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29 Jul

I’ve reached the point in expat development where I use the word “home” indiscriminately to refer to both where I am originally from in the U.S. and where I currently live in Ireland.  This can be confusing to people – including myself.

If you follow this blog regularly (or are related to me) you will have noticed that I haven’t posted for a while because I’ve been home in California for the summer.


Yesterday we arrived home to Ireland to much tail wagging and breakfast and started the melancholy process of unpacking and re-establishing the ordinary rhythms of life.

Friday and Luna

I will try to post some of the memories from our summer here soon along with my reflections on them.  But one little chuckle I had as we drove to the San Francisco airport Saturday morning on our way to Ireland was that it seemed to me the city hid itself from us under a blanket of fog as if to obscure its spectacular beauty and ease the pain of our departure.  I thought, “thanks SF, for not making it harder to leave”.

Leaving SF



3 Jun

This weekend will go down as one of those unforgettable formative experiences our girls have ever had.  I know we moved to Ireland in part to give them a more rural life experience and with all the animals they have in their lives: cat, cows, rabbits, dog, they are certainly experiencing things they wouldn’t have in the city.  But I never would have guessed when we moved here that they’d have an experience like we did this weekend.

The gestation period for Jack Russell terriers is 9 weeks, so we’re guessing our dog Friday must have been about three weeks up the pole when she landed in our lives.  Of course Grace called the pregnancy before anyone else including the vet (there is some speculation that Grace thinks all our pets are pregnant so this isn’t particularly unusual…but she was “suuuuuurre of it and why doesn’t anyone believe me!!!”)

Our Girl Friday

Our Girl Friday

Well when Friday swelled up like a little football, everybody finally agreed with Grace who also incidentally called the delivery correctly…as far as date goes.  We had Friday in at the Vet for an exam on Friday (I know, confusing…) and Grace said “she’s going to have the babies this weekend” and the vet said “sorry honey, I think it’ll be another week or two”.  But Saturday morning, Mary and I were awoken by screams of joy and excitement when Grace and Tara discovered that Friday had delivered a tiny baby puppy.

By the time I got dressed and came down to look at the pup, it had passed away.  Life lesson #1: It’s tough.

The bitch continued whelping throughout the day (notice all the new words I learned from the vet) and we moved her house into the front hall so she and her impending pups wouldn’t be at risk from foxes or other local predators.

Friday's box is starting to look like Pandora's

Friday’s box is starting to look like Pandora’s

But in spite of a long day of encouragement and soothing from Tara and Grace, her labor hadn’t produced any new pups by the time we set out in the early evening for the memorial mass in Liscannor for our dear departed friend Howard who passed away six years ago.  When we returned home, the vet told us to bring Friday down for a look.   Because of the late hour, Grace and Mary stayed home and Tara and I put Friday into a basket of blankets and took the whelping bitch (sounds like something you’d call a woman you didn’t like) to the vet.

you go girl!

you go girl!

This being Ireland, the vet’s clinic is a room at the side of his house, so emergency after-hours visits are a little less trouble for the doctor than some fancy big-city pet hospital.  It also means that pet owners are rather more involved in the ensuing activites.

A quick examination determined that the only course of action likely to save the life of the dog and any pups was going to be a caesarean section.  Eugene the vet says to me “this is going to be messy, are you going to be ok with it?” I roll up the sleeves of my white dress shirt and nod affirmative to his sceptically raised eyebrow.  Eugene hands a bunch of paper towels to Tara and says “you’ll be in charge of the babies”.  Tara nervously agrees, looking like Audrey Hepburn in an elegant long dress with a Chanel-style bolero jacket.

I soon became glad I had endured so many of the hospital shows on TV with Mary because I credit those for my “being Ok” with the proceedings.  I also began to recall having seen some sort of caesarean video during one of the birth classes we took when Mary was pregnant with Tara or Grace.  This was just like I remembered: cut through the outer layer, blood, cut through inner layer, more blood, some other layer, mess, uterus, amniotic sac, then “pull this!”

As Eugene the vet squeezes some sort of organic greenish water-balloon looking organ which I assume is a uterus or something, I manage to pull out from the incision a dark soggy mass dragging and dripping strings of warm stuff and hand it to my eleven year old daughter.  Tara bravely embarks on her mission of cleaning, drying and trying to get the little pups to breathe.  The first three were a complete loss but Tara kept on trying to revive them and get them going until the vet told her it was hopeless.  The last little creature that came out Tara managed to get some activity from and clean it off, and got it breathing.


Now Eugene set out to try and save Friday.  I did what Eugene said and held what I was told to hold and squeezed flaps of whatever together wherever Eugene instructed, and just like on the TV shows, I squeezed, he sewed and we managed to put Friday back together.

Tara named the little white puppy Luna and was valiantly working to keep her warm and stimulated, but Eugene sadly looked at us and said it was a slim chance that either Friday or the baby would survive the night.

We called home, told Mary to boil the hot water bottles, light the fire and put on the coffee, we had a long night of nursing ahead of us.


By two am we had Luna nursing on the still struggling and unconscious Friday.  By four am we managed to get Friday to drink a little water from the dropper-style bottle left over from the rabbits.  Every drop she drank resulted in more alertness and vitality.  At six am Luna climbed up to lick Friday’s face and, like Sleeping Beauty, she awoke and started cleaning and minding her pup as if she had suddenly realised she had a baby.

It now looks like they both might make it.  But no matter what happens with the dogs, the girls lives have been forever impacted by the miracles of life, death, and the struggle we all share to survive.  These are the lessons you can’t plan to teach your kids, but you hope to encounter along the way.

Rugby Central

13 May

I hadn’t realised how huge the Rugby scene was in Limerick even after I witnessed the epic “40 phases of play” the Munster team pulled off in the Heinekin Cup opener of 2011 (which I wrote about here).  But after I started working and rowing there, if I had been in any doubt about the connection Limerick has to Rugby, it was erased the other day when I drove through a roundabout on the southern side of town and saw signs for three different clubs all in the same place!


Mangan’s Cross

21 Apr

Shortly after we moved to Ireland I asked my father-in-law if he wanted to go grab a pint with me and as we headed out from his house he suggested we go to the Sibín bar (Shebeen) and pay our respects at a wake for a neighbour that had passed away. As we turned at the crossroads, Jim says “she used to live in that cottage there” and I said “oh, Mrs. Mangan?” as if I might have known her.

"The Custom's House"

“The Custom’s House”

My father-in-law asked incredulously, “how do you know Mrs. Mangan?” and I said “I don’t, but everyone refers to that crossroads as Mangan’s Cross, so I just guessed”. We had a little laugh, but it occurred to me that like “The Bog Road”, so many of the crucial landmarks in Ireland have names that only the neighbours know – that don’t show up on the map and are only passed along orally and rarely referenced in text or print.

As we sipped our pints in this cozy pub in the tiny township of Doora, Jim told me about old fellows, long gone, that had sat on stools like ours and sung a song about the local boys who had volunteered to fight for England in WWI with the promise of being repaid with Irish independence.

Jim speculated that the old fellow who sang that song was probably the last one who remembered “The Doora Volunteers” and knew  the words that described the young soldiers’ humorous ineptitude. I wondered if Jim was now the only person left who knew that song.  How fast time erases history.

I wonder how many generations will continue to say “turn right at Mangan’s cross to get to the Sibín”?

(this post is dedicated to the memory of my Aunt Kay with gratitude for all the Arizona history she helped preserve RIP)

Nuts for health

19 Apr

I happened to look at Grace making her own lunch the other day, mainly candy corn mixed with a little chocolate.  Before I intervened I had to take a photo.

is candy corn a food group?

is candy corn a food group?

“Why are you taking a picture, Dad?” “Because I can’t believe you thought this would be an acceptable lunch.” “But I’m adding nuts to make it healthy.”

Fresh meat

14 Apr

I knew spring had sprung when I looked out the bathroom window the other morning and saw the cattle.  Mary calls fromthe bedroom “what are you doing in there?”  “Taking a picture out the window” says I.


Young, freshly gelded bullocks romping in the field marks the beginning of this year’s meat production cycle.  With it comes Grace’s annual declaration that she is a vegetarian.  That lasted almost a whole day.

Legislating Superstition

24 Mar

I love it when government acknowledges the power of the mystical, so I’ve been carrying this photo around in my phone since January when the new license plates started appearing on Irish cars.


In December of 2011 I wrote at length about the Irish car registration system and how the government decided that putting the year of manufacture in big numbers at the beginning of the Licanse Plate would shame people into buying newer cars – and it did. (my old post about the reg plates) But they didn’t take into account how this would impact car sales in the year 2013 when there would be a big “13” on everyone’s car which would be bad luck.

So this year, in order to avoid putting a hex on everyone’s car, the Irish government represented the year with “131”.  Because as the farmer said “I don’t believe in Fairies, but don’t tell them that”.

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