Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I'm not exactly a typical female, something for which I am quite grateful. I've had glimpses into what I call the "feminine hive mind" and it frightens me. I hate feminism. I'm pro-life, pro-gun and anti-nanny state. Some of my preferred activities include World of Warcraft and playing Dungeons & Dragons (the offline, D20 version). To the quiet chagrin of my mother-in-law, but the appreciation of my husband, I refused to have the fuss of a 'real' wedding. I like pretty clothes and high heels but feel far more comfortable in jeans and sandals. This does not mean I'm masculine though - I routinely ask my husband to open jars or carry heavy things for me!

There is one area that reveals just how much of a feminine side I do have, though, and that is my taste in books and movies. I'm watching one of my favorite movies of all time - Rodgers & Hammerstein's The Sound of Music. I love everything about this movie - the story, the music, the cast, the scenery, the costumes. There's an innocence and a wholesome quality that is just about entirely lacking from any modern fare. It's beautiful. It's the kind of movie I break out if I'm feeling physically ill or in need of something soothing for my soul. I'm glad I have a daughter and I hope that, whatever type of personality she ends up with, she'll enjoy watching this with me.

Monday, December 21, 2009

They say confession is good for the soul. Well, I've just done something I'm not proud of. I knew it was bad and unhealthy and I did it anyway.

That's right. I ate frosting right out of the container.

What can I say? I'm weak when it comes to sweet tooth attacks.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I have no regrets.

Oh, I have concerns. Serious concerns about things like putting my oldest in public school next fall and the effects working a night shift is having on my husband and his relationship with me and the children. But given a choice between being single and living in Tennessee near my family or being here, in hated Florida with my husband and children, I would choose the latter without hesitation. This is what I wanted. Not the smaller, finer details perhaps, but the bigger picture.

As a teenager, my mother attended quite a few revivals and charismatic-oriented congregations and bible studies. The 'last days' seemed to be a subject on everyone's mind and I developed a morbid, obsessive belief that the apocalyptic events of Revelation were right around the corner and that the world (as I knew it) would be ending very soon. This made me angry. I knew, with my head, that the return of our Messiah is something I should look forward to with joy - but in truth, all I could think about was the fact that my life would be over without ever having really lived it. I felt gypped. I remember griping about this to God in mental conversations - feeling guilty because I just wanted a chance to live a normal life - to grow up, get married and have a family of my own.

Well, here I am. Grown up, married, with a precious family of my own. I'm so grateful that God let me experience this. It's a gift I don't deserve, and I still feel selfish that I want this time with them when I could be eagerly looking forward to the return of my Messiah. But there it is - the world can go on groaning under the weight of its sorrow while I fervently thank Father for my children and cherish the fact that our daughter has reached her first birthday in peace and safety. I know that nothing is certain. I do not know what the next years, or even the next days or hours, hold for me and for my family - but I do know that I've been given time I never expected to have. Despite the snarly, tangled disagreements I have with my husband, despite the depression I've been experiencing, despite the fear I have for the future...

I have no regrets.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Wee. I suppose I should just post a picture of a palmetto bug or a bull ant, the closest thing I have to a pet around here. I'd like to write but it seems like the only things I have to write about these days amounts to whining, and no one likes whining.

Monday, November 30, 2009

And people were actually surprised that Chicago lost its Olympic bid.

Monday, November 23, 2009

There are times when I have the free time to write but no ideas to provide inspiration. Then, there are times when I have so much that I could write about that my mind must resemble a trampoline full of children, all jumping madly, shoving and jostling and accidentally sinking their teeth into each others scalps. When this plethora of ideas occurs it usually corresponds with a time when I am unable to write (in the car), or have more important things (small people, actually) demanding my attention.

People reading my last post might have been left scratching their heads in confusion and thinking that I must be slightly insane. I can only apologize and explain that I have no idea why where I live affects me so strongly, just that it does. At one point my husband and I, together with our firstborn (less than a year old at the time) were sharing a home with a friend of his in a nice little corner of suburbia. After a period of time I began to feel as if my soul were being stifled or drowned. One day while driving I heard the song "Soul Meets Body" and I burst into tears. Now, some people would just chalk this up to being female and prone to things like mood swings and crying - but my family and others that know me would probably recognize just how odd an occurrence that is coming from me.

I have many theories as to the cause, ranging from the plausible to the fanciful: a variant form of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). A deficiency of vitamin D caused by spending almost six months hiding from the sun and the heat. A Traveler somewhere in my ancestry causing a dislike for regular society and feet that itch to wander.

The one I find to be more plausible - which would probably seem the most fanciful to some - is that to me, cities seem to have an almost palpable spiritual miasma that blights and withers and destroys. I cannot help but believe that people were not meant to live this way and that it adversely affects people to be living in such close proximity to each other and to be surrounded by ugliness, decay and filth instead of the beautiful handiwork of God. Cities are full of distractions, brimming with easily accessible entertainments and vices.

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."

It is a lot easier to ignore the invisible attributes of our Creator when we are busy looking at what man has created, instead.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I have returned! (She says, as the tumbleweeds blow past and a lone cricket chirps)

I spent just over ten days with my family members that live in Tennessee. I told my husband he was lucky I love him, or I wouldn't have come back! It was so depressing to return to Florida and to know that my twenty-year exile here is going to continue indefinitely. Have I mentioned that I hate Florida? Probably not, but I'll mention it now - I hate Florida. I really, really hate Florida. Sure, the beaches are beautiful, but I live in the center of the state and have not been to a beach in years. The heat and body-crushing humidity present for at least half the year manage to be outstripped by the soul-crushing, year-round power of the ugliness of most of the populated areas of the state, and at this point, the populated areas cover a significant portion of the state. There are areas here in which you could drive for two hours and the only way to tell you are not in the same city where you started are the signs declaring your passage through a chain of towns - towns that are built not for beauty but for commercial interest, where the ugliness reaches the level of a visual assault. I am 'lucky' enough to live in an area surrounded by low-population agricultural and commercial areas - a chain of pastures and phosphate mines. Here the scenery is not ugly, merely tediously tame. Most of Florida is quite flat and thus offers no intrigue, no mystery - there is no wondering what scene might unfold as you reach the crown of the hill, or what might lie beyond the next curve, because there are no hills.

Have I mentioned that I'm stuck here? (I sure am being a grumbly, grumpy, discontented whiner today) I am though - stuck like the rat in the trap. My husband has lived most of his life here and has, in the past, shown a great reluctance toward relocating elsewhere. I think he would do so if he found a good job elsewhere, or at least one in a field that interested him, but in today's economy finding any job, let alone one worth relocating for, is a dim possibility. The other, much stronger, chain holding us here are his parents. My mother has seven children and seven grandchildren (not including a handful of children and grandchildren related via marriage rather than blood). As her youngest child is only eight, it will be several years yet before her nest is likely to empty.

My husband, on the other hand, is his mother's only child and our children are her only grandchildren. When my husband responded to my comment about only coming back to Florida because I loved him, it was to say wryly that we would drive his parents into an early grave if we left. I wish this were only a joke, but I am uncomfortably aware that in his mother's case, this is probably quite true. His mother is the flower unlucky enough to have grown in a crack in the pavement, blossoming despite the careless tread of passersby and the withering glare of the sun. Should the little bit of soil nourishing her roots ever be depleted she would become a desiccated shell ready to crumble under the first accidental brush of a foot.

My mother, aware of my feelings of uncomfortable obligation toward my husband's mother, said that she would pray that my in-laws would desire to change locations and move away from Florida. For a moment, baseless hope struggled forth from its cocoon and began to slowly spread its wings in preparation for flight... only to be crushed underfoot later that day by careless remarks from my father-in-law, blissfully unaware of my hatred for Florida. He mentioned how one of his sisters has tried to convince him, for years, to return to New Hampshire but that he loves the Southern climate. This was discouraging, but not an insurmountable barrier, as Tennessee's climate is quite mild in comparison to New England. The real crushing blow was delivered later, when he mentioned that his wife needs to teach for another nine years in the county they reside in before she can retire with full benefits.

Nine years!?!

Nine years.

Hope died.

I've been wandering, parched and footsore, in this desert for twenty years and I fear that God will leave me here for another twenty. Not my will, but Thine, even though my stifled spirit grieves within me and physical tears threaten to spill past the boundaries of my eyelids. Oh Father! Have mercy on me and teach me to be content and joyful regardless of where I dwell. This burden is small and laughably light compared to the burdens that others are given to carry and I feel ashamed of the fact that it feels so heavy.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

For those few of you that visit regularly, or semi-regularly, and make my soap box less lonely - I'm going to be on vacation for a couple of weeks and unlikely to have much, if any, time on the internet.

I'm afraid I have no cat to post a picture of for the duration of my absence, so here's a selection of pictures I had on my computer (including one of someone else's cats!):

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Need a laugh? Wes had me laughing out loud with the following post about men wearing earrings. Enjoy!

Friday, October 30, 2009

I've noted some interesting things in association with a discussion I had over at Vox's, about the appropriateness of making crass and mean-spirited jokes in a public, printed format about someone's dead daughter (a girl that did nothing immoral to merit her brutal death).

1) It's acceptable for a man to critique Vox and to suggest that his behavior is other than what it should be. Heaven forbid a woman do so.

I do wonder what the response would have been had someone with a masculine handle been the one to say something. It was rather frustrating to see some of the responses I got and to see my intent and my words misconstrued (sometimes wildly) solely on the basis of the fact that they were written by a woman.

2) Feelings. Most people seemed to believe that I was trying to make people -feel- badly.

In fact, I had tried to be careful about using language that would suggest I wanted people to modify behavior based on what they felt. My last comment sums up my position fairly well.

Oh, I've laughed about the macabre, The Abe. As you said, that's human nature.

I've not been speaking of feelings, nor suggesting that anyone here needs to feel badly. I've been speaking of behavior. Just because we have the right to free speech, it does not follow that we should say, or more to the point, print, everything we think. Just because we can make jokes about someone's dead daughter being coyote poop (for an example) does not mean that we should - especially in print in a publicly accessible format.

I see nothing wrong with my belief that behavior should be constrained by respect for other people. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned that way.
Edit: I suppose it doesn't hurt to clarify that I believe as Christians, our default behavior when dealing with strangers, acquaintances, friends and family should be respectful. We should continue treating people with respect until they show, through word or action, that such respect is not merited. As Christians, we are also warned about the wickedness of the tongue and the need to keep it restrained.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I read the Darwin awards occasionally. They make me laugh. I thought it was pretty hysterical when that guy known for working with grizzlies was - surprise - killed by grizzlies. So a part of me responded to the black humor implicit in the headline "Teenage folk singer killed by coyotes" when reading a post about it over at Vox's.

But I take issue with certain things about his post, namely this:

And then of course, when one first reads the headline, it's hard to escape the fleeting thought that there could be an element of divine justice at work there.

As far as I can determine there was no reason why THIS death should have any element of divine justice at work. I simply cannot imagine God taking the time to send coyotes to tear apart a young folk singer when people like Al Gore, Roman Polanski and Susan Smith are still alive and kicking.

I was also seriously irritated by some of the people that commented. Some of them treated it as a great joke. Some of them self-righteously commented about how the girl should have known better than to go alone and unarmed into a wilderness park. (Yeah, because NONE OF THEM have ever done anything naive or stupidly dangerous.) Others used it as an opportunity to flex their manliness and declare that they weren't afeared of no coyote - they would just shoot it, stab it, or tear it apart with their bare hands.

A young woman gets torn apart by wild animals and it's a joke. Clearly, her unprepared naivety was a crime worthy of such a savage ending.

What the hell?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I've been musing again, on the subject of men, women and marriage. (What follows may seem somewhat rambling and disjointed, I'm just following the direction of my thoughts with what I'm writing.)

Marriage is meant to represent the union of Yeshua* and the Church. It's no surprise, then, that it has come under such heavy fire and that day by day we see the already vast gap growing between men and women. Both men and women are willing to lay the blame anywhere but on themselves. Both sides are full of bitterness and each accuses the other of being the problem.

My previous post was not meant to lay the blame at the feet of men while absolving women of their responsibility. I'm sorry that it was interpreted that way. Perhaps I can clarify the disorganized and often muddled thoughts behind my post.

What I see, in both Feminism and the Game, is a distorted view of the opposite sex. Feminism views men as chauvinist pigs, potential rapists, bumbling fools and adult-sized children. The Game paints women as whiny, weak, sluts, manipulative and childish. Feminists claim that this is what men naturally are and the Game claims that this is what women naturally are - and each uses this claim to justify the use of their system as 'necessary.'

Now, the men that visit here might say 'but that is what most women really are like!' to which I can only respond that is not how women are supposed to be. A system designed around responding to and manipulating women in their current, broken state is not going to help bring men and women back together, to make them partners exemplifying the relationship of Yeshua with the Church - the same way that Feminism could never 'fix' men via legislation.

Men and women have both been severely crippled in the last few decades, but the problem predates the rise of Feminism. There was an excellent article linked through Ladies Against Feminism at one point, showing how the family has been systematically torn down - first by removing men from the home before the advent of Feminism and afterward by removing women from the home, via Feminism. The result was to leave children exposed and vulnerable without the protective influence of their parents. (John Taylor Gatto's Underground History of American Education exposes some of the human actions that helped bring the family to its knees.)

Now, I don't want to mimic Eve here and lay the blame at Satan's doorstep. All of us are responsible for our participation in actions that run counter to God's will. The only solution is to once again fix our feet on the path of righteousness and keep our eyes on God. This does not include supporting systems or attitudes that will only cause the rift between men and women to widen. Feminism and the Game have something in common - both are about dominating the other sex through manipulation. The method of manipulation is different but the result is the same - destruction and decay.

Now, I'm mentally cycling through the men in the Bible, and there are a lot of examples of what I would call 'real men' there. Enoch, Noah, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah - but the common theme in the lives of these 'real men' is not how they dealt with women, but the fact that they all strove to follow God and to walk in His ways. In fact, it was when they took their eyes off God and started focusing on women that they got into trouble. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and the first son she bore him died because of it. Solomon took foreign wives and was drawn into the worship of false gods and the size of the kingdom his descendants inherited was vastly reduced.

Paul stated that it was better to marry than to burn with passion - but he also exhorted Christians not to be bound together with unbelievers. If a man cannot find a godly woman he's better off with no woman at all.

I guess what I've been trying to say is that I believe it is much better for a man to focus on being what God wants him to be, than in focusing on what a woman needs him to be. The latter is unlikely to happen without the former, and focusing on the former will make the latter simply an incidental result.

*I just like using Yeshua better than Jesus or Christ. Perhaps because Yeshua is not used as profanity.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The man said,
"This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man."

This post is on a subject that's been simmering in my head for a while now. I'm concerned about the reaction men are having to feminism and women. I've seen everything from disdain to bitterness to hatred or all of the above and then some.

Don't misunderstand me, feminism should be disdained. It's a terrible system. But for a man to blame women for the current woes of the world (and for the state of his love life) is to ignore men and their part in our current fiasco.

It's the story of Adam all over again. Eve falls to temptation, brings the forbidden fruit to Adam, who willingly partakes of that fruit but then refuses to take responsibility for his action and instead seeks to heap the blame on Eve.

Women rebelled against and usurped the authority of men because men abdicated their authority and abandoned their responsibilities. Men desired Delilah, pursued her and gave her the secret of their strength.

Men are now realizing what they have lost, but instead of examining their own hearts and owning up to their own failings, they instead pin the blame on women. Patriarchy, the game, PUA - none of these are answers for godly men that desire to live by Biblical principles. All they will do is to further widen the rift between men and women because none of them focus on the real problem. All of them point to women as the object of blame while ignoring the role of men.

I've seen plenty of articles written about women and the need to be submissive. Quoted with frequency are these words from Ephesians 5:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

But this is what directly follows:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.

By treating women as an enemy, someone to be manipulated and coerced, men are simply setting themselves up for failure. The man that treats his wife, or prospective wife, this way is warring against his own flesh. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

For the men that are interested in whether or not things like the Game are applicable to their own life, I would beg you: please compare what those men are saying to what is said in the scripture. I guarantee you that the Bible provides a much better model for how to treat women and on which to pattern your own relationships.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I can't say that Jamaica has ever been high on my list of places to visit, but I stumbled across this picture while doing a google image search and thought how nice it would be to have my own little cottage and tiny private beach!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I think the British singer Dido has a beautiful voice. Thus, I enjoy listening to her song White Flag for the vocals and the melody, but the lyrics greatly diminish that enjoyment. Here's a sample:

I know I left too much mess
And destruction to come back again
And I caused but nothing but trouble
I understand if you can't talk to me again
And if you live by the rules of "It's over"
Then I'm sure that that makes sense

Well I will go down with this ship
And I won't put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door

I'm in love and always will be

Translation: I selfishly ruined our relationship - and now I won't let you go!

Modern Western woman at her finest, no?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Infancy: the one time in your life when you can be covered in fat rolls, wearing diapers and drooling all over yourself and people think you're adorable!

Friday, October 02, 2009

I have no idea how to write this post without seeming like a big jerk.

I know, Athor Pel, that you were trying to be helpful and I really appreciate that you took the time to post resources for my attention. The only thing I had a quarrel with was that you chose to reiterate Vox's belief that "If you put your children in public school then you do not love your children. "

Please understand that no offense is meant to you, Athor Pel, when I say that Vox can take that belief and shove it where the sun don't shine.

The only being in the universe capable of perfect love is the great I AM.

The rest of us are imperfect and do not always choose our actions based on love. Sometimes fear is the motivating factor, sometimes pride, sometimes sloth or jealousy or anger.

I know that our children are the apple of my husband's eye. I have seen him mature greatly in the five years since our oldest son was born and I know that fatherhood was the catalyst for much of that change. I know that he loves them and (at this point) believes that he is doing what is best for them by intending to put them in public school.

I don't believe that it is an easy thing for any man to hear his wife disagree with him and I think that if they were honest, most men would admit that their first reaction is to defend themselves and desire to prove that they are right, not carefully consider the chance that they might be wrong.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Plato's Republic and the Amish

Forgive me for treading where many heels have already worn a rut in the ground. I've been almost exclusively a 'for fun' fiction reader until now, and this is the first time I've read any philosophical work, so for me the journey is new.

My initial impression of Socrates was not favorable. It seemed to me that had I known him, I would have been secretly hoping to see him slip on a banana peel. Having progressed a little farther, I came to the conclusion that he may have seemed arrogant simply because he was speaking with people whose intellects and morals he held little regard for.

Finally, he earned respect for this:

Yes, I said, now I understand: the question which you would have me consider is, not only how a State, but how a luxurious State is created; and possibly there is no harm in this, for in such a State we shall be more likely to see how justice and injustice originate. In my opinion the true and healthy constitution of the State is the one which I have described. But if you wish also to see a State at fever heat, I have no objection. (emphasis mine)

The State he described was small and simplistic, where citizens would work hard during the summer in order to have winters of modest ease and comfort; a place where everyone could easily obtain the necessities - food, clothing, shelter - but at the same time "they will take care that their families do not exceed their means; having an eye to poverty or war."

It surprised me to realize that the community Socrates describes greatly resembles the Amish. Is it just me, or does the simple wisdom of Socrates' original State get routinely overlooked, ignored by readers that have eyes only for the dazzle of the Republic that follows?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Woman implanted with wrong embryo gives birth

This story is sweet and sad at the same time. A woman undergoing fertility treatment was impregnated, only to find out ten days later that she had been implanted with the child of a stranger. What's so special about this story is the fact that the woman in question, Carolyn Savage, not only made the decision to carry the child to term, rather than getting an abortion, but also to turn the child over to its real parents upon giving birth. May God bless her for her kindness and it is my prayer that she and her husband will be given a child of their own.
Last night ended on an unpleasant note, as my husband was not terribly thrilled by the discussion I initiated on the subject of public schooling versus home schooling. Still, all things considered, we both kept a rein on our anger and things never became nasty, just heated. Although I feel sorrow over the possibility that I've said nothing that will change his mind, and that he'll continue to doggedly stick to his plan of public schooling, I still feel strengthened; less fearful and less angry.

Yesterday a storm swept through our area, thick dark clouds accompanied by heavy rain. Today it is beautiful outside. The sky is gloriously blue and the sun is shining brightly on our overgrown, weedy yard and the air smells fresh and clean in a way only a large storm can accomplish.

It is a beautiful day.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

If the state of our spirit could be captured in an image than this would have been me for the last couple of years. Dreary, frozen, waiting.

I'm happy to say, I think winter is over and spring is finally here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It would probably seem, based on my last posts, that I must be wallowing in a stew of ill feeling. This really has not been the case. I just pop on here and vent occasionally when the bad moods do strike.

For those of you that stop by here, family and friends, I have a request. Please ask Father to grant me wisdom, and strength for walking the path I am standing in front of.

It is my belief that to put my children into the public school system is to put their mental, emotional, physical but most importantly spiritual health at risk. I am going to approach my husband, give him my reasons for believing public schooling is the wrong choice for our children, and ask that he reconsider his opinion. In order for this to be productive, and not be seen as an attack from which he must defend himself, I need to be harmless as a dove and cunning as a serpent.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I frequently think of things I could post here, but in the rare event that I actually sit down and begin writing, I am usually interrupted before completion and lose all impetus to continue.

I feel very inadequate these days. My home is a mess, my to-do list grows ever larger. I feel tired and it is hard to escape the grasp of ennui. Great word, by the way.

Life feels like a puzzle right now. The picture on the box is obscured by the old food stuck to it and the pieces may not all be present, in fact, there may be the pieces of other puzzles scattered in amongst the rest. So I try to find a corner piece from which to start.

My oldest is going to be starting school next year. I am trying not to make it a point of contention with my husband but if I think about it too much I worry, fret and begin to get angry. I can't help but feel insulted by my husband's insistence on public school and what appears to be his implicit belief that it is necessary for the proper education and social development of our children.

Oh Father, give me strength and wisdom.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I have been in a brooding frame of mind lately.

The older I get the more antisocial and misanthropic I become. I'm perfectly fine remaining within the walls of my home and having little to no contact with the outside world beyond my family and current circle of acquaintances.

I hate people.

The other day, I took my three children to the park. I held my daughter while watching my two sons run around and play with the other children on the playground. My younger son B, who will be turning three in October, was climbing up a curved set of monkey bars trying to reach two boys that were standing on the platform watching him. They were probably around four or five years old. When I walked over to check on B, who seemed to be stuck, one of the pair turned his big brown eyes on me, pointed at B and said "He hit me."

I was taken aback. I know many parents think their children are little darlings that would never hurt another child or do anything wrong, but it seemed out of character to me that B would hit a child on the playground for no apparent reason. As these thoughts swiftly passed through my head, reality and reason kicked in - no matter what this child was saying, or what B was capable of doing, B was not close enough to the other children to have hit anyone. He was stuck at the top of the monkey bars, unable to make it to the platform because he was scared of the gap between the last bar and the platform.

As soon as that realization sunk in, I was thunderstruck. This little four or five-year-old was deliberately lying to me, an adult and a stranger, in order to get a child he had never met before punished. I should have told him that he was lying and that lying was wrong. Instead I made some feeble response that indicated I doubted his tale. He shrugged off the failure of his attempt and ran off with his friend to play elsewhere.

Later, I spent some time analyzing the incident and my reaction to it. When my oldest son lies, or does something he knows is wrong, it is clear that he feels the shame of his action and knows that he should not have done it. Unprovoked and with malicious intent this young boy looked me in the eyes and lied to me to try to get my son in trouble. He was utterly without shame. Clearly he understood that violence against another child was not acceptable, but apparently lying in order to get another child in trouble was perfectly fine.

Somehow this little sociopath-in-training has become a symbol in my mind of everything that is wrong with our society. We have a veneer of 'niceness' covering the outside of our societal sepulcher which is really nothing more than political correctness and passive-aggressive behavior. Open the door and just inside lies the malignant, festering, rotten corpse with its loathsome stench, filled with writhing maggots and other crawling horrors. It needs to burn.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I woke up this morning feeling inexplicably cheerful.

Then I loaded up AIM and saw this:


That explains it. I must have sensed his passing! At least death imposes term limits of a sort.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Just a putzing-around-online-while-bored post.

When my mom saw a picture of N at two or three months of age, she mentioned that the smile looked impish. I had thought no such thing, but now I think mom just has a better eye for mischief than I do, because I swear the older N gets the more impish she looks.

They get it from their dad. No really! If y'all could see his baby pictures you'd believe me.

I have so much work to do around here it isn't funny. But of course I'm taking my usual route of burying my head in the sand and pretending I can't see the piles - no, mountains - of clutter and the Dust Bunnies of Unusual Size.

I'll take comfort in the fact that I am at least working on laundry, and I did run the dish washer yesterday.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son...

This means a lot more to me now that I'm a parent.

Ireland XI

Ireland X

By the time we reached Galway, Jo and I were once again in dire need of clean clothing. For an additional fee, the staff at the hostel would utilize the washer and dryer on the premises, so we turned over our laundry and were assured it would be ready later that night. In the meantime, we retreated to the hostel's common room to wait. Here we met that gol-durned annoying person, a young man from Canada. He was a conspiracy theorist as paranoid as Mulder, minus the charm, snazzy suit and the belief in aliens. He was obsessed with corrupt politicians and secret government projects. He also fancied he knew how the world should and should not be run and was "even more opinionated and obnoxious about it than I am!" He went on and on, and on and on, and then went on some more. Jo was just about climbing the walls in frustration but I was kind of amused.

When I first inquired about our laundry I was told it would be ready later that night. I asked a second time and was again given the nebulous response of "later" and when I asked a third time, was told it would not be done until the morning! The knucklehead on duty was giving us a song and dance routine. He (and several buddies) were also using some form of recreational drug and were so stoned that even someone as naive as I was could recognize it. We went to bed at around one o'clock with Jo in such an agitated state of mind that she did not even brush her teeth, such an extreme deviation from her normal routine that it earned mention in my journal. When we inquired of the young man in charge in the morning, we found out his coworker had never even put our laundry in the washer. He apologized for how long it took and I gathered it had not been the best morning for him, either - probably because our laundry was not the only work left undone!

June 13, 1999
Well, nothing like sitting in the park eating ice cream cones while watching horny pigeons. They're so funny! The pigeons, not the ice cream cones. The males fluff up their neck feathers and then follow the females around, cooing and bobbing their heads. The females studiously ignore them, appearing to want to eat more than anything.

Fortunately the Corrib Villa Hostel was not the Hotel California, so after we received our clean laundry we checked out and we left. We made a stop at the tourist office to inquire about researching our ancestors. That proved to be an expensive undertaking so we decided not to attempt it.
Jo had been in a bad mood since last night which turned into a towering snit when we found out that we had missed the bus to Oughterard while waiting for our laundry that morning. There would not be another bus departing until Monday evening. Rather than spend additional time in Galway we made reservations for the Harbor House in Sligo. We got lunch and then sat in the park eating our ice cream cones (which had become a bad habit with us) while Jo tried to exorcise her bad mood by writing limericks.

Well, we are in Sligo town now, staying in the Harbor House Hostel, which truly is 'the Taj Mahal of hostels' as the guidebook says. Although you must admit it's funny to compare it to a giant tomb. (Even though they only refer to the opulance of it.)

At the Sligo house we met Mark and Matthew, young men from England that were living and working in Ireland for the moment. Mark made tea and then he and Mark sat in the common room with us watching television. This proved to a source of major embarrassment for me. Having grown up in farm country I was usually unfazed by seeing animals mate, but watching wildebeest happily humping away on some nature show while in the company of two young men had me blushing fire red.

Fortunately Mark provided conversation, which drew everyone's attention away from the television. He and Matthew were actually brothers, and expressed an ambition which Jo and I found extremely odd: they wanted to go to America and become dancers for a celebrity musician. Matthew, the younger brother, looked like he should be a member of a boy band so I suppose being a back-up dancer would have been feasible. After some chit-chat Jo went upstairs to bed and Matthew excused himself and headed to their home, which left me sitting in the common room with Mark. In my youthful naivety I had chosen to deal with his accent, which was difficult for me to understand at times, by simply smiling and nodding - an unwise tactic in retrospect.
Mark proved to be extremely talkative and provided me with far more information about his life than I ever could have wanted, from his insurance claim to his old girlfriend to how many speakers he planned to have installed in his car. I concluded that I would rather see him dance than listen to him talk. He was a nice guy - just very boring!

Ireland I

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The inhabitants of my house would like to say "howdy" to all you fine folks out there in cyberspace.

(I should note that these are not photos I took, they're just good examples of what you see while living in Florida, especially in older homes.)

Ireland X

Ireland IX

Kilrush / Galway, June 12, 1999
We got up this morning, ate breakfast, got a picture of Mary and one of the hostel, then caught the 11:05 to Galway. It will stop at the Cliffs of Moher for an hour, but Jo and I will just catch a later bus so we can spend more time at the cliffs.

We returned to Crotty's our second night in Kilrush, but unfortunately were not able to stay up late enough for another session of Trad. The next day we were back on the road. Our plan was to go to Galway, and from there catch a ferry to the Aran Islands. On the way, we would stop to visit the justifiably famous Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland's most well-known landmarks and a place of awe-inspiring, intimidating views. Having always had a fear of heights and a tendency to experience mild vertigo made this visit adrenaline-inducing for me but I managed to enjoy myself even so. Pictures do not do justice to the cliffs.

Once we arrived in Galway, we discovered that the ferry to the Aran Islands only ran once a day, at 10:00AM. We decided that we would skip visiting the islands and simply spend an additional night in Galway, or perhaps move on to Oughterard, which had supposedly been home to some of our Irish ancestors. Galway is a very popular Irish town and we had a little trouble finding a place to stay.

Galway, June 12, 1999
After going to about 4-5 different hostels, we found lodgings at the Corrib Villa Hostel. It seemed decent at the moment... We were quickly to discover otherwise. There seem to be some long-term residents here, and one of them is the gol-durndest most annoying person! Fascinating in a sick way.

After checking into the hostel Jo and I called mom and then left to get food, cash and see a little of the city. We had lunch at McDonald's, which I like better in Europe because they offer a vegetarian sandwich made with a delicious potato and vegetable patty which did not offend me by trying to pretend to be meat. Galway was one of those "artsy" places that attracts a lot of artistically inclined people, especially students. It was a pretty place and boasted a section of town where people could stroll down the street and purchase an assortment of jewelry, trinkets and novelty items while being treated to a variety of street performances. We listened to one young woman sing, then a man of about thirty playing a mean bagpipe, afterwards watching another young man play balancing tricks with clear balls about the size of a baseball.

Afterward, we walked down to the river and sat watching the swans. Here we met Michael from Nigeria, whose wealthy father had sent him to college in Ireland. He was a very personable young man, frequently flashing a bright smile that exposed the large gap between his two front teeth, which I have since learned is considered a very attractive feature in his part of the world. He invited us to a party his neighbors were throwing that night and even though we tried to politely decline, we somehow found ourselves with the address and his phone number so that we could contact him and let him know if we would be there or not. Out of politeness, Jo called later to let him know we would not be attending, but he must have already left for the party as the phone was never answered.

Ireland I

Friday, July 10, 2009

I need to finish my latest installment but I have been -extremely- lazy the last two weeks.

In the meantime, I just wanted to say that I cannot think of anything that inspires as much joy for me as seeing my baby give me a huge, sunny smile as if there is nothing in the world she would rather see than me. People that choose not to have children have no idea what they are missing!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ireland IX


Limerick, June 10th, 1999
Well, here we are in Limerick, although no appropriate limerick comes to mind for the occasion.

We only paid a brief visit to Limerick, a stopover on our way to Kilrush, a small town on the way to Galway. It seemed like a quiet place without much to recommend it to travelers. We purchased lunch from a Chinese fast food place, which seemed like an odd thing to do in Ireland but it was the first place we found and I was starving. Unfortunately the food was not very filling so we stopped by a convenience store afterwards and augmented the meal with bananas and candy bars.

Most of the day was spent riding buses, an activity we were thoroughly sick of by the time we arrived in Kilrush. The hostel we stayed at was run by a very nice couple, Mary and Joe. When we purchased food at the store they ran adjacent to the hostel, Joe did not even charge us the full amount. The hostel itself was a two hundred year old building. Mary and Joe had printed up a history of the building and of each individual room, which added a nice touch. The only complaint we had was that the showers were operated by tokens - I was not quick enough and ended up standing in freezing cold water while rinsing conditioner out of my hair. Brrr!

Kilrush, June 10, 1999
We finally got to a pub, and figured out the only reason we'd been so scared of going was because we attach too much importance to ourselves.

The pub was Crotty's, and we each ordered a half-pint of guinness and then retired to a table in a corner, feeling a bit out of place. Guinness is not for the faint of heart, but if you can muscle your way through that first half-pint you might develop a fondness for it. The pub had live "Trad" that night, which is slang for "traditional music." There was a flutist, an accordion player and a couple of men with drums that looked like very large, covered tamborines. Two women provided the vocals, and the group persuaded several people in the pub to sing as well, including one Swedish man. He sang a short song in a deep, powerful voice, which is not what we would have expected from him. They asked Jo and I to contribute a song as well, a request we promptly and repeatedly denied. Even if we'd managed to overcome our shyness, the only songs we could think of were hymns and we were not sure how well that would be received.

It proved to be an unfounded concern. One of the women in the pub sang a hymn, and most of the people joined in on the chorus, which went something like 'A land where we'll never grow old, never grow old...' It was moving to watch the participants, most of whom were elderly, softly singing these lines.

We did not leave Crotty's until nearly midnight and the place was still packed.

Kilrush, June 11, 1999
We went down to the marina and caught the 12 o'clock boat to Scattery Island, which is in the mouth of the Shannon River I believe. It was inhabited up to the 1970's but isn't anymore. It has several ruins, some dating back to the 6-7th centuries. It was an interesting place, not just for the ruins.

Scattery Island was uninhabited by humans but packed full of wildlife. There were vast amounts of rabbits, which had dug tunnels all over the island, even in the stone walls. In places the ground was actually soft from all the tunnels underneath. There were also predators, which we did not catch a glimpse of, but probably foxes and birds of prey, as we found several dead rabbits festooning the beach with their entrails.

We covered more of the island than our fellow visitors. After a walk along the beach, where we found and collected several pretty shells and small stones, we reached the end that had a lighthouse and an old stone fort that had an outer wall and a moat. Sadly, the moat was dry. We could not go into the main building, because the floorboards were decrepit and missing in spots. Jo was upset because we had forgotten to place new film in the small backpack we carried with us while sightseeing.

We were supposed to return to the pick up spot by 2:15PM and we almost missed the boat. We were running part of the time, Jo with her sore ankle, while I wore the daypack, which made me sway from side to side like a camel. We must have looked pretty silly but fortunately only the birds and the rabbits witnessed our undignified rush. The trip to and from the island was my first ride on a 'real' boat (canoes and paddleboats did not count) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was an overcast day and the light filtering through the sullen clouds turned the clear water of the Shannon into liquid silver. It would have looked quite dull in a photograph but it was lovely in person.

Ireland I

The Little Waves of Breffny

Since I've been taking an extended ramble through memory lane, I thought I would share a piece of poetry that I actually like - I tend to be more kindly towards Irish poetry than any other, simply because it's Irish.

The grand road from the mountain goes shining to the sea,
And there is traffic in it and many a horse and cart,
But the little roads of Cloonagh are dearer far to me,
And the little roads of Cloonagh go rambling through my heart.

A great storm from the ocean goes shouting o’er the hill,
And there is glory in it and terror on the wind,
But the haunted air of twilight is very strange and still,
And the little winds of twilight are dearer to my mind.

The great waves of the Atlantic sweep storming on their way,
Shining green and silver with the hidden herring shoal,
But the Little Waves of Breffny have drenched my heart in spray,
And the Little Waves of Breffny go stumbling through my soul.

-Eva Gore-Booth

On a related note

I've been coming to the conclusion that waiting for inspiration is not the best way to go about writing. Muses are far less reliable than death or taxes. It would seem that - as with most aspects of my life - I simply need to apply some self discipline and act rather than contemplate. I went for over a week without posting because I just 'wasn't feeling it' but when I finally sat down and worked on another installment, not only did I manage to produce one but I enjoyed writing it as well.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ireland VIII

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII

Kenmare, June 9, 1999
We took the earliest bus to Kenmare (10 AM) and rattled our way back across the mountains. (Kenmare is between Glengarriff and Killarney.) The bus ride was making Jo sick, but the scenery was awesome of course. I couldn't look at the road while the bus was moving, it was scarier than watching the steep drop-offs.

The most memorable feature of the hostel in Kenmare was its hideous 70's decor. It was clean though. The lady that ran the hostel seemed unfriendly at first, but later she warmed up a little. She still needed to finish cleaning the kitchen so we took our lunch to a park. Afterward, we climbed a mountain.

It was not a very high mountain, probably not even as high as the one we had started climbing in Glengarriff, but it still qualified as an actual mountain and even had a name, though I forgot to note the name in my journal. The summit was reached via a portion of the Kerry Way, one of Ireland's many long, rough walks. The view from the top was lovely and Jo and I spent a little while sitting there discussing life, the universe and everything. On our way down, we saw a young fox. I had never seen a real fox before and was very excited. It skittered away to a clump of bushes and then paused to watch us leave.

Kenmare did not have any major spots for tourists to visit but they made the most of what they had. We saw a little tower named Hutchin's Folly and Cromwell's Bridge, which he never set foot on because he had not come that far south. We also paid a visit to the local holy well, which had been a Celtic holy spot until the conversion to Catholicism. Now it played host to a tacky shrine dedicated to Mary. The crowning glory of Kenmare's tourist industry, however, was a 'druid's circle' that we had visited earlier in the day before climbing the mountain.

The druid's circle was one large stone set in the middle of several large stones, campfire-style. It was supposedly 3,000 years old, but frankly it looked like something the locals had assembled in order to milk gullible tourists for the one pound price of admission, paid into a lockbox on the honor system, as there was no one in attendance at the actual site.

At this time in our lives, Jo and I were afflicted with almost terminal shyness, so we had not managed to work up the courage to visit a pub since our first attempt in Belfast. Jo had noticed a place that advertised live music, so we decided we would check it out. Well, when we walked in the door of the establishment we noticed a few things: it was really more like an American bar & grill than an Irish pub, it was packed full and there appeared to be no one under 40 years of age. They ALL turned to stare at us, like vampires sensing fresh blood. Our spirits quailed and we fled the premises.

Ack, just a little over the two week mark and I've already used like two-thirds of this journal. I shall probably have to get a new one before we're finished here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ireland VII

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

Killarney, June 7, 1999
It has been a shitty day, literally and figuratively. It started out as a normal, pleasant morning, until I had a nervous breakdown brought on by stepping in a massive pile of dog doo.

The previous day had been golden. After doing our best imitation of mountain goats, we'd retreated from the mountainside and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering paths that led to a small river, where we skipped stones and dozed on the gravelly bank, followed by ice cream cones when we returned to town.

The next morning we decided we would get a closer view of the bay since we had time before our bus to Killarney would be leaving. While wandering through the wooded area between the town and the bay, I managed to step in an enormous pile of dog crap. Being afflicted with the 'overweening dignity' of youth this seemed like a personal insult delivered by the hand of a malicious universe. I nursed my wounded pride while sitting on a large stone in a clearing liberally dotted with piles of fly-covered shit, dismally attempting to clean my only pair of shoes.

Jo thought the incident was hilarious. Had our positions been reversed, I would have thought the same, but at the time being laughed at only made my mood that much darker. I behaved like a bitch, snapped at her and walked off in a huff. It was not until we were on the bus to Killarney later that day that my mood started to lighten.

It would have been difficult to stay angry during that amazing bus ride. The narrow little road wound up into the mountains ringing Bantry Bay, where it hovered near the top of the peaks for quite some time with a very steep, high drop-off on one side. The view was spectacular and highly intimidating when seen from inside a large, swaying bus. Any time traffic approached going the other direction, both vehicles would have to slow down and squeeze over as far as possible in order to manuever past. At one point, I snapped a picture of the drop off and realized just as I clicked the button that the odd-looking specks at the bottom were in fact the wreckage of a vehicle.

Killarney was nice little town, whose main claim to fame was its proximity to the Killarney National Forest, a place of mountains, huge lakes and even a castle. We spent some time exploring the area of the park closest to the town, then returned to the hostel, where we watched Batman in the common room with a crowd of other back-packing youth.

They have a coed bathroom here. Not one of those genderless, one toilet bathrooms that any man, woman or child can use. This is a full-fledged coed bathroom with toilet stalls, a shower for boys and one for girls. I walked in there, feeling a bit weird, and a guy walks in behind me. I turn, we look at each other for a second and then go into our respective stalls. It took me a while to let loose, but it took him even longer!

The next day we spent more time in KNF. The park was huge, and the day before we'd considered renting bikes in order to see more of it, but ended up changing our minds. Instead we rented a rowboat and spent time clumsily paddling around one of the lakes while singing whatever songs came to mind. We were both pretty homesick at this point and it definitely put a damper on our time in Killarney, but we managed to have fun even so.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I'll resume posting in the next day or two. Right now I have the plague and intend to curl up on the couch and watch LadyHawke.


If the way I feel now is any indication, my body did a pretty good job of fighting off this bug while I tossed and turned and sweated last night. I'm not 100% better, but certainly in better shape than I was last night when I watched LadyHawke. Took me forever to find it and I thought I might be forced to watch something else instead, which is like having to settle for a chocolate-frosted doughnut when what I really wanted was a Bavarian cream-filled. It would not be the same. Fortunately, it turned up stashed inside what I had thought was an empty box sitting near my desk.

LadyHawke has been one of my favorite movies ever since I first saw it as a girl. I have a long-standing platonic crush on Rutger Hauer's Etienne Navarre. I've never really been a big fan of Michelle Pfeiffer but she was radiant as Isabeau. Matthew Broderick's Philippe the Mouse was entertaining and provided light-hearted levity which nicely offset Hauer's grim knight. The sets and cinematography were beautiful as well. I've heard people complain about the music, but I have to confess, I like it and I like the contrast of modern music with a medieval setting.

Despite the fact that I am often about as romantic as a porcupine, I really like the love story in LadyHawke. Navarre and Isabeau are deeply, faithfully devoted to each other. Their love is portrayed with a level of purity and depth seldom seen onscreen these days.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ireland VI

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

Glengarriff, June 6, 1999

The higher we climbed the more awesome the scenery became. The mountain itself was covered in a sea of grass, and the way it shone and rippled it really did look almost liquid... Occasionally out in the meadows between the ridges the stream would make small pools, which were brown when the sun shone directly on them and the loveliest blue when it didn't. It was amazing up there, so big and free and wild.

You could almost feel magic up there, not like the little fairies and leprechauns of recent years, cute and harmless, but the pookas, the kelpies, the banshees. Once again it was a very Narnian landscape. The Western Waste perhaps. Or Archland. You almost expected Bree to walk up. It was also a very Tolkienesque landscape. You could just see Gandalf and Bilbo and all the rest wandering through the mountains.

I'm not in any way trying to take away the glory of God's creation with this talk of magic. You are very much aware of Him up there. And I had the most incredibly secure feeling up there, even on the edge of steep drop-offs that should have made me fearful, with my dislike of heights. It wasn't really a physical security, it was a spiritual one. Just knowing that no matter what happened, if you fell and got smashed to bits or if you went down back into the world with all its suffering, everything was going to be all right.

There is such a sense of rightness on a mountainside. Such a secure peace. I just can't describe it properly. A little of it is still with me right now.

We took peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with us for lunch. They were ambrosial, the best PB&J sandwiches I have ever eaten.

Ireland V

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Cork, June 4, 1999
In the morning we took the bus to Cork. It's a rather bland little town as Irish towns go, and a cute little town by Florida standards. We went to Blarney Castle, which is so incredibly touristy. There was even a couple getting married there. Jo said maybe they were doing it so their marriage would be blessed with communication. Maybe. I still think it's a silly location to get married.

Blarney Castle is one of the most popular places for tourists to visit, where many choose to kiss the Blarney Stone in the hopes of being given the gift of gab. Joelle and I decided not to participate in this popular activity, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, no one in our family really needs the gift of gab. We joked that one of our Irish ancestors must have kissed the stone and passed the gift on to their descendants. Another reason to avoid it was the story we heard about the locals visiting the castle at night and pissing on the stone. The stone is apparently scrubbed and bleached on a daily basis, but still, when we saw the long line of tourists waiting to be lowered (by their legs) into position to be able to reach the stone, we were convinced it was not the most hygienic ritual to participate in. There was also that bit of snobbish disdain we had for "tourist" activities and being just like every other visitor.

We decided castle living is not a romantic thing. It was dusty, mossy, damp, dirty and all the other things you'd expect from a giant pile of rocks. The staircases were claustrophobia inducing, the heights dizzying and boy was it COLD! Very cold!

The castle also had a dungeon and a cave, with tunnels. We purchased an exorbitantly priced flashlight to explore these areas, but they proved disappointing. The tunnels did not extend far and they were full of litter. One long tunnel, which connected to the dungeon rather than the cave, looked more promising. Joelle did not join me for that bit of exploration because walking in a crouch was too uncomfortable for her ankle. The tunnel dead-ended in the most boring fashion, but provided some excitement on my way out when the beam from the flashlight revealed huge spiders clinging to the ceiling. The horrifying thought that one of those spiders might drop and land in my hair spurred a remarkably quick exit.

After a night spent in Cork we moved on to Glengarriff, a small town on the coast overlooking Bantry Bay, a place even more lovely than Glendalough, which we would not have thought possible. The bay was a lovely shade of turquoise, ringed by a semi-circle of vivid green hills, some of which were high enough to qualify as mountains. There were rhododendrons in several shades of pink blooming everywhere. Seeing this kind of spectacular scenery made the prospect of returning to our drab, ugly town of residence in Florida even less appealing.

Our first afternoon and evening there were spent in mundane activities; we went grocery shopping and did our laundry. We spent the night with three young men (another coed dorm room). My journal entry is embarrassing and hysterically naive as I detail the sinking sensation I experienced when I learned that two of the men were French, because of their 'notorious' reputation. Unsurprisingly (in hind-sight) the night passed quietly.

The next morning we took off to visit Lady Bantry's Lookout, located on one of the lower slopes of one of the mountains surrounding the bay. It was said to have very nice views. It did, though we had to climb a lengthy stone stairway to reach the lookout. We noticed an area on a nearby slope that appeared to be an even better spot, so we carefully made our way there. The view was certainly worth the effort.

Glengarriff, June 6, 1999
We looked up the mountain and yes, of course we would follow those beckoning goat trails winding their way to the far distant summit. We knew, of course, that we wouldn't be able to make it to the top of the mountain. From the bottom it doesn't look so far to the top, but once you start climbing it stretches out, up one ridge and down into a valley, then up the next ridge and so on and so on.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ireland IV

Part I
Part II
Part III

Rathdrum, May 31-June 2, 1999
We were very grateful to get to the Old Presbetery Hostel, and overjoyed to discover it had laundry facilities. We'd been wearing the same clothes forever, always having to make them 'go one more day.' We were thrilled to pop it all into a washing machine.

We spent two nights in Laragh. The second morning we walked into town and inquired about buses to Kilkenny, only to discover that the Glendalough / Laragh area was some kind of mini-Bermuda triangle - easy to get to, difficult to escape. We had two options for leaving: return to Dublin or travel to Rathdrum, a town a few miles away that we were told might have transportation to Kilkenny. We did not want to backtrack to Dublin, of all places, so decided Rathdrum would be our destination. We made a feeble attempt at hitch-hiking, something we were told was a common and normally acceptable method of travel in Ireland - we were both too self-conscious to keep the effort up for very long though, and decided we would walk, instead.

On the map Rathdrum is about five miles from Laragh. That doesn't take into account all the curves and hills which probably added three or more miles to it. We estimate that we walked about ten miles in all yesterday. Including breaks we walked about seven hours yesterday.

The walk proved to be an intimidating one. The road was narrow and curvey; it was
frequently enclosed by a stone wall on each side, or a wall on one side and a steep drop-off on the other. Buses and large trucks frequented this road and caused several harrowing moments that certainly got our hearts racing. At some point, we even had to pee in the woods, something I had not done since I was a small child on long car trips.

We were very happy to finally see a sign stating we had reached Rathdrum city limits, then disappointed when we discovered that it was still quite a way from the city limits to the populated part of town. It felt like forever, but we finally made it to the Old Presbetery Hostel, which proved to be a very nice place, the nicest hostel we had stayed at so far. It was big and clean, the beds were comfortable; it had laundry facilities, a self-catering kitchen, dining rooms and a lounge, complete with television and books. The only downside to the Hostel was the fact that it was downwind of a very malodorous pasture.

We stayed two nights in order for Jo to recover from the strenuous walk. Despite all our trouble, we ended up having to take a bus back to Dublin, where we had a two hour wait for the bus to Cashel, famous for The Rock of Cashel, a large hill with the ruins of a cathedral, a church and a cemetary atop, and the Hore Abbey below, whose name we snickered over. At one point the Abbey had been home to Benedictine monks, until some big muckety-muck up on the Rock had them evicted because he had dreamed they were plotting to kill him.

At our hostel in Cashel we met "Aussie Guy," a veteran of the budget travel scene. He'd already been to Canada and the USA and was wrapping up a year in Ireland before going home, with plans to make Asia his next eventual destination. He was cute, confident and had that Australian accent women find irresistible, Jo and I being no exception - I developed an instant crush and mooned over him several times during the remainder of the trip.

Ireland III

Part I
Part II

Dublin, May 28-29, 1999
Well, Dublin was an experience to say the least. It was not at all what we expected... This city is as filthy as any of ours. Trash everywhere, even beggars on the streets. Jo and I hated it on sight. It's big, noisy and bewildering.

It was unthinkable to us to go to Ireland and not visit Dublin. It had a reputation as a party town but after our very positive first impression of Belfast we were expecting something similar. The two cities were nothing alike and in hindsight, we could have skipped it entirely and not been missing anything, since both of us were shy and not into the pub-crawling scene.

Our accommodations while in Dublin gave us our first experience with coed hostel rooms. We were rather alarmed to find that we would be sharing a room with two couples, but my fear that I might become an unwilling, captive listener while hanky-panky went on proved unfounded. The only thing that made sleeping difficult was the bright street light shining through our window, which was covered only by a thin, gauzy curtain.

Two incidents stood out in Dublin - after walking around for a while, Jo needed to sit down because her ankle was really hurting. We paused to rest at the end of a bridge, and were watching the human river pass by. when a young Irishman stopped to inquire if we were beggars. We were a bit shocked by the question, but laughed and said no. His response was to rudely tell us to "go away then."

The other incident was much more unpleasant. I needed to use the toilet while visiting the tourist information center in Dublin. After carefully wiping off the seat, covering it with toilet paper and sitting down, I discovered to my horror that there was shit all over the front of the toilet bowl. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light I saw that it was also on the floor and the walls. Fortunately, I had somehow managed to avoid touching any of it, but it was still an extremely unpleasant situation to find myself in.

Laragh, May 29, 1999
Today we moved on to Co. Wicklow. It is called the Garden of Ireland, and rightly so. I've never seen such spectacular scenery.

County Wicklow was -literally- a breath of fresh air after Dublin. The countryside was blooming. Gorse, with its cheerful yellow blossoms, blanketed the hillsides. There were tiny white daisies, pink clover, dandelions and other flowers that we could not identify. The drab, unattractive area of Florida that we called home seemed even uglier after seeing this lovely showcase of God's handiwork.

Laragh was a small town situated near Glendalough, an even smaller town but popular tourist destination. Instead of taking the main road to Glendalough, we took the dirt road that ran behind the B&B where we were staying. The walk was lovely, but we discovered that we had not brought clothing warm enough for Ireland's cooler days and even walking did not help keep us warm. We were shivering violently the whole time.

On our way, we got to see our first ruins: St. Savior's Church. Of all the ruins that we saw during that trip, (and Ireland is full of them) St. Savior's was by far my favorite. It was tiny, situated in a wooded area down the hill from the dirt road. Long, lush grass grew all over the clearing in which we found the roofless remains of the church, with an arched window on one wall and a stone doorframe that were highly photographic. No one else was there which added to the magic of the moment for me.

Glendalough had a larger church, an ancient graveyard with the famed celtic cross headstones, and the town's most famous and oft-photographed landmark, a tower, built near a shallow river that winds through the valley there.

From Glendalough, we moved on to the Upper Lake, a prosaic name for such a lovely spot. This large lake was in a long valley whose length was greater than its width. A river emptied into the lake on one end, then reformed
on the other side and continued its journey to Glendalough. There was a trail that skirted the lake, leading to an old miner's village in another valley, nothing but a ruin now. Jo's ankle was hurting her again so she decided not to accompany me to the village. At the end of the valley the trail zigzagged up into another, smaller valley. This valley was filled from the top of its slopes to the bottom with massive granite boulders and the river plunged over and around these boulders on its way to the lake in the valley below.

Words failed me then, and they fail me now, when it comes to describing the grandeur of that granite valley. It was awe-inspiring and magical. I felt like I had stepped into a landscape straight out of The Chronicles of Narnia. I could easily envision a nervous Puddleglum escorting Jill and Scrub, keeping an eye out for boulder-tossing giants.

The trail continued up and out of the valley, which would have allowed me to stand by the waterfall on the far end and witness what must have been a spectacular view. There were no other tourists nearby at the time, though, and I was concerned about slipping and injuring myself on the wet granite with no one nearby to help, so I turned around and went back to meet up with Jo.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ireland II

Part I

Belfast, May 26, 1999
It's kind of hard to describe how things are here. Everything's familiar in a strange way. There are people, cars, buildings, even Pizza Hut, McDonald's, and a few other "American" fast food stores.
But the differences. People wear very little make-up it seems, and obese people are rare. No wonder, as people seem to do a lot of walking. You'll hear several different languages within a few blocks, and, (biggest difference of all) they call french fries 'chips.' =)

People had questioned our choice to fly into Belfast, worried that the fighting between Catholics and Protestants might cause problems for us. This worry ultimately proved to be baseless. In order to get into trouble in Belfast, we would have had to be actively searching it out. The city seemed to be quite kind to tourists.

Belfast was beautiful. I've never seen a large city so well maintained and litter-free. There were quite a few impressive old buildings displaying the lovely architecture of previous centuries. The Botanical Gardens provided an excellent place in which to sit and write in my journal. It did amuse me to see flowers quite common in Florida on display in the exotic section.

I turned 18 in Belfast, which is the legal drinking age there. We planned to celebrate in a pub, but they were extremely noisy and crowded due to a televised sporting event. Jo was also suffering from jet lag (looking like the walking dead, according to my journal). I was too chicken to stay at a pub by myself so I returned to the hostel with Jo and lamented my cowardice in writing.

Newcastle, May 27, 1999
We left Belfast this morning. Jo wasn't feeling well but she perked up after getting some breakfast. We took the bus to Newcastle, a seaside town in Northern Ireland that is quite a tourist trap. And no wonder, it's adorable.

Newcastle is at the foot of the Mountains of Mourne. Between Newcastle and the mountains rests Tollymore Forest Park, which is breathtaking. There is an impressive monument rising from a hillside, which I expected would be commemorating some battle or heroic endeavor. We both had a laugh when we discovered it was dedicated to some man's son that had died of asthma. One of the park's prettiest features was a river, spanned by the picturesque arches of old stone bridges, winding beneath the heavily forested lower slopes of the mountains..

When it was time to leave the park, Jo almost got us lost by trying to lead us up into the mountains. Normally her sense of direction is much better than mine, but for whatever reason being in Ireland reversed our positions and I was the one to get us going in the correct direction. By the time we returned to Newcastle, we had spent hours on our feet. My feet had never been so sore in my life and Jo had managed to injure her ankle, something that would cause her trouble for the rest of the trip.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Over ten years ago, not long after my mother had remarried, my sister Jo and I were discontentedly grumbling about our lives and how there were so many things that we wanted to do and places we wanted to go and would never get the chance. It was an old song, oft repeated, and my poor step-dad finally had enough. In his blunt, loud fashion he basically told us to get off our butts and just -do- something. I'm not sure what went through my sister's head, but for me it felt like an epiphany. It had never occurred to me until that point that I was (almost) legally an adult and had a steady income with few expenses; I also had no responsibilities - job included - that I could not set aside for a short period of time.

Long story short, Jo and I decided we would start saving for a trip out of the country. We settled on Ireland as the destination, partly because it was an English-speaking country and would be easier for two young women to navigate safely. Ireland is a popular destination for students and back-packers and has a lot of inexpensive youth hostels. We decided we would utilize this resource and spend a full month seeing as much of the Island as we could. As we saved for our holiday we continued to do research into this whole concept of budget travel. We bought backpacks, purchased lightweight articles of clothing, obtained travel items designed to take up the least amount of space possible, including special travel towels, which were very small but supposedly very absorbent. We picked up passports and got a very good deal on round-trip airfare.

The night before we were scheduled to leave I had Mom cut my hair, since short hair would be easier to care for. I think she might have been worrying about her babies taking their first international trip because it was the worst haircut she had ever given me and I had to trim a lot of jagged edges in the days that followed.

We were flying into one of London's airports, taking a bus to another airport, and catching a connecting flight to Belfast. (The circuitous route was worth it for the money we saved.) The flight over the Atlantic took approximately eight hours and I spent it staring at the bald, wrinkly, aged-spotted head of the man sitting in front of me with his chair tilted back. Airplane seating really is very crowded these days and I swear it felt like his head was six inches from my face.

Upon landing in Belfast, we learned first-hand why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle. The grass was indeed a vivid, jewel-toned green. Perhaps familiarity has bred contempt but I have never seen Florida, even during the rainy season, match the luster of Ireland's green.

(It's now time to fix lunch for my hungry boys, so I will have to post more about our trip later. I suspect that I will need to pull out the journal I kept as well as consult with Jo to keep my details accurate.)

My Muse: Still Fickle

My inspiration for writing always seems to come at a time when it is not possible - or simply inadvisable - for me to sit down and write. That is when the ideas flow, and eloquent phrases begin to shape themselves. By the time I do get the chance to sit down and write, I no longer want to - or my brain is just tired and unable to formulate coherent thoughts.

I used to procrastinate on my writing because I figured "hey, I can do this any time I want." My naive younger self even thought I would be able to easily fit writing into a stay-at-home mom lifestyle. Ha! Oh, I could fit it in, but it would not be easy and it would certainly require a higher degree of self-discipline than I've managed to attain.

Well, I'm going to try and formulate some kind of post that is not just rambling. Not this post of course, this is just rambling.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Normally I refrain from posting family pictures, but isn't she cute?
(Okay, I admit to a little personal bias)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Learning Not to Argue

Or, Choosing Not to Beat My Head into a Brick Wall

I like debate. I like discussion. I like to argue. I like to point out what I believe to be wrong or in need of correction.

Lately though I have been learning what I feel is a valuable lesson: when not to argue. One of my first and most memorable lessons happened very recently, and on the World of Warcraft forums, of all places. One particular commenter started "trolling" the boards, making their unpleasant online personality known and hated by many wherever they went. At first, I responded to this person's posts. After a few different comments on different threads, someone posted "Why do you listen to Misery Justine? They never have anything nice to say." Later, another person said wrathfully to the troll "I bet you think your shit doesn't stink."

The troll's response was one of the best pieces of work I've ever seen from a troll.

"All shit stinks. You all are just dumb enough to roll around in mine."

This provided one of the most illuminating moments of my online experiences to date. I chose to use the handy-dandy ignore feature Blizzard's forums come equipped with and my time spent on the forums since then has been much more pleasant.

There are times when an argument can and should be presented. When someone's points should have counterpoints. The trick is learning when engaging in a debate, or argument, will be productive and potentially beneficial and when it will be as productive as your head repeatedly meeting a brick wall.

Potentially productive: explaining to someone that is sincerely curious why I believe what I believe.
Bashing my brains out: countering irrational, illogical, idiotic or fallacious statements made by people that are obviously only interested in proving that they are right, and anyone that disagrees is wrong. People that will go through any kind of mental gymnastic necessary to somehow "prove" that their statements are correct when it has been clearly shown they have no rational ground to stand on. These are the people I am learning to ignore, even when I'm itching to respond. Drivel is drivel and not worth my time.

Some people might read this and think I'm not the brightest penny in the bank since it took me this long to accept the advice not to feed trolls. Oh well, at least I'm learning.

House cleaning

I'm going to go through my links and clean them up. I've noticed while trying to visit several old friends that the blog in question no longer exists. I do not know if they have stopped blogging, or simply moved to wordpress or some other site. If anyone could tell me if the following people still blog, and if so, what their blog address is, it would be greatly appreciated!

Pablo (Evel Squirrel's Attitude Central)
Roci (Rocinante's Burdens)
Billy D (The Prodigal Son)

And - how embarrassing - my memory has failed me. The guy that used to blog on View from the Cheap Seats. I know he was a truck driver but for the life of me I cannot remember what name he went by.

The Wonderful World of Fashion

I had thought of several things I could blog about yesterday. One of them I'm not ready to rant about yet. Most of the rest I have already forgotten, except for one thing: skirts.

Having discovered that much of my wardrobe was becoming too disreputable to wear, or simply impractical, I decided to do some clothes shopping. Ten years ago, I shopped for clothing based purely on two things: looks and price. The requirements have changed a little though since having children. Now, first things first, can it be washed and dried via machine? If not, I won't buy it. I've lost far too many items because I or my husband missed pulling it out of the load before it went through the dryer.

Well, off I went to my usual shopping grounds - thrift stores, discount outlet stores and the evil* leviathan that is Wal*Mart. I managed to find quite a few reasonably priced, cute, comfortable and practical shirts. However, I also needed skirts. I prefer them for summer since they tend to be cooler to wear than pants. For skirts, I had some additional requirements: Approximately knee-length, dark colors or prints, durable material. Short skirts have been out ever since I had my first child. A) I don't want to look like a tart mom and b) working with toddlers while wearing short skirts makes the likelihood of embarrassing wardrobe moments much higher. And while I love swishing around in long skirts, the truth is that I'm constantly getting them caught on things around my house or even stepping on the hem and tripping myself. Plus, they provide a lot of material for a toddler to grab and yank.

I was aware that with my rather stringent requirements my choices would be limited. Funnily enough though, when I actually got around to shopping, I made a discovery:

Skirts have gone out of style. This left me a little flabbergasted. I've never done so much shopping and seen so few skirts of any kind. Now there are just rows and rows of shorts and coolottes. I went to Wal*Mart first, and thought perhaps it was just a fluke, but after going to Ross and Beall's Outlet as well, I realized I must be facing the newest fashion trend. Now, I don't really care if other people wear shorts and coolottes, but I don't want to wear them myself, because they generally look dowdy (on me, at least).

I blame the 80's revival in fashion for inflicting us with "menswear" inspired articles of clothing. I'm sure we all remember the shoulder pads that made an appearance back then, which were supposedly meant to add masculinity to a woman's appearance and thus increase the respect she was given in the workplace. (I'm giggling inside right now, by the way, over that piece of idiotic reasoning.) The worst thing is that not only do the shorts and coolottes have a "menswear" look to them, they look like they were inspired by old men hanging out on a golf course. The only way I could possibly rock this trend is to combine the old-man shorts and coolottes with flirty shirts and big boots. Oh yeah, and be eighteen again, because wearing that ensemble as a twenty-eight year old mother of three would definitely make me look like I was trying too hard to look youthful and edgy.

So now I will have to find the time to hunt further afield, in consignment shops and more expensive stores where I might be lucky enough to find something on sale. Otherwise, I will be living in jeans for the summer. Which is likely to leave me a little hot and sweaty at times, but at least I will not look like I beat up old men on the golf course and steal their clothing.

*Wal*Mart is not actually evil, just successful, which according to many whiners out there, equates to evil.