Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day

I know that what I am about to write has been written many times before, but I believe it cannot be said enough times.
Memorial Day for much of the nation involves a 3 day weekend, picnics, family time, fireworks, horse shoe throwing in sand pits and a few cold beers.
But for the two young men in my life it can be a very different kind of Memorial weekend. Both of them served in the United States Marine Corps and both did a number of tours in Iraq.  They knew each other in high school and joined the service within a year of each other.  One is my son by birth and the other became a son when he married my youngest daughter.
Both went to war.
Neither came home the same man.


Every day of every year since they served and came home is a type of memorial day for them.  Their memories revolve around special days and special friends.  Friends that may have come home and those they left behind.
Playing in the sand can trigger unwanted memories and the sound of fireworks can cause unwanted anxiety that sends them scrambling for cover.

Memory is a different animal for them.  Traumatic brain injuries for both of them can have them struggling to hold onto important information.  It can have their short circuited brains scrambling for the simple thought processes we take for granted.  

But they both came home. 

And they both started living life again.

I am proud of both of these sons.  I have walked the journey from the start to the present with Isaiah and consciously lend my support to Tony.  They both have my love and my appreciation. 

So this Memorial Day take a moment and thank a veteran.  Say a prayer for the families who lost a family member.  And say a prayer for those that came home. 
Their battle continues.

Opportunities taken

The anniversary trip to Ireland was months in the planning.  We bought books to help us navigate the journey and every Sunday we watched YouTube videos that others had posted to better educate ourselves on the lay of the land.  We had maps....
            post-its in all the books highlighting the important roads to take and places to see. 

                                            And we did it all.  Everything we set out to do.

                                                         But we saw things unexpected. 

              We came across breathtaking views whose beauty cannot be seen in photographs


                                                  We met people from all over the world.

                                                              And we found each other.

                                 Before we left my husband posted the following on Facebook.
Tonight I get to run away with the girl I fell in love with 35 years ago.  She captured my heart the first time I met her.......We will celebrate the anniversary of our thirty fifth year of marriage in Ireland,
          enjoying each other and remembering who we are and not what life has tried to make us. 

                                                          I believe we did just that. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sights and sounds of Galway

The coast hugs Galway like a wool shawl, hoping to keep her wrapped in warmth.  The gray and rainy skies have given way to a welcome sun.
Languages float on the air in the clipped staccato of German and Gaelic and the flowing song of Irish and French.  Snatches of conversation born on the wings of laughter, reflect the relief felt from the ebbing bleak and cold day.
The rays glint gold through the mug of beer and the wine glimmers in the glass. It's Spanish beginnings harken to the arch around the corner that once carried the cherished elixir from far away lands.
Up the quay is Salthill.  A place where the locals share stories of liners, queued in the bay, that brought visitors who smiled when the lilt of the greeters would welcome them to the Green Isle.  A shared story of snowballs, that were once crafted, were thrown.  But the air has warmed and it is no longer cold enough for such play.
Patients husbands watch wives who seek to capture the charm of the cobbled streets that are dotted with shops and hostels.
The land of a thousand welcomes opens her arms and gives the gift of history and lineage, while clothed in its modern garb.  It's past has a tenuous grasp on the ground that once felt the footsteps of Vikings.  A reluctance to embrace the future keeps the ghosts firmly entrenched and their hold on this city will not be easily loosed.  If the veil between the two worlds could be rent, the mistakes of the past could be understood and less likely to be repeated.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Dublin, and the art of being a tourist

I missed posting yesterday, but hope to catch up tomorrow.  We slept in and missed a good part of the day, but catching up on sleep was essential.
We made up for it today in spades.  We hopped on the 130 Bus from Clontarf into City Centre early enough that we beat the opening of the shops.  After grabbing a coffee at Insomnia, the equivalent to Starbucks, we got on the Hop On/Hop Off bus tour that we have used for the past 3 days.  What an efficient way to get around to the important sites.
We headed to Grafton Street for some quick shopping then over to Christ Church.  What a beautiful church, surrounded by gorgeous landscaping.  After lighting candles and praying for our family back home, we cruised over to St. Patrick's Cathedral.  Also a lovely church, but a bit more commercialized.  Christ Church retained some its reverence by not putting up a gift shop as the first stop into the building.  Their gift shop was down the stairs and accompanied by a quaint cafe and surrounded by crypts.  A quiet place, to be sure, and had a distinct church feel.  St. Patrick's was covered in tourists and tour groups who seemed to have forgotten that some folks might actually be in prayer.  We snuck off to a quiet alcove, lit another candle, said another prayer ...because it certainly wouldn't hurt!
The bus tour guide said it best when he was heading up to the stop for Christ Church.  "The next 3 stops will be the religious places most frequented here in Dublin.  Christ Church, St. Patrick's Cathedral and The Guinness Brewery.  So with candles lit and prayers said.....we were off to The Guiness Brewery.
Because I must live a gluten free life, I knew this was going to be John's party.  We learned how they make the beer and that the starter yeast in every batch can be dated back to Arthur Guiness' original starter.  John learned how to pour the perfect pint and we visited the Gravity Bar where you get to see the whole 360 degrees of Dublin in the glass enclosed bar high atop the brewery.
Next stop on our list was The Old Jameson Distillery.  This is a whiskey that is a favorite of mine!  The concierge at our hotel, Clontarf Castle, called ahead for us and got reservations for the tour and a premium whiskey tasting for just John and I.  After learning about the process of how to make whiskey, we were taken to a private bar where the four top of the line Jameson whiskeys were set up for our tasting pleasure.  We were taught to hold the whiskey in our mouth a second for each year it had aged.  This allows the tongue to absorb the alcohol and allowing just the many flavors and notes of the whiskey to be appreciated.
Catching the 130 bus back to Clontarf Castle we were pleasantly exhausted.  Our time in Dublin ends tomorrow and we begin the drive to County Cork.  I can't say that I am altogether pleased with the fact that we will be driving ourselves, but I am with my sweet man for this adventure so the journey won't be alone!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Day 1 Dublin

I wish that I had a picture of St. Stephens Green to post, or perhaps our visit to the oldest pub in Dublin...The Brazen Head.  But, the wind was 20 mph and the rain was sideways.  I feared to take me beloved camera out of it s safe haven.  Hell, I feared taking out  the iPad.  Did I take pictures?  I did! But you wouldn't know where we were.  It could have been any pub.  But it wasn't.  It was Dublin.  The gateway to our experience.  We checked in early to our hotel / Castle.  Clontarf Castle.  And after unpacking and grabbing a quick 2 hour nap we caught the 130 bus to the center of town.  Unsure of our ways, we walked to our bus stop.  We caught our bus and ventured into Dublin. The wind was fierce.  More than we expected.  Our clothes were thin.  Our spirit was unsure. But our direction was forward.  We walked over cobblestone streets and found a pub called The Church to have our lunch.  This place is a beautiful old church, with the old pipe organ still in tact, and tables in alcoves for intimate conversations.  My surprise was having a gluten free menu incorporated within the regular menu.  I ordered a BLT on GF ciabatta bread.  So delicious.  Although the bacon was a slab of tasty ham.  Not quite like home.
A friend suggested that I write about this trip using my senses....sight, sound, touch, smell,taste. Find the strongest for the place I am in and use that as a prompt.  Well today was sight. Watching the ripples in puddles along the road and along the Liffy confirmed the strength of the wind.  Watching umbrellas turned inside out over and over and seeing so many of them discarded by trash cans along the road.  The close runner up to the sensory experience was sound.  Here in Ireland we heard the lilting cadence of speech from our taxi driver and waitresses, but all around us were the languages of many nations.  Dublin is very much an international culture.  Not just visitors like ourselves, but shop keepers, bus drivers and such.
I am sure that day 2 will hold a different array of gifts for the senses.  But sleep tugs at me for now and I am going to try and catch up after forty hours of going.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Just a few more hours.....well more like 12, but who's counting?

The bags are packed.  The fridge is cleaned out.  The house is clean.  And when this 12 hour workday finishes .... Champagne will be placed in my hand and the vacation will be officially started.

Taking 3 weeks off seems decadent no matter how much it is needed.  But for my sanity, I will embrace it. I will try to throw off the daily routine that binds and replace it with carefree and spontaneous!  Who am I kidding?  At 55, planning is more the route I take.  Spontaneous screams lack of forethought, childishness, and potential danger.  I mean, I could leave behind an important article of clothing if spontaneity rules.  And no one in Ireland wants to see me without a bra!

So at the end of this LONG workday, I will raise my glass and toast the marriage of planning and spontaneity....can't wait to see how that will work out.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


In just one week my sweet man and I will be getting on a plane and headed for Ireland!  He is our trip planner and he usually plans it around our anniversary.  Although he has been known to schedule a few quick getaways for the sake of sanity.

Years ago when our 4 children were young and I was in the throes (-noun.  any violent struggle) of raising the little darlings, when our anniversary rolled around I took on the task of planning the celebration.  Knowing we had to get away to celebrate the very reason for the existence of these children, I began trying to schedule a weekend excursion.  But I wasn't sure what kind of money we had available so I wasn't sure how big or small the merriment could be  - I hated the finances - still do.  I also had to find someone to watch either all the children or I had to find 4 different families where I could farm them out.  Between the planning and the children I was overwhelmed.  I told my sweet husband that if he wanted a get away weekend with the bride of his youth, he was going to have to plan it from now on.  And plan he did!

In that time he has taken this task very seriously.  He loves to surprise me and gives me just enough time to plan the trip and research. On our 28th anniversary he planned a trip that had us flying into San Francisco and driving the Pacific Coast Highway to San Diego.  He arranged the drive so that I was the one closest to the coast. With the window open for days and me leaning towards the shoreline I found myself with one tan arm and one side of my face the color of a hazelnut.

He arranged for us to go to Cancun, the Dominican Republic, Scotland, Italy, a cruise to the Bahamas,  B & B's in the Shenandoah or just a local hotel where we could just be us!  He has always kept our relationship a top priority and has protected it against the subtleties of life that could effectively erode the foundation we stand upon.

To say I am excited to experience Ireland with him would be like saying I was excited about having a million dollar lottery ticket! I am Excited, Emotionally Charged, Curious, Thrilled, Enthusiastic.....well, you get the point! 

Time away. 

With John. 

Heaven on Earth.