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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.


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”.


12 Feb

Is “shrove” the past tense for “shrive”? Does making pancakes count as Shriving? Who knows?

Happy “pancake Tuesday” and Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez!

Murrisk-y business

15 Jan


After Christmas, we set out on a road trip around Ireland. First stop was Westport, Co. Mayo, where Mary’s dad is from. The photo above is of Murrisk Abbey which is the ruin of an ancient church where Mary’s dad’s grandmother met his wife for the first time – at the altar on the day of their wedding.
Not so long ago, the small communities on the 365 individual islands in Clew Bay still arranged the marriage of their children to families on neighbouring islands.
I was told that the two fathers had met at a fair in Louisberg on the mainland and the deal was done – thus Edward O’Malley, from Clare Island (descendant of Grace the Pirate) met and married his wife all on the same day.
When I was there the wind was blowing the rain horizontally off the bay so hard that each drop felt like a needle on my face. Mary stayed in the car while I took the picture with the epic mountain Croagh Patrick in the background (I had to climb around on top of the old sagging graves in the cemetery to get this angle). I walked back to the car leaning into the gale force wind at no less than a 25 degree angle – all in all a great experience.

Christmas recap

13 Jan

Just a quick recap of Christmas to start off 2013. (I downloaded the WordPress blogging app for my phone so maybe I will get back to posting more frequently)

A quiet Christmas Eve at home by the fire watching “The Sound of Music” culminated in setting up treats for Santa. Grace wrote her letter to Santa this year in “Viking” – runes she and her cousin had learned from a book he has about Vikings. She said “if Santa is real, he’ll be able to read Viking”
Well apparently he is, because Christmas morning there was a letter written back to Grace in the same strange script.

Christmas morning was a treat for all: Santa brought Grace new skates and a book about wizards, he brought Tara a digital camera. Mary and I got a beautiful morning in a beautiful house and many fine gifts from family and friends.

After a nice morning at Sonas, we headed in for mass at the Cathedral. Town was sunny and quiet. Unlike the U.S. where there are a significant number of non-Christians, in Ireland the entire country closes for business on Christmas Day…all except the Churches.

After mass, it was out to Quin Road and a phenomenal feast with all the Lyons clan and requisite cousins. 15 of us in all – for a very merry Christmas indeed.


Julie’s Visit

29 Sep

Two interesting things happen when you’re an expat and someone visits you from home: 1. There is an interesting sweet/sad emotion that comes from the combination of  joyful re-connecting and wistful homesickness.  2. There is an emergence of a particularly prideful eagerness to show off everything you think is wonderful about where you are.

Our close friend Julie came to visit recently and in doing so, she garnered the honor of being the first (non-Ennis-native) person to come to Ireland from San Francisco to see us.

We did our best to show her not only where, but how, we were living here.  We had ten amazing – but too brief – days full of experiences both ordinary and extraordinary. 

A perfect example was the very first day of Julie’s visit when we picked up the girls from school (ordinary) and then went into town to tour the ancient Franciscan Abbey (extraordinary) built in the year 1240 which makes it one of the oldest buildings in town.

Even though we had been there a few times before, I think you learn more when you are sharing your experiences with someone new.  This time, I realized that since Saint Francis founded his order in 1209, this abbey on this little island not too close to Italy must be one of the earliest Franciscan Abbeys in the world.

But our visit to the Ennis Abbey was only one small moment of Julie’s trip and there were many many more memorable moments….some of which may even get a blog post here.

En-chanted Evening

14 Sep

On the recommendation of a trusted friend, I left work the other day at 5:20pm and headed out East of Limerick to a Benedictine Monastary called Glenstal Abbey.

Every evening at 6:00pm the monks say Vespers – which is evening prayers – in Latin.  Technically, they don’t actually “say” the prayers, rather, they chant them…gregorian style.  Completely amazing to hear, it is a meditative and calming experience.

Just to approach the chapel is an experience…walking through the ambiance of this old Castle-like fortress-like monastary.  But once inside, the altar itself is spare and minimalist: just a simple table with an incense burner on a stand in front of it.

High above the altar is a equal sided cross suspended with thin wires in the air like a floating addition sign.  The smoke from the incense rises underneath it quickly expanding like a dancing genie….if ever there was a representation of the “Holy Spirit” this would be it.

The smoke dances into the air as the deep intonations of the latin chant fill the room and the mystery of spirituality surrounds you, transporting you to a timeless place of reflection.

You can buy the albums of the monks doing this…or you can show up twice a day and get the full experience just for the price of passing by.  I highly recommend it.

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