Back to my Roots

After Galway we hopped onto a bus and headed toward Castlebar, which was the home of one of my 3x great grandmothers (A fun fact is that we have 16 sets of great-great-great grandparents). I must say, for anyone considering travel to Ireland, we were quite satisfied with Ireland’s buses. They were clean, on time, and all that we used were equipped with Wi-Fi.

During our stay in Castlebar, we were lucky to have a friend from our trip to London five years ago drive us around, and our hotel was located close enough to the town that my two-year-old hip was able to walk to dinner and the library with little effort.

While at the library, I was introduced to a woman who allowed me to view the contents of a large box containing inventor Louis Brennan’s stuff: photographs, letters, a ruler (I learned at that moment that Ireland did not go metric until 1965), his will, and a small notebook with Louis’ notes on his inventions. Dad was able to show the librarian and me how those drawings became the prototype of his gyroscope. I had a grand old time photographing the contents of that box to later add to my family tree.

We walked past Louis’ childhood home, which leaves no doubt that Castlebar’s famous inventor had once resided there.

After a lovely Chinese dinner (You probably know we are not traditionalists when dining out), we headed to the cemetery, where we noted that the Brennan grave site truly was the biggest monument in the Old Castlebar Cemetery. Sadly, so many of those buried there were children.

Louis’ wife’s family’s final resting place was sadly overgrown with tall grass and weeds. Dad was happy for the fence, because he feared I would be attacked by a critter or two if I ventured inside. There were stairs leading down to the vault at the side of our grave. Our guide told us that children used to go down there and play. (Creepy!)

The following day after a lovely breakfast at McDonald’s (I am not kidding. It was quite impressive, but more on that another time), we met our friends at the Peace Park and then were taken on a lovely tour of the Mayo Heritage Centre before heading into town for the presentation of the Bible.

More on Castlebar another time.

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The Teeth-Brushing Challenge

Thanks to a blog I have been reading for the past few years—The 80-Something Blog—I was directed to the 30-Day Well Challenge in the NY Times. If the 80-plus author of the blog, Judy Kugel, was up to the task, how could I not accept the challenge? I would hang my head in shame if I can’t compete with her.

Each day I am emailed a video with four 30-second exercises to perform, separated by 15 seconds of rest. At the conclusion of the fourth exercise, the routine is repeated. It is not too difficult, although I am discovering which parts of my body clearly cannot do what I could have done during my youth.

I have only found one particular exercise to be difficult, and this is one which I have been instructed to repeat at least twice a day for the duration of the month. I am challenging all of you to attempt to do this and report back to me.

While brushing your teeth, you must close your eyes and stand on one foot. The next time you brush your teeth, switch to the other foot. This is to increase one’s balance, and since my mother has a poor track record of falling as you all know, I want to do whatever I can to prevent this from happening to me someday.

I admit that on the first day, I found it almost impossible to do, and even now on Day 3, I cannot do this with my eyes closed. However, each time I see improvements, although spitting is not something I can do on one foot and am not even certain that it is a good idea. (I see the potential for a mess.) Dad just rolls his eye but won’t participate.

So the next time you all brush your teeth, close your eyes, stand on one foot, and clean those pearly whites. Then let me know how it goes.

Nobody Noticed?

I assume that a lot of people have taken a break from Facebook and texting and emailing and making phone calls for a while. That is the only explanation I can surmise after the silence we experienced today.

Looking back on my Facebook posts in September, I admit that I have only myself to blame. Prior to Hurricane Florence hitting our state last month, I posted a series of photos, beginning with “the calm before the storm,” and ending with a photo after she had left town.

Today, I was awoken at 4 am by the wind of a much more powerful storm—Hurricane Michael. I slept through the tornado warnings so I did not have to stress about where to hide.

By no means did we experience the path of destruction which Florida and Georgia saw when Michael invaded our southern neighbors. However, I thought I would get inquiries from more than just two friends.  Just two!!! FYI, we experienced more rain and wind today than during Florence. We will have some cleanup to do.

I saw the weather maps on the national news, and it was quite clear that the path of the storm went right through Columbia, SC. But I was too busy moving my furniture indoors and watching the water being driven up the hill to think about posting on Facebook.

I assumed someone would ask about our welfare.

Now I know the names of the two people to add to my will.

I Marched For All Our Lives

This past weekend I was a participant in the March for Our Lives demonstration in Palm Springs, California, which was my third march—the first being the Women’s March and the second the Science March. Both were in the city where I now live—Columbia, South Carolina; this last in the city I visited as a tourist.

Each time I was not disappointed in what I witnessed. No longer would we sit quietly, particularly when the lives of our children are at stake.

I awoke early that morning and made my poster. After all, what is a protest without a sign? I researched Facebook, Twitter, and various Internet images and decided on “Today I March, Tomorrow I Vote.” After a hearty breakfast of a scrumptious cheese omelet and toast, I donned my Mom’s Demand Action tee shirt and headed off to a local high school stadium, where the March was scheduled to commence.

Not knowing what to expect, I arrived early and settled into my seat in the bleachers midfield with my friend who I have known since kindergarten. The stands were soon filled and I was surprised at the number of marches who looked more like grandparents than parents— some even in wheel chairs. It was quite inspiring to see the support that the high school students were receiving from the elders of the community.

Each life lost was recognized. Their photos were held high for all to see, and a few students shared a few short descriptions to personalize each murdered Parkland student or teacher. It was quite sobering. The sounds of sniffles could be heard emanating from every corner of the stadium.

Then we matched , and as we headed toward the Palm Springs City Hall, the air was filled with the shouts of, “This is what democracy looks like.”

On the news that day and the next, I saw hundreds of thousands of marchers in cities throughout the country as well as in numerous cities around the globe.

I hope this is finally the beginning of changes in our government pushing us toward a more safe country. I hope that someday, I can open the history books and read the story about this movement to my grandchildren and tell them that grandma marched for all of our lives one sunny day in Palm Springs, California.

The Worries of a Child

Do you recall what worried you when you were five?  I recently engaged in a conversation with newly-turned-five Bryce while we were in the car, and he shared his fears with me. They were both cute and sad. I hated that his thoughts are not just about his day at school, his recent trip to the golf course with his dad, or perhaps a new show he discovered on television.

“Grandma, I’m worried that a big building or a tree might fall on my house,” he told me as we were on our way out to lunch. Where and why did this feeling originate? Was it a conversation with a friend or an episode from one of his favorite shows—PJ Mask? I tried to assure him that those particular fears were unfounded.

I know that he was afraid when we watched the Polar Express two years ago, so I know he is not ready for the Wizard of Oz. Thank goodness he is not aware of what is happening on the news these days, or he may be fearful of going to school. Isn’t that an awful thought?

At what age are children aware of the dangers of going to school? I would like the kindergarten teacher in our family to weigh in on this topic. When you have lock-down drills, what do your students know and have they ever expressed any fear?

I long for the days when the only fear related to school was the scary punishment of a teacher.

Is There a Qualified Doctor in the House?

What characteristics are important in choosing a doctor? For me, the choice may not be mine to make such as in the case of a referral. If I trust the doctor who is making the referral, I need go no further.

Otherwise, two important factors to me in selecting a physician are the recommendations of friends and the education of the doctor. I would prefer a doctor educated at a nice prestigious university rather than at an online medical school. Is that really too much to ask?

But the most significant factor in retaining a doctor, which is never discovered until the day of the first appointment, is the assortment and variety of waiting room magazines. Now let’s be honest. Do we really want to spend hours in a waiting room filled with nothing to read but Field and Stream and Popular Mechanics? What does that reveal about the compassion and thoughtfulness of the doctor and his staff? I need a selection including magazines such as People, Newsweek and/or Time, and perhaps Reader’s Digest. I give bonus points if the magazines are fairly current—at least two years young.

I am never happy to be seated in a physician’s waiting room, so a pleasant diversion makes my experience less stressful. Since I always have the option to surf the Internet on my phone, a considerate physician will have the Wi-Fi password available for my use displayed in the waiting room. This shows my doctor is thinking of not only his data plan but that of his patients.

So there you go. Recommendations, education, great magazines, and free wi-fi. That’s how I find and keep a doctor.

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Memories on a Tree

Each year when we decorate the house for Christmas, I can’t help but recall the trees of my past Christmases. While my current tree is lit by tiny white lights with red and gold beads strung carefully from branch to branch, our childhood tree was lit with large colored bulbs and covered with individual strands of silver tinsel.

Done properly, the tinsel was carefully applied strand-by-strand, but eventually, we just threw bunches on the branches. Did we save it for the next year? I am guessing it was not worth the trouble to do so, and it ended up still hanging on the tree when it was put out with the garbage.

When Dad and I got married, we abandoned the tinsel for the silver garlands, which was draped from branch to branch. Some people draped it vertically—tying them together at the top and letting them cascade to the bottom, but we weaved the garlands around and around from branch to branch.

Our First Tree- Christmas 1978

One year, I think before any of you were born, I decided I wanted an old-fashioned tree, so we strung popcorn and cranberries together on long strands of thread and then wrapped them around the tree garland style.

I may have done it twice, because it turned out to be an easier task in the movies, but in real life, the popcorn would break apart as I stuck the threaded needle into each piece of popcorn. Because of the difficulty in creating this magical Christmas from days of yore, I remember attempting to save the strands for the following year. It never worked, so from then on, it was back to the garlands.

Eventually, we tired of that look and bought strands of red and gold beads which, to this day, still adorn our tree. Those beads, tiny white lights, and many, many ornaments tell the story of my past: the forty-one ornaments which I purchased every year since my college days (some a remembrance of a special vacation), several crafted by me in the ceramics classes in New York and New Jersey, many done by the three of you in school and at home, two done by Bryce, and one crafted by my sweet Aunt Lorraine.

Our tree always looks the same now, but I would not consider changing the look. I don’t want to erase those memories.