Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Céad Mile Fáilte

I arrived in Shannon after a long day and night of flying. I don't think my excitement registers in the photo, but I'm all a-twitter.

This is an odd subject for a picture. I blame jet lag. I don't know what to blame for sharing it with you as I am, sober and fresh from sleep.

It was a quick hour and a half bus trip and ten-minute taxi ride to the bed and breakfast in Salthill. Mine's the third one from the left. It is as adorable inside as it is on the outside.

I took a shower, then a nap. Witness the restorative powers of these basic human activities.

Salthill is a seaside resort town whose heyday was in decades past, but has enjoyed a comeback as it became a suburb of Galway city. Here is Galway Bay, quite handily just across the street from the B&B.

Another view of the bay...

There is a promenade along the bay, along which people of all kinds were strolling and enjoying the pleasant afternoon. I came across a bachelorette party, decked out in "hen party" sashes and sparkly accoutrements, taking pictures of themselves beside the by before climbing back in their limo for more partying. They were adorable.

Maps can be deceiving, because distances look greater than they are. Salthill seemed a distance away from Galway, but it is actually a part of it.

Galway is a beautiful city. There is vibrance and activity, but it is entirely navigable due to its smaller size. It is not as overwhelming as, say, Dublin, but still full of ancient history.

My guidebook quite rightly relates, "The city of Galway is a delight, with its narrow streets, old stone and wooden shopfronts, good restaurants and bustling pubs."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Across the Pond

I'm going to Ireland to study history this summer.

I don't know what it is about an old pile of stones that attracts me.

Galway is the third largest city in Ireland and home to the Lola Rose yarn shop.

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” ----- Samuel Johnson

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ----- Mark Twain

Friday, June 19, 2009


How is your summer going? All ten days so far have been fantastic! It has to do with no homework, with time free for spending with my daughter in an unhurried fashion. This is a big change, a good change.

Also, I've been reading whatever I want to read. A neighbor gave me a book to read called Essential Writings by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk with a serious way with words.

"Practicing Buddhism is a clever way to enjoy life. Happiness is available. Please help yourself to it. All of us have the capacity of transforming neutral feelings into pleasant feelings, very pleasant feelings that can last a long time. This is what we practice during sitting and walking meditation. If you are happy, all of us will profit from it. Society will profit from it. All living beings will profit from it." (p.93)

Think about traffic for a moment. Not a pleasant thought, is it? But how about ways to transform the experience from unpleasant to, if not pleasant, than at least neutral? There are things we can do to make it so, instead of becoming enraged with something we cannot control.

I like to listen to books on cd, and that helps to give me something to look forward to when I'm in the car. Central Oregon is not the world's biggest traffic jam by any means, but there are still slow drivers and people who pull out in front of us. At times like these, I imagine that the driver has experienced loss. Maybe it's an illness or loss of a loved one, maybe they just lost their job and don't know what they're going to do. Whatever it is, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, and in doing so, create compassion for their annoying driving. It is not a completely selfless act. In doing so, I notice that I release the feelings of anger that easily well inside. Instead of feeling anger, I choose to feel compassion. It is this that stops me from tailgating or from passing the offending car and then pulling in front to express my irritation. This is healthier for everyone, not to mention safer.

This is not to say I am so enlightened and better than you. I didn't used to think this way AT ALL. I used to get mad, and I got even. It was temporarily satisfying to cut off a car who had just cut me off, but it wasn't safe and the feelings didn't last. I remember being a mess after the rapid succession of my brother's death, my father's death, and my own divorce. My mind was not on my driving, and I probably drove too slowly and pulled out in front of people left and right. I was suffering but the rest of the world had no idea. Once I realized this, I expanded that to how I had no idea what other people are experiencing. Duh, but it was pretty profound. If I had no idea, why did I respond to others with aggression and anger? It began to make no sense, and I realized I was putting out negative energy on top of negative energy, and I was ashamed. I might have caused another person pain in the guise of road rage. It was all a great big, unnecessary misunderstanding.

At times of suffering, the last thing anyone needs is hatefulness. Getting flipped the bird in return for an unthinking lane change. I'm grateful for the forgiveness of strangers, and so I try to give back. There is no way to know what another person is going through. Maybe they are just a jerk, and if they are then your compassion at their jerkiness means they get away with it. But maybe they are suffering greatly, and your compassion was sent out and acted as a bit of soothing balm to their painful day, for just a few seconds they had a reprieve. I think they should have the benefit of the doubt. Philo of Alexandria, an ancient philosopher said, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

One of the most difficult things I have done is to realize how much time I have spent rushing my daughter instead of being with her. Going places - work, school, errands - are necessary to daily life. These are not bad things. What makes the difference is the way we handle each of these events. I have not always made the best use of patience.

I am grateful for the chance, every day, to try again; to get it right; to do better.
"Our lives are made of days and hours, and each hour is precious. Have we wasted our hours and our days? Are we wasting our lives? These are important questions. Practicing Buddhism is to be alive in each moment." (p.93)

I'm not a Buddhist, I'm Presbyterian (also known as the "frozen chosen"). I don't care much for rigid lines of categorization, so that if I define myself as a Protestant, that means that I do not study Catholic teachings, for example. I think there is much wisdom offered in our religious traditions and I don't see the point in fighting about it.

From road rage to religious tolerance, this blog defies definition!

I am also no optimistic, glass-half-full kind of pollyanna, but I do have hope for the best. Is this naive? Maybe. I used to care about that but I don't think it much matters. What matters more is that a little optimism is better than the alternative.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


After fishing last weekend, I found two hooks that had been changed off of the line. These were still good, so I gave them to OH to put away. It was getting dark and he already had put away the tackle box, so he put them in his jacket pocket and said, "Don't let me forget these."

I washed his jacket yesterday, and only one hook was in the pocket. The other hook could be in the lawn where my husband walked, in the carpet where he took off his jacket, or in the laundry room stuck in some other piece of laundry. It could be anywhere.

This morning, I got up early to study. I needed to get the blood moving, so I went into the living room to do push-ups and sit-ups. I did ten sit-ups, then rolled over to start doing push-ups, when on the carpet right in front of my face was the other hook! Talk about your one in a million chances.

It was on a part of the floor that we walk every day in socked feet because we take off our shoes in the house. It had been there for TWO FULL DAYS and no one - not even a cat - had stepped on it.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Longest Weekend

The time: Thursday, 9 pm. Place: An ordinary bathroom.

I was flossing my teeth, which I do occasionally, when a large chunk of white came out and rolled over my tongue. I spit it out into my hand. It was part of my tooth.

It was Thursday night, my daughter was in bed. The dentist's office is closed Friday through Sunday, but never fear, the emergency number will help. Except, it was answered by the babysitter who informed me that the doctors were away brushing up - ha - on their mad dental skillz at a conference out of town. I managed to control my mounting panic to state that I may require emergency care for the part of my tooth that was now in my hand. She laughed a little, and said that had happened to her. There I was, imagining imminent nerve exposure and crippling pain, but instead finding comfort in the babysitter (actually, the children's grandma) who told me it was likely not going to require immediate action but that I should call for an appointment on Monday.

Update: Monday, 9 am.

I have an appointment for a crown this week. I haven't had any pain associated with the cracked tooth, for which I am eternally grateful. And no, there will be no coronation ceremony to cap my falling apart, old teeth. At least I'm not an elephant. When their teeth are ground down to nothing, they die from starvation. I'm not saying I couldn't stand to lose a few pounds, but starvation is a slow way to go. I'm grateful for dentists.

And elephants. Merci.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Ignorant, Illiterate, Uncultured

Shakespeare wrote for the masses. Competition to attract a paying audience was fierce. The theater had to vie with other entertainment options including the horrifying bear-baiting bloodsport down the street.

The cheap seats were standing room only. The action on stage had better be enough to keep these groundlings' minds off their aching feet and instead on the characters in the play.

The terrible brutalities of human nature held their own against contrived animal fights. The Elizabethan era seamlessly accepted bloodthirsty ancient Roman themes as its onstage entertainment.

Shakespeare is not an elite literary tradition reserved for the educated. It is for everyone who breathes and feels and lives. Human nature is human nature. Some emotions are universal. Love, trust, betrayal, protectiveness, tradition, ritual, sacrifice, celebration.... it's all there. "Titus" and "Much Ado" are two of the more accessible plays, in my opinion.

Come to think of it, "Fiddler on the Roof" is pretty good, too.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


I've read seven Shakespeare plays in as many weeks, and I have to recommend two of them. "Titus Andronicus" and "Much Ado About Nothing" were my favorites. While not exactly beach books, they are fantastic reads you can get through in about two hours. I have the Pelican paperback versions. These are easier to carry around than a honkin' volume.

Lady Beatrice

I liked "Titus" a lot because it was the easiest to read. I understood it right away, which was not always the case with the other plays. I think the setting - ancient Rome - had a lot to do with my comfort level. I dig that era.

"Much Ado" was great because it was easily understood, and so I didn't have to work at reading it. One of the lovers was frustrating to read about because he was such a gullible ninny. Anyway. Check it out.