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.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

18 months later

It's been a year and a half. Typing an entry for this blog feels like returning to a former dwelling which has been long abandoned and is now empty of everything but dust and dim echoes.

Since I am not sure what to write or where to begin I'll start with the biggest event of the last year for me. Our third child arrived last December. Having discovered that my husband was afraid of having a girl (because of the teenage years, of course) I teased him all throughout the pregnancy about how it would be a girl, and a red-head, just to add to his torment. At the birthing center, he made a mistake that only dads seem to make, caught a glimpse of the umbilical cord and thought he had another boy. The midwife corrected him - it was a girl. Before he had recovered from THAT shock, the midwife took her and started to clean her up, then mentioned casually that it looked like our little girl had red hair. I got to have a good laugh at my husband's expense. She's beautiful and seems to have a very sunny personality so far. I've never seen a baby smile so much - it certainly does add a lot of joy to our daily life.

Two of my sisters have gotten married, one got divorced. Writing on this blog is something of a risk for me, since there's a good chance my ex-brother-in-law is lurking somewhere, waiting for any activity on our old family blogs so that he can pounce; taking the opportunity to make outrageous claims about what a terrible, awful family we are. Name just about any filthy, immoral behavior or vice short of murder and our family indulges in it, according to him. He's already pulled this stunt more than once, and for anyone that got caught in the middle, I'm sorry.

I did some minor browsing through my old blog stomping grounds. I see that many people are still posting regularly while others have drifted away. I am not sure if this will be just a temporary swim in the blog pool or if I'll end up paddling around here for a while.