Seven Day Countdown

One week from today, I will be flying over the Atlantic, destination – Dublin, Ireland. My traveling companions will be my mom, my sisters, Linda and Debbie, and my niece Ashley. We will visit Scotland and England as well.

I learned during my Italy trip earlier in the year that it is possible to pack for a twelve day trip in a carry on suitcase. Tonight I spent a few minutes with Mom and Linda, demonstrating just how doable it is.

Mom was a good sport, laying out her clothes and toiletries so she and Linda could practice rolling each article of clothing tightly. Shoes were added first, then pants and a jacket rolled to start the foundational layer. Heavier shirts were rolled and completed the first layer.

Linda practicing her packing skills.

The cutest pic ever…my mom making decisions about which toiletries to pack. A quart sized plastic bag isn’t very big!

I rolled pajamas and shirts and started the second layer. There is plenty of room left to tuck in socks, underwear and supplements or meds. And there is yet more empty space to fill with purchases made during the trip.

The trick is to roll tightly. And fill every space by packing the rolled clothes snugly together.

Mom and Linda got the hang of it and discovered that you truly can pack for twelve days in a carry on. With that detail out of the way, we can focus on the growing excitement of discovering new places and experiencing different cultures.

Seven days and counting! The next adventure is about to begin.

St Stephens Green 20 Things to Do in Dublin

Three weeks from today, I’ll be in the air, flying to Dublin, Ireland. My sisters, mom, niece and I have been planning and anticipating this trip for a year. As always, that time does indeed pass. We are counting down the days until our adventure.

I’ve had a very full day, with back to back appointments. Coming in this evening, with more work to do on the computer, I suddenly realized I didn’t know what I was going to be writing about tonight. Two things happened, after I had that thought, as I sat on the side of my bed.

Checking Facebook, I saw that my sister Linda had posted a pic of an Irish pub in Dublin, commenting that we are leaving in three weeks. And looking up from my phone, I saw the book 20 Things to Do in Dublin Before You Go for a Feckin’ Pint on the bedside table. There it was, double inspiration.

I’ve enjoyed some downtime this evening, reading in the humorously written book and thinking about Ireland. Dublin will be our home base while we are in that country.

Must see site #7 is St Stephen’s Green.

This 22 acre park is located in the heart of Dublin, at the top of Grafton Street. According to the book, you can’t miss it…it’s the big green thing with all the trees! We are staying in the heart of the city, so I hope for at least a stroll through this gorgeous park.

Although this green space is peaceful and filled with ponds, statues, flowers and trees, the history of this place is anything but serene. In the 13th century there was a leper colony in this swampy, boggy spot, associated with a nearby church, St Stephen’s. By the 17th century the area was converted into a park and the plots surrounding it used for building palatial homes.

The park became popular as a place of public executions. Until the late 18th century, most of Dublin’s executions took place here. Crowds would gather to watch the unfortunate law breaker receive his punishment…which eventually led to the residents in the area protesting. The park became a private garden for the wealthy home owners surrounding it. In 1877, the great grandson of Arthur Guinness, the brewery founder, bought the park and donated it back to the city.

The park enjoyed a time of peace until the 1916 Easter Rising, when rebels used the Green as one of their bases of operation. Trenches were dug and the greenhouse used as a first aid center, but after a day, British soldiers began firing on the rebels, driving them out. Bullet holes can be seen in the Fusiliers’ Arch entrance. An aside to this event: both sides agreed to a brief ceasefire so that the park groundsman could feed the ducks!

The arch is the most popular entrance to the park. It was built in 1907 to commemorate the soldiers of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who fought for the British Army in the second Boer War.

Statues are scattered throughout the Green, including an artistic installation in honor of Irish poet WB Yeats. There’s also one dedicated to Lord Ardilaun, who purchased the park and gave it to the city.

Other highlights in the park include the impressive facade of the Royal College of Surgeons, and the St Stephen’s Shopping Centre, built to look like a conservatory.

There is also The Little Museum of Dublin, full of 20th century memorabilia, and one of Ireland’s most famous hotels, the Shelbourne. Among the hotel’s famous guests have been actors and actresses, authors, and John F Kennedy and his wife Jackie. The hotel features an equally famous pub, The Horseshoe Bar.

Reading about St Stephen’s Green, including its colorful history, ramps up my anticipation for this city. This will be my first trip to Ireland…it is a first for all five of us…and I am excited to explore and discover and soak it all in.

Learning about some of Dublin’s sites before I visit stirs a longing to see it all myself, and also creates a sense of familiarity when I do arrive. If we visit St Stephens Green, you can bet I will be checking the arch at the entrance for bullet holes!

Read a Road Map Day

Today, April 5, is Read a Road Map Day. The perfect way to celebrate would have been to set off on an adventure, maps in hand, to enjoy an impromptu road trip. I couldn’t do that today. However, I did the next best thing. I recently purchased four MapEasy Guidemaps at Barnes & Noble. This evening I lounged on my bed and unfolded those colorful maps, and in my mind at least, I traveled!

Read a Road Map Day
Read a Road Map Day harkens back to the days before smartphones wirh built in GPS. As a realtor, I am grateful for the time saving convenience of GPS. It makes my life easier…and safer.

However, there is something adventurous, romantic even, about navigating by a map that lies unfolded on the front seat of a car. I love maps. Although not as necessary today, they are still symbolic of travel.

Read a Road Map Day
I am charmed by these MapEasy Guidemaps. They are tear resistant and waterproof. And the bright colors have an artistic appeal. I was delighted to discover the bookstore carried precisely the maps I needed for my upcoming trips this year.

Read a Road Map Day
Read a Road Map Day
The maps are double sided. Italy has the familiar boot shaped country on one side, with the major cities and roadways marked. And on the flip side are maps of three of Italy’s favorite destinations: Rome, Venice and Florence. Those cities are on our itinerary.

Also included are boxes with important info, such as what the currency is…the euro…and how to travel across the country. The Personal Favorites box lists not-to-miss sights.

Read a Road Map Day
Read a Road Map Day
Read a Road Map Day
Since the trip to Italy, with my daughter and grandson, is about six weeks away, I spent most of my “celebration” time studying that map. However, the other three maps are excellent as well. Ireland features Dublin on the flip side, which is going to be our home base in that country.

The Scotland map has Edinburgh on the other side, which is the main city my mom, sisters, niece and I will be launching out from during our visit to that bonnie country.

And the last map is just of London. That is the only city we will be visiting in England. These maps are perfect for my upcoming trips, providing exactly what I need to familiarize myself with the countries and/or primary cities.

I intend to take my maps along on my travels. And when I return home, the colorful maps,  marked with the places we visited, will be framed as artistic keepsakes of my journeys.

Read a Road Map Day
I enjoyed celebrating Read a Road Map Day. Studying the maps ramped up my excitement about fulfilling a growing desire of mine…traveling and exploring new places. This is only the beginning of world wide adventures, I hope.

In fact, I am so thrilled about the trips this year, that as I prepared photos for tonight’s blog, I felt compelled to play with the wording of my premise for this year. For this post I couldn’t decide between the categories, “life a little more tender” or “art a little more robust”.

This is Alan Rickman’s quote that is foundational to my year, “If only life could be a little more tender and art a little more robust.” I’ve read that he loved the thrill of traveling. I switched the words around to create a new category, Life a Little More Robust. It seemed fitting for a post about travel. I think Alan would approve.

Read a Road Map Day
If you love maps like I do, you can get your MapEasy Guidemaps below:

I am an Amazon Affiliate and may earn a commission on purchases, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for considering making a purchase of these products, or any other items, through my Amazon link! 

Journey 102: Sacred Well-Being

sacred well being

I love self care Sundays! Although I worked today, showing property to a delightful young couple, I knew that later in the day, I would be entering into a time of caring for myself. I woke up this morning with a full blown allergy attack….the stinging, watery eyes, stuffy head, headache, congestion. As the trees unfurl their delicate new leaves, they also cast off pollen, in abundance, that gets to me every spring.

One of my new strategies for treating my allergies, rather than loading up on sinus meds or antihistamines, is taking a spoonful of locally produced honey every day, with my lemon water. As honey bees move from plant to plant, collecting nectar, sticky pollen accumulates as well on their legs, bodies and mouths. Bees create honey by regurgitating the nectar, with pollen mixed in, into their honeycombs. (Perhaps TMI for some!)

sacred well being honey

There haven’t been enough scientific studies done yet to prove or disprove whether consuming local honey, containing local pollen, alleviates allergy symptoms. However, there are plenty of positive anecdotal accounts from people who have tried it. The local honey works like a vaccine, producing antibodies to fight off the effects of the pollen, which the body views as a foreign invader, hence the symptoms. I began taking a daily spoonful of honey a couple of weeks ago, and have fared well, until today, when the pollen count was very high. I’ll report the effectiveness later, after a couple of months of trying out this natural remedy.

sacred well being garden

My favorite way today of practicing soulful well-being was to retire to my brick patio, in my garden, with a cup of hot tea, a small plate of goodies, and a new book. Yes, I know being outdoors may seem counterintuitive, being that that’s where the pollen is. However, I can’t think of a more restful, restorative place to care for my heart, soul and body than my garden. It is awake…and growing….plants pushing through the ground and reaching for the sky. I pulled a few weeds, and then sat back and relaxed, the breeze warm, the signs of life heartening and exciting. Pollen will not hinder me. I love my backyard and soon I will be planting in the various containers and working in the front yard and the border on the south side of the house.

sacred well being garden 2

Finally, I enjoyed reading in The Celtic Twilight, Faerie and Folklore, by the poet W.B. Yeats. Ireland is calling to me, and in preparation for a future trip, I am learning all I can about Ireland, and in particular, Irish folklore and culture. My Celtic roots are split between Scotland and Ireland, and I look forward to discovering what Ireland holds for me, as I did when I ventured into Scotland. This whimsical little book, written in 1893, is an affirmation of Yeat’s belief in magic as a doorway into the Celtic past. I was enchanted as I read his words, sipping my tea, reclining in my garden. This was deep, sacred care, indeed.

To hold my own well-being as sacred is to honor who I am. Sacredness is to set apart and consecrate that time that contributes to my overall health, happiness and wholeness. When my awareness is on the well-being of my body, I will know when I need to disconnect from doing, and just be. That sense of sacredness applies to others as well…seeing myself as whole and healthy allows me to see others in the same way, and to encourage them to seek their happiness and wellness within as well.

I am grateful for that consecrated time and space today, that allowed me to rest and recharge, heal and just be. The allergy symptoms eased. I feel wonderfully alive.

sacred well being relaxing


Journey 76: St. Patrick’s Day

St Patricks Day

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and curiosity about who St. Patrick was, really, after all the myths about him are stripped away, led me on a Google search. I found plenty of blarney….and good info too. In the US today, Irish descendants and non-descendants alike celebrate by wearing green, posting shamrock pics, drinking green beer and eating corned beef and cabbage, all in honor of a man who didn’t drive the snakes from Ireland (there were never snakes in Ireland), who didn’t, apparently, use the shamrock to explain the Trinity, and who wasn’t even Irish.

Most actual facts about this man come from his autobiographical document Confession. Patrick was born in the UK, most probably Wales or England, and at the age of 16, was kidnapped, taken to Ireland, and sold as a slave. Six years later he escaped from his owner and returned home. However, in a dream, he heard the Irish people begging him to return with these words, “We ask thee, boy, come and walk amongst us once more.” He studied for the priesthood in France and returned to Ireland to minister as he felt called to do.

For the next 30 years he founded churches, monasteries and schools, ordained priests and baptized the people of Ireland. His was a quiet conversion with the Irish being the only people in Europe to convert to Christianity peacefully. Patrick’s influence in Ireland ended slavery, human sacrifice and clan warfare. He died on March 17, 461. Although there is some dispute about the year of his death, all accounts agree on the date in March.

St Patricks Day statue

Statue of St. Patrick

By the seventh century, Patrick had become the Patron Saint of Ireland. March 17th has been observed as a religious and cultural holiday in Ireland for centuries, celebrated with more solemnity there. It is the Irish Americans who have made St. Patrick’s Day the boisterous occurrence that it is here. Irish immigrants first celebrated the day as a holiday in Boston in 1737 and the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York in 1762. Today St. Patrick’s Day is an opportunity for many in the US to express their pride in their Irish heritage and an excuse for the rest to drink or wear green or create green sweets and treats.

I share freely about my Scottish heritage. I am of Irish descent as well, through my mother’s side of the family. The McCools and the Gregorys both came from Ireland long ago. I can say that I flew over that country last August, as my airliner approached Scotland. From the air Ireland looked green and lush and beautiful. The country is definitely on my list of places to visit and I look forward to learning more about my Celtic roots. Today, I celebrated by delivering green gift bags to my grandchildren, filled with simple, fun items. (Two grandsons received their gifts over the weekend.) It is the first time that I’ve done this. However, granddaughter Aubrey reminded me recently that St. Patrick’s Day IS a holiday. She’s right. And it is an acknowledgement of our family’s culture and heritage. As the grandkids get older, perhaps we can uncover more about this verdant country and discover which regions and villages our ancestors came from. For now, it is enough to give them wee gifts, to remember, and to dream of Ireland.

St Patricks Day gifts

Day 111: Philomena


Best Picture nominated movie night moved back to Monday this week, due to the holiday yesterday and being out of town. I visited the DVD store with the intention of picking up The Wolf of Wall Street. Then I saw that Philomena had released last week and there it was on the shelf. I shifted…and walked out of the store with Philomena.

This was a movie I wanted to see at the theater. Unfortunately, it didn’t play long at the Joplin theater and I missed it. The previews I had seen drew me, while at the same time, caused me concern as I always felt a deep sadness when I saw Judi Dench’s character, Philomena. However, this year I am not shying away from sad movies. I am discovering these stories have much to offer and that sadness is allowed and tears are not a sign of weakness.

Philomena stars Judi Dench and Steve Coogan and was directed by Stephen Frears. It was nominated for 4 Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screen Play, Best Original Score, Best Actress for Judi Dench and Best Picture. It did not win an Oscar in any category. The movie is rated PG-13 and has a run time of 1 hour and 38 minutes.

I love that four of the films I’ve watched so far are based on true stories, including this one. Truth can be so much more incredible and interesting than fiction! Give me a story based on real life experiences and touch my heart, making me care, making me laugh and weep, and that story will stay with me for a very long time. Philomena is such a story.

In Ireland, in 1952, Philomena Lee gave birth to a baby boy out of wedlock. Sent in disgrace to an abbey in Roscrea, Philomena is forced into menial labor for years, in exchange for a place to live for her and her son, Anthony. At the age of three, however, Anthony is placed into adoption, without his mother’s consent. For the next 47 years, Philomena thinks of her son daily, missing him, mourning his loss. And she’s searched for him, returning again and again to the abbey seeking information. She carries the secret of his existence until she can’t contain it any longer, revealing at last to her grown daughter that she had a son while still in her teens. Her daughter connects her with journalist Martin Sixsmith, formerly with the BBC, who is out of work and looking for a story.

The two embark on a journey to find Philomena’s lost son. Their search takes them from the abbey in Ireland, where no help is offered, to Washington DC in the US. Martin’s investigation uncovers a dark scheme. The abbey sold babies and children to wealthy Americans seeking to adopt. Anthony was adopted by a doctor and his wife, from St. Louis, MO, and his name changed to Michael. Philomena does locate her son. Not in the way she had hoped to, but find him she does, and the shadowy pieces of his life become clear. Martin and Philomena come full circle, back to the abbey in Roscrea, where Martin’s anger at the lies and the mistreatment of young, vulnerable women is sharply contrasted by Philomena’s grace and forgiveness.

This was an emotional movie. Yes, it made tears fill my eyes. Judi Dench did a remarkable job portraying this wise and yet charmingly naïve woman who loved her son so much, she couldn’t forget him. Her blunt comments, kindness toward others and love of romance novels made me laugh, just when the tears threatened to spill. And Steve Coogan, who I discovered also wrote the screenplay, was amazing, portraying Martin Sixsmith as a man searching for something beyond himself to believe in.

As a mother, my heart hurt for Philomena’s pain and loss and her desperation to find her son. She didn’t want to take him back. She only wanted to know that he was okay, that he had lived well, and that he knew she loved him. As parents, we all hope the same is true for our children.

Day 70: Buy an Irish Shamrock Plant


Every March, area stores create displays of the Irish Shamrock Plant. I admire the plants and plan to buy one later, only to find when I return to the store that they have sold out. This year, I debated about whether to wait until St. Patrick’s Day to purchase one, as my first, and then realized I was about to do it again! I’m almost certain that by St. Paddy’s Day there won’t be any Shamrock Plants left. There is a saying, “Do what you’ve always done, get what you’ve always gotten.” Time to do something different, and new! For my first today, I purchased a Shamrock Plant.

I discovered that the Shamrock Plant, also known as Oxalis, is reactive to light. It folds up its shamrock shaped leaves when it’s overcast or nighttime, and opens them again when it’s sunny. The plant has tiny red or white flowers and the leaves can be bright green, dark red or purple. I purchased a traditional Irish Shamrock with bright green leaves and white flowers.

The shamrock is known as the symbol of Ireland. St. Patrick is said to have used the plant as a metaphor for the Christian Trinity. The tradition of wearing a shamrock dates back to the 1700’s and it is now known worldwide as a symbol for good luck.

I’ve mentioned my Scottish heritage, which comes to me through my dad’s line, the Lauderdales. I’m of Irish descent also, on my mother’s side of the family, through the McCools and Gregorys.  I intend to visit Scotland first, because that country has haunted me my entire life, but beautiful Ireland calls to me as well. The Celtic culture is found in both countries. It will be interesting and fun to see the similarities and the differences between the two. With Irish and Scottish blood coursing through my veins, I’d love to find or create a piece of jewelry with the symbols of the shamrock and thistle entwined. Or I can tuck a shamrock behind one ear and a thistle behind the other and call it good!