24 July 2010

The Importance of Aunties

During our family gathering, the various nieces and nephews (grandchildren to the 2 crones) have access to 8 aunties (there are 9 altogether) for endless entertainment, constant companionship and general dancing attendance on their every request. They obviously revel in one another and it's also obviously good for all involved. New people to interact with and learn from, new expectations to respond to, new games or activities to engage in. The energy (and noise) level goes way up and the fun times roll.  Parents get a break and grandparents aren't the only alternatives to them. Mornings become "let's pounce the aunties" to start the day with giggles and hilarity.

Next to my parents, my aunt Franny (out of 6 aunts) was the most important person in my younger years and I loved her dearly. She opened  a world to me different than my parents' world. She was influential in such a good way in my life. I think of her when I see this 4th generation cavorting with their aunties. I wonder which will be the life-changing relationship for each of them. Hooray for aunties!

23 July 2010

Let's Dance

Some of my nieces are seriously into physical fitness and set up various activities for our family week together. Makes me realize how fun fitness can be. Today, for instance, we did Zumba with a personal trainer. It's a great combo of aerobics and dancing. She cranked up the volume of the CD played through her truck speakers and we boogied! The steps were simple but challenging and we danced to 5 different lively songs. I run 3 times weekly and amuse myself by listening to a combination of music and talks by interesting authors on my I-Pod, but this was just fun! Try it- when a catchy tune comes on the radio, get up and dance! See if it doesn't lift your mood.

p.s. The grandchildren, in a rare decision,  decided to watch despite the invitation to join in. Usually, we can't keep them still!

22 July 2010

The Power of Love

My friend, Marian Van Eyk McCain, at Elderwomanblog wrote an insightful post on Earthpages on July 20, 2010 called "Getting into the Spirit of Green." She describes the overlooked but powerful force of love as the real reason for going green. I like her take on things anyway but this rang especially true for me as I revel in family and notice our collective efforts to change our ways to tread lighter on mother earth and teach our grandchildren the ways of more sustainable living. She relates these efforts to spirituality: "So it is time to bring our spirituality down to Earth and connect it to the things that really matter—peace, social justice, ecosystems, sustainability, the healing of a planet that is far too beautiful and precious to damage. Because we love it." And, I would add, because we love the little ones of the next generation and the next and the next...

16 July 2010

The Joy of Mastery

Each vacation that my husband and I share with our daughter and 2 grandchildren has been a time for our grandchildren to master some new skill. I like having a role in that. This year our grandson is almost 8 and our granddaughter 4 1/2. He's working on his surfing and distance biking and she her diving and swimming. I watch as they overcome their fears, get bolder as they hone their skills, and practice over and over until they're competent. Their exhilaration and sheer joy is both the outcome and the only necessary reward. Surely that's a life lesson for us all.

13 July 2010

Time Out for Family

After 5 days in Ireland, my return to Italy to take (and pass) the driving exam and road test (no reciprocity with USA licenses), I'm now in the USA for a family gathering. It starts in FL with a week with my daughter and 2 grandchildren as well as my grandniece. It's fabulous, of course, but less reliable online services and the reality of 3 children 7 and under makes blogging a challenge. We'll see what I can manage. I'm not feeling too bad about missing some postings because I'm enjoying the moment. The day to day happenings of wee ones can be so fun!  When's the last time you played "I Spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter..." with a 4 year old who can't spell? Hilarious, even to the 7 year old!

10 July 2010

Traditional Irish Music Festival

The Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy is Ireland's largest traditional music summer school, held annually since 1973 in memory of the piper Willie Clancy. During the week, nearly a thousand students from every part of the world attend daily classes taught by experts in Irish music and dance. In addition, a full program of lectures, recitals, dances (céilithe) and exhibitions are run by the summer school. All events are held in and near Miltown Malbay in County Clare starting on the first Saturday in July. Lectures, recitals, concert and céilithe are open to the public (that would be me!).

Afternoons and evenings are spontaneous gatherings of the musicians young and old to jam together. Visitors go from pub to pub (or hotel or hall) in search of the music they like best and then stay to enjoy the sessions. The respect of young people for the elders and of the elders for the new ones coming up is evident and infectious. They all play together which seems such a rare but altogether wonderful treat. Anyone and everyone is expected to lead a tune in his or her turn and the others follow their lead.

I went to the couple's Set Dancing one day. That's couples dancing typical dances to the music of ceili bands. The bands delight setting the pace for these complex but fun dances and dancers feed off their energy and incite a good band to be even better. It can get pretty wild with the floor packed with sets of 4 couples in each group and dozens of groups.

You can get an idea of the energy! I found out that there are classes to learn the dozens of dances or at least get started learning, so next year, I have a goal! I had a lesson (thanks, Aidan) to learn one of the basic steps that I need to know to learn a dance. That video is below and a photo. I had a great time, though, so I'm definitely in for classes. I think it'll be a long process!

06 July 2010

Fanny O'Dea's Pub

Here I am, your roving reporter in Lissycasey, County Clare in the west of Ireland. I'm visiting my husband's cousins and attending a traditional Irish music festival for the next 3 days but more about that in later posts. Today I wanted to introduce the local pub located just down the street: Fanny O'Dea's.  Pubs in these country areas are not just for drinking but are the gathering spots for local families to socialize, eat, drink, listen to music and dance. They're great, important, fun neighborhood places.

Fanny O'Dea's is an old Irish traditional pub. Not as in the various themed pubs that have sprung up everywhere but as in it's been serving food and drink since 1695 making it Ireland's oldest family run pub! It's located on a main road between the towns of Ennis and Kilrush and offers locals, strangers and passers-by alike a pub to flock to. The house special is the Egg Flip (like an eggnog) and laced with a generous drop of Jamison whiskey.

Daniel O'Connell, in 1828, was but one of the famous customers to sample the pub's hospitality. Much has remained unchanged since the early days  and Fanny's has retained it's old characteristics. The snug, a small separate area where years ago women were required to sit rather than mingle with the men at the bar, is still there as a cozy corner to enjoy with friends.  The fire never goes out in the huge fireplace and is kept going all day everyday of the year. These, together with the Egg Flip represent the customs that have been passed down from generation to generation.

There's also a wealth of local musical talent with every Saturday devoted to traditional music sessions since this western part of Ireland maintains traditional music and dance. The curent owners are direct decendants of the original Denis and Fanny O'Dea as the family is now in its 8th generation of ownership. It exudes the unique warmth and coziness you might associate with an old Irish country pub. A couple of years ago I was in Ireland for Christmas Eve. Can you guess where most of the parish gathered after midnight Mass? Fanny O'Dea's it was! Ahhhh, Ireland.

02 July 2010

We, The People

My friend, Ruth, over in Rumi Days and Sychronizing, wrote a thoughtful post today called: "It's a Puzzle." It got me to thinking about her observation that America is broken, needing reassembling into a whole again like a puzzle.

I've been living abroad in Italy for 1 year now and have started to see things from a different perspective and see our brokeness as a bigger phenomenon. We, the people, still see ourselves as separate pieces, whether states or parties in America or countries or religions world-wide, and that our job is to strengthen our separate pieces.

Surely our common good is instead furthered by our coming together. That the myth of borders in only that. That the way we become whole is to join together, not allow ourselves to be defined as separate. That the future, not just of America, but of all the world, is made secure when we, the people, find ways to unite, break down our barriers, treat one another with loving kindness and become whole. We, the people, do this one compassionate act at a time. So, let's do this together!

To all Americans, wherever you are, from my little corner of the world,
have a truly happy Fourth of July.

01 July 2010

Lost - A Poem

In the midst of the complexities of a new Country, a new culture and a new language, this poem of David Wagoner is a soothing and wise reminder.


Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is caller Here,
And you must treat is as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes, Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

- David Wagoner