out about ticks, the kids covered with ticks, the ticks infecting the whole family with Lyme disease, medical insurance, and the worst case scenario for everything.
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Here’s another thing: Our house is dirty. It’s been left vacant for two years, according to our new neighbor. That little tidbit wasn’t disclosed to us prior to moving in. We were also told that the sellers had no pets. They had a big dangerous dog, according to the meter reader who says he’s relieved that the dog is gone (he had to read the meter by using a scope from behind the safety of the fence).  We are allergic to anything with fur.  So, for reasons one and two above, I need to clean this house from top to bottom.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for our friends’ help in getting this house, VERY. This is a nice house. In a year or two I’ll look back on all of this and it will all have been worth it.  I’m just tired. The younger me would have had this house cleaned up already, with only the rudimentary supplies we have here and a toothbrush. The over-45 me is sitting at this computer telling you about the work I need to do and plotting to delegate some of this to my kids (not child labor, remember that my kids are teens and young adults).
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On a happier note, Brent has had several job interviews already. His prospects for landing a teaching position are highly encouraging – great contacts and connections all over the place! He’s an awesome person with an A average in grad school. The ink on his master’s degree isn’t even dry yet, especially since it’s still pending his final project in June. He’ll get a great job and the school will be lucky to have him. Unfortunately, he won’t start until the new school year begins in August.
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Meanwhile, he’s also applying for minimum wage jobs, and that’s where the fun stops. Indiana isn’t a state that instituted a higher minimum wage, which is possibly why there are so many job openings – business is booming. It’s wonderful to see so many “We’re hiring!” signs, but most of these jobs are part time, to avoid having to pay benefits, and are only offering between $9.00-$11.00/hour.
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He’s so far been offered a night shift at a pharmacy (literally all night). Since he intended to work the weekends for the first semester or so after he starts teaching, his hours would collide, meaning the potential of working 24 hours straight. He can’t function on no sleep! I told him to have faith that something better will be offered. Now I have to also have faith that I gave him the right advice. [Update: I gave him the right advice. He has another interview tomorrow for a different branch of the same pharmacy chain. This is only part time but it’s a day time position, which will work much better for him, even if he has to add a second part time job.]
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Brent was on a teaching interview this morning. I had no idea how it went because I don’t have a cell phone yet and we have no Internet service. We’d arranged to have it connected almost two weeks ago. The installer came out and said no-can-do. They need to trench so that the cables won’t be a tripping hazard around the back sidewalk area. This means that the utility company would have to come out and mark it (they have) and that a crew would come out and trench it (they haven’t). Only after that can the installer come back out and get our Internet service up and running. Until then, we’ll have to go to our local library for free wifi, or drive to the next town over to use our generous friends’ wifi.
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Update: His interview went well. Of course he always second-guesses himself, but overall he’s confident and impatient to get a job offer. This may be the one! If not, the next, the next.. when it’s the right time, he’ll get the right job.
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So what am I doing, besides cooking our family’s meals in the most frugal way possible and fretting about everything else? Why aren’t I applying for jobs? As for me, I want to keep the job that I already have. I worked too hard for too long to give up being an entrepreneur. Always in the past, if the family was in crisis I’d give up my career to do whatever needed to be done. As a result, I’ve not put in the amount of time and effort that’s necessary for rapid growth. And forget about putting money into advertising – something always comes up and my book royalty funds are spent on the family. I have no regrets. I’m just saying that I already have a job and if I work harder to grow my income I’ll succeed. I worked hard to build my career. I want to keep it.
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Naturally I was doubting my decision as soon as we hit the first series of obstacles. My resolve was weakening. Perhaps I’m delusional. Maybe I should listen to those who think I should get a “real” job. And then… my inbox messages reminded me of a different story. Some of the things I’ve worked on for years are finally starting to pay off! This is not the time to quit. This is the time to dig in my heels and fight harder.
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I can’t live on the island forever, and I can’t let myself be talked into quitting every time life gets hard. Did Ireland teach me nothing? I’m the author of 25 books and the artist of 30+ oil paintings. My career may not be enough (yet) to solely support a family of five with a mortgage, a car loan, and another child starting college this fall, but I have a real job. The bigger money will follow. I have a bright future ahead of me, as long as I have the courage to stick with it and the moxie to fight for it.
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So, that’s where we stand… starting over. We’ll make it. It won’t be easy, but we’ll do it. Our local friends are helping us. They’ve taken us out to dinner several times. They’ve loaned us camping chairs, a fan, a hand-held vacuum, a wrench, a computer monitor, and the list will grow.
IMG_4029Welcome basket of handcrafted soaps from Miki Estep, my childhood friend who is helping us – she also makes insect repellent (you can see it better in the shot below). I’ll have to ask her if it works against ticks.
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I hope that our sparkling wit and delightful conversation makes up for our freeloading. 🙂
And when we’re back on our feet again, we’ll pay if forward, just like our friends are doing for us. I can’t promise that I won’t have a temper tantrum or two along the way. Just last night I completely forgot that I was in a public place, the library of all places, when I checked my credit card account and saw that the rental company had charged me AGAIN for the car we’d already returned. I uttered a four-letter word in a loud stage whisper. Someone smirked at me and I was jolted back to Earth. Did I really just swear aloud in the LIBRARY? I needed to get home and tuck myself into bed in my $8 air mattress.
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This morning has had its own challenges (like the tick discovery, shudder!). This time next year I’ll be happily promoting another new book and preparing for my own art show. But today… Today is anyone’s guess. If I hear any more frustrating news I’ll make sure I leave the library before I’m socially inappropriate.
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Homeward Bound!

IMG_5950All was quiet at the Shannon airport. In the morning we’d leave Ireland for the United States.

IMG_5975IMG_5985Morning has risen! Time to go.

IMG_5986IMG_5989IMG_5990IMG_5994The Shannon airport isn’t exactly a happenin’ place! The State-side airports would be teaming with noise, people, courtesy cars blitzing by, neon lights, fast food restaurants, and even vendors hawking their samples and frequent flyer offers. Yes, it would soon be a carnival of travel madness. But this morning’s airport was nearly desolate.

IMG_5995Nicholas, Savannah and Cassie (seated) – me standing, messing with my jacket

IMG_5997IMG_6001Cassie watching all of our bags at the Shannon, Ireland airport

IMG_6004Brent, getting antsy for the international flight

IMG_6024Wow! Where IS everybody?

IMG_6034IMG_6036They told us we could move around to any seat we wanted! Our family spread out so that we each had a row to ourselves. WOOT!!!! Oh how I hate, hate, hate to fly… I didn’t expect THIS! I squealed and said, “This never happens to us!” YIPPEEEEEE! The long flight that I dreaded and never wanted to face again was made infinitely easier by having all of this space!

I don’t fear flying. I hate being TRAPPED! I’m easily claustrophobic and I hate sitting in one place for too long. Because I had a whole row to myself I was able to change seats as often as I wanted to.

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IMG_6053I see Aer Lingus over there… that’s the airline we flew in on from London to Cork. It’s a pretty plane, they have that going for them. Notice that we didn’t choose to fly that airline again. I’ll leave it at that.

Seeing that plane reminded me of our horrible experience flying from Minneapolis to Chicago, then from Chicago to London, and then finally on to our windy and turbulent (WE’RE GONNA DIE!) landing in Cork, Ireland. At this point I’m sitting in my comfy seat on American Airlines, happy that I’ve made a different choice this time around. We eliminated the third flight altogether. We’re avoiding London and going straight home to the United States, where we are CITIZENS, free to move around without passports! From our first airport we’ll move on to a second, and that’s where we’ll stop. We’ll stay in a hotel and DRIVE the rest of the way to our final destination. Two flights, not three. It should help with the jet lag, it should cut down on the security/customs/etc. stress, it’s somewhat less expensive, it should shorten travel time so that we can manage sleep better…. That was my thinking…  And I was right! 🙂

IMG_6040I guess it’s time to go… he’s giving the signal!

IMG_6059I sat in the window seat when I wanted to look out or try to sleep. I put my stuff in the middle. I sat in the aisle seat when I wanted to watch the in-flight movies. The first movie was really interesting, about a self made millionairess named Joy (which is my late mom’s name so I felt that was a sign I was being watched over on the flight… I also hoped that it was lucky, meaning that I’d soon have greater success in my own entrepreneurial ventures). Joy stars Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro.

They also showed us new TV shows that NBC was promoting. I’d like to see more of Superstore – hilarious! It stars actors from Drop Dead Diva and Ugly Betty. Funny stuff, pretty clean. I see that the episodes are available for streaming online. We’ll watch it for family TV nights (we have teen and young adult kids though, so don’t go by me if you are looking for shows for younger audiences — also, I tend to be fairly liberal with entertainment).

They also showed the modern Karate Kid movie, starring Will Smith’s son. Hmm, well, I watched bits of it, but I decided to try to sleep during that one. My daughter Savannah was jazzed by this selection though. I’m glad that this movie was shown.

American Airlines kept feeding us! I have NEVER had that happen on a flight before – they actually gave us so much food that I was getting too full to eat! And… the food was GOOD!!! Our whole family liked it. AA had great entertainment, comfortable (compared to other coach seats that are much worse) seats, fast and efficient service, and overall just a pleasant experience for our very long flight back to the United States. I wish we’d flown American the first time around. If we have to fly in the future, I’ll choose American Airlines again! This is high praise because I truly hate to fly. Of course, the flight had a lot of empty seats which helped greatly, so keep that in mind.

Well, we’re off – AIR BORNE! Nicholas took all of these amazing photos. He actually took many, many more – I had to choose from hundreds of from-the-plane photos to share!

IMG_6086IMG_6087Leaving Ireland…

IMG_6088IMG_6089IMG_6090IMG_6091IMG_6092Ireland is already far away.

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Nicholas must have taken these at a different time from when the light was hitting the wall on the right. Near the ceiling, in the aisle, the light cast on the wall in such a way as to make a gorgeous cross. I mean, it was so vivid, it looked like something you’d see in a church. It wasn’t real – it was an illusion brought on by how the light hit the wall, but it sure looked like I could reach out and touch it. It stayed on the wall for about two hours. I found it comforting. We’d be ok, one way or another… I figured we were going to Heaven or we were going home. Nothing to fear either way, right? And aren’t those kind of the same thing, Home and Heaven…? Ah, well, I was jet lagged already and I hate to fly. What kinds of thoughts do you think I’d be having? Fortunately I was kept distracted by the in-flight entertainment and the food they kept giving us!

IMG_6117IMG_6118It’s about a seven hour flight – a bit shorter than the route we took on the way to Ireland… we’re appreciative of the faster flight time – AND the pilot was ahead of schedule! We’d arrive early… Meanwhile, there were fabulous views. Reminder: you can click on pictures you want to see bigger.

IMG_6126We were flying lower sometimes and could see glorious landscapes, mostly coastal.

IMG_6132IMG_6133IMG_6135IMG_6140Notice that plane in the distance? Nicholas managed to capture a shot of ANOTHER plane flying alongside us!

IMG_6145Don’t worry, it wasn’t close… but it’s not something we’d expected to see.

IMG_6154Looks like we’re in outer space here… or time traveling, like in my fictional detective series!

IMG_6158Someone said this is Cape Cod, I think…

IMG_6159IMG_6160IMG_6162IMG_6164IMG_6165IMG_6168IMG_6170IMG_6183IMG_6194IMG_6199Look at that, he captured a SHIP on the ocean from the plane!

IMG_6200Oh, going back up… well, that was a teaser! When I saw all of the landscape I thought our flight was ending already.  No, not yet, but we were getting closer.

IMG_6202IMG_6231Ooh, AMERICA! There we are…! Soon we’ll be landing in the United States!

IMG_6232IMG_6233IMG_6234IMG_6235Are you looking for clues? Anyone know where this is yet?

IMG_6236IMG_6237IMG_6238IMG_6239IMG_6240IMG_6241IMG_6242IMG_6243Don’t have it yet? Keep looking, soon it will be obvious…

IMG_6244IMG_6245IMG_6246IMG_6247IMG_6248IMG_6249IMG_6250IMG_6251IMG_6252IMG_6253IMG_6254IMG_6255The girls said that they knew it was America when they saw baseball diamonds!

IMG_6256Know this city yet?

IMG_6257IMG_6258IMG_6259IMG_6260IMG_6261IMG_6263IMG_6264IMG_6266IMG_6267IMG_6268IMG_6269IMG_6270IMG_6271IMG_6272IMG_6273IMG_6274OK, this next one will give it away

IMG_6275IMG_6276IMG_6277IMG_6278IMG_6279Uh, I don’t know what this is about… perhaps they didn’t expect someone to take photos of it via an air plane… probably nothing to see here folks, right? National Guard station maybe?

IMG_6280IMG_6281IMG_6282IMG_6283Ah, we’re landing now. WHEW! The long international flight is over!!! We’re back in the United States!

IMG_6284IMG_6285IMG_6286IMG_6287IMG_6288IMG_6296Hmm, I hope our luggage makes it to the next flight and all arrives OK… [This is what’s known in the literary biz as “foreshadowing“]

IMG_6298IMG_6299IMG_6300We’ve landed! That’s me in the front (red blur) and Cassie behind me in the green trench coat, coming off the plane. Just one more flight to go!

NEXT POST: Driving Home!

 

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Leaving Ireland

Taking pictures was the last thing on my mind on May 11, the day we left our home in Ireland for the hotel at the Shannon airport. I only managed to take a few pictures here and there. But my son Nicholas put his photography class to good use and chronicled the whole journey. Thank you, Nicholas, for taking so many  fantastic shots! *Remember you can click on any photos that you’d like to see bigger
IMG_5773Goodbye, Rivendell House in Grenagh, Co. Cork, Ireland
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It took two trips to get our family of five and our large pieces of luggage to Shannon, which was an hour and forty-five minute drive each way (passing through Limerick, where Brent had threatened to tell limericks). On the first trip, Brent and I brought the luggage to the hotel. Next, Brent dropped me off in Charleville for a goodbye visit with Marie O’Halloran and sweet baby Lorcan (he returned to Grenagh to pick up the rest of our family; he picked me up when he drove through Charleville on the way back to Shannon).
My visit with Marie was bittersweet. I gave her some of my personal belongings that I wanted her to have. Of special interest are two pretty stepping stones that were the last gifts my mother gave me. She said they were for my flowers, as I loved my gardens. But we were moving from our hobby farm and the next eight years were in transition. Even so, I kept the stones. Both have beautiful sentiments and designs on them. They have picture hanging brackets on the backs, so they can be used indoors or out. I meant to at least hang them up, but something always kept me from following through. Instead, I kept them in new condition, boxed up.
I brought them from house to house, and even shipped them to Ireland, where I felt certain they were meant to stay. Once settled in the house in Grenagh, I finally took them out of their boxes and displayed them under a glass table in my art studio space. There they sat, untouched. When it was time to pack up for the United States, I hesitated when I saw the stepping stones. It struck me that the reason why these stones were kept new all these years is because I was saving them for someone else.
These stones belong in Marie’s butterfly garden, in memorial and celebration of the life of her beloved baby Cathal, Lorcan’s brother and twin. One of the stones even has a butterfly on it, which means something significant (personal and spiritual) to Marie and her husband Johnny. My mom would have liked this, as she probably would have thought of it herself and would have prompted me to give Marie the stones — even if they were already in my own garden! If these stepping stones help Marie follow through on her butterfly garden plans, I’m honored to have been a part of it. I know the garden will be healing for the whole family.
Marie had meaningful gifts waiting for me as well. She gave me a beautiful bookmark that has a real clover embedded in the charm and the word “Ireland” etched into the base. Marie didn’t realize this when she gave it to me, but the bookmark matches Savannah’s special necklace that she bought in Dingle, on the day that we saw the dolphin. I couldn’t believe it when I saw this – I wondered if she had done it on purpose — how did this happen? Of all the gifts she could have selected, Marie was drawn to the exact same company/brand and jewelry line as Savannah’s necklace! The thing is, I’d admired Savannah’s necklace but there was only one left in the store, so we couldn’t have matching ones. This bookmark is perfectly right. I will treasure it! I already do!
IMG_4082IMG_4083IMG_4084It’s hard to read the Ireland inscription… also, the handle is shiny and bright but it looks sort of splotchy in the photo. I think you can imagine how pretty this looks in person.
Marie also gave me a special candle from her son Cathal’s table. I’m no stranger to grief, but I’ve never lost a child. I cannot imagine the depths of her loss. I’m privileged to be allowed into her precious private world, in which the boundaries of the spiritual realm and the earthly realm blur. It is her private space where pain meets joy, where she sees her beautiful baby in her heart and dreams.
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 I’m impatient to receive our shipment from Ireland. I intend to place Cathal’s candle in my mom’s hutch. I believe that there is power in the belongings left behind by people we love, there is a special hold over things that we give symbolic meaning to, and there is a protection granted to those who believe. On that note, I believe in all sorts of mysterious phenomena – some of which I’ve experienced personally. I believe that God hasn’t limited our knowledge to only what religious scholars preach; there’s so much more to discover. I believe in science and that which transcends it. We’ll never comprehend it all; logic and love co-exist beyond our understanding. But we don’t need to understand it. Peace, healing, and power beyond our imagination is ours, when we are free to let go.
The day we left our home in Ireland was emotional, but there were plenty of distractions to keep our minds occupied. You’ll see for yourself from the pictures that we encountered a lot of construction on the route. I have to say, I don’t know how the Irish handle their workflow. During the nearly five months that we lived in Ireland, the road from Mallow to Charleville was under perpetual construction. It began before we arrived, and apparently it will continue long after we left. I’m reminded of the endless tea party that the Mad Hatter hosted.
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We were also kept occupied by random sightings of historic buildings, ruins, and even a castle. There were sheep and lambs along the way, bizarre road signs (is it really necessary to forbid horse and buggies on the highway? I haven’t seen a single one during our entire stay here!), and a tunnel.
IMG_5810IMG_5811IMG_5812IMG_5814IMG_5815IMG_5817IMG_5821IMG_5822IMG_5827IMG_5828This is the downtown Charleville library – an old church that was converted into a public library. My books are in this library. 🙂
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Also, see that bus sign? When we sold our car back to the dealer we went to Lucey Motors on Limerick Road in Charleville. Our wonderful salesperson Joey Shire gave us a lift to the bus stop here in front of the library (he was a big help to us when we bought the car and then again when we sold it – he had great patience waiting for our wire transfer from the States to get sorted out – highly recommend Lucey Motors in Charleville, Ireland!). We took the bus to the Shannon airport where we hired a car. We then returned the car when we settled into the airport hotel the following week.
IMG_5830IMG_5831IMG_5833IMG_5860IMG_5879IMG_5880IMG_5881There’s the “no horse and buggy” sign I was telling you about
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 This wasn’t the route we’d taken to the coast – if it was, I would’ve tried to capture the memorable road sign that warned of a dangerous bend… although it was too dangerous to stop there for a picture. What makes that bend so startling is that immediately after the “dangerous bend” warning, there is a second sign with a life-sized picture of Jesus on it – just Jesus’s face, with no explanation. The Jesus sign flashes before your eyes because the speed and angle on that sharp turn allows only a glimpse of anything other than the spiraling barely-one-lane road spinning ahead. Egads! Is Jesus the destination for drivers who don’t heed the dangerous bend warning?
IMG_5801This familiar sticker is a feature in Enterprise’s rental cars.
Brent doesn’t get easily rattled by driving, even when he was learning to drive on the left, but that hairpin turn on the steep narrow coastal road gave him white knuckles at the wheel.
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 Finally we were in Shannon, where we first stopped at Lidl (a German owned grocery store similar to Aldi) to buy our supper. We found packaged salads, lunch meat, bread, and single servings of juice that come with tiny plastic straws that are meant to puncture an impossibly slippery pouch. I’m sure you too are familiar with the torture of trying to get the straw into the pouch when someone is tired, crabby, and thirsty. The crabby ones used to be my young children, but that day the crabby one was me. My daughter Cassie opened my juice for me. Funny how it all goes full circle…
My family was disappointed that we’d forgotten the pie that Marie had boxed up for us to take back with us to the hotel. There was a bit of a blame-game about who was supposed to put it into the car. I’d already had my pie while visiting with Marie, so I kept my mouth shut.  The important thing is that we were at the airport – our hotel was just a few yards away from the departure gates.
IMG_5925IMG_5927IMG_5928IMG_5929IMG_5935IMG_5937IMG_5940Isn’t this a snazzy rental car? Nicholas was impressed by this one. But we’d arrived and it was time to return it.
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We didn’t have time to settle into the hotel. We were on to the next task: weighing our luggage to see if any of us had gone overweight. Bags weighing more than 50 pounds incur an overweight fee of $100. On the way to Ireland ALL of our luggage was overweight, all. And Nicholas’ bag was so heavy that it went into the NEXT weight tier, costing $200! We bailed out of one suitcase before checking the bags, which is how my small cast iron skillet got thrown away in the Minneapolis airport. But we just couldn’t reduce the rest. This was everything we’d have on us until our household shipment would arrive, including Nicholas’ entire desktop computer (albeit in pieces) and our laptops – mine didn’t make it. 🙁
Anyway, on the journey to Ireland, we swallowed the cost of our overweight luggage. On the way back, we couldn’t do that! These bags HAD to be under 50 pounds – ALL of them!
We spent a few Euros weighing our bags on the coin operated scale in the hotel lobby. We quickly ran out of coins. Since our bags were still overweight, we had to keep trying. We chucked a few things out, but most of our overflow landed in Savannah’s suitcase. Savannah is the heroine of this story. She had put all of her heaviest belongings in her personal bag that she bravely carried on her back! We didn’t know that she had weighed herself down with such a heavy burden until after one of the straps on her bag broke and she was struggling. Well, anyway, back to the luggage fiasco. Without the means to put more and more Euros into the hotel scale (which was listed as a service for this hotel so we thought it was complimentary, grr, as with many things in Europe -such as most parking- it was not free), we decided to haul our luggage across the parking lot to the airport. The airport was practically deserted and they didn’t mind us weighing our luggage at the counter, on our own.
Getting the luggage to the airport was a bit of an adventure. The parking lot was uneven. On the slopes it was hard not to lose control of the luggage cart (Brent and Nicholas had full luggage carts to push) or the luggage itself (we girls rolled luggage separately). We had to avoid hitting parked cars and other obstacles. But when we finally made it to the airport we could weigh our bags and re-pack them as many times as necessary to get the bags to fall under the 50 pound weight limit. We finally did it! And when we did, it felt like we should have won a trophy.
The airport was surreal, so quiet and empty. Few employees were there. The last flight out of Ireland had long gone, even though it was still fairly early in the evening. We anticipated a rather uneventful check-in experience in the morning. And we were right. It was subdued until we hit the TSA. We had to go through security twice, as this airport as a pre-flight customs arrangement with the United States.
The Irish part of it was simple. We didn’t have to remove our shoes. I misunderstood about taking my laptop out of my bag, but no one jumped down my throat. An employee simply asked me to remove it for a scan. The security line moved smoothly and quietly. And then we had to do the whole thing all over again in an isolated area on the top floor (the second story in a two-floor airport). This time it was for the Americans.
And no, they weren’t friendly. The treatment wasn’t as severe as what we went through in Minneapolis – that still makes my blood boil when I think about it! – but it wasn’t pleasant. Cassie got patted down again. WTH??? We had to remove our shoes of course. Everything had to come out. It was tedious, stressful, and oppressive. Welcome back to the United States… and we hadn’t even left Ireland yet. All of the old anger and resentment was starting to emerge (our lost medical insurance, Brent’s job of almost 20 years gone to Canada, and more), but I was homesick too.
Mixed feelings, bittersweet emotions, hotel-room sleeping, and a day of international travel is a cocktail destined for a nasty hangover. But it was time to get this over with. The sooner we were on the first flight, the sooner we’d be on the second one, and then the long car ride the next day headed to our new home.
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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.
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 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 €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! 🙂 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. 🙂
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. 🙁
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]
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Irish Life

From the American perspective, Ireland is a foreign country and a magical island, but it’s not another planet. Both are Western cultures that share the same language (sort of), the same technological advances (sort of) and the same products (sort of). So, you’d think that there would be few (if any) misunderstandings.  But if you know our history of misadventures, you won’t be surprised to hear that some Americans living in Ireland are easily confused… and potentially stinky.

IMG_3656My husband Brent bought the product on the left “Comfort”, 42 loads of sunshiny days. I looked at it and I was immediately suspicious. “Are you sure that this is laundry detergent?” The liquid was so watery. Hmm. He was confident. Meanwhile, I suspected that Comfort might be fabric softener, not detergent with softening agents. So after we bought laundry pods, I switched to that… while the rest of the family trusted Comfort and used it until it was almost gone.IMG_3658

After a few weeks, my family had begun to smell. Brent noticed that his clothes weren’t “getting clean enough”, but when he got a whiff of our 18 year old son, he realized that he should probably take a closer look at Comfort… which was fabric softener, not soap. They’d been washing their clothes with nothing but water and fabric softener for over a month! I could have said “I told you so” but it’s more fun to remember this forever and bring it up at random. 🙂

IMG_3666All right, I’ve picked on them enough. It’s my turn. These are “digestives” or “digestive biscuits“. I know that these are cookies, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit anxious. What did they mean by “digestive”? How do these cookies aid in digestion? Will those of us who need no added help end up with, uh, problems? Was there a laxative effect to these so-called cookies? My daughter Cassie still mocks me for this one. They are just cookies – no hidden laxatives. Although I suppose if you ate too many of them you’d be in trouble, the reason why they are called digestives is because it is thought that food made with baking soda is good for the digestion.

And apparently there’s even a proper way to eat them.

IMG_3667IMG_3668Chocolate is on the top right? No, I guess they say it’s on the bottom.

IMG_3669This is the top, where the logo is. Seems odd to eat it that way – chocolate half definitely seems like the top!

IMG_3670These biscuits are not the same thing as American cookies. They’re like the “cookie” layer of a Twix bar. They are very inexpensive to buy, less than 1€ for a whole roll, and are a staple when serving tea.

IMG_3671I mentioned baking soda earlier. It took me a while to find it when I wanted to bake from scratch. Sometimes it’s called “Bread Soda”.

FrytexI also had trouble finding shortening. We asked at the Tesco grocery store and they had no idea what I was talking about. I had to describe it and what it’s used for. It was a funny conversation. Finally they understood what it was and they led me to the refrigerated section.  In the U.S., shortening is typically sold in a can and is found on a shelf near baking supplies, vegetable oil, etc. Here, they sell shortening in blocks that look like butter, and they keep it in the refrigerated section.

IMG_3675See? I wasn’t crazy when I thought that mince pie was made of meat. They call their ground beef “beef mince”.

IMG_3676This (above photo) is not to be confused with this:

IMG_2446IMG_2443IMG_2441Remember the story of my Irish friend Marie surprising us with a big Irish welcome? She was amused that I thought that a mince pie was a meat pie.

But I was off by only one letter! There’s “mince” pie and there’s “minced” pie.  Look at this Irish specialty:

IMG_3699IMG_3700This was very good – really rich, so you’d want to go easy on it and have only once in a while, but yes, it was yummy!

IMG_3701We thought both meat pies tasted pretty much the same, and I can’t remember which one was which. Both were good and I’ll probably make something like this from scratch next winter. It’s a comfort food meal that’s perfect for a chilly day.

IMG_3702There’s never a shortage of potatoes here! These are called “salad potatoes”. I mixed them with vegetables in my favorite cast iron skillet that I shipped from the United States. I know, I know… it’s expensive to do that. But those of you who cook with cast iron will understand. I had it perfectly seasoned and it’s an American made Lodge. Besides, it’s a good thing that I did this… Brent threw my smaller skillet into the trash at the airport because our suitcases were over the weight limit. I bring that up to him on occasion. :-/

IMG_3708A lot of people have an electric large capacity kettle, for making loads and loads of tea! I brought a very small kettle with me. I thought Marie was going to break out laughing when she saw the size of it. 🙂 And now we’re spoiled. We like the fast electric kettle that heats up enough water for all of us in a couple minutes.

IMG_3706Speaking of heating up water… this is our immersion shower. I hate it. I really, really, hate it. Most of my showers here have been frigid, either from start to finish, or after I’ve had a short while with some heat. I tell you, if there’s no hot water in that thing it’s like doing the Polar Plunge in reverse. I’ve learned that if I skip shaving my legs it’s no big hairy deal.

IMG_3707There’s a gadget in the attic to boost our cell phone signal. Way out here in rural and remote Ireland, we can’t get any cell phone signal unless we are standing right here in this hallway. And even then, the call could cut out without warning. Hello? Hello? Hello? That’s a lot of fun when on hold with a customer service call or when conducing an over-the-phone interview! :-O

IMG_3648I tried to explain to Marie what a “tater tot hot dish” (a Minnesotan thing) or “tater tot casserole” (other American states) is. She has never had a tater tot! She thought maybe it is the same thing as a “potato croquette”, which is a mashed potato that is shaped into pieces, breaded, and deep fried. Uh, no… but now I was intrigued!

IMG_3650IMG_3685These are much longer than tater tots.

IMG_3686Yep, that’s a stick of mashed potatoes… breaded, deep fried, frozen, then baked in my oven. Hmm… Well, those were weird. The texture was hard to get used to. These are definitely not tater tots. Marie, tater tots are crispy, greasy, and salty – like french fries (or “chips”).

IMG_3687The Irish may not know their tater tots, but they sure do know their banking technology. We held up many a line because we had our inferior lame-o swipe credit cards (that some had never seen before and had no machine to swipe them with!). We finally got new cards, but even now that we have the new ones that have a chip in them, our American cards apparently still respond a bit differently because there’s a moment of befuddlement and then a scramble to find a pen because, unlike the Irish, we have to sign a real slip of paper… and the cashier often doesn’t know which copy we keep. Speaking of pens…They sure don’t have many pens around here. No one seems to have one available when we have to sign something. Nope, all paperless here. The bank even gave me this gadget (in the photo above) to do online banking transactions that are made easier by inserting my debit card. Except that our Internet connection is crap (via satellite, very slow, very unstable, data capped—we always go over!–and expensive), so we can’t get it to work. The bank knows us. We’re the Yanks.

IMG_3679But hey, they seem to like our mustard. There are several products that are labeled “American Style”, like pancakes and BBQ sauce. Some name brand American foods are expensive to buy here. Old El Paso brand seems popular here, along with Kellogg’s and a few others. Some things the Americans just do better… like chocolate chips.

IMG_3674Oh dear, the size of the bag is a bit worrisome! Can I make chocolate chip cookies with this tiny amount of chips? Yes, they turned out fine. But I’m not one for using a whole bag of morsels for one batch – I routinely use only half of a regular sized bag. Those of you Americans (most of you!) who use the whole bag would definitely need to buy two of these to make a single batch of cookies.

IMG_3682Americans – what do you think these taste like? I was thinking Skittles or fruity Tic Tacs. No…

IMG_3683These are kind of like Wonka Nerds… I guess – Nerds that have somehow “gone off”. I thought these were horrible! I gave mine to Nicholas. A while later, Cassie gave hers to Nicholas. He ended up with at least three… I think Brent may have caved and given his up too.

IMG_3652We liked these. They remind me a little of a Caramello bar, except it has a cookie (“biscuit”) base like a Twix.

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IMG_3678The fish here is really good & fresh, even when buying frozen from the grocery store.

IMG_3681Speaking of fresh… they sell a LOT of eggs here… a LOT. They are everywhere–even outside of stores in sort of a vending machine! They don’t refrigerate the eggs, but we pop them in the fridge as soon as we get home because we are Americans and can’t bear to see eggs at room temperature (especially Brent who got salmonella from under-cooked eggs while in the Army). The eggs are brown (haven’t seen any white eggs so far) and are delicious. I’ve made eggs for meals much more often since moving to Ireland. Great source of protein, inexpensive, and keeps the five of us fed!

We also love the Irish sausages, although they are quite rich compared to the American version. The “Full Irish” is a huge breakfast platter, and I do mean HUGE. It can be shared by two or more people. Ours had eggs, toast, sausage (delicious and very different from American or German sausage), rashers (like bacon, but unfortunately not the same at all), blood pudding (breaded and fried with seasonings), potato cake (like a McDonald’s hashbrown), and… I want to say something else… maybe ham? I think there were baked beans and fried mushrooms too. I tell you, there was a LOT of food on that platter! Brent and I had been doing errands and wanted to try the Full Irish. We had no idea that it would be such a feast! Had we known, we would have picked one up for the whole family.

IMG_3680Well, they can’t do cheese like Wisconsin, but they have good cheese. They have even better BUTTER…. Remember me mentioning Kerrygold?

IMG_2470IMG_3677Here’s another thing the Irish do better than us Americans – they offer huge quantities of vegetables at low prices! Look at the size of that bag compared to my hand. Fresh vegetables are less expensive too. The local Aldi (I know, German owned, but they carry a lot of Irish locally grown/produced food) has a special section called Super 6 for “fruit and veg” deals. This week we picked up a large container of fresh mushrooms for only 39 cents!

IMG_3659Oh but here’s where we long for an American product! See that dryer on the left? It is the bane of my existence! In fact the “!£#! chime is going off right now.

IMG_3660See the open door on the bottom? That plastic jug/tray has to be emptied… often.

IMG_3662IMG_3664IMG_3665IMG_3661It takes hours to dry the clothes, sometimes ALL DAY. Now I know why hanging clothes on a line is so popular here.

IMG_3709Jelly Babies are a British invention, not Irish, but Ireland is a great place for finding specialty items from all over Europe. We get our pasta from Italy (MMM!) and Kinder Eggs from Germany (fun!).

Jelly Babies were featured in Doctor Who. Our son Nicholas is a Doctor Who fan who built a TARDIS console with his father and played guitar at the Minneapolis Doctor Who convention. So, when I saw Jelly Babies, I just HAD to get them!

IMG_3711But… these are absolutely REVOLTING, lol! I can barely stand to touch them, let alone eat them. They have a slippery coating of powdery sugar over a solid gummy exterior that holds a gooey gummy interior. The red ones taste good, but it’s hard to get past the bizarre texture. It’s the slippery powder that gets me.

IMG_3712There’s the red one. It’s tolerable because the flavor is good and it’s sort of like a jelly bean. But… the other flavors aren’t as easy to handle. If you get one that you don’t like, getting past the slippery powder is like eating a slug… or something. It’s in a class of its own, the Jelly Baby. :::shiver:::

It’s been great fun trying all of these foods, products, and candies!

Along with eating new foods, we’ve had to learn the local language. When I first met Marie, she said, “Shall I put the kettle on?” I couldn’t understand her Irish accent at all. I stared at her, blinking. She said it three or four times. Only when she picked up the kettle did I finally get it. To my ears it sounded like this: “ShallIputthe (<–so fast that it sounded like gibberish) keh-hill un”.

Since then, we’ve adapted and can usually understand even the thickest of Cork accents. We’ve also picked up on things that people say all the time, and what they probably really mean.

“Thanks a million!” – What they often really mean is, “I’m done with you, please go.” 🙂

“sorted” – Anything taken care of is sorted. Need paperwork? “Get that sorted.” Done with shopping? “That’s Christmas sorted.”

“No bother.” – Something people say even when what they’re doing is just an expected part of their job. I get the impression that they don’t like to be bothered, so they’re really saying the opposite when they say “No bother”.

A “cowboy” job/company/etc. – Shoddy work, shady

“Yanks” – Americans from anywhere in the United States, even if you’ve never stepped foot in NY or the East Coast.

“Brilliant” – Used to describe something or someone that is impressive, but not reserved for only the best… even only mildly interesting or entertaining things/people can be brilliant. Adequate customer service replies might be “brilliant”, bland and expected responses to standard questions might be “brilliant”, getting one’s own way is especially “brilliant”. So, when people have called me, or something I said, “brilliant”, it probably wasn’t as good as I thought it was. I may have been marginally interesting. :-/

Well, I’ve found the Irish to be more than brilliant, as they are certainly an interesting lot (“lot” = group of people).  We almost speak the same language, but not quite. I look Irish, so no one knows that I’m an American until I open my mouth. And then the grins appear, especially if I don’t say “Thanks a million”, but instead, in my typically American accent say, “Thanks a lot”. I don’t know why, but I’ve nearly cracked the Irish up by saying this.

So, thanks a lot for reading my blog, and thanks a million. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

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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. 🙂

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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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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. 🙂

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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One Fine Day in Cork

One fine day in Cork, Ireland…

We went to the (free!) art museum Crawford Art Gallery Cork on March 15, 2016. I also took pictures of parts of the downtown area.

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100_3347Outside of the art museum (above photo)

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In photo below – a man playing the violin outside the gallery… wonderful talent!

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This next series of photos were taken inside the museum

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The photo below is my personal favorite. I love how we share a common bond with humans from the past. Love transcends time, place, and culture – we love our babies, our families.

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Savannah admiring the stained glass art

100_3356Brent and Cassie enjoying an exhibit

100_3358This painting appeals to me… Love and joy leaps off the canvas. The filtered sunlight as the seasons change and the children grow, the way that the mother looks on – her childhood long past, now feeling bittersweet about the passage of time. The children are so much work and worry, but she doesn’t want them to grow up. There is light and there are shadows in this piece, but you can almost hear the happy voices and laughter of the children… and that’s what makes this moment beautiful.

100_3359This is just cool… looks capable of time travel

100_3360There was a set of ornate gates at the exit/entrance of the gallery

100_3361And there was a small garden area (photos below)

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100_3371Savannah, Brent and Nicholas in the garden area at the Crawford Art Gallery Cork, Ireland

100_3372I think Brent is sending his Minnesota friend Paul a photo via his phone. Nicholas is enjoying himself. He loves downtown Cork!

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Nicholas headed the wrong way. He has sadly inherited my sense of direction. 🙁 Savannah, on the other hand, can find her way around anywhere.

100_3388Nicholas in downtown Cork, Ireland on a beautiful sunny day!

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One of the main Irish newspapers – The Irish Examiner

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100_3398100_3399Headed back home – we live out past Blarney. We take the N20 all the way to Grenagh. This has been an exciting adventure, our new life in Ireland! Not sure what the future holds. Stay with me — one thing I know for sure, it won’t be boring!

 

 

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St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland

St. Patrick’s Day Grand Parade in Cork, Ireland – This was an absolute ball! We thoroughly enjoyed it even though it was quite chilly. I have many photos to share!

NOTE: Click on the photos if you want to see them full sized – The dancers/floats/etc. are AMAZING! You’ll want to get a better look!

Enjoying St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016Ready for the parade! My husband Brent, daughter Cassie (looking over Brent’s shoulder), me in the shamrock hat, daughter Savannah — son Nicholas took this picture for us.

Here are the many photos I took — scroll down to see a fabulous parade in Cork, Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day 2016!

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (1)Ooh, the anticipation builds as the crowd gathers for the parade!

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (2)It was fun to see all of the face paint, hats, headbands, flags, and green

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St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (4) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (12) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (11) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (10) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (9) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (8) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (7) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (6) The parade was just getting started at this point… when there was a long lull… and a plane flew overhead (advertising)

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Here’s Cassie enjoying the parade

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The next group of photos is of police officers from the U.S.  – People applauded them as they went by.

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The next batch is of the Irish Redhead Convention 🙂

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (70)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (71)

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (72)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (73)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (74)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (75)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (76)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (77)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (78)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (79)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (80)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (81)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (82)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (83)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (84)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (85)

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (86)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (87)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (88)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (89)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (90)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (91)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (92)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (93)It was fun to see the kids recognize their classmates in the school groups who danced, twirled, etc. in the parade. This little girl has many friends. 🙂

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (94)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (95)This was a crazy thing operated by a team of guys pulling levers

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (96)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (97)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (98)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (99)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (100)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (101)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (102)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (103)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (104)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (105)

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (106)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (107)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (108)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (109)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (110)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (111)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (112)

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (113)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (114)This was really cool! I’ve never seen anything like this.

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (115) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (117) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (116)

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (118)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (119)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (120)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (121) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (124) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (123) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (122)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (125)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (126)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (127)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (128)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (129)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (130)

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (131)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (132)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (133)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (134)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (135)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (136)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (137)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (138)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (139)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (140)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (141)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (142)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (143)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (144) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (145)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (146)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (147) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (150) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (149) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (148)

 

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (151)

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (152)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (153)The man above, carrying the blue bag, gave these little books out to the crowd (and to me!)

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (156)They were reciting the prayers from the book as they walked (the Saint Patrick group)

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (155)

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (154)

Aren’t these amazing human-operated floats (in the photos below)? So cool!

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (157) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (158)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (159) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (160)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (161)  St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (162)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (163)We loved the Grand Parade in Cork!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Ireland!