An Irish Independence Day

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The alarm went off at 6:00 am this morning…as it does everyday around here. For the first time in weeks it was overcast enough to have to turn the lights on in the house. For a moment I thought to myself;

“that’s it, that’s the end of our Irish summer, and to think it’s only the 4th of July.”

Wait today is the 4th of July?!?!

I mean of course I KNEW what day it was, but somehow it crept up on me this year. I was totally unprepared for it.

I went in to get the Prince out of bed and was tormented with pangs of homesickness and guilt all mixed into one.

Happy 4th of July to my little Irish-American Prince and Princesses & not one thread of red or blue clothing seemed to be clean.

Not one salad of blueberries & strawberries with fresh cream for breakfast.

Oh well, in Cork it was another Friday morning and the end of a very long week. There was a real sense of “let’s just get this week over with” to me.

By the time we made it to my in-laws to drop the kids off I had already forgotten what day it was…maybe that was some sort of self preservation thing. But they were there with open arms, hugs & kisses & offers of a cup of tea before I headed off. Sure how else would they mark the morning of the 4th?

At tea break, as I was tucking into a fresh made scone with jam and butter I almost hung my head in shame when asked what I was doing to celebrate today.

How did I let this happen? I usually take today off! I usually pull out all the USA books and puzzles we have for the kids! I usually have the BBQ (& umbrella) ready to go!

Not this year. What’s worse was when I came home I realized our dinner was actually Shepherd’s Pie. I’m not so sure you can get more un-American.

The kids were happy, the World Cup was on in the background & all I felt was for the first time in a really long time I felt like a foreigner here and it was all my own doing somehow.

And as much as Ireland is my home now. I will always be homesick for home. Especially on the 4th of July.

Soccer Solidarity

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If you live in Ireland, any European country, or at least for me, if you live with my King, a love of soccer comes with the package.

I knew early on there were three beings in this marriage, me, the King and sport.
Any sport.

Not willing to be fooled I did bring my own sports to the house. We’ve got hurling, basketball, hockey, american football, GAA, baseball and rugby.

But soccer…which will never be football in Ireland because that would only be an insult to the GAA….soccer continues to allude me.
I am quite content to sit by and potter around on the iPad jumping from time to time as my gentle Irish husband yells profanities at the ref over some off-sides rule. But really I’m not paying attention.

It’s taken me 10 years to get that there are really 5 major leagues that matter in European soccer but don’t ask me to name them. Every year I comment on the anti-climatic end to the English Premier League (give me a good championship of any sport and I am hooked).

So given my ‘vast’ array of knowledge and experience with soccer, there wasn’t much choice as to which team I would back.

I unwittingly became a Manchester United fan long before the King put a ring on my finger, and despite my insistence that the children will one day ‘choose for themselves’ let’s face it their fate is already sealed by the King.

But then every four years it happens….

I can’t help but get utterly consumed by the World Cup. It’s the patriotism and pride in each country. The differences of race and culture all coming together for the GAME. The drama & excitement once we’ve moved beyond the group stages. The nail biting endings in a penalty shoot out. But most of all the images like this…….

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the obvious solidarity of team USA is palpabale. The pride and honor of representing one’s country get’s me everytime. A nation backing a team who stands together as one under one flag….

And if soccer can do all that…then maybe it’s time I learn the rules

TEN

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This October will be my 10th Irish birthday or as some expats in Ireland like to call it- my 10th Eire-versary. There will have to be some celebration to mark the occasion, I just haven’t figured it out yet.

It seems impossible that it will be a whole decade since I landed here with two suitcase and not even a rain coat.

I remember telling my mom they day I left I would be back in two years.
She simply said “You won’t.”
Moms are always right.

What started out as a two year stint to have Europe at my feet has become…..life.
An unexpected, far from perfect but joy filled life.

I have without a doubt lived more of my adult life in Ireland.
I have owned more cars in Ireland.
Lived in more houses.
Had more hospital admissions.
Had massive successes.
Experienced great saddness.

Ireland is home…..Syracuse is home.

Is it possible that as an adult I am more Irish while my inner child/teenager remains American at heart?
With every passing day I become more at home in my new country, but I still hold on to my native identity with all my strength.
I catch myself correcting my language…it is NOT ‘rubbish’ it is still ‘trash’ and some days I am making it a point to teach my dual passport holding children to be more AMERICAN. I wonder if it’s all in vain. Should I somehow learn to let go and just be?

Ten years is a LONG time.
I mean it’s a significant amount of time in my life thus far.
And yet I’m still not ready to leave (although I do reserve the right to change my mind).

As I reflect back on the past decade I can’t help but wonder what the next decade will bring. And in another ten years time will I still be lucky enough to have the dilemma of having two homes?

What have you been up to the past ten years?

Back to the 9-5

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Today there was one last coffee and cake with my smallies before I head back the the 9-5 in the morning.

I am so so lucky to have had over 9 months off. I am also so so lucky to be returning to a job that I love with good people.

I’m not so sure I can say I have enjoyed my time off. Try as I did to make and remember happy memories, I know I will always look back at my time off as “the time when I lost mom and dad.” I hate that, but I am learning to accept it.

If I am completely honest with myself, I know that I am not cut out to be a SAHM. I have so much admiration and respect for the women who are. I love the idea of it, but I know it’s not me for the long haul. That’s not to say I don’t dream about handing in my notice and setting sail on other adventures. I just know for me work will always be part of the adventure.

My current 9-5 is being part of an amazing team that assesses, diagnoses and offers intervention to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families. It’s a sad job but it also brings such joy to my life.

I love the challenge, I love being part of a team and I love helping others. I do love my job.

So why the worry??

I am just not sure how as a family we are going to function with two full time working parents. I know MILLIONS do it, but right now I feel like the house is going to fall down around us as it is….what happens tomorrow when we have to get out of the house all at the same time? How will all the laundry get done when the stupid Irish washing machines take 2 hours per load?!?!

I’ve also gotten really used to staying in my sweats all day and not having to engage socially with anyone in the outside world. It’s been easy for me in my grief to ignore everyone if I wanted to. And believe me there were a lot of days when I did. Starting tomorrow though I’m going to have to make an attempt at following the social norms at least some of the time.

I’m looking forward to new challenges, routine and using my brain but at the same time it all seems so exhausting too.
All I can do is take it one day, and one load of laundry at a time.

Life: Some Highlights

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Today I was going through some old paperwork that I came across when I was last home. As my siblings and I began to go through things at the house we came across some random stuff.

Mom and Dad were both only children and we’ve begun to discover there are actually three houses of stuff crammed into every closet and drawer back home. Some items like the 26,800 toothpicks (no lie) we found are ridiculous. But most often we came across some real gems of our past. Mom kept so much stuff of ours as we grew. At first it was overwhelming and seemed like junk, but upon closer inspection I realized mom had through the years captured who we are in what she saved for each of us.

For me I found some of my early certificates and artwork but for the most part she kept my writing. She’d kept the best (and worst) pieces that captured my creativity and love for writing. Somewhere along the way I forgot or lost sight of that but going through my old stuff brought it all back.

I also found an essay written when I was 11…citing the highlights of my life so far. And ever since then I have been thinking if I wrote that essay today…what would the highlights of my life be?

Aside from the obvious i.e, marrying the King, creating a family with the Princesses and the Prince what other highlights have there been?

Getting my Masters

Learning True Lifelong Friends
Freshman year, a naive, homesick and scared college kid walked out of the elevator in the dorm lobby and slid and fell in front of what seemed about 100 people. Before I could pick myself up the guy next to me threw himself on the ground and made a huge distraction and that was the beginning of a life long frienship.

City Girl
Spending just over 3 years in Washington, DC where our local news was national news and I learned I had the strength to be on my own in a big city.

Phonecalls
Getting the phone call my first niece was born. And three years later standing with her when we got the call her sister was born.

The phone interview to Ireland with a glass of wine in hand….and the phone call when my would-be Irish boss rang to say I had the job.

Taking the Leap
Packing two suitcases and boarding a plane to follow my dreams.

Saying Thank You
The day before our wedding we had a BBQ rehearsal dinner. Since 80% of our guests were in fact out of town we opened up the BBQ to everyone and it was one of those amazing upstate NY Fall evenings when the world stood still for me and I was surrounded by people I love from across the world. I was so blessed to stand next to the King that night and thank and honor so many people.

Travel Champagne in France, Scottish roadtrips, a girls week in Tuscany, weekends away in Paris, Prague, London, Rome, Barcelona, Belfast, Amsterdam. Listening to the rain on a tin roof in Montagu, S. Africa, seeing natures beauty on safari. Learning that life is an adventure and there is something amazing to see everywhere you go.

But really my true highlights of life will always be feeling the arms of family hug me and hearing them say “I love you.”

That and those moments when you first reconnect with a true friend no matter after 5 minutes or 5 years….Hearing that love in their greeting.

I without a doubt have the best friends….including that pen-pal from long, long ago.

I Surrender…

surrender

4 weeks.
4 family members.
4 doctor visits.
4 doses of antibiotics.
4 days spent sitting in the hospital (A&E to be exact).

Mommy has held it together. Administering meds, bleaching the house, a mountain of laundry.

Yesterday I surrendered.

5 doctors visits.
5 rounds of antibiotics.
The house needs cleaning.
The laundry is mounting.

Daddy has escaped to work.

There will be an insane amount of screen time today.

And if I can find the energy, a big pot of chicken soup and a hot toddy.

That is how this American in Ireland is going to shake this.

Anyone else have cures for winter’s illness where they are??

It’s Raining….It’s Pouring….the kids are going crazy

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And quiet frankly so am I….

It’s been a long, wet few months in Cork and once again the city is underwater this morning.

We’re in recovery from a recent bout of whatever is going around and having spent the entire weekend indoors we may quite possibly kill each other if we don’t get out today. Honestly, if we don’t get out for a bit everyday I find we are all cranky with each other.

I’m guessing the tail end of Storm Brigid (why are we suddenly naming our storms by the way) will rule out a walk or the playground today so it will be another indoor adventure for us.

My God I am sick of all the indoor play centres. It seems we’ve been touring the lot lately and I can’t take any more…not to mention they’re getting expensive.

This morning I stood at the window drinking my coffee and looking at the rain outside thinking “How am I going to occupy the Princess today?”

We’ve really had to get creative with our adventures lately so I thought I’d share some of of Princess M’s favourite ones.

Obviously these all what we’ve done in Cork but most of them can be adapted to anywhere really…

Grocery Shopping
I know what you’re thinking. The chance to do the weekly shop on your own is like a freaking holiday. I totally agree.

Outside of the weekly shop, a trip to our local supermarket can be an event around here. The Princess ‘writes’ her list usually of what we need to bake something or make something nice for lunch. We go to what she calls the ‘fun shop.’ They have those kid size shopping carts and on these adventures I actually let her use them. They also have self-scanning & she loves to scan the items, bag them and pay herself. I’ve found this adventure works best only when I have nothing to get myself and the Princess can really take charge. You’d be surprised how much time we can kill wandering around the supermarket at her pace on a rainy day.

Go for a Cuppa
Maybe I’m raising a coffee drinker, but the Princess loves to go for a coffee. Our favourite spot is a coffee shop with a big font window and high chairs (what 3 year old doesn’t like sitting on high chairs). We sit sipping our coffee and milk and play I spy or make up princess stories about the people walking by. The Princess loves these outings and I hope the Prince will enjoy a cuppa and some pirate stories all the same.

The Library
This is an obvious, free option and in our house we can’t get enough of the library. We even venture out to other nearby libraries just for a change of scenery. The great thing about a library is you can get so much mileage out of one trip. We can spend hours in the library looking for and reading books. Then when we come home we read and sometimes even act out the stories. Then suddenly its time to get ready for dinner & daddy will be home!!!

Visit the Pet Store or Garden Centre
The Princess loves our local wildlife park and farms which are all great for those dry days, but when it’s wet and I’m desperate we visit one of our local pet shops or garden centres.

Whether it’s fish, chickens, or furrier friends, the Princess loves going for a look and a chat with the animals. With two cats and a dog at home she knows that we have more animals than we can handle so she’s happy to just visit and get a special treat for our furbabies back home.

Muddy Puddles
Like the Princess’ favourite pig Peppa, sometimes there is nothing better than throwing on our Wellies and finding the biggest, muddiest puddles to jump in.

Princess M jumping loves Muddy Puddles

Princess M loves Muddy Puddles

Disclaimer:
This all makes me sounds like “Mom of the Year” which of course I am. However, I hate reading blog posts that make me feel ‘less than’ or inadequate…which I totally don’t intend to do. In the interest of being completely honest, Princess gets far more screen time than she should especially on rainy days. And I’m not going to apologize for that because quite frankly I’m doing the best I can and I happen to think that’s ok.

But if you have any great ideas to occupy my Princess on a rainy day please share!!!!

After January Comes Spring…

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After years of trying to fight it and deny it I am wholeheartedly embracing February 1 as the FIRST DAY OF SPRING.

In Ireland, February 1 or St. Brigid’s day is the start of Spring.

Now all of us non-Irish know full well Spring actually doesn’t start until the 21st of March, but this year I am saying to hell with it and saying so-long to winter!!!

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Syracuse will remain covered in snow for weeks to come even if Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow in the morning. Having endured far to many long winters I’m ok with Spring starting today.

Of course we have the fire lit and it’s too bitter cold, wet and windy to venture outside, but I don’t care it’s SPRING!!!!!!

The evenings will start to get brighter, and by the end of the month there will be a ‘grand stretch to the evening.’

The mercury may not rise much but in a few short weeks we’ll begin to see the green stalks as the daffodils reach to the sky and start to cover the countryside with bright shades of yellow.

In our house we’re looking forward to throwing open the windows, hanging the washing on the line and endless games of football in the grass.

Happy Spring to everyone!

20140201-163511.jpg West Cork Daffodils http://www.fastnetweb.ie

Irish Healthcare

Irish Health Service Executive www.hes.ie

Irish Health Service Executive http://www.hes.ie

 

The King ended up in hospital not long ago….nothing too incredibly serious but still there was a sense of ‘here we go again.’

Technically we were private patients which didn’t mean much in our current situation.

For anyone thinking of moving to Ireland it’s important to know that there is in essence a two tier health system. For the most part healthcare is ‘free’ and paid for by the government. But keep in mind how hefty a healthcare bill it must be to pay for the wellbeing of 4 million people. Many (who can afford it) opt to buy private health insurance which depending on cover offers access to private hospitals or private beds in public hospitals.

As an American I can not bring myself to not have health insurance. This year we paid just under 2,800 euro for our private insurance. Of course to me this is reasonable considering where I come from. But the truth is Irish people are leaving the private healthcare system at the rate of about 5,000 per month because cosst continue to rise. Most employers do not contribute to private insurance…sure why would they when they pay taxes into the public health care system?

I wholeheartedly believe healthcare should be available to all, however, I don’t really think social healthcare works without a massive huge price tag.

Maybe the Swiss have it right but they pay considerable taxes & have a relatively small population (all of whom are socially expected to work and pay their share of taxes).

That said I had two babies with really good healthcare for absolutely free. I could have opted to pay additional to access private maternity care….after much consideration we opted to go the public route. This is a personal decision each couple makes.

In 2012, had I not had private health insurance I would have waited at least 6/9 months to have my gallbladder out.

Princess M is currently on a 2 yr waiting list for her potential fish allergy going the private route she will be seen in under 6 months.

There are many discrepancies between private and public health care in Ireland. Over the course of 10 years here I have availed of both. We are lucky that we can afford to supplement a strained public healthcare system with our private insurance.

Having seen hospital and doctors bills from the US and Ireland the discrepancy amazes me. In 2012 my private insurance paid around 6,000 euro all in for my gallbladder surgery….including anaesthetic and a 4 day hospital stay. When the summary for my mother’s recent week-long stay in a US hospital came it was nearly FIVE times that price…for no surgery and no anestetic. I still can’t fathom the difference.

I believe healthcare should certainly be affordable for all in every country. Not necessarily free but affordable and I guess I am thankful that relatively speaking it is affordable here in Ireland.

 

Why Everyone needs Expat Friends..

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Obviously being an expat leads to endless opportunities and experiences that aren’t available to you in your native country. Personally for me the opportunity to meet and form relationships with people from all over is the best part of living an expat life. Upon reflecting on my expat relationships it struck me that everyone, expat or not, needs to have expat friends.

Expats have an open mind.
To leave your comfort zone and truly embrace things that are different requires an open mind. Expats often choose to live an expat life with a desire to understand others. We tend to be curious about other people/cultures. While we may at times disagree, a successful expat does so with an open mind and accepts differences.

Expats are dreamers.
Expats have had the audacity to dream big and take action. They put fear aside and took a leap. If you have a dream-no matter how crazy it may seem- tell an expat. An expat won’t shoot you down, they may just be the push you need.

Expats are optimistic.
Expats tend to see the good in their surroundings before the bad…it’s a survival tactic. If an expat lives in a perpetual state of negativity their new home feels like a prison and their expat life is at threat of an end. Sure we all have bad days, but expats can’t allow themselves to wallow for long. An expat learns to focus on the positives in their life to outweigh the negatives (like home sickness and missing family). If you are in a rut and feeling down, find an expat to help you get reacquainted with the beauty around you.

Expats are rarely idle.
Part of being an expat is living with the knowledge that the current life may come to an end. Expats know all too well that one place may not be home forever. With that in mind expats are keen to take in and see as much as possible in their current location. If you ever wanted to experience something unique about your own home town or area, an expat is great company and always up for a weekend trip or local adventure.

Expats never say goodbye.
Well maybe it’s the exact opposite. Expats are always saying goodbye. We move on, we see our other expat friends move on, but’0l living an expat life teaches you that friendship knows no boundaries. We really do keep in touch. A true expat friend will always stick beside you no matter where in the world they are; and they are excellent at long distance friendships.

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