"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." ~Toni Morrison

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zed

Zee, zed, however you say it, it's the last letter of the alphabet. That makes this the last day of the challenge. And it has truly been a challenge! I participated on two of my blogs this year. I had no idea how that would take over my life. Some of my posts were a little bit late, but they were all completed, and I had a ton of fun.

Thank you for everyone who followed along with me. Welcome to all my new followers. I will be visiting all of your blogs as soon as I find the time :). I hope everyone was successful in completing the challenge.

Y is for Youth

Youth. What defines youth?

Obviously, youth is the time of our lives when we are considered to be young.

But how do we define youth on a personal level? Does our schooling define our youth? Shared experiences? The games we played? Our individual experiences?

I often wonder how much of my youth I missed due to my medical problems. I was not allowed to participate in PE classes from 5th grade on. I never participated in an organized sport. By the time I got to college, my doctor didn't even want me climbing stairs.

Of course I didn't always listen to my doctor because stairs are often more convenient than elevators :)

My youth was punctuated by pain.

I tried to not let it hold me back, but sometimes it did. Instead of sports, I participated in drama. My physical problems still limited me, but not too much. I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything.

I guess everyone's youth had its ups and downs. I try not to live my life with regrets. I am happy with my life right now and hopeful for the future. I have dreams that may still come true.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

X is for Xrays

I have had a lot of xrays in my life.  At first I worried that they would damage my body or cause cancer.  Now I don't even think about it anymore.  I do wish that I could keep some of my xrays though.  I have been able to borrow them occasionally, but the doctors always want them back.  I think they should be considered my property, since I paid for them and they are images of my bones, but apparently they are not.

Some of the images are so neat, especially the post-surgery xrays.  It looks like there is a knife in my leg!  The ones from before the surgery are weird, but a good reminder of how far I have come.  I really hate dental xrays because I am reminded of all my fillings :)

W is for Waterboys

The Waterboys - a great band
Fisherman's Blues

V is for Verbose

I have never been verbose.  In fact I would say that I am the exact opposite of verbose, especially when I write.  Sometimes I worry about my ability to meet the necessary word count for a novel.  I tend to write things succinctly, without many words or details.  Maybe once I have edited and added all the necessary details, the word count will be perfect?  We'll just have to wait and see :)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Unwritten

So much of my life is unwritten, yet to come, yet to be experienced.  So many stories in my head remain unwritten, fighting to come out and live on paper.  I continue to find inspiration in this song.

T is for Total Hip Replacement

On April 1st, I wrote about my Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis but that was just the beginning of the story.  As the arthritis settled into my joints, it became obvious that there was something really wrong with my right hip.

Xrays showed that the bone had not grown fully.  The ball and socket joint was fine, but the part of the bone connecting the hip area to the thigh area did not grow properly.  I had a significant leg length difference.  My parents had noticed it all my life but could never find a doctor who would agree with them.

Reacting to the arthritis, my right hip naturally fused itself in one position.  All of a sudden my movement was severely limited.  As the arthritic symptoms disappeared from the rest of my joints, my hip remained painful, stiff and fused.  I walked with a limp.  I hated wearing shorts or short skirts because I could see the crooked hemline caused by my leg length difference.  I was no longer allowed to participate in any sports.  A doctor's note excused me from participating in any PE classes.  When I started college, I had to be placed in a dorm with an elevator because my doctor didn't want me climbing stairs.

The only real solution to this problem was a total hip replacement.  Unfortunately I was too young and so was the technology.  At the time, hip replacements wore out quickly and each consecutive replacement lasted less time than the one before.  The doctors said that I would be in a wheelchair  by 40.

I can remember the day I met my surgeon and he gave me that message.  He had these beautiful steel blue eyes.  They were mesmerizing.  I knew he was the man who could help me.  Then he told me that he would not perform the surgery.  I cried.

A few years later my pelvic bone was so thin and worn away that he agreed to perform the surgery.  In 1999, at 22 years of age, I got my dream, a total hip replacement.  I remember in pre-op, the nurses marked my right hip with a sharpie.  I had a momentary panic as I wondered if the right hip was the one that needed surgery.  It was, of course :)

I am now the proud owner of a titanium-cobalt hip.  It has changed my life.  I now live without pain.  I can do things that I had not done for eleven years. I gain more movement all the time.  My only restriction is that I cannot run, and that's ok with me :)

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney is another of my favorite Irish poets. No matter how many times I read this poem, it always brings me close to tears.

Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney

I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o'clock our neighbors drove me home.

In the porch I met my father crying--
He had always taken funerals in his stride--
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.

The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they were 'sorry for my trouble,'
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand

In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,

Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Ride On and Rare Old TImes

Some of my favorite Irish music:

Q is for Quentin Tarantino

I recently saw Django Unchained.  Wow!  Quentin, you have wowed me again!  I loved this movie.  The story line was compelling.  The actors were amazing.  I kept turning to my husband and saying, "This was a great role for ___________."  Each scene seemed to be planned, down to the last detail.  It was awesome!

I always feel this way when I watch a Tarantino movie.  He seems to have a clear vision before starting each movie, and every scene is built to feed into that vision perfectly.  I envy him.  I think every author can learn something form Quentin Tarantino.  If you have that perfect vision ahead of time, you can make every scene fit the vision perfectly.  Wow!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for Pádraic Pearse

Pádraic Pearse is one of my favorite Irish poets.  
He was involved in the Easter Rising of 1916 and was executed as a rebel.
Here is my favorite poem by Pádraic.  I used to have it memorized, many years ago.

"The Wayfarer"

The beauty of the world hath made me sad, 

This beauty that will pass; 
Sometimes my heart hath shaken with great joy 
To see a leaping squirrel in a tree 
Or a red lady-bird upon a stalk, 
Or little rabbits in a field at evening, 
Lit by a slanting sun, 
Or some green hill where shadows drifted by 
Some quiet hill where mountainy man hath sown 
And soon would reap; near to the gate of Heaven; 
Or children with bare feet upon the sands 
Of some ebbed sea, or playing on the streets 
Of little towns in Connacht, 
Things young and happy. 
And then my heart hath told me: 
These will pass, 
Will pass and change, will die and be no more, 
Things bright and green, things young and happy; 
And I have gone upon my way 

For more information about Pádraic Pearse, visit http://www.eirefirst.com/archive/pearse2.htm

O is for Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde is one of my favorite Irish authors.
Picture from Wikipedia.org

I remember reading The Portrait of Dorian Gray for the first time.  I was instantly interested.  Then I saw pictures, and I think I fell in love :)  

And he said some great things:

"It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But... it is better to be good than to be ugly."

"When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is."

"I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying."

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go."
"Always forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them so much."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for Nest

I have always found it interesting how birds return to the same nest or nesting area year after year.  A couple of years ago, we had a green heron pair nesting in our back yard.  They are cute birds, but they make a weird barking sound and they poop a lot!  Here's a pic.
The following year, the herons returned and nested on our block again, although not in our backyard.  This time, there were more adult birds because the two juveniles from the year before returned too.

We also have bald eagles that return to nearby nests every year.  There are some rural areas around here, and the eagles love the little lambs.  Today we went for a bike ride, and I noticed that the eagles have returned again.  I heard a lot of chirping.  They may have some chicks.  I couldn't find the pictures of our local nesting eagles, but I did find this picture of one we saw eating a little lamb on our way to work two years ago.
They love the little lambs.

So, do birds value their homes as much as we humans do?
What makes a nest special?

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Me Time

I love my me time.  I guess that's part of the reason that my husband and I like to have lots of room in our living space.  We both want to be able to escape and have me-time every so often.  Recently I have been having a hard time getting the me-time I feel I deserve.

I have a craft room, all to myself.  The big problem was that I did not have a good work surface in the room.   But that all changed this weekend.   We moved a little furniture around yesterday.  The small, ineffective desk that I had in my craft room is not residing in our office area.  The dining table that acted as storage in the office area is not happily sitting in my craft room.

I have spent a lot of time in my craft room over the last two days.  I even started a new jewelry project.  My me-time has been returned, and I couldn't be happier :)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for Laughing Rats?

I heard about this on Radio Lab on NPR.  Love that show!

So cute!

K is for Kill

Kill is the name of the village where I grew up.

Kill is actually an Anglicization of the Irish language name for the village. 

An Chill, the Irish name for the town, means the church.

Ironic, huh?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for Jokes

What is red and smells like blue paint?

     A:  Red paint.

Here's a few of my childhood favorites.....

What goes ha ha ha ha bonk?

     A:  A man laughing his head off.

What goes 99 bonk?

     A:  A centipede with a wooden leg.

What goes black white black white black white?

     A:  A nun rolling down a hill.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for "I am From"

This is a draft of a poem that I started writing some time ago.  I first saw the "I am From" format in a Language Arts class at the school where I worked.  I always wanted to try my own version, so here it is.  I know it needs some revision, and I think I would like to add some more stanzas in the future.  The poetry bug has been calling me recently :)

"The Journey Home"

I am from Christmases in Clonroche,
Pulling crackers, singing songs,
Party hats and too much food,
And "What do you get if you cross a sheep and a kangaroo?"
A woolly jumper, of course.

I am from driving up the mountains to Ballindaggin,
Curvy roads and "Hold onto your knickers!"
Road blocks of sheep and cows
All the way to Granny's house.

I am from Irish roads at night,
Speeding through the darkness,
Chattering about the family soap opera,
A sky full of stars,
And the lights of Clonroche in the distance.

I am from 63 The Gables,
Kick the can and tennis on the street,
Bursting tar bubbles on sunny days,
Giant trees ripping up footpaths,
And warming clothes on the radiator.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Home

What makes a home?
I often ask myself this question and I have used it as a journal prompt many times in the past.  There are so many ways to define a home.  

There is the house where I grew up.  I lived there with my parents and my sister until I was thirteen years old.  I have many memories associated with that house, yard, street, village.  It felt like home at one time.  Now when I visit, I feel like a stranger; everything has changed so much.

I often talk about Ireland as my home.  I lived in Ireland for the first thirteen years of my life.  I can still visit my granddad's house and feel like nothing has changed.  It still feels like a home.  When I visit I feel like I am going home, but when I leave I am also going home.  Confusing.

Then there is the house where my parents live.  I never lived there.  I had already moved out before they bought it, but there is something about the house where your parents live that feels like home.  Everything feels so familiar, so homey.

Now I have my own home.  My husband and I bought a beautiful historic house, and we have filled it with our familiar, homey stuff.  I can't imagine ever living anywhere else, although it is entirely possible that my life will take me somewhere else.  

So, what makes a home?  What is a home to you?

Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for Gables

I spent my childhood in a housing estate called The Gables.  My side of the street was lined with two-story houses.  Each house had the exact same layout, same postage stamp yard, same white fence and short stone pillars.  Between the houses and the street, large trees tore up the sidewalks.  The street was lined with tar which bubbled in the summer sun, creating a new plaything.  The tar lines also served as a tennis court on those summer days.  The opposite side of the street was lined with one story houses.

Recently I looked at a picture of that street on Google Street View.  The houses no longer have garages.  They have all been replaced by sun rooms.  The large, destructive trees have all been replaced by thin saplings.  Some of the old gang still live there; many have moved away.  Those streets are filled with memories of long days spent playing Kick the Can and Hide and Seek.  

Maybe today, a new group of kids is forming new memories on that same street.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

F is for Failte

Failte (pronounced fall-cha, kind of) is the Irish word for welcome.  I want to take this opportunity to welcome all the new followers of this blog.  Thank you for your support.  I love the A to Z challenge because it brings us bloggers together.  We spend a month cheering each other on and supporting each and every post.  I love it!
Fáinne is another Irish word.  It means ring.  In Ireland, you receive a pin called a fáinne that shows your fluency level with the Irish language.  I studied Irish from the beginning of my schooling through what would be called seventh grade in the United States.  At the end of my seventh grade year, called First Year of Secondary School in Ireland, I received a silver fáinne to show that I was conversational in Irish.  It is one of my biggest regrets that I am no longer at a conversational level.  Without constant practice, I have lost a lot of my knowledge of the language.  I remember random words and phrases, but nothing close to what my ability used to be.  I still have my silver fáinne.  Maybe someday I will feel confident wearing it again.
Anyway, welcome to all my new followers.  I hope you continue to enjoy the blog
Céad mile failte.
One hundred thousand welcomes.

E is for English

English!  What a fascinating language.  Even though I spoke the language, when I moved from Ireland to the United States, I had a lot to learn.
The most frustrating one was chips.  In Ireland, chips are what we call french fries in the United States.  Imagine my surprise when I ordered a hamburger and chips.  My plate arrived with potato chips, or crisps as we call them in Ireland.
The parts of the car were all wrong too.  The boot of the car in Ireland is the trunk in the United States, and the bonnet was now called the hood.
The first time I said something about a press, my husband was completely confused.  He didn't realize that I was talking about a cupboard.  What we call suspenders in the United States are braces in Ireland.
But the one that would have been most embarrassing was the word rubber; in Ireland, it's an eraser.  In the United States, of course, it is a condom.  Thank you YM for warning me about that one!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for Dancing

This month I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. I will be writing about memories from my life and all my different homes.

Today my Spanish class started a project where they write about what they were like as children.  When I looked at my sample, I noticed it was covered with pictures of me dancing and dressed in my ballet clothes.

When I was a kid, I loved dancing.  I took ballet lessons and Irish dancing lessons.  I dreamed of the day when I would join the older girls, dancing on point and doing the hornpipe.  I never got there.  When I got sick in the fifth grade, all the dancing stopped.

I'm not sure that I really ever had much coordination or balance (I assume that I did), but now I can't dance to save my life!  I have thought about taking some lessons again, like ballroom dancing.  When it comes to musical endeavors, I seem to do best with detailed instructions and steps.  I could probably memorize some dance steps and maybe reproduce them on a dancefloor somewhere.  Maybe :)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

IWSG: Courage

Time for another post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

I think I need some courage.  I have reached the almost end of two separate manuscripts, and I cannot find the courage to complete them.  I don't know how to do it.  

I know how each story ends.  I am prepared for the actual writing of the stories.  I can set aside time to sit down and write.  I just can't make the words appear on the screen or the paper.

I need to find the courage to finish the two projects.  I wonder if it is my fear of the next steps that keeps me from finishing.  I mean, what are the next steps?  How do I even approach publishing?  What if I never get published?

C is for Ceol agus Craic

This month I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. I will be writing about memories from my life and all my different homes.

Ceol(pronounced key-ole) is the Irish word for music.

Agus(pronounced like August without the t) is the Irish word for and.

Craic(pronounced crack) is the Irish word for fun.

This phrase reminds me of my family in Ireland.  Both sides of my family like to sing and play music.  We had sing-songs every time we got together for an event, especially at Christmas.  After Christmas dinner with my mom's family, we would pull out a guitar and sing for hours.  Then we would go visit my dad's side of the family and sing for a few more hours.  A night full of craic.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B is for Banshee

This month I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. I will be writing about memories from my life and all my different homes.

Growing up in Ireland, I was surrounded by myths and stories. One of the stories that scared me the most was the banshee. The word banshee comes from the Irish words bean sídhe, meaning fairy woman. If you hear her scream, the legend says that someone close to you will die. She is often depicted washing clothes at a river. There are similar figures in other cultures, like la llorona.

Of all the weird and creepy myths and legends I heard growing up, this was the one that always stuck with me. I was always nervous about being outside after dark. Somehow I had gotten it into my head that she only screamed at night.

Now I am using her as the inspiration for one of my writing projects. It's exciting to take something I feared as a child and transform it into something new.

Have you ever found inspiration in something you fear?

Monday, April 1, 2013

A is for Arthritis

This month I am participating in the A to Z Challenge. I will be writing about memories from my life and all my different homes.

When I was in fifth grade, I got very sick. I came home from a bike ride one day to find red spots all over my body. The local doctor thought it was Scarlet Fever and told us to go to the hospital immediately. My younger sister was left with the neighbors while my parents drove me to Harcourt Street Children's Hospital in Dublin.

I don't remember much from that night. Apparently I puked. I remember my dad carrying me through the. Emergency Room doors. I remember the first night in the hospital ward. The only other child in my ward was a small boy with a cast on one arm and a drip hanging from the other. He tossed and turned in his sleep, and I kept imagining the drip ripping from his arm during one of his violent turns.

The next day the doctors began the huge task of figuring out what was wrong with me. I had so many blood tests that I lost count. One morning I was rolled away to a surgery room for a blood marrow test. That was a painful one. My joints were swollen and stiff. I woke up every morning in pain and fear. Lyme Disease. Leukemia. Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. They were all scary possibilities.

A month of visitor's hours brought homework and awkward moments spent crouched on tiny chairs talking with friends and family. I learned to play Solitaire and Gin Rummy. My mom brought food for me because I hated the hospital food. Painkillers, anti-inflammatories, even Steroids, were prescribed and taken. No test ever came back positive. No one ever solved the mystery. My condition was labeled Arthritis.

I have long since outgrown the painful swollen joints. My crooked fingers and warped knuckles remain as a constant reminder of those years, but nothing else is the same. My life has changed completely, and for the better. Maybe one of these days, I'll write about it.