Lovely, Lovely Ireland

I recently went on a trip to Ireland, which is why I have been silent for the past few weeks. This vacation knocked another item off my bucket list, so I have a lot to say about my adventures to the Emerald Isle—more than can be said in just one post.

My first observation is that referring to Ireland as the “Emerald Isle” is truly apropos, because almost everywhere I went, with the exception of “The Burren” (more another time), the landscape was covered with lush green grass. I guess there is something to be said for rain, because my lawn here in South Carolina is an embarrassment compared to what I viewed there.

As I mentioned in a previous post (The Best Places to Pee), I am not a fan of American bathrooms, which are severely lacking in privacy, because people waiting for a stall can easily peak while you leak because our doors are just not tight enough. Observe a typical Irish stall:

I smiled while waiting for a stall to become available when I visited the famous Cliffs of Moher. It appeared to be a typical bathroom—lots of stalls and sinks—and a bit of waiting, but when the door opened up, out popped a man who headed to the sinks to wash his hands. It was a coed bathroom, and guess what, the sky did not fall and no one gave him a glance. I wondered how Vice President Pence and his wife, “Mother,” would react if confronted with a similar scenario.

Most of the toilets had two buttons to flush—regular and super charged. Sometimes you just don’t need the extra boost, so why waste water?

Moving on… I never saw so many sheep in my life. Cows came in a close second. The hills were alive with visions of mostly white sheep grazing peacefully in the fields and occasionally causing our tour bus to come to a halt while they crossed the street.

Irish kids really like blue hair, and they are into the puzzling-to-me-fashion of the ripped jeans look. I just don’t get it!

While all the restaurants were thankfully smoke-free, the same cannot be said for the streets. It appeared to me that there is just a lot more cigarette smoking going on in Ireland. That was disturbing and unpleasant.

Most of the people we met were extremely friendly and were particularly interested in expressing their distaste and puzzlement with our president. When we visited the town of Castlebar, they expressed hope that Joe Biden would become our next president, particularly because he had visited there in 2016 since he has roots in the area. It was personal for the townspeople. They even had a flower with his name.

On the return train from Belfast, two young women who were seated opposite us explained their shared shock with the rest of the world on hearing the election results. This led to an explanation of the disparity between the Electoral College results and the popular vote, which puzzled them even more. They just shook their heads in confused amazement.

During a cab ride in Dublin, when our driver learned we were from the South, he just assumed we were Trump supporters. When he learned otherwise, he asked us how the voters in the Bible Belt could support such an immoral, uncaring, heartless person. We agreed that we were perplexed as well.

A surprise to me was learning that some Irish people speak only Irish. I wrongly assumed everyone spoke English, and some spoke Irish as well. All the signs are in both English and Irish. It is an interesting language to hear and reminded us of the Hebrew language in which many sounds come from the throat, sounding to me like someone trying to clear their throats of phlegm.

And for those whose drink of choice is iced tea, I must say that while it was never a problem getting hot tea, I never saw what we in the south call unsweet or sweet tea. But Guinness is everywhere!


Snazzy Yet Sensible

It is now a little more than three weeks until our big family wedding and I still do not have a dress. I think I have decided on an alternative outfit, which is the jumpsuit I stumbled upon while passing through Macy’s when I went to see if the spring line of clothes was finally available.

I like that little navy blue number, and I have received enough encouragement to make me feel confident that this is a good choice. Still, I can’t stop thinking about the trips to the loo, because there is no way I will not have a glass or two of wine and a sip of beer during the entire day. Sadly, there is no trap door in my jumpsuit.

So I made two trips to the mall as well as two to Macy’s and left without finding a dress, but I did feel better after seeing an abundance of jumpsuits, so at least I know this mommy/grandma will be stylish. Next, I needed to decide on the shoes, so since I hate to shop, I decided to see if my closet would save me a trip to the shoe store of torture.

My in-home shopping trip yielded five possibilities: 1 silver, 1 gold, and 3 black. All but one were opened-toed and open-backed.  Which to choose, which to choose since they are all comfortable?

We have been told that “it probably won’t snow during the last weekend in April.” Probably is not the same as definitely, and I would prefer to keep my toes warm. So knowing that the fashion police will hall me off to style jail if I am caught wearing pantyhose or knee highs with anything other than a closed shoe where I can hide my little tootsie warmers, I am leaning toward the closed shoes.

I have finally decided that, as my mother always says, “Who is looking at me?” I am a grandmother of two and am collecting social security. I am not far from collecting Medicare, I have a replacement hip, and more than one achy bone. When Bryce recently asked me how old I was, his response when I answered truthfully was, “Uh oh Grandma!” I am able to admit that that I am no longer young.

But if my outfit is snazzy, who really cares what I am wearing on my feet? And if I end up dancing the evening away, I may end up kicking off my shoes anyway. So it’s decided. I am wearing the groovy navy blue jumpsuit and my closed-toe shoes. Anyone who doesn’t like it will not get invited to the next wedding!

The Russians Love Lowe’s

As a country of immigrants, it is common to meet people from different countries and to hear different languages being spoken. I love walking into a restaurant of a country whose cuisine I have never tasted or experimenting with a recipe from a country whose food is unfamiliar to me.

I am accustomed to seeing signs printed in both English and Spanish, but I must say I was surprised with the sign I saw above the cashier during my recent visit to Lowe’s Home Improvement store. At the top, in bold white letters on a red background, were the instructions to “point to the sentence you can read,” followed by the same sentence in four other languages.

“That’s nice,” I thought, but as my eyes drifted downward while I viewed the entire sign, my thoughts changed to “That’s weird,” when I noticed the fourth language on the list: Russian! The others, in order, were Spanish, French, and Chinese.

Now I know Russia is all around us, and if we watch the news or even many television shows, we cannot go a day without hearing about someone or something Russian-related. But are there really enough people in my country, or my state, to warrant a sign at Lowe’s having Russian as one of the five languages on that sign? I decided to do some research.

The most commonly-spoken languages after English are:

South Carolina                                                             United States

Spanish                                                                         Spanish

German                                                                        Chinese

French                                                                          Tagalog

Chinese                                                                        Vietnamese

Tagalog                                                                        French

Vietnamese                                                                 Korean

Arabic                                                                          German

Russian                                                                        Arabic

Korean                                                                         Russian

Gujarati                                                                        African Languages

On both a state and national level, the census bureau puts Russia at #8 and #9 of commonly spoken languages, so are there, perhaps, more Russian spies making purchases of hammers, saws, vices, and toilets at Lowe’s than the average speakers of that language? And what could possibly be the reason that Russian beats out Chinese and Tagalog (a language spoken in the Philippines)?

This inquiring mind wants to know.


What a Nice Surprise!

I would like to clarify and follow up on my March 22 post, “Pay Attention,” which described the trouble I had after losing my driver’s license during a recent flight to New Jersey. The last paragraph mentioned that my license arrived three days after I returned home, which was not intended to mean the original license, but instead, my replacement license.

Before I left to return home, my sister bet me one dollar that within a year, I would receive the lost license in the mail. She was confident that a Good Samaritan would return it to me. I took the bet, and I am happy to report that I lost that bet.

One week after leaving New Jersey, I received an envelope in the mail with the return address of an unknown sender containing nothing but my lost driver’s license. On the inside flap was a brief note stating, “I found it in the airport,” followed by a telephone number.

The name was illegible, so I tried locating the sender by address, but alas, the address is that of an apartment, so there is no tax records pointing to the owner of a residence. I only know that their first name begins with a “J.” So that night, I sent a text to “J”, thanking him/her for returning my license and stating that his/her action showed that there are still some very nice people in the world.

We “chatted” for a few minutes, and not knowing where the loss had occurred, I asked “J” where my license had been found. I was informed that it was discovered at Newark Airport, Terminal A, which told me that it must have happened after I left the plane and was probably on my phone looking for the details regarding my car rental. My license had been left in the same pocket as my cell phone.

Apparently, “J” works at the airport, and he/she told me that he/she got what he/she wanted, which was to hear back from me and know that I was happy. When I responded that “J’s action made my day, he/she said, “Win the Powerball and give me a dollar.” I agreed that we would meet somewhere, in disguise, for the transfer of the cash.

I am rarely so happy by a mail delivery. Thank you mystery worker at Newark Airport.



Pay Attention!

I learned my lesson regarding staying focused while at the airport last week.

I passed through security like a breeze on a warm spring day. I was pre-checked, so I did not have to remove my shoes, IPad, or liquids. The entire practice took a mere five minutes. I headed to my gate where I settled down with my Kindle, and I did not even stop for a bite to eat or a cup of coffee. My flight was on time, so I was happy to know I would arrive at the hospital with plenty of time to see Grandma prior to her surgery.

When I arrived at Newark airport, I boarded the monorail and headed to the car rental agency. Everything was running so smoothly, I thought to myself. I will beat that nasty New Jersey traffic. With only one person in front of me, I reached into my purse for my wallet so I could get my credit card and license.

Oh, no, oh no, oh no!!! Discovering that my license was missing, I could feel my heart beating at warp speed. I felt an awful pit begin to form in my stomach. I left the line and searched my entire purse, and then recalled that I had placed my driver’s license in my pocket along with my cellphone.

I went back to the terminal, where I learned that there are many sources of locating lost objects at an airport: the airline (nope, it had not been found on the plane), the airport lost and found, and TSA lost and found. Since I was uncertain where the loss had occurred, I had to make calls and file reports at both airports. (May I mention that Charlotte airport was much friendlier and accommodating than Newark airport, since Charlotte did not require me to file a report and told me they would email me it they find it?)

This changed the entire flow of the weekend. I now had to depend on Uber, or be at the mercy of drivers. Jamie suggested I could still drive one of the cars available to me by the family, which I immediately rejected. Although I have never received a traffic ticket, and I have only been pulled over once in my life—close to 25 years ago when I was speeding in our newly-purchased minivan. I was not comfortable with this idea.

After speaking with a friend’s son, who is a police officer, I was told that I would probably not receive a ticket. So on four different occasions, this law-abiding grandma drove without a license, prepared to throw myself at the mercy of the law if stopped. I was positive that a beacon of light was pointing toward the car each time I drove, announcing my heinous crime. I was a nervous wreck, but I had my story prepared to explain what I was doing and why.

The roads were dark and the car unfamiliar to me, so I was positive I would be stopped and hauled off to the pokey. Lily would be upset, because she is not a fan of orange, stating to me on many occasions, “I don’t like orange. Orange, boo Clemson.”

Luckily, nothing happened and I happily turned in those car keys and returned home, using my passport which had been mailed to me. My license arrived within three days. I have learned my lesson, which is to pay attention, particularly at the airport!

Crazy for Statistics

Writing a book has made me crazy and obsessive about scrutinizing all my book stats: how many pages have been read today; how many books, if any, have been purchased today; is anyone reading my blog today; are there any new reviews; and what is my current Amazon ranking.

Although I always said that I did not set out to write my book for anyone outside my family, that all changed once I realized that strangers have taken an interest in learning the tale about what happened to my family after they moved to Russia during the 1930’s.

As someone who loves numbers, when I learned about all the statistics available to me, I have been unable to stay away from the charts and rankings. I just can’t help myself. I am able to see, at a moment’s notice, these ever-changing numbers.

I learned this week that rankings are generated in several ways. I can view my overall ranking both in the physical book (#3,348,446) and the Kindle version (227,501 —up 94,854 positions today). I feel happier when I view my rankings with similar books. In the Kindle store, my book is ranked #51 under Historical Russian Biographies, #224 under History of Russia and Former Soviet Republics, and #224 under Historical Russia Biographies. I don’t understand the difference between Historical Russian Biographies and Historical Russia Biographies, but hey, statistically it’s a difference of 173 points.

I know the paperback has been purchased in the UK and Canada, and when I offered free downloads, readers in Australia and Denmark joined my “fans” in the UK, Canada, and the good old USA. I am flattered.

While my sales are not enough to alter my lifestyle, the interest is still more than I ever dreamed. Unfortunately, I have only garnered nine reviews and nine ratings, ranging from 2 stars to 5 stars. I have to admit that I am thrilled to read the reviews, particularly those from strangers.

This has inspired me to go back and write a few more reviews of some of the books I have read.  While I try to, at a minimum, rate a book, I do not always take the time to write a review. But I have realized that it need not be a multi-paragraph review to put a smile on my face, so I assume most writers feel the same. My most recent review was short and sweet, but it was enough to make my day:

Loved this book!!! It’s incredible to think that these things could happen to anyone, let alone American citizens, and there was nowhere for them to get help!

My thanks to “Anonymous.”


I’d Rather Do It Myself

During snack time the other day, I tried to help Lily climb up on the stool so she could watch the popcorn being made. I was immediately rebuked by her. “I’d rather do it myself.” This is not the first time I was pushed away because of her new-found desire for independence.

When I relayed the incident to Dad, we both immediately blurted out the words of an old commercial: “Mother please. I’d rather to it myself!” I don’t recall the product and I suspect he does not either. A search with the assistance of my good old friend Mr. Google gave me the answer.

It was an advertisement for Anacin, and it showed an older woman telling her daughter to add some more salt to whatever she was cooking on the stove. Mamma had walked over to the stove with a shaker of salt in her hand, and after she gave out her little tidbit of advice, her cranky daughter slammed down the lid and told her mother to effectively mind her own business.

“Surely you are tense, but don’t take it out on your mother,” the commercial told us. If only she had taken a few Anacins, she would not have yelled at poor old Mamma. Apparently, within minutes, tension, pain, and irritability would be gone with this miracle drug, which we were told was “like a doctor’s prescription.”

Fortunately, Lily was a lot sweeter when she pushed me away. I guess she did not have an Anacin headache.

Watch it and tell me what you think.