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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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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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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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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