Monday, December 21, 2009

Nearly Home for Christmas

On my way to work this freezing December morning, my fingers throbbing and stinging with pain from the cold, I came across something I hadn't seen before. There in the middle of the car park was a pile of dung, horse dung. Sidestepping the dung a feeling of separateness, a detachment washed over me. I was removed. Distant but familiar sounds and smells seemed to engulf me. I was walking through the square my hometown, Dungarvan.

Dungravan is a seaside town on the southeast coast of Ireland. It is one of the few towns in Ireland with a perfect square for its town centre. The buildings and businesses vary in height from single story to three stories. Shop fronts of bright yellow, royal blue, pinks, shades of orange and greens with their big windows all bright and shiny. The Square bustles with uniformed children chattering as they make their way to school. Mothers gripping toddlers and pushing prams, shopping baskets attached laden with messages. Shopkeepers pushing trolleys filled with vegetables outside their shop doors. People stop to chat about the state of the country or the weather. A typical morning in the square. Then there is Market Day. Market Day brings a more frenzied bustling tempo to the square

Market Day in Dungarvan is the first Thursday of every month. Farmers from all the surrounding boroughs’ bring their livestock and produce to sell. Farmers wives set up stalls to sell their home baked cakes and buns, their jams and chutneys. Hawkers set up stalls to sell their wares. The town is awash with the smells and sounds of the market. The first thing you notice on market day before you turn the corner into the square is the pungent smell mixed with the smell pipe tobacco and home baking. These smells announce Market Day. The square abounds with the sounds of pigs squealing, sheep baying and horses neighing. The low excited rumblings of farmers bartering fill the air. The clip-clapping of horse hooves on the cobblestones, as farmers peer into their mouths, check hooves and slap their hind ends. Male and female hawkers calling as you pass by, in an effort to interest you in their wares and brick a brack. The voices and sounds melding together creating a strangely melodic tune. The tune that buzzes in your head all day long, driving you crazy. Side stepping and zigzagging through the square trying to avoid the piles of dung spotted on the street as you rush to get to work on time.

My foot slips and I twist my ankle slightly. Disorientated for a moment I don’t know where I am. Shaking my head to get my bearings, I feel the sting and pain of the cold in my fingers again. With a sad twinge of nostalgia I realize I am not home in Dungarvan. I am thousands of miles away, walking to work on this freezing cold December morning. I smile because for a brief moment, I had been catapulted home. I experienced the smells, the sights, and the sounds of Market Day. All this because of a pile dung in the car park.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Where Did My Puppy Go!?!




Last Thursday due to a trip to Las Vegas, I booked Louie into our vet’s boarding facility for two nights. Dilin (son #2) graciously agreed to pick him up on Saturday before the vet's office closed at noon. Our flight back was scheduled to arrive late on Saturday night. We were due home around midnight. If Louie stayed beyond Saturday at noon, we would not be able to collect him until Monday evening after work. I just couldn't leave him for that long.

The vet offers a grooming service as well as boarding. Louie was overdue for a trim. So, I asked the receptionist if the groomer had any openings during his stay. The groomer was fully booked, but if there were a cancellation Louie would be slotted in, the receptionist assured me. Before we left, the groomer came to the reception area to meet us and enquire as to how we wanted Louie groomed. I very confidently told her I wanted the puppy cut. The groomer then flabbergasted me by asking, “What do you mean by a puppy cut." That threw me for a loop. I thought I had the terminology down pat. This was Louie's fourth grooming session and "puppy cut" had up to this point been the description that had produced the desired results. I stood there looking at her, spluttering and splattering. This seemingly simple question plummeted me back to my first years in the US. Struggling to relate the minutest detail of everything, I attempted to engage in.

For example, my first visits to the hairdresser involved questions like what exactly I would like done, how much I would like cut off? This much or that much? Do I want it turned under or turned out? What side do I part my hair, or do I part it at all? Do I want them to use a curling iron or some other contraption? Do I want conditioner? That one I always thought was just plain stupid! Of course, I wanted conditioner! Do I want gel, do I want hairspray? Going to the hairdresser had become a question and answer session, like one of those pub quizzes. Except I didn’t know the answers! Hey, mother of four here! Give me a break! I found a photo I carry with me at all times. I am ready for them now! Hair never looks like the photo, but that's a story for another day.

Back to the groomer. Finding my voice I reiterated a nice little "puppy cut." "I like him fluffy." Vet-groomer went on to expound on the pluses of a good trim! Better value for money, no hair matting etc. etc. I repeated, "I really like him fluffy!" Husband then chimed in, that yes in fact Louie had a tendency to get matted around the legs. I gave him the best-betrayed look I could muster. The groomer proceeded to describe the proper poodle cut. My forceful voice decided to join the fray with an unequivocal, “Absolutely Not!” I explained that I just wanted his cute little face trimmed a bit, and a fraction taken of the length on his body. The groomer and I eventually came to an uneasy compromise. No more than three quarters of an inch was to be cut.

Dilin collected Louie as he promised before noon and sent me this message!


"Looks like little louie got a buzz cut!!"

My first reaction,Dilin collected the wrong puppy! My poor little Louie was stuck in the vet's boarding facility until Monday! Dilin reassured me, this was indeed my little Louie. I will not be bringing Louie back to the vet’s groomer. I will be going where the groomers know what a "puppy cut is!" That is if Louie has hair to groom ever again! In the meantime, I am trying to adjust to “New Hairless Louie”

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Las Vegas Here I Come!

My oldest son, Rian works for Sun Country Airlines scheduling flight crews. While visiting Rian in Minneapolis one day last October he told me about a deal Sun Country was running for its employees and their circle. A trip to Cancun, staying in an all-inclusive five star seaside resort . This promotion being available until December 15. So there and then, we decided to make a long weekend out of it and picked December 3 as our departure date. Yes, that’s right, tomorrow. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? A nice long weekend in the sun, by the sea to relax, read and recuperate from Thanksgiving madness, and rejuvenate to better cope with the upcoming Christmas chaos. My suitcase was mentally packed. I spent an hour on the floor beside my bed going through the unread stack of books, selecting my reading for the trip. I would only need two pairs of shoes, the ones I would wear and a pair of flip-flops. Which meant no checked luggage! I was going to carry-on. I love carry-on! I could see myself lounging under one of those tiki umbrella’s sipping Margareta’s. Watching the waves and breathing in the sea air. Perfect!

Rian arrived home with all the travel details last weekend. I was so excited. Not about Cancun particularly, but by the prospect of the heat, the sun, and the sea. Oh how I miss the sounds and the smell of the sea. As we sat around the kitchen table discussing the flight times, layovers in Dallas etc. the husband says, “I don’t know, is it really worth going to Cancun for three days. A week in Cancun makes more sense to me.” Rian countered with what about Las Vegas? Sun Country are running another great deal for Las Vegas. Once the flight times were checked, the husband was satisfied. Las Vegas he informed us, was a more suitable destination for our three-day weekend. I sat silently as my tiki umbrella and Margareta vanished in the proverbial puff of smoke. I don’t know about you, but Las Vegas has never featured on my list of places to visit. I love cities don’t get me wrong, but can Las Vegas really be classed as a city. It has always struck me as a place of frenzy with glitzy vulgarity and isn't it extremely loud! So much for recuperation and rejuvenation. The mentally packed suitcase must be repacked. I will need at least three pairs of shoes. Creative planning is now required because I am determined to carry-on and now I will only need one book!

We are staying at the Planet Hollywood Resort. There are two pools, a spa, a gym, a hair salon and a number of restaurants in the hotel. Maybe Las Vegas won't be so bad after all. I think I'll bring two books. Better safe than sorry!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Irish Style

My youngest chick arrives home this evening for the Thanksgiving holiday. As I type, he is homing in from Duluth. The arrival of the oldest three will be staggered throughout Wednesday evening and an hour before dinner on Thursday. They are all looking forward to coming home, eating mom’s cooking, watching football on the television and socializing with one another. For the next six days if anyone is looking for me, I will be in the kitchen, stirring, grating, peeling, stuffing etc. I am exhausted, thinking about it.

On Thursday, we will have a traditional meal. Our traditional meal is more Irish Christmas, than American Thanksgiving. There will be butternut squash soup masquerading as carrot soup. For mothers of fussy eaters, I know you will appreciate that one! Name it something they like and they might actually eat it! The soup is accompanied by second son’s all time favorite, brown soda bread. The main course will consist of turkey, with my mother’s bread stuffing, a favorite of all, even though it contains chopped onions. Stuffing is the one dish not subjected to a magnifying glass inspection in an attempt to remove all offending onions. They actually watch one another as the stuffing is passed around, to make sure no-one takes more than they should. There will be roast and mashed potatoes. The roast potatoes being a strange new phenomenon for the American son-in-law and American girlfriends. The holiday meal would be a flop for my two oldest children if marrowfat peas where missing from the menu. They love those marrowfats! Carrots in lemon butter, with the usual accompaniments, one of which is gravy, made with the giblets. To my amazement another favorite of my fussy eaters. Strange I know. Cranberry sauce and Kerrygold butter, yes, there will be real Irish butter on the table, shipped via internet from New Jersey. I have commissioned the three oldest to bring a vegetable dish this year. This insures there will be at least one or two vegetables that will appeal to each. Desert is chocolate bread pudding with custard and pumpkin cheesecake with whipped cream. I haven’t come up with a disguise for the cheesecake yet, still working on that one.

The soup and turkey are all that qualify as traditional Thanksgiving fare. The traditional pumpkin pie having morphed into a cheesecake to make it more appealing. Of course, there will be wine and beer. That goes without saying. But the most important thing, the thing that warms my heart and makes all the stirring, grating, peeling, etc. worthwhile is, all my chicks choose to be at my table for Thanksgiving and for that I am truly Thankful.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bio Trepidation

Why is it so hard to write a bio? Is it just me? Does anyone else struggle with bios? I had to write two of them today. The first, for my Creative Writing 101 class, which started yesterday. This one caused me a night of sleeplessness as I tossed and turned composing and editing in my head. The class is online so the bio is important. It is my introduction to the instructor and my fellow classmates. The people I will be interacting with over the next 10 weeks. I wanted it to be crisp, witty and informative. I wanted to come across as a person who loves to write, wants to write and has the potential to write well. So this is what I came up with:
The first thing people tend to say to me, in shops, restaurants etc. is, “I love your accent. Where are you from?” The reply, “I am from Ireland, but I live here in Eau Claire.” Fifteen years ago, I moved to Eau Claire, WI with my husband, four children and thirteen suitcases. Oh the grand old days when baggage was a realized necessity! We moved from the seaside Gaeltacht village of An Rinn, Co. Waterford, the beautiful, lush, green, sunny southeast coast of Ireland. We still have a home in Ireland. This allows me spend the summer months and every second Christmas in the land of my soul.

Reading and writing have been hobbies of mine for as long as I have been able to read and write. I asked Santa Claus for a typewriter when I was nine. I love books. When my husband thinks I need some cheering up, he will suggest a trip to one of the local bookstore chains. Hours pass like minutes for me in bookstores and libraries. I have stacks of books in practically every room in the house waiting to be read, from these jaunts.

I am hard pressed to name a favorite book, there are so many. I would need more than the allotted 500 words! Authors I cannot pass, reading over and over are, Nuala O’Faolain, Colum Toibin, Deidre Purcell, Jane Austin, James Michener, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy to name but a few.

I write as I speak. And I speak in run on and fragmented sentences. I am hoping this class will cure me of this ill. I also hope this class will add much needed polish to my writing. Once, I am a bit polished confidence might follow. Then I may feel brave enough to submit something, somewhere.”


I know, but it was the best my exhausted brain could muster!

The second bio of the day was for the twitter page I started about a week and a half ago. I have no clue how to manage twitter, what it's for, or what to do with it. It is an enigma I am attempting to fathom. I followed the instructions and everything was moving along nicely until I came to the bio section. The mind just went blank. I mean really, what was I going to say about myself. I have mulled over this for the last 12 days. Today I just decided the best thing to do was to describe my mindset when it comes to twitter. So, my twitter bio is, “Confused and bewildered, but still laughing.“ The laughing came with the acknowledgment of my confusion and bewilderment. Hopefully this too shall pass. The confusion and bewilderment I mean. The laughter I am trying to hang onto.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Saturday at the Met-Well Nearly

On Saturday afternoon I attended the Met’s Live in HD movie-theatre performance of Turandot, Puccini’s final and unfinished opera. These HD transmissions are being hailed as the next best thing to a performance in the opera house. And for the likes of me, this most certainly is true. Of course nothing can compare to the thrill of a live opera performance. But if like me, you love opera, and live a three hour plus plane journey away from New York, this technology brings the Met's opera season within an attainable proximity. HD live is a gift.

Unfortunately this particular performance was marred by repeated interruptions of the audio and video signal. During the intermission the cinema management informed us this was a global glitch and the Met were trying to repair the feed. As way of compensation, all attending were offered a free pass to the encore presentation, Wednesday November 18. In addition, as patrons left the theatre, management handed out free movie passes.

In spite of the glitches, the production was truly spectacular. Marcello Giodani gave a wonderful performance as Calaf. His rendition of Nessun Dorma was spine tingling. I was prepared to be disappointed, being so familiar with Luciano Pavarotti's Nessun Dorma. Of course Giodani is no Pavarotti, but then Pavarotti's voice was magic.

A talent to watch out for and one I will be following is Russian soprano, Marina Poplavskaya. For me she stole the show. Her performance was breathtaking. Her voice was clear, lyrical and surprisingly strong. Combined with grace and beauty, she is the complete package.

There were interviews during both intermissions with cast members, the conductor, two musicians and the prop designer. Here I learned, Charles Anthony, portraying the Emperor, first sang at the Met in 1954. My parents enjoyed many seasons at Met from 1957 to 1962. It made me feel strangely close to them when I realized they must have seen Anthony in numerous productions. During the interview Anthony also revealed that his real family name was in fact Caruso. This behind the scenes view is the advantage HD broadcasts have over live opera performances. In addition to the interviews you are taken behind the closed curtains and are privy to the scene changing with all its hustle and bustle.

I thoroughly enjoyed my operatic afternoon. I can't wait to attend the January HD feed of Carmen. I left the theatre feeling happy and contented. The only thing that could transform this idyllic day into a blissful one, a brief stop at DSW.

Well of course I did!!! Wouldn't you?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Memories


Today my baby is twenty. This is the second time in his twenty years he has not been home on his birthday. He did stop home Sunday for a few hours, en-route from Madison where he spent a fun filled Halloween weekend. After dinner, I produced a cake with candles. He humoured me, blowing out the candles as the obligatory photos were taken. When it was time for him to leave, he gathered up the few groceries I had put together for him along with the leftover cake and continued his journey to Duluth, where he is attending university.

For me this is one of those double-edged sword days. I am proud of the wonderful, caring loving man he has grown into. He has only crashed my car once. Gotten a few speeding tickets but overall he has been very responsible and trustworthy.

What I miss and what never fails to bring a tear to the eye is the memory of my beautiful boy with corn silk blond hair, perfect little bow mouth and big vibrant blue eyes, the colour I can only liken to that of the Aegean Sea. The baby boy who the first eighteen months of his life was a permanent fixture on my hip. Who would grab my face with both his hands turning it towards him, if my attention strayed from him for too long. A toddler, who squealed with glee, wrapping his arms around my legs when I arrived home after an absence of more than ten minutes. The way he ungracefully mimicked his older sister’s Irish dancing. Stomping around the hallway with feet of lead, in his own enthusiastic interpretation of a reel. How he would inform me he wanted to sing and as I put on the “Woman’s Heart” CD he put on the massive headphones and sang his little heart out, “Only da wubans, only da wubans.” His other headphone and party piece favorite was, “Sonny”. Even as I write this, my eyes fill with the wistful tears that always accompany these cherished memories.

It brings a smile to my face and my heart as I recall him standing in the kitchen, watching me intently, and then very seriously informing me, he thought it was a, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” day. He loved that movie, filled with singing, dancing and bright colours. With a pot of tea, we would head into the sitting room put in the tape and make ourselves comfortable on the sofa. He would snuggle up to me positioning himself, as close to his afore mentioned favorite hip and together we would watch the movie. Hitting pause to answer questions he would inevitably pose during the viewing.

I savour these and numerous other special moments spent with my precious boy. As I watched him sing or sat with him on the sofa, I was keenly aware, these wonderful years were borrowed time. I was conscious to the fact it would all pass too quickly. What I did not anticipate was the lightening speed in which these days of wonder actually did flash by. It seems I blinked and my beautiful baby boy became a man. So, today I smile and those wistful tears fill my eyes as I remember. As I celebrate my beautiful boy who is twenty today.

Any precious memories you would like to share?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dogs Gone Wild

Last week I discovered that in Wisconsin, Halloween is not only for humans. We attend a puppy kindergarten with Louie, every Wednesday evening from 6-7pm. Last Wednesday, class was cancelled for a Doggie Halloween party. We received our invitation via email, with instructions that costumes for dogs were required, human costumes were optional. My husband informed me Louie wanted to go to this party. This is the same man, who in our first year of marriage cringed, telling me how ridiculous it was, putting lights on the windows for Christmas. I was dumbfounded, speechless, had aliens taken over his body? That would explain how he knew Louie wanted to go to the party.
The night before the party, we headed to one of the larger pet stores to purchase Louie’s costume. The alien inhabited husband pulled a Dracula costume off the rack. "Louie would love this," alien husband stated. I reminded him of Louie totally freaking out and nearly choking himself trying to pull his dog tag off. He was hardly going to tolerate being wrapped up in a cape. He,(the alien) moved further down the aisle and pulled out an expensive devil costume. This consisted of another cape, with a pitchfork attached and a hood with devil ears. I guess the bit about Louie’s level of tolerance hadn’t registered.

I noticed a little black glow in the dark t-shirt on sale for half price. This was it, we had found Louie's costume. And to be perfectly honest, I had no intention of purchasing a dog costume costing more than any of my children’s costumes. Granted I always made theirs but that is beside the point! After much hemming and hawing, by said alien, the black T-shirt was purchased. On exiting the shop, alien sadly informed Louie he would not be winning the best costume competition. I don't know maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed both alien and Louie threw an accusing glance in my direction.

We arrived at the party and as promised, it was an evening of canine chaos. Not only were all the dogs in costume, but many owners, not just children, were in complimentary costumes.
There was a booth for Madame Zelda Poochini,the paw reader/fortune teller. A large queue formed snaking through the hall as people waited their turn to have their dogs paws read. There was a portrait photographer on hand if you wished to capture this Kodak moment in your dog’s life. We milled around the hall for about an hour. Stopping to admire the dogs in their costumes and engage in small doggy talk with owners.

At the opposite end of the hall, a game of dunk for the frankfurters got underway. Louie and I watched the proceeding for a short while at a safe distance. Smiling to myself, I wondered if a doggy adaptation of pin the tail on the donkey something like pin the tail on the owner was next on the agenda. Doggie payback!


The noise level was reaching fever pitch with yelping, barking and growling. When Louie started ruff ruffing, I knew we were partied out. It was time to leave. I turned around but but there was not sign of alien. Scanning the crowded hall, I spotted him beside the cupcake table. I watched as he scoffed down one of the chocolate frosted cupcake. Yes, my husband was back, the alien had left the room!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Voices Begone!

Today I am suffering from a major case of the writer’s blues. Struggling with thoughts of, will I ever write anything again? I am suffering the aftermath of Inner Critic, who was on patrol all weekend doing a number in my head. Every time I took pencil in hand and put that pencil to the page, said pencil remained motionless. Inner Critic had a field day with this. So you think you can write it snarled at me sarcastically. “Yes,” I replied, apprehensively. Inner Critic immediately jumped on the hesitant reply and in an attempt to crush what little resolve I had left, reminded me of all the unfinished projects I have tucked away in a yellow binder. Not to mention the hours wasted dawdling and procrastinating over said projects.


Why are there three unfinished projects in what has become the infamous yellow binder? I started each one of these stories with such enthusiasm. The first 5000 words could not wait to leap onto the page. Then with virtually no warning, the pace changed, it became sluggish. A short while later when I attempted to add an historical event, unfinished story number one came to a crashing halt. I had eagerly begun searching for the details of this historical event. Thinking it would just take a few quick clicks of the mouse to get the facts I needed. How hard could it be? I ended up searching for hours. I needed the date, time and venue where a prominent politician of the day had given a speech. A street, a square, a hotel, anything but I couldn’t pin it down. Trying a different tact, I searched for the content of the speech. No luck there either. This information is important only in the context of the times the story is set. I should be able to move on with the rest of the story but I was stuck because this bump brought Inner Perfectionist to the fore. Inner Perfectionist insists another word cannot be written until the information is found. Having roused Inner Perfectionist, Inner Critic now had competition and became louder and more insistent. Inner Perfectionist says I cannot move along with the story until I get my facts right. Inner Critic says I cannot move on with the story because I cannot write. And so the characters of story number one languish in the abyss known as the yellow binder.

Inner Perfectionist has also regulated Story number two to the yellow binder. I needed the layout of a ship, the date it departed from Cobh and the day it arrived in New York in the late 1950’s. Once again, I mistakenly thought this information was only a few quick mouse clicks away. It has taken me six months to find the dates of this particular crossing. I still have not found information on the fares or the layout of the ship. A writer really does need to know where the characters are actually hanging out. I could make up a ship, but Inner Perfectionist is appalled by the very idea of this. Inner Critic laughs, exuding a, you have to be kidding me attitude.

Story number three is a flashback story. The main character is looking back, trying to figure out how she got to the dark ugly place she now inhabits. She is just about to open a letter. Inner Perfectionist raises her interfering little head and asks, what is in this letter exactly? How is it addressed, give me the wording. My mind goes blank. I cannot for the life of me get the wording of this letter past Inner Perfectionist. Inner Critic says; look if you can’t even write a letter what makes you think you can write a story. I grow tired of being badgered, so into the yellow binder goes story number three joining its fellow uncompleted projects.

Even as I write this Inner Perfectionist and Inner Critic are chitchatting away in the background. Inner Perfectionist is appalled at the phraseology of this piece. Inner Critic scoffs, you call this writing, are you joking me, this is just a load of rubbishy ramblings. No one will read this. It would bore anyone to death. Well I am finally answering back. I am not as concerned about whether anyone reads this, as I am about actually writing it and breaking the block. Is that silence I hear? It seems the only way to silence the bullies is to just write, even if it is only rubbishy ramblings. Otherwise, the bullies in your head win! And we can’t have that now can we? Oh and I am going out later today to buy a new binder. I think florescent pink might be the thing. I have gone off yellow.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Not All Sweat Lodges Are Created Equal!

The Sweat Lodge has been the focus of much discussion these past two weeks, due to the tragic deaths that occurred in Sedona, Arizona on Thursday, October 8. I first learned of these tragic deaths from my husband. On arriving home from work he related what he had heard on the news about the sweat lodge deaths. "Don’t you go to those sweat lodges," he asked? He knew my answer was yes. I have been to four sweat lodges in as many years and had just reserved my space for another one on November 1, called “The House of the Ancestors and All Souls Day.”

Unlike the facilitator of the tragic Sedona sweat lodge, a Shamana, who has studied with indigenous medicine people from North America and South America, runs the sweat lodges I attend. She has been practicing shamanic spiritual healing for over twenty years and teaches shamanism internationally.

Also unlike the tragic Sedona sweat lodge, there is no fee for the sweat lodges I attend. You may leave a donation if you wish, but it is not required. If you do decide to leave a donation, it is anonymous. As you leave the house after the feast you may notice a jar sitting on a bench by the door. It is up to you, if you decide to drop a few dollars into it, or pass it by.

The focus of this sweat lodge is to honour our ancestors. We have been asked to bring a photograph of a departed love one and a favorite dish of theirs in their honour for the feast/smorgasbord that will be rounding off this sweat lodge ceremony. The feast being the time to socialize with all your fellow sweat lodge buddies.

The ceremony is scheduled to start at 11 am. Preparing the lodge for entering at noon is the first order of business. It will be a three round Sweat Lodge, which is a Saami tradition as opposed to the four rounds of the Native American Sweat Lodge. Lee’s sweat lodges are very open and user friendly. You may bring water into the lodge with you. You may leave the lodge at anytime durning the ceremony, if you feel the need. The actual sweat lodge, which is only a third of the whole ceremony, lasts under one hour. Our sweat lodge on November 1, will start as I said at 11 am with the preparation of the lodge and placing our photographs on an altar in the house. We will be entering the sweat lodge at noon, sharing stories that are dear to our hearts about those we have loved and lost. On exiting the lodge at about one pm, we will then go back into the house and partake of the feast. There will be a closing ceremony after the feast and we should all be heading home by three thirty, refreshed, glowing from the natural sauna and feeling relaxed.

You do have to book a place in Lee's sweat lodges. She limits the number of people. You are not packed like sardines in this sweat lodge. There is plenty of room to move about so you are not stifled by overcrowding. I have never been to a sweat lodge where anyone has had to leave, but still it is made very clear to everyone before entering the lodge that if you feel you need to leave, do not hesitate. So when my husband asked me if I was going to cancel my November 1, sweat lodge, my answer was No! Absolutely not. I know my sweat lodge is safe. The materials used to construct the lodge are all natural materials. Therefore, the lodge can breathe, and the steam can escape. I know the lodge will not be overcrowded. I also know that Lee takes her responsibility for the spiritual and physical safety of all who participate in her sweat lodges very seriously. I am attending a sweat lodge with a knowledgeable responsible facilitator, who is more interested in the ceremonial rites and the benefits to the participants as opposed to monetary gain. A true spiritual teacher!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thanks to My Blog Bible!

This week I purchased a book my sister, Trisha recommended to me, on how to blog. “The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging,” by the editors of Huffington Post. I am only a third of way through this book and I have to say it has been very helpful. I would highly recommend it to all novice bloggers. So far I have followed instructions and successfully added a stat counter to see if anyone is in fact visiting my blog. The next step came under the heading of “alerting your own networks,” which for me meant my limited list of friends on facebook. I spent a few hours trying to figure out how to accomplish this, and in the end, I think I got it.

Chapter three, "Getting Noticed," is where I am now in what has become my how to Blog Bible! Self promotion is what this chapter is all about. Something I am not naturally comfortable with. Grappling with the deepset feeling of it being rude, even obnoxious to expound on your own abilities. I did not learn this at home from my parents as most people would expect. Quite the contrary in my case. I grew up being told that I could do anything, be anything I wanted. Except for that one thing. When my brother was born an only son in a family of girls and in the United States, my parents regularly gushed proudly into his little face, you can be anything you want. You could even be president of the United States. I was twelve when my brother was born and on hearing this inquired if I too could be president of the United States. To my dismay at the time, I was told no, I could not. The reason for this stumbling block, I had not been born in the United States. I was happy for my baby brother and didn't dwell any further on this impediment. Being the President’s big sister, would be cool enough.

So where did my discomfort of self promotion come from? I suppose it could be put down to the many schools I attended. Twelve years, six schools, two countries. I was different wherever I went, even while living in the US. Later in life I came to embrace my uniqueness, but as children we want to fit in, be the same. When I lived in NY I had an Irish accent. When we went back to Ireland I had a NY accent. When I lived in Chicago, I had an Irish/NY accent. When we moved to Madison, WI I had an Irish, NY, Chicago accent. Things were getting very complicated accent wise. Then we moved back to Ireland and I just had an American accent. Much less complicated!

When we moved back to Ireland, Americans were regarded as loud and boastful. Unfortunately, descriptions very apt to the Americans visiting Ireland in that era, the returned Yanks or those polyester plaid clad bus tourists of the seventies. So I guess it would be correct to surmise that it was peer/community pressure that knocked the self promotion gene from my psyche.

I spent the last day or two wondering if this self promotion thing was such a good idea. Am I making a fool of myself? I took a deep breath, told myself to get over myself and just do it. And I have. I thought of going back and taking the blog link off facebook, but I haven’t figured out how to do it yet. My B.B. doesn’t have instructions for that!

Chapter four is about finding your voice. Maybe by the time I get through this next chapter, I will have found a more focused voice. Bet you are hoping for the same thing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Snow, OH MY

When I opened my curtains this morning there it was. Snow!!! My heart sank along with my spirits. Snow this early, oh no! It's way too early the voice in my head roared, or did I actually roar. I turned on the television to get the weather report. That only added to my angst. The very well groomed Meteorologist informed me that not only was it going to snow all day long, but we could expect a record-breaking snowfall of two inches. Last winter only ended in May. Yes you read right, May, we actually had a snowstorm in May! At this rate, winter will last at the very least seven long months.

In years past, I sat, watched, and marveled at the mystical beauty of that first snowfall of the season. Well not this morning! It was bleak, sad, and quite honestly depressing. Nothing mystical or magical happening this morning.

I was not the only one in my house feeling less than pleased with the early appearance of this year’s first snow. No, my new puppy Louie was downright aggrieved. When I came downstairs this morning and let him out of his crate, he was his usual happy tail wagging puppy self. I opened up the back door and out he pranced. Coming to a dead stop when he spotted the white stuff at the end of the deck, and then he noticed the white stuff falling from the sky. He ruffed at it in the way he ruffs at things that frighten him. Things like stones, gates, traffic lights, the usual scary things of life! Then the ruff developed into barking, agitated barking. He needed to get out there and do his business, but he had no intention leaving the safety of the deck. He scratched on the door and whined to be left back in, and when the door was opened, he ran into the kitchen skidding across the tiled floor, to hide under the table as fast as his little puppy legs could carry him. I tried him outside once again about twenty minutes later. He had not changed his mind about that snow stuff falling from the sky. In fact, his reaction was exactly the same, skidding and all. Poor Louie is going to have at least seven long months to conquer his fear of snow. I mean he is going to have to venture off the deck at some stage! As for me, I hope to experience the wonder and the beauty of the first snowfall during the second snow fall in December!!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Blogging, The Way to Go

Blogging, I was told is the way to go for aspiring writers. My sister, Siobhan first mentioned the concept to me while I was at home in Ireland this summer. She informed me her friend Barbara, who is a writer told her blogging was the only way to go for the writers of today.

I filed this idea in the back of my mind. My thoughts on blogging last summer were, how do I even start to wrap my head around this blogging thing. I mean I had only gotten myself sorted on Facebook. Begging my children to please let me be your friend. It was embarrassing for weeks I only had three friends. My youngest refusing to be my friend. He informed me Facebook was not for Moms!

Anyway back to blogging. So I attended the WRWA (Wisconsin Regional Writers Association)last weekend and lo and behold, blogging was once more being hailed as the way to go for writers. A way to create a platform for oneself. I spent one long week trying to figure out how to create this blog. To make it pretty and give it a name that would reflect creativity.

Well here it is. I don't know what I am suppose to do now. I guess I will just have to play it by ear and hope for the best.

Have a great day as they say in America!

Ann