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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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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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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!

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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

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (3)

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)

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (13)

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (14)

Here’s Cassie enjoying the parade

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (15)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (16)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (17)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (18)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (19)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (20)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (21)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (22)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (23)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (24)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (25)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (26)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (27)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (28)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (29)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (30)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (31)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (32)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (33)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (34)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (35)Ah, there’s my handsome husband!

St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (36)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (37)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (38)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (39)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (40)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (41)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (42)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (43)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (44)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (45)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (46)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (47)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (48)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (49)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (50)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (51)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (52)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (53)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (54)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (55)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (56) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (58)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (57) St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (59)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (60)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (61)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (62)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (63)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (64)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (65)St Patricks Day Grand Parade Cork Ireland 2016 (66)

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 🙂

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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)

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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.

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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)

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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!

 

 

 

 

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Comfort Zone

Brent’s teaching journey will take several months to play out, and until it does, what can we do to prove that we have a purpose in Ireland? More specifically, what is my purpose for being in Ireland? It isn’t good enough for me to simply want to live here. I need to have a reason. Otherwise, my odds don’t look good for getting permission to stay here after our three month stamp runs out. It’s time to break out of my comfort zone and promote myself with everything I’ve got!

It’s interesting how “carrot and stick” motivation works for me. I’ve managed to get pretty far with the carrot (imagining success and working toward it), but it’s funny how much harder I’ll push myself if my back is against the wall and I’m desperate to avoid getting struck by a big, big stick–a stick with barbs on it. I wish I could have been this ambitious when I wasn’t running out of time and descending into chaos, but, hey, the stick is effective. My 2016-2017 calendar is already filling up! Ireland has to keep me now, right?

Here I am before meeting Caoimhe at Friars’ Gate Theatre in Co. Limerick (thank you for the contact, Marie O’Halloran!).

Natalie Buske Thomas before meeting in Co Limerick Feb 2016I’m happy to announce that I’m now scheduled for my own show at Friars’ Gate – a month long exhibit of my art in February 2017!

Friars Gate Theatre Brochure

But wait, there’s more! Library events are in the works, I have complimentary tickets to the London Book Fair, and… I’m just getting started! I won’t make the cut for all of the things I’ve put in for, but I’m confident I’ll have a few more wins that I’ll be able to announce soon. Some of these opportunities are located in beautiful coastal areas and I’d love the excuse to go!

To add to all of this, I might be starting up a book festival in the upcoming year. I’m good at starting new programs and events, and I’d love to help. The book festival idea came about during a conversation with Marie when we were sitting at the car dealership, eating biscuits (cookies) and drinking coffee (temporarily breaking my ban on coffee).

Well, one thing led to another and Marie invited three of her friends, all named Mary, to our house for a party… where I blind-sided them with my stack of flyers, my hyper-organization, and my rabid enthusiasm. If I haven’t scared them off, the book festival will go forward and I’ll have another event to add to my calendar!

I might have won them over with the absurd amount of food I made (six platters of three different kinds of baked fold-overs: BBQ beef, cheeseburger, and pizza — homemade) and my magical from-scratch chocolate cake.  Hopefully the food distracted them from the committee planning chart that cast a glaring light on how much work it is to host a festival. We shall see!

Here’s the cake I made for the book festival planning party:
Book Festival Cake

But… As exciting as these live in-person events are, I won’t get far if I don’t create new projects, if I don’t market my work, and if I don’t keep up with the administrative part of being an artist/author entrepreneur. So, I’m plugging away with all of that as well.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • I’m working on my first Irish landscape called “Tree on Rock Hill”. This is what the oil painting looks like so far.

Natalie Buske Thomas art studio

Natalie Buske Thomas oil painting in progress Tree on Rock Hill

  • I finished the first chapter of Mol, the next book in the Serena Wilcox Mysteries spin-off saga (sequel to Fender). Little Free Library Tour Natalie Buske Thomas River Falls
  • I’m planning to start on Dramatic Mom 2 for March. I look forward to putting that together. Writing the silly poems is a fun break from the intense work I usually do.
  • I wrote the story for a new picture book featuring my oil paintings. The book is called Fred: The Real Life Adventures of a Little Girl with a Big Imagination, about my childhood. For the Fred project I’ll need to complete 19 separate paintings. This feels a bit overachieving, but I know I can do it. I plan to start the first painting for the Fred book project next week.

I tell you, my brain keeps me awake at night. The money will follow as long as I take one project at a time, one day at a time. When things happen slowly, I need to practice the art of patience, persistence, and tenacity. I need to dig in my heels. I need to be stubborn. I need to keep going, no matter what. Most of all, I need to fight! How bad do I want this? The future is mine, if I want it. No excuses!

If I put my whole heart out there, good things will happen. I’ve slowly come to the realization that stepping outside of my comfort zone isn’t enough. A life of quiet confidence, stepping out on faith, and believing that the right people will appreciate me, is my new normal. Promoting myself IS my comfort zone. Because if I’m not comfortable sharing my time, talent, and heart with people, what is my purpose for being here?

I should be UNcomfortable with playing it safe and keeping my thoughts close to the vest. I should be UNcomfortable with underachieving and allowing myself to be snubbed, overlooked or forgotten. The time for a new comfort zone is long overdue. From now on, I am comfortable being fearless, I am comfortable being bold. My new comfort zone is UNstoppable!

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My Blarney Valentine

We’re giving our new life everything we’ve got, so that means skipping holidays that don’t really matter, like Valentine’s Day and an “off year” wedding anniversary (our 28th on February 20th). But we’re in Ireland, and we can get out and see plenty of things for free, right?

Yes and no… it turns out that it’s no longer free to visit the grounds by the Blarney Castle. There’s always been a charge to go inside the castle and kiss the Blarney Stone, etc., but it used to be free to view the outside of it. I planned to take pictures of the castle. I didn’t want to go inside it anyway, as it is very tight in there and I hate closed in spaces. Anyway, bummer, the castle grounds cost the same fee as the inside-castle ticket price. It would have cost us more than $60 for our family to see the castle. No thanks… We saw a bit of it through the fence. So now what?

On to Blarney Woollen Mills, another tourist attraction. The Woollen Mills is free to enter, but very expensive to shop in so I didn’t expect to buy anything. It was fun to see all of the creations though. The clothing was beautiful! (you can shop online, or browse the Irish gifts and/or clothes)

It was a pretty area, downtown Blarney. And I found something I really, really wanted in the Woollen Mills lobby for only 5 Euro! It was something that Brent had given me for Christmas a couple years ago. He found it in an Irish store in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and had to pay much more for it in the States.

I was thrilled to find it and I basically said it’s mine, buy it for me. He called it a Valentine’s Day present. I said, “No it doesn’t count since I called it for myself.” And then I counted it for an anniversary present. See, I’m fair that way. 🙂

Scroll through our Blarney pictures to find out what this mystery present is. Can you guess?

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I took the photo below for you, Aunt Ann! 🙂 Here’s to the Murphy ancestors! I don’t know how I can ever find them though… with a name like Patrick Murphy! That’s probably the most common Irish name, ever.

IMG_2784 IMG_2785Ooh, aren’t these Irish sweaters pretty? (photo below) No, I didn’t get one of those…

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OK, this is it… THIS, I want THIS! (photo below)

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Happy Anniversary to me! Or Happy Valentine’s Day… whichever gets me the truffles! I like chocolate, I like whiskey. It’s a no brainer really. (These are already gone, by the way)

Nicholas took this picture of Brent and I (photo below). We’re squinting because it was a GLORIOUSLY sunny day. The sun is reflecting off my box of chocolates, creating a magical glow, which is how my eyes saw them even without the sun shining on them!

Natalie Buske Thomas with husband Brent Thomas 28th wedding anniversay in Ireland Feb 2016

IMG_2791 IMG_2792 IMG_2794 IMG_2795 IMG_2797 IMG_2798 Savannah bought a postcard to send to her friend Lucy. Yes, those are medical symbols on her tights. Savannah wants to be a nurse, specifically a midwife. At least that’s the plan at age fourteen… however she’s been saying this since she was twelve so it might be for keeps.

Ah, what a beautiful day in Blarney, Ireland! There was sunshine, flowers, and my family having fun. So we had to skip the castle, no biggie. We had a great time anyway. And wow, what a difference a year makes. This was where we stood last year: Valentine’s Day and Anniversary. Besides, someone got Irish Whiskey truffles. What could be better?

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Why We are Here

We are here for many reasons, but I think you’ll agree that this is a very good one, perhaps the best one. We were seeking a miracle. Let me explain.

Ireland is a beautiful country. The people are warm and friendly. But there’s something else about Ireland that is important to why we are here: Ireland is wet. It rains every day. Sometimes the rain is just a “mist”, but it’ll do. We need this miracle of rain.

Our youngest child, Savannah, has an incurable skin condition that makes her hands look like she’s been in a fire. Prescription creams didn’t work, and no one could help her (we’d been to several doctors and I’d done my own research as well). She suffers from dry, itchy, rashes that bleed.

She’d developed the habit of wearing gloves or keeping her hands in her pockets when we go out. She wore long sleeve shirts even in the summer, insisting that she wasn’t hot (she had to have been!). We worried that people would think that she had a contagious rash – she did not. Eczema is not contagious! More info about severe eczema here: https://nationaleczema.org/living-with-eczema/ But you know, the fear of disease keeps people from being kind or rational sometimes, so I was very protective of my little girl.

I’d heard that moving to Ireland has really helped people who have issues with dry air, which is a big trigger for her severe eczema. We experimented with removing well-known allergens from our house and diet. Laundry and bath soaps were hypoallergenic, dye-free, fragrance free, etc. We couldn’t have any pets. We stopped eating pasta. We tried new moisturizers and creams. While her condition may have improved slightly, nothing cleared it up completely.

To be clear: <<Most types of eczema are not allergies. However, many people with eczema have flare-ups when they are exposed to allergens.>> So, eliminating allergens can help, but it cannot cure eczema, nor are allergens the cause of it. Eczema is a disease and, if it is a severe form, it can cause a lot of distress. It can be a chronic, daily, nightmare.

Here in Ireland, for the first time in about five years, Savannah’s hands and arms are clear! She has NO rashes on the tops of her hands!  Now she looks like a perfectly normal 14 year old! And this transformation happened *IMMEDIATELY* after we landed! The next day, Savannah showed us how improved her hands were. By the end of the first week, her rashes were gone! She has had no flare-ups since. And… she’s proud to show off her hands in public. She has joined a knitting circle! More about that later.

Eczema is connected to other health issues, such as asthma. Allergies and asthma are in the same family. More info here: http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/treatment-11/eczema-allergies-link While eczema is not life threatening, asthma IS.

I have asthma, as do Cassie and Nicholas. Both had a mild form of eczema as babies. Neither have severe asthma. But I worry about Savannah. Because her eczema is a severe form and she has a parent who suffers from hay fever (Brent) and one with asthma (me), she is at a high risk for developing asthma. If we could find a way to control her eczema, isn’t it possible that we’ll also minimize her risk of developing asthma?

Well, guess what? NONE of us have had an asthma attack here in Ireland. We’ve been here for almost two months now and we’ve been exposed to the biggest triggers: cats and, to a lesser extent, dogs. Cats are definitely a BIG trigger for me and Cassie. I’ve had an attack just from being around someone who had cat hair on her sweater! And yet we spent all afternoon at someone’s house with a cat on the premises. Not just one cat, but TWO! And… there was a long haired dog as well. Eventually, Cassie ended up sneezing, but there was no danger of an asthma attack. This is probably the first time in my life that I’ve been in the presence of a cat without having an attack. Wow, if the Irish weather can do that for my asthma, there’s hope for Savannah!

She may never develop asthma, but if she does, may it be a mild form that is easy to control. One of my dear friends lost her son to asthma. It’s a serious disease.  If there’s anything we can do to help Savannah with her long-term health, we’ll do it. We’ll even move to Ireland, where I hope and pray they’ll let us stay.

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Mallow and Grenagh

This is downtown Mallow, Ireland, a good sized town (or small city). It is located in Co. Cork.  I took these pictures in January and early February. This is the bank where I opened an Irish bank account after jumping through a few hoops. We’ve seen a lot of this building over the past couple of months. IMG_2560 IMG_25593Directly across from the bank are familiar golden arches (photo below). Yes, of course we had to try the Irish McDonald’s. It was quite good! It reminded me of McDonald’s in the 1980’s before the burgers became smaller and of questionable flavor/texture.  There are a few differences in the menu. For the holiday season they offered mince pie. But mostly, the Irish McDonald’s is the same fast food chain as the United States version. So, if we ever miss home too much, we can always go to McDonald’s and it’ll feel like we’ve never left… sort of. We’ll still have to pay in Euro and it’s a good thing that we’ve learned how to navigate the Irish accent. 🙂IMG_2558

Other shots of downtown Mallow:IMG_2557 IMG_2556My son Nicholas in the photo below, in downtown Mallow. He loves thrift shops and finds one in every town.

IMG_2756 IMG_2755 IMG_2754This church in Mallow is gorgeous (photo below). We walk by it every time we go to the bank.

IMG_2753 IMG_27524 5There are gates in front of the church. I wish I’d taken another photograph that shows the fence and gate. I’m sure I looked like a tourist taking these pictures, but I just had to share a picture of this beautiful church! The courtyard is so pretty… I’ll have to look later this spring to see if there are flowers in there.

IMG_2751 IMG_2750 IMG_2749 IMG_2748 IMG_2747I need to get a better photograph of this statue (in the photo below)… but it’s tricky to get a shot of it because it’s in the middle of a busy street.

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The Market Square (photo below) is on top of a hill. I forgot to take pictures that really show it off…. maybe next time! We enjoy that area. It’s a contemporary cobble stone type space with flower beds. There’s a coffee shop, a Dunnes Store (large department store + grocery), and a parking garage (we park there because parking is free – the street parking is paid parking and hard to squeeze into). We walk through the large stone gate and down to the city blocks below to do our banking and other errands. This is good exercise, especially when it’s time to go back UP.IMG_2745 IMG_2744 IMG_2743Here are some photos outside the village of Grenagh, in a rural area near our house:IMG_2543 IMG_2537 IMG_2536 IMG_2535 IMG_2534 IMG_2525 IMG_2524 IMG_2523IMG_2740 IMG_2739

My husband Brent in photo above… another rainbow in photo below. We see rainbows every week, double ones too!IMG_2738 IMG_2737 IMG_2736 IMG_2732 IMG_2730

Savannah likes to do rock art. She has an engraving pen that she uses to make designs on rocks. She was happy with some great finds on the boreen.IMG_2729 IMG_2728 IMG_2727 IMG_2726 IMG_2725 IMG_2723 IMG_2722 IMG_2721 IMG_2720 IMG_2719 IMG_2718
You never know when and where you’ll make friends here in Ireland. I was out taking pictures for oil painting inspiration and I ran into a couple of guys who are often working on the side of the road, clearing brush and cleaning up the area where one of them plans to build a house (currently there is an old shack on the land). They stopped me for a long chat. When Brent caught up to me, I turned the conversation over to them while I took the rest of my pictures. They were STILL talking about half an hour later!

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Brent and his new friends… The guy in the middle is Timmy. The other day Brent took Savannah out to find a newspaper (the reason why will come up in a future blog post). Timmy flagged Brent down to talk to him. Savannah timed their conversation to exactly 45 minutes. Good thing she thought that Timmy was hilarious. It made the wait to get home worth it. 🙂

2More pictures of the road near our house:

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I was trying to show you how tall these trees are.  To put this into scale, the weeds on the side of the road are almost as tall as I am.  This is the forest we live in. IMG_2680 IMG_2679 IMG_2678 IMG_2677 IMG_2676 IMG_2675 IMG_2674 IMG_2672 IMG_2671 IMG_2670 IMG_2669 IMG_2668

I was enchanted by flowers growing in the dead of winter!IMG_2667 IMG_2666 IMG_2665 IMG_2664 IMG_2663 IMG_2662 IMG_2661 IMG_2660 IMG_2659 IMG_2658 IMG_2657 IMG_2655