Friday, November 1, 2013
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
I know I haven't posted in a while, and I will start doing that again. Today I just want to say something about Christmas and the holidays in general. For a long time, I've wanted to make Christmas less commercial by making home made gifts and doing things for people rather than buying something. I feel that a home made gift, a photograph, a poem, scented bath salts, cookies, a scarf, etc., are more thoughtful and heart-warming than most things you can buy. I mean, if we were in the tax bracket where my husband could surprise me with the keys to a Maserati, I certainly wouldn't turn it down, but I just feel that the commercialization of Christmas has become an extraordinary burden on most of the middle class and below, especially as the prices of electronics and especially cell phones has skyrocketed. It also sets up unrealistic expectations of what people deserve and it skews their self-worth.
In the past, I've always wanted to be generous with people during the holidays, irrespective of whether they could return the favor. I really just wanted them to enjoy my generosity with no expectations of a return gift. I now know that it creates an awkwardness to the situation that cannot just be wished away if the recipient just chooses to not worry about it. This year, because my position is being reduced soon, I was not able to exchange gifts with anyone except a small something for each of my children and our holiday plans were shot.
When I put that out on social media starting around Thanksgiving, some of my friends did what I would have done. Here is some money. Buy your family Thanksgiving dinner. I understand the sentiment because I couldn't enjoy my Thanksgiving knowing that another friend could not. I've actually done this before. And here I was at the receiving end. Wow, now I know how it feels. While I wholly appreciate the gesture and sentiment, now I know why it doesn't feel....good. Not exactly. It's not that I'm not thankful, don't get me wrong! I guess it's a situation that unless the donor is anonymous, it just makes things forever awkward. Money makes things awkward in a way that even gifts do not. If you're a person that feels entitled, I assume this would not be a problem, but for most people, it is.
The same sort of thing happened for Christmas. And believe me, if I wasn't feeling very stressed about the lack of money, I might have been a stronger person and returned the gift. Wow, now that would make hard feelings, right? I mean, what is the proper etiquette to not cause hard feelings? I'm not sure there is a way to accomplish this! So, I invited people over for Christmas dinner and bought a big old turkey and all the trimmings and cooked away. It was one of the best meals I've cooked in a long time. Everything from the turkey to the stuffing to the gravy came out fabulous. You should have been there. Really. I did all that cooking and no one showed up. We were eating turkey until we started to gobble ourselves! Oh, I did spend the extra money on a good crock pot so that we can cook some soups and stews during the cold winter months, if the cold ever gets here. :) That helped me get through December, though, and now I'm carefully navigating January.
So, here is what I'm taking away from this humbling experience and walking in someone else's shoes. As our Christmas gets more commercialized, I get more and more uneasy about the holidays. I actually enjoyed not having to worry about buying gifts for everyone this year and trying to figure out what I could afford vs. their smile factor. I never liked buying people junk just to buy something. I take care to at least try to buy something perfectly suited for them. Their smile was my reward. I've also lived a hectic life with work and school and raising kids, commuting, etc., and I haven't had as much time or energy to put into making homemade gifts as I would like. I want to work towards that end. I want a simpler life. I want to be generous in spirit since I'm not in a position to be overly generous monetarily. It took me a while to come to this conclusion.
Our society has blossomed into one that is more and more dependent on expensive electronics and telephone plans. Our phones graduated Phi Beta Kappa and can now communicate with us. Our televisions are enormous and high def. Our kids don't just play video games, they get plugged into a whole society of gamers playing the same game at the same times and are able to talk to each other via headsets. But all of this costs. Our home phone used to cost around $25/month and people didn't call long distance very often. Now our family plan is more than $200/month and we can call practically anyone, anywhere and at any time. I was enticed to get a smart phone because I reasoned that I had a portable navigation device and I could load it with music like an iPod. I can also take pictures, post them immediately on Facebook or other social media or look something up on the web. Everything is at my fingertips. But, I'm locked into a 2 year plan and my job is being cut back. So, now what? I'm kind of stuck!
I also wanted to mention that I've learned something else during this situation. Once you stop giving/receiving gifts with people, some of the magic of Christmas is diminished. I will not lie. It really was not nearly as fun as it's been in the past. So now what? I think we need to work on making Christmas a more meaningful experience. If we're not going to throw money at it, we need to invest more love into it. This is what I'll try to work on for next year. Is that my resolution? I really didn't make any, but okay. Yes, that's my New Year's resolution. :)
Friday, July 9, 2010
This week at NUIG, we had guest speakers Paula Meechan Reading and Theo Dorgan. Both were very interesting writers and stressed the importance of knowing the history of a word to draw on its many layers of meanings. Then we watched a documentary about Nobel Prize winning Poet Laureate Seamus Heaney.
I think it was Sunday night that I dropped a heavy jar onto my laptop's keyboard and fried the hard drive. It was in the repair shop for several days installing a new hard drive and getting it all up and running, along with attempting to save most of the data off of the old hard drive to transfer over to it.
So, the good news is that I have my computer back. The bad news is that I've lost a lot of stuff and I'm behind on my homework. And I know what you're thinking. Part of my homework is to keep a journal. Journal...blog....tomato....to-mah-to. A rose is a rose and all that junk.
We went to town one evening after classes to shop and decided to eat at the Couch Potatas. The potatoes are slow baked in the oven and all of their ingredients are fresh. The service and prices were very reasonable. In our group of four we have one vegetarian and one vegan. It's sometimes hard to find a restaurant for all of our needs, but this one fits the bill nicely.
I had a warm chicken salad. It came with brown bread or a potato, and I chose the potato and ordered a side of sour cream and chives to go with it. The other sauce came with it and was a cucumber dipping sauce.
For dessert I had the strawberry lumpy bumpy. It was a layer of crust, cheesecake, ice cream and white chocolate, with a side of real whipped cream. OMG, it was amazing. Dessert and tea or coffee was only $5 Euro. Molly ordered the caramel lumpy bumpy which was the same thing in caramel and delicious, but extremely sweet. Erin ordered another dessert that I've forgotten the name of, but it was also very good. Alas, they did not have any vegan desserts for the other Molly, so she was left out.
The Galway Film Fleadh is in town and I've been attending a few indie films. I saw the animated film The Illusionist which was very sweet, then a drama London River which was about the London bombings a few years back, then a Leonard Cohen documentary about the Isle of Wight concert which was very interesting. I got home just after midnight.
The next day I saw Nothing Personal which was very interesting and funny and then The Disappearance of Alice Creed. I rate Disappearance top notch. It's gritty, but extremely entertaining and one of the best indie films I've ever seen!
Where we had the vegetable soup and brown bread for only $3.95 Euro. It is one of the best vegetable soups I've had in Ireland thus far and the shop is filled with a lot of fair trade gifts to browse.
I had a little more than an hour before I had to get down to the boat dock to take the river tour of Galway on the Coiribe and we made our way slowly in that general direction. While we were outside of Enable Ireland thrift store, I looked at my watch and realized that I had missed my boat! I mean, I hadn't bought a ticket yet, but I was really planning on going. Oh, well! At that point we stopped in the nearest pub and had a cider, then headed homeward.
After that, we had planned on going to more indie movies, but we're leaving for the island of Inishbofin in the morning and I still have laundry to do and packing, etc. So, there will be more to report and more pictures in a few days!
Saturday, July 3, 2010
The second week of classes we're getting into a routine. We're trying to stick with our homework during the week, and plan on exploring on the weekends, with some exceptions for special events. Most of our jet lag is gone and it's just a matter of getting used to the sun coming up at around 4:30AM and setting at close to 11PM. Our day usually consists of at least a short nap somewhere. We can't seem to help ourselves.
This week we had talks and readings by Dermot Healy and Kerry Hardie. They were both delightful in their own way. I bought Kerry's book of fiction called The Bird Woman and she signed it. I also bought Louie de Paor's book of poetry called Clapping in the Cemetery and Mary O'Donoghue's book of fiction called Before the House Burns.
The folks at NUIG put on an Independence Day celebration for us with a bar-b-que. They had hamburgers, cole slaw, etc. (and of course the obligatory baked potato) and showed fireworks on the television sets and gave us poppers for party favors. The college bar was decorated in red, white and blue balloons. This time I had 2 wine coolers. Those of us who had bought Louie de Paor's book hit him up at the party to get his signature. We're shameless that way!
On Thursday, I went to the post office to mail off an urgent package and found out that their post offices don't offer nearly as many services as ours do. I guess they don't have as much competition or something. Anyway, in preparation for sending boxes home in the future, I went to Eason's book store (which has stationary in the upstairs) and bought some shipping boxes and packing tape. I need to investigate if the airlines will ship something back home because there appears to be a 5 kilogram weight limit. A kilogram is 2.2 lbs, so I can ship roughly 12 lbs. If I have more, I guess I'll send multiple boxes, but the airline might be cheaper. We'll see.
On Friday, I booked the Connemara tour with O'Neachtain Tours and had a blast. It was an all-day affair. These guys only charge students $15 ea (not $20) and they pick you up at your door in the morning and drop you off in the evening so that you don't have to walk or worry about a taxi. There were only seven of us on the tour that day and so they took the smaller bus, which was much more maneuverable. He stopped several times to let us out for photo opportunities, taking pictures of the Connemara ponies, waterfalls, etc.
Our tour guide and bus driver Stephen soon started referring to me as his #1 photographer because I was always the first to jump out and take pictures. He painstakingly explained to us how the farmers of Connemara dry out turf from the bogs to use for fuel. He pulled over and encouraged us to take pictures, which none of us did. He said, "What? My number 1 photographer is not interested in the number one fuel choice of Ireland?" I said, "No, maybe if you had some cute sheep I would, but not for just the turf." So we drove on and he found me some cute sheep!
As Stephen was giving us information about the Connemara region, he said, "The Connemara region is filled with eligible bachelor farmers and they're many times seen walking the roads. If you ladies are also looking for a man, this could be your lucky day. If you see one you like, we can pull over and invite him on the bus. Oh, look there's one now! Ladies, what do you say? Shall I pull over and invite him on with us? Is he a keeper?" It was an old grizzled farmer smoking a cigarette. We declined.
When we pulled over, Stephen would say, "We're stopping for 10 Irish minutes. That means I'll let you out now and I'll be back to pick you up on Tuesday!"
Stephen also kept saying that at 4PM that we'd have bus karaoke. At 4PM, he stayed true to his word and even sang us 2 Irish folk ballads to get us going. And yet still, no one would take him up on it. Ah, well.
When Stephen dropped us off at Kylemore Abbey he said that we were to meet him back at the bus at half 3 (3:30). He said that if we weren't there that he would assume that the sisters had convinced us to join the Benedictine order and were staying. We were ALL on time.
We spent 2 1/2 hours at Kylemore Abbey. Lunch was first on the agenda. I had goat cheese and sundried tomato quiche and a seafood chowder that was generously chock full of salmon and other seafood. It was among the best I've ever had.
Then it was off to tour the castle, the cathedral, I skipped the mausoleum, but I spent a lot of time in the gardens. The food raised in the gardens feeds the sisters and guests, and is also used in the restaurants. I had just enough time to breeze through the main gift shop but I had no time to really find anything before I had to be off to the bus. Aftera all, I was not about to join the Benedictine nuns!
If I did this right, this week's blog should have paragraphs and this next object should be a video of one of the many street musicians we encounter in Galway's city center.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Oh, and over here bangs are called FRINGE!!
:) Ciao! Catatonic1
Saturday, June 26, 2010
During the bus ride to Shannon, we stopped at a truck stop to use the rest rooms and get refreshments. My camera was set on some weird setting and I enlisted the help of others to see if I could fix it and no one could figure it out (pictures were coming out in a grid of 16 pictures per frame instead of one). I gave up and decided to figure it out later.
When we finally got to Limerick, another passenger Dee and I decided to go for fish and chips (my first, and it was good!) while we waited on the bus to Shannon. Then we took the first bus to the Shannon airport because it left an hour earlier than the one that went to the city of Shannon. Since The Oak Wood Arms Hotel was only about 2.5 miles from the airport, I thought perhaps that was a good idea. We also talked about sharing a taxi, but then her hotel was right there at the airport and she walked. Oh, well. At least I got to Shannon while it was still early enough to enjoy a little bit. And the hotel was so beautiful! Everything is brick, stained glass, thick carpet, wrought iron, etc. It's just stuffed with charm.
I was so tired of riding buses that I decided to go for a walk, which you can do because it stays light until around 10PM around here. So, I walked down to the turnabout and took pictures of the odd statue there of what appears to be some seed pods. There is no plaque explaining it and the locals don't even know what it is exactly. Then I saw a sign that read "Pelican Crossing." I had to take a picture, though I did not see any pelicans. I'm guessing they might have a problem with that or they wouldn't have made the sign.
Then I came back to the hotel and decided to go into the bar for a bit of dessert and a cider. The bar was gorgeous and I ordered a cheesecake and cider, cider being a cross between apple cider and beer. Both were excellent!
Then I went to my room and took a nice warm bath. The hotel prides itself on handicapped accessibility, yet the handles in the bathrub weren't levers, they were round and hard to manipulate. I am not a person with a disability, but I even had a problem with it. Anyway, I was relaxed enough at that point to crawl in the comfy bed and have a good night's sleep. I set a wake-up call for 6:30 since Kaytee Stephens was flying in early the next morning and I promised to meet her at the Shannon airport.
I got up as promised (hating the alarm!!), showered and went in the dining room for the continental breakfast. In the morning, my fight with the shower handles was so bad that when the epic battle was over, there was water all over the floor. If I wasn't wet with nothing on but a towel, I would have demanded another room. It was downright ridiculous.
When I went to the restaurant for breakfast, everything was in those covered heated serving dishes. Note: never eat sunny side up eggs from one of those things! They're like rubber. The rest of the breakfast was nice, though.
I went to check out and asked about a cab in 15 minutes. The concierge made the call and I scurried to the room to pack. I got out of there just in time and the taxi was waiting. We went over to the Shannon airport and he talked about the water to the left of us being tidal and the tide was way out. He also mentioned something about all the trees in Ireland being cut down and there just weren't any ancient trees anymore.
I walked into the airport and was going to have Kaytee paged, but I saw her sitting there knitting. I said, the bus to Galway leaves in 29 minutes, let's go! I didn't want to wait on the others. She did. I had learned in the past 2 days that you can get just about anywhere in Ireland simply by asking someone. Anyway, we waited. We shouldn't have because had we left earlier, the bus would not have been so hot (they don't have air conditioned buses because they would only use it one or twice a year) and we would have checked in before everyone else and avoided a bottleneck.
But, anyway, we got to Galway and took a cab over to the Gort Na Coroibe apartments and got all signed in and everything. The apartments have a downstairs living room and kitchen combo and a half bath. One story up, there is a single room, a double room and a bathroom. Another floor up, there's two single rooms. Since our program was so light on participation, we only had Hannah on the top floor and me on the floor below.
Now, get this. I was having trouble communicating with the maintenance staff about the problems in our apartment. We refer to the ground floor usually as the 1st floor. Then one story up would be the 2nd floor or 2nd story, and so on. To them, the ground floor is the bottom, then one story up is the FIRST floor! yikes!
So we settled into our rooms and went to the grocery store. I think I mentioned before that the produce isn't always up to American standards, especially the lettuce. Every head I looked at was brown, except one, so I bought it. Days later I find out a big secret. If you want nice lettuce, go to the farmer's market! Everything looks wonderful there.
Anyway, we get together and walk over to the National University of Ireland at Galway (NUIG) to register. It's a good long walk, I think maybe a mile and a half maybe? I'm a bad judge of distance. Let's just say it's a long walk by our standards. The Irish seem to do a lot of walking, so to them it's no big deal. It's been a little hard on some of us, especially if we're used to just hopping in our cars or taking a bus to get where we need to be.
Then we get a tour of the campus, which is just beautiful. There is so much greenery that you don't have the same line of sight from one end of campus to the other like you do at the University of Arkansas. So, we had a walking tour, but it was hard to get our bearings. At 3:30 we were introduced to the faculty, Moya Cannon, and for those who didn't go to the UA, they were introduced to Skip Hays from our English Department.
Most of us expressed a desire to take advantage of the poetry workshop class and the fiction workshop class (which go on at the same time) so they decided to stagger them since there is such a small class (only 9). Afterwards we get signed onto the NUIG system.
Then we walked all the way back to the apartments. Some of the group went out, but some of us settled in and ate from what we bought at the store. We were mostly exhausted. It had been a really long day with bus travel and a lot of walking. Most all of us had jet lag to some degree.
The next day, we started classes.