HOPE….fully!

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Very early in the New Year I was thinking of what my “word” would be for 2015.  As I was wandering in and out of shops in Quebec City I came across some “wish” bracelets, each with various glass beads and their corresponding meaning.  Each color signified something different…Red=Passion, Pink=Love, Orange=Strength, Yellow=Peace, Green=Hope, Blue=Healing, Dark Purple=Spirituality, and Multi Color = Resolutions.  The idea is that you make a wish as you’re tying it on and when it falls off your wish will come true.  Well, I’m not much for the whole “wish will come true” idea, but I liked the idea of a daily reminder to strive for something.  The weird thing is that I had already been leaning towards the word “HOPE” and this just seemed to be a sign that cemented the idea in my mind.  My friend, Maggie, who gave me the word a year idea and some angel cards, says that the word chooses you…and I believe that to be true.  I bought the bracelet, the shopkeeper tied it on my wrist, and I have been wearing it ever since.

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Wikipedia describes Hope as “an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.”  Hope resonated with me because there’s going to be a lot of big events in my life this year….an anticipated, memorable move and my two children’s weddings…and my hope is that they will all be awesome!  By acknowledging my expectation, there is a greater chance that these events will happen as I envision them and that I will work towards those goals!  Shane J. Lopez, PH.d is a world renowned expert on the psychology of hope and author of the book “Making Hope Happen.”  He says that some people confuse wishing with hoping.  Wishing is a passive occupation, whereas hope is an active one.  How you see your future helps you nurture hope, it pulls you forward and makes you believe that your expectations will be fulfilled…wishing is just a thought, without actions to back it up.

So, 2015 is my year of Hope…and I will HOPE..fully!!  Have you picked a word for 2015?

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Got this tonight….my HOPE for the year!! (maybe I should buy a lottery ticket with those numbers!)

 You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

Motivational Mondays…it’s all about you!

on the pier

“The golden opportunity you are seeking is in yourself.  It is not in your environment; it is not in luck or chance, or the help of others; it is in yourself alone.”… Orison Swett Marden

(I really like this quote…but “the help of others” & the support they give, is immeasurable…reach out, ask for it!)

  You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

A Happy, Wacky Childhood

“One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood”..Agatha Christie

I grew up with two parents and four siblings…one younger, three older.  I used to take for granted that I had a happy, idyllic childhood.  As you are entrenched in your self-centered youth and adolescence you assume that others have it just as good (or bad if that’s the case)…and that your upbringing is nothing special.  It is only when I’ve looked back as an adult and reflect on my childhood….and examined other children’s realities…that I am truly grateful for the gift my parents and siblings have given me.

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I love this family picture…yes, I’m the one making the face on the right

Is it nature or nurture?  Well, that’s a completely different post that I’ll get to at some point, but let me share a few things that made my childhood so much fun.

My parents loved road trips (either that or it was just cheaper with all those kids!) and we embarked on one almost every summer to someplace new.  When we were really young and lived in New Jersey, we drove to Vermont and “The Tyler Place on Lake Champlain.  After moving to Calfornia, one of our car trips was out to Monument Valley where my dad was filming a movie…another year was to see Apollo 11 launch from Cape Canaveral (okay, we flew across the country, but then meandered the south from Florida to Houston in a wood-sided station wagon.)  I know my older siblings have many more memories than I or my younger sister, but these stick out for me….as does the “trains, planes & automobile” trip up to Vancouver that we took as a family, which was epic!  I know that nowadays (wow, I sound old) there are video games, movie screens, etc.. to distract kids while on long road trips, but it was fun singing “boom, boom ain’t it great to be crazy…,” “100 bottles of beer on the wall,” or just playing “20 questions” to pass the time.  Oh, sure there was plenty of “don’t touch me!!” between my siblings and me, but we knew there was a fun destination at the end waiting for us and this was just part of the journey to getting there.  “Stuckey’s” was one of my personal favorite stops along the way!  When my own children were young we made the 5-6 hour trek every year up to Mammoth to ski.  I love the memory of playing “I spy” and “geography” games with them, as well as singing our share of Raffi songs (dang, now I can’t get that Baby Beluga song out of my head!)  It wasn’t too painful, was it, kids?

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Yeah, we pretty much looked like this, only I don’t think our car was green.

Another fun memory was my parent’s nutty parties with their somewhat eccentric friends. My Dad was in the entertainment industry and my mom was a stay-at-home mom until I was in high school, which I realized later in life was not always the norm.  Being in “the industry,” as they call it, made for some really wacky parties.  I think my favorite was when they, and their friends, decided to have a “prom.”  At one of their parties they put names in a hat (I’m assuming they put the wive’s names in a hat) and the men then picked someone from said hat. That would be their prom date.  It would have still been fun, and easy, if my parents and all the other adults just drove themselves to the party house…but, no..this was PROM!  Mr. Smith* came to the door in a tux, corsage in hand.  My Mom left with him in what looked like a borrowed/rented bridesmaid dress.  My dad, and Mrs. Jones* were the chaperones, so they were dressed as a priest and nun, respectively.  They all arrived at the William’s* home, where I’m sure a night of laughs and frivolity ensued.  There was a full band and a photographer to take the prom pictures.  Oh to get my hands on those pics!! Too funny!

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There are some simple things that made my childhood idyllic, such as… the love that I felt when I walked in the door and our home enveloped me…the security of knowing my parents would be there and my siblings had my back (..and still do!)…selling oranges on the corner with my little sis’ (we had 13 orange trees…& we were entrepreneurial!)…re-building the “fort” in the backyard every summer and insisting we wouldn’t let it fall apart this time…riding our bikes until it was dark, not a care in the world…the camaraderie of team sports…our annual Christmas tree cutting parties (yes, even in Southern California we went, with a bunch of other families, to a tree farm, picked out the “perfect” tree and sawed it down)….dancing around & singing to the soundtrack album from “Sound of Music” or Christmas Carols (I actually don’t remember this much, but my mom swore we did…and I definitely danced and sang around the house with my kids, so something sunk in!)

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Let me re-iterate that I have four siblings and they may (probably would) dispute at least some of the “idyllic” childhood that I’m conveying, but I guess that’s where the “nature vs. nurture” concept comes in and the perception it entails.  Stay tuned for that post!

*names have been changed to protect the innocent
egan kids reenactment

2013 re-enactment of the original…you can’t even see that we’re sitting on the same love-seat from the 60s (no tree available for the background)

  You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

Get thee to the Getty

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This past weekend I had the pleasure of seeing a fun new play Serrano, The Musical up in L.A. (my cousin Beth is one of the backers!)  It has catchy tunes, fun choreography and beautiful singing voices….everything your looking for in a musical theater production.  See it before it closes in March! The theater is on Melrose….go early and enjoy the funky shopping and yummy restaurants in the area too!

So…since I was going to be driving up to L.A. and spending the night at my sister’s home, I thought I’d make an adventure of the day and stop at the Getty Museum too.  I haven’t been in over 10 years….it was time to go back.  In addition to their amazing permanent collection, they also had a current exhibition of black and white photography titled Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful and In Focus: Play.  Aside from dance, black and white photography is my favorite art form, so I was excited!!  You have to pay $15 for parking at the Getty, but then the rest of it…the museum and grounds…are free.  Getting to the top of the Santa Monica mountains, where The Getty is situated, entails a 15 minute steep walk…or the more desired option, the tram. The Richard Meier designed Getty Center is a wonder of architecture, but the tram, in and of itself, is also a modern day marvel.  The tram was designed to quietly transport 1200 people per hour from the very large parking structure up to the center without disrupting the neighboring homes, while at the same time offering sweeping views of the city.  It accomplishes both.

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On a clear day you can see forever…from the tram

It was a grey day, with a slight drizzle in the air, but that did not detract from the beauty of the grounds.  Okay, on a clear day you have a view of downtown and the ocean, which is probably more desirable, but it’s still gorgeous in the rain.  The Getty website describes the central garden best”….an evolving work of art, with tree-lined walkways that lead visitors through extraordinary sights, sounds, and scents.”  It is a feast for the eyes and the senses….just as much as the architectural beauty of the museum itself.

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This is the sculpture as you get off the tram….it reminded me of a basket on a lacrosse stick. The buildings in the background are the campus of Mt. St. Mary’s College, where my mom worked for over 25 years.

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this captures the grandeur of the space…this is just the cafe

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there’s symmetrical beauty in this row of trees…even without their leaves

Josef Koudelka, although an engineer by trade, made the switch to photography in his mid 20’s.  He started by photographing local theater in his Czech homeland, but his fame came while photographing the Warsaw Pact invasion in Czechoslovakia in 1968, smuggling those images to the West, and ultimately being exiled in 1970.  Because he had no proof of his birth in Czechoslovakia, he obtained the legal status “Nationality Doubtful”  hence the name of the exhibit.  While some of the photographs from around the world were at times haunting, some were also quite poignant.  No photographs were allowed in the actual exhibit, so you’ll have to see them and judge for yourself.

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Although quite small, I really enjoyed the variety in the exhibit In Focus: Play.  It was a diverse grouping of pictures, ranging from the serious to the whimsical by different photographers.

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One of my favorites…1937 Lower East Side, Weegee (Arthur Fellig)

Here are a few iconic paintings also on display…. (isn’t it interesting/weird that you can take pics of some of the paintings, but not others?)

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Irises by Van Gogh 1889

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Wheatstacks by Monet 1891

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Sunrise by Monet 1873….no surprise that I like this one!

I love to travel and explore new places, restaurants, views, etc.  This day made me realize that I don’t have to go that far..it’s in my own backyard.  Los Angeles is about an hour drive from my home, but seemed like such an adventure (…and I grew up in the San Fernando Valley..go figure!)  If you find yourself with a free day, make it a day in L.A. with The Getty, shopping, eating and Serrano, The Musical (I have a few discount tickets for those interested.)

 You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

Motivational Mondays…the birds still sing

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Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?….Rose Kennedy (she had a lot of heartache in her lifetime)

(it’s okay to find some joy after the dust settles!)

Click here for a great song to get you through some tough times…listen to the lyrics..the video is a bit “20-something angst,” but I like the message and I love singing it in my car at the top of my lungs!

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

Beautiful, Quaint, Galway

IMAG0883IMAG0835_1Gina, my Dublin friend, dropped me off at the train station and I settled in for the 3 hour ride through the Irish countryside to Galway.  Stunning scenery!!  My hotel was perfectly situated, close to The Spanish Arch, The Latin Quarter and the Long Walk.  I dropped my bags and headed over to the Latin Quarter to just stroll the cobblestone streets and check out some of the shops.  It started raining so I slipped into a pub for a pint and some chips (french fries here in the U.S.) and enjoyed a wonderful, relaxing hour of people watching.  When the rain let up I ventured back out, looking to purchase my first (…and maybe only?) Claddagh ring…..and then just wandered the quaint streets of Galway.  I went back to my room to freshen up, walked over to Cactus Jack’s for a yummy, simple dinner of tapas and then relaxed in my room…resting up for the day ahead.

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The Latin Quarter…so quaint!

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A beautiful side street

Day two was my walking and wandering day!….

I strolled The Long Walk on the River Corrib, past the Spanish Arch around to Claddagh Quay, along Galway Harbor, through South Park (yes, there’s a “South Park” in Galway…dang, forgot to include Mutton Island Lighthouse in my lighthouse post), and over to Salt Hill, before circling back around to Galway Cathedral and over the Salmon Weir bridge.  I passed the Galway rowing club and caught the Corrib Princess for a 90 minute cruise up the river to Lough Corrib, Ireland’s second largest lake.  Here’s my journey in pictures…

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The Long Walk

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The Spanish Arch

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Mutton Island Lighthouse

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Beautiful view of Galway Bay

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Galway Rowing Club..established1908, rebuilt 1969

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Galway Cathedral…although it looks really old, it is the most recently built stone cathedral in Europe (dedicated in 1965)

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Views from the Corrib Princess cruise

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views from the Corrib Princess cruise

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Lough Corrib….aboard the Corrib Princess

Day three was a bus tour out to Connemara, Kylemore Abbey and Cong (where they filmed “The Quiet Man” with Maureen O’hara & John Wayne).  The most beautiful, green rolling hills, with sheep everywhere…quintessential Ireland!  I spent the evening on the green in front of The Spanish Arch with some wine & cheese enjoying the parade of swans and the late night sunset.   More pics….

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Kylemore Abbey

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View from Kylemore Abbey

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Irish Countryside

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Cong…quaint village..site of The Quiet Man

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town cemetary…Cong…quaint village..site of The Quiet Man

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…more Ireland beauty

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Doesn’t this look like an Andrew Wyeth painting? I love this picture!

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This was at 9:30 pm!

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Just two of the many swans parading in front of the green, waiting for some scraps to be thrown their way…such elegant creatures.

I got back a bit late to my hotel, but had to have one more evening of Irish music and some craic…so I headed over to An Pucan Pub, which I’d heard was a good spot for dinner, people watching and Irish music.  I was not disappointed.

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An Pucan Pub

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The Claddagh

 The perfect end to a perfect trip!!  I’ll be back!!

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

Ireland…the homeland

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Dublin Castle

In the Spring of 2013 my friend, Gina, who lives in Dublin, emailed me and said it was time to return to Ireland for a much needed break.  I didn’t hesitate and made reservations to visit that Summer.  I was at rowing practice one day and casually said, “Who wants to go to Ireland with me?” and my friend, Marsha, instantly said, “I do!!”  Flights were booked and plans were set in motion.

I have to interject here (yes, I’m interrupting my own story, which I tend to do.)  On the flight to Chicago, our stop along the way, I met the nicest woman.  I’m usually cordial to my seat neighbors when I fly, but usually at some point I like to read, but this woman and I conversed almost the entire way to Chicago.  Her husband had passed away 13 yrs. prior and she was on her way to Chicago for a large family reunion with her 10 siblings…10!!  I told her a little bit about my recent history and she said the most positive thing.  She told me, “it is our time…” to live our adventures, be single for the time being, and enjoy the rest of our time in this amazing life we’ve been given.  What a great way to start the trip!

We landed in Dublin and were greeted at Gina’s home with warm scones and coffee.  Again, what a great start to our trip.  We hopped in the car and made the trip down to County Cork, where she and her cousin, Evelyn, were seeing Bruce Springsteen, and where Marsha
and I were staying at a friend’s home in Ballycotton.  (another side note…read A Moment in Connemara by Annie Quinn, the owner of the home in Ballycotton where we were staying…lovely story!)  We stopped along the way in Gina’s hometown of Cahir, where we met and had lunch with her adorable parents!!  We continued on to Cork City where we roamed a bit before heading to Ballycotton and collapsing after our long day.

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Gina, in dark blue, her parents, Marsha and me

Ballycotton is an adorable seaside resort in Southwest Cork County. The view from Annie’s home was spectacular.  I woke to a beautiful sunrise on the water, with our resident white steed grazing in the meadow across the road.

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Our Ballycotton view

Day 2…We had a full day of sightseeing planned…with visits to the Irish National Rowing Championships, Kinsale and Cobh.  Best to show this day in pictures….

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Kinsale harbor

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Irish National Rowing Championships

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Bright, Colorful Kinsale

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Ballymaloe Cookery School…quick stop here

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Cobh, a tourist seaport town, notably the last stop for the Titanic before setting out on it’s fateful journey.  The Lusitania was also sunk off the coast of Cobh by a German U-boat in 1915.

St. Colmans Cathedral..Cobh

St. Colman’s Cathedral..Cobh

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Old dingy in Ballycotton Harbor…I love the way it looks kind of like a watercolor.

Sunrise in Ballycotton

The next day it was back to Dublin by train, a really yummy dinner at Matt the Thresher (where Michelle Obama had dined with her daughters a few weeks before us) and then over to Merrion Square.  With the full moon rising, we enjoyed an evening of music, Riverdance on the big screen, and the beautiful voice of Brian Kennedy.  We followed that up with a visit to famous O’Donoghue’s pub near St. Stephen’s Green for some traditional Irish music and a bit of the craic.

...with a few close friends in Merrion Square

…with a few close friends in Merrion Square

Look for our dollar bill on the wall at ODonoghues

Look for our  signed dollar bill up on the wall at O’Donoghue’s

One of the highlights of the next day was seeing a world record performance of Riverdance on the River Liffey…check out this youtube video…gives me goose bumps every time I watch it.  It was spectacular!!

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…had to take a picture of this little Irish dancer

We even hooked up with the Phoenix Rowing Club and took out a double for a quick row on the Liffey….

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Its a good thing Marsha was doing the steering…Trinity boat house is in the background

We stayed up until 1 a.m. (very late for us rowers..we were so proud of ourselves) two nights in a row just enjoying Gina & Andy’s cooking and hospitality.  We were joined by neighbors Trevor & Sharon and cousin, Evelyn one night.  Liz, another neighbor, joined us the following evening. The Irish are the most warm, inviting, friendly group of people.

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dinner in the backyard with l to r Trevor, Evelyn, Gina, Andy, me, Sharon

….photo credit: Marsha Teaford

On our last day together on the Emerald Isle, Gina drove us down to Powerscourt House and Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains….gorgeous!!  We had our final meal at Fade St. Social in Dublin…one of he best meals I’ve ever had…amazing!

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Glendalough

Powerscourt House

Powerscourt House

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Cheers to the end of an amazing trip!

 ….Marsha went back to the U.S. to rowing camp and I continued on to Galway…stay tuned!

  You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails! 

Home Exchange…a great way to see the world for less!

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I LOVE red doors….not our exchange home, just a great Dublin door.

Our kids had gone off to college and it was time to go on some adventures.  I’ve always wanted to sign up on one of those websites to do a home exchange with another family…and my then husband agreed.  I signed up on homeexchange.com and waited for people to start emailing me.  We were looking to go to Ireland…or other European countries.  We had a few interesting prospects, but most Europeans wanted to come in August and stay for three weeks.  Three weeks was a long time to be away and who wants to go to Europe in August when it’s hot and all the locals are gone…probably doing home exchanges somewhere else!

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A cottage we stayed in for a few nights in far west Ireland…not part of the home exchange

So…I got an email from a gal in Ireland asking for two weeks in our home at the end of July and then they’d go off for an additional week, exploring California and the Grand Canyon.  We emailed back and forth, skyped once or twice and decided it was a good fit.  Flights were booked and we anticipated our trip to Ireland, my ancestral home.  On a whim I decided to try to get dual residency, since three of my four grandparents were born in Ireland.  The journey to get the all the paperwork was interesting, time consuming and fun, but I could never uncover my grandparent’s marriage license, I got the wrong birth certificate for my grandfather, and ultimately gave up the fight.  “Why dual residency,” I was asked many times.  Well, really it just would have been fun to say I was a citizen of two countries…and I would have had the choice at customs whenever in Europe (Ireland is part of the European Union or EU) whether I’m a “citizen” or “non-citizen”….and then choose the shortest line!  It was fun while it lasted.  …but I digress.

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On the Ha’Penny bridge in Dublin

We arrived in Ireland & drove to what would be our home for two weeks.  We had already arranged to also exchange cars, so we had an easy way to get around too.  I think the number one question I’ve been asked about doing a home exchange is, “What do you do with all your stuff?” and “Isn’t it weird having people in your home?”  The answer is simple…”You’re in their home!”  So, there’s an assumption that they will take good care of everything and you, in turn, will do the same with their home.  Sure, you clear out some closet space and put some valuables away, if need be, but that’s about it.  The idea is that you talk & correspond enough beforehand that you feel comfortable with whomever will be in your home.  I put together a book of things to do, simple maps to get to the grocery store/restaurants, how to turn on the TV, how to use the appliances, etc… and Gina (my counterpart in Ireland) did the same for us.  We were invited over to their neighbor’s homes for dinner and my neighborhood had a “meet the Irish” party on someone’s front lawn.  You get to live like a local, have a full kitchen & home at your disposal and your lodging doesn’t cost anything.  I think Gina and her family will be lifelong friends…I’ve already returned to Ireland, with my friend Marsha, a couple of years ago and stayed with them…and we play Wordfeud so we chat every now & then and catch up via email (isn’t technology awesome!).  It’s nice to know you have friends in far off lands, especially Ireland.  I’ve also done an exchange in San Francisco for a weekend and am looking forward to putting my home back up for exchange when I return to the ‘hood next July.  Oh, the places I’ll go!!

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Traffic stops for sheep crossing in western Ireland

Take the leap…I think you’ll be glad you did!  Feel free to email me if you have any questions.  Oh..and there will be a travel post, with more pictures, dedicated to Ireland.

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Sheeps Head Peninsula…farthest western point of Ireland

  You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!