Traveling Abroad (Three) — May, 2013

When Saturday dawned, I was up before the wake-up call, eager to get back home.

Domer and I tightened our belts in lieu of breakfast and went to the hotel lobby to check out.

Now, we’d been told this taxi would charge a flat fee of 35 Euros, payable by swiping a credit card.

But the guy who showed up said he couldn’t do that. He wanted cash, so we had to stop at an ATM and withdraw enough for the trip.

Sorry, buddy, no tip for you!

When I fretted about how little time we had to get to the airport, he floored the accelerator, weaving in and out of traffic. On the left hand side of the road.

I held my breath the entire trip.

At last we reached Dublin Airport.

Mass confusion reigned. Queues were snaking everywhere.

Finally, we got “rid” of our heaviest suitcases — filled with clothes we hadn’t worn — only to find more lines.

For screening.

For customs.

For pre-boarding to the States.

That means taking off one’s shoes, unpacking the laptop, removing jackets and keys and coins.

Before this trip I hadn’t flown since Domer was in the womb (1990). So you can imagine how stunned I was to see a woman in front of me felt all over by a TSA screener.

I slipped through, then poor Domer got groped.

Despite having shaved off his scruffy beard. Despite looking like a clean-cut, decent young American.

And after he told me — on the plane, no less — I was ready to hop off like Mama Tigress and give that screener a piece of my mind for touching my kid!

We didn’t wait long to board, and more than once I looked at Domer and asked whether we were making the right decision.

“I’m going home,” Domer said. “I’ve had it with this place.”

The flight back was okay. We availed ourselves of everything that was offered — food, soda, tea, bathroom, free movies, you name it.

Other passengers were still irritating; we knew it was going to feel like midnight when we finally got home (because of the time change); and I couldn’t relax for the thoughts swirling in my brain, but Domer helped.

We’re going HOME, he kept reminding me. And it was sounding better and better.

Join me tomorrow as I complete our trip.

Traveling Abroad (Two) — May, 2013

Friday, May 24, found Domer and me up early, taking turns foraging for food and accommodations again.

Kind of like being on a deserted island.

We learned there were hotels, but they were way more expensive than we wanted to pay. And there were bed-and-breakfasts. But nothing mid-range with vacancies.

Somewhere along the line, the subject of bailing came up. I honestly don’t know whose idea it was, but we figured at this rate, it was going to cost almost as much to pay the cancellation fees and go home early as it would sticking it out for the week.


At last, we found what looked like a lovely hotel, and we booked the next four nights at a reasonable rate (thanks, Expedia!). Checking out of the guest house, we followed directions to the bus stop.

Little did we know one has to HAIL a bus, the way you hail a taxi.

After several buses went by, we noticed people signaling for the one they wanted, so we did, too. Only we were at the wrong bus stop!

Another thing — Irish buses have no signage, meaning you really don’t know where you are, when you should get off (and whether the neighborhood you’re waiting in is sketchy or not). Oh, and the drivers don’t make change. If you’re told the fare is 2.35 in Euros and you drop 2.50 in the slot, tough luck!

An hour’s ride later — at least we were able to see some of the scenic countryside — we arrived at the hotel and checked in.

Relieved to be “settled” for the next few days, we decided to eat lunch. Surprise, our hotel offered a meal on site — woo hoo! — and we enjoyed club sandwiches with tortilla chips. Still eager to look around, we returned to our room to research travel options.

Uh-oh, the news wasn’t good. It was going to take an hour each way on the bus, or mucho Euros in taxi fares, to get back to civilization.

No wonder the staff seemed so accommodating. They were stuck in the middle of nowhere and knew it.

The idea of cutting our losses grew. Feeling frustrated at not having toured the first thing, not having taken a single picture, and afraid Ireland had seen us coming with a money tree in tow, we looked seriously into the possibility of catching an early flight home.

There was one on Saturday, and we grabbed it.

We cancelled our hotel stay after that one night, booked a taxi (Cha-ching) for the ride to the airport, and dined on pizza for dinner.

Lingering doubts over our decision evaporated during our noisy night. A group of teens staying there on break from school raced up and down the hotel’s hallways, banging on doors and phoning random rooms to find their friends much of the night.

Can it get any worse, I wondered.

Join me tomorrow to see.

Traveling Abroad (One) — May, 2013

Bet you’re wondering where I’ve been for the past few days.

Would you believe Ireland??

You should. I might be part-Irish, but I wouldn’t lie about a trip to the Motherland!

It’s long been a dream of mine. Last summer, my friend Katybeth and her son went and had a blast.

Then in August, Notre Dame played Navy in the Shamrock Bowl in Dublin (and Domer and the Band got to go!). But they didn’t see much of anything, so I promised — if Domer wanted to — that I’d take him back as a graduation gift. He agreed.

I applied for, and received my passport, made travel arrangements, and was so excited about our adventure that I barely slept. I had all sorts of plans — kissing the Blarney Stone, touring the Guinness factory, seeing Trinity College and the Book of Kells and the Waterford factory, looking over Kilmainham Gaol, and taking a bazillion pictures.

To share on my blog, naturally!

We departed Wednesday, May 22, from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, intending to sleep the entire flight because we were to land at 9 a.m. the next day and hit the ground running toward the sights.

No such luck.

  • The flight attendants kept the overhead lights blaring and ran up and down the aisles feeding people every couple of hours.
  • Passengers tromped back and forth to the restrooms.
  • The girl in front of me leaned her seat way back (when I couldn’t move mine), squashing my space.
  • The man next to Domer coughed and snored — mouth wide open — for hours.
  • Somebody’s infant was most unhappy and let us all know about it.

The “fun” really started after we landed on Irish soil.

Domer and I snared a few Euros from an airport ATM and hailed a taxi into Dublin and our hotel. The plan was to drop off our luggage and sight-see.

Neither of us can be sure, but we strongly suspect that the cabbie — nice though he was — took a roundabout route, pointing out all the “bee-u-tee-ful” sights to see while we were in town. We grew more suspicious when he told us how “the missus” likes money and how hard it is to make a living driving a cab.

Thirty-six Euros later, we arrived in front of the hotel — the one Domer had found online before we left, the one I booked and in turn, received confirmation on.

The attendant said he had no record of our booking; however, he’d sell us a room. Figuring I was going to get charged twice, and not feeling comfortable with the seedy-looking place anyway, we high-tailed it back onto the streets.

Schlepping our luggage across crowded Dublin, we made our way to a Burger King. Twelve Euros for two burgers, one small fry, and two sodas.

(One Euro equals $1.30, approximately. You do the math!)

Feeling cheated but no longer hungry, we went to the Discover Ireland office. They found us a “guest house” and gave us directions on which bus to take and how to get there.

The inn’s rate was reasonable that night, but it nearly doubled for the following nights — apparently due to a football (soccer) match in town that weekend, along with some big concert and lots of tourists — so one night was all we booked.

It was a quaint little inn. Tiny, but clean. There were no amenities like in the States — no toiletries, no soap, no washcloths, no clock, no mini-fridge, no microwave. But they did have wireless Internet, which we used to search for our next night’s accommodation.

Frustrated and weary from jet lag, we toppled into our beds for a few hours (killing any hope of Thursday sight-seeing).

When dinnertime arrived, we prevailed upon the desk clerk for directions to a restaurant, and were led to a delightful spot for beer-battered haddock and fries.

Good, but expensive. Cha-ching.

Upon our return, we did more research, questioned the sanity of this trip, then crashed for the night.

Join me tomorrow for more!

I’m B-a-a-a-c-k!!



Dallas here.

Mama hasn’t touched her blog in nearly two weeks, so I’m pitch-hitting for her.

Even though I’m kinda mad with her.

You see, she left me at the kennel while she and Grandma went to The Kid’s big hoop-de-doo. You know him as Domer, but to me, he’s The Kid.

And we’ve been together a long time — six years, in fact.

When Mama first brought me home, The Kid was a little guy. Fifteen, I think. And he was scared of doggins.

Because we have toofies. And can stand on our back legs to jump on people.

But Mama quickly taught me not to bite — not even in play — and not to jump.

Truth be told, I didn’t particularly like jumping anyway. I’m a herding dog, not a circus monkey!

Anyway, The Kid and I grew up together. I taught him to like dogs; he let me lick his sweat after he’d come home from golf and tennis. I taught him to throw a ball; he taught me to bring it back. He taught me to play Chase and Hide and Seek; I taught him unconditional love.

So it was only right for Mama to take me to see The Kid graduate.

I’d have been good. Honest.

I could’ve stayed in the motel. I wouldn’t “go” on the rug or bite the housekeeping staff or howl long and loud.

I wouldn’t have been any trouble at all.

But they stuck me in the kennel. I’ve been there before, though never for this long. And they say dogs can’t tell time — huh!

The kennel’s nice, all things considered. There’s other dogs and cats around, they feed me the same stuff Mama does, and they even take me for walks.

But I wanted to be with my family.

Mama’s back now. So’s Grandma and The Kid.

They surely don’t expect me to believe it took this long for him to graduate. I don’t know for certain, but I think another trip was squeezed in there somewhere.

To a place called “abroad.”

I don’t know what that was about, but I’ll tell Mama to blog it for you, okay?

Commencement Wrapup

Commencement Weekend at the University of Notre Dame has come and gone, and I’m left with the following observations:

1) Nobody does Mass better than ND. This weekend was Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the Church, and we had no less than 40 red-robed priests (plus two bishops) on the altar for the celebration!

2) Nobody does food better than the ND Food Services staff. Our Friday feast featured chef-carved beef, chicken, tilapia, and a dessert bar topped with a “2013” ice sculpture. On Saturday, they fed us grilled steak, chicken, shrimp, and made an elaborate display of round, two-layered white cakes with frosting — one for each family to enjoy!

3) Nobody offers better music than ND. Volunteers from the ND Band (minus the seniors) played at most events. And no, I didn’t do much more than tear up at “Pomp and Circumstance,” the Alma Mater, and the ND Victory March, so my desensitization helped!

4) Nobody offers more guidelines (that people don’t pay attention to) than ND. I was told no umbrellas or wide-brimmed hats that might interfere with people’s vision. I obeyed, but others did not. I was told to respect others’ views of the proceedings. I obeyed, but one woman stood right in front of me minutes before my son was to cross the stage to accept his diploma. When I politely reminded her, “I can’t see,” she jumped all over me, arguing that somebody was taking a photo with a camera phone and she didn’t want to block that. Obviously, it never crossed her mind to go behind the photographer, rather than block my view!

5) Nobody does unpredictable weather better than South Bend. Here I was, worried over cold and rain, when Sunday dawned brilliantly sunny and temps climbed to almost 90 degrees by afternoon. Good thing I remembered sunscreen!

I know some of you are also interested in what people were wearing. Comfort, indeed, was the better part of wisdom. And there were so many people milling around that I probably could’ve worn a grocery sack and not stood out!

In fact, I saw all manner of dress:

  • Men in khaki shorts
  • Men in flip flops and deck shoes
  • Men wearing suits and ties
  • Men wearing blue jeans
  • Men wearing Polo shirts
  • Women teetering on sky-high spike heels
  • Women in cowboy boots
  • Women wearing dressy sandals or flip flops
  • Nobody wearing pantyhose
  • Women wearing lace
  • Women wearing sundresses, long and short
  • Women wearing slacks and jackets
  • Infants in carriers
  • People in wheelchairs or on canes
  • People speaking English or their native tongue
  • People wearing sunglasses and ND ball caps

Me? For Saturday’s Mass, I wore a knee-length black pencil skirt with a black and white polka-dotted peplum jacket. On Sunday, I chose a pair of dress black slacks, a black and white jacket with blue-green flowers, and a matching blue-green knit shell.

It was a great celebration, but I’m glad the hoopla is over.

(I’m “going dark” for a week or so while I do some celebratory stuff with my son. Intrigued? Good, I love a mystery! I’ll post more when I get back. Love to ALL!)

Beading with semiprecious stones

Thanks to several days of rain and thunderstorms, I recently had some time to myself, and I chose to pass it beading.

There’s something peaceful about working with beads, string, metal, and such. Something rewarding about creating a bracelet or earrings from rocks and wire.

I derive infinite satisfaction from fingering the beads, researching their healing properties, and knowing that, if I make something I don’t particularly like, I can either dismantle it and start over or I can squirrel it away for someone else to purchase one day.

We all have different tastes, you know, and one person’s trash is another person’s treasure!

Here are a few of the items I designed (and if you’re tired of seeing beaded jewelry, forgive me, but I’m up to my ears in Commencement preparations and this is the best I can post in my scatter-brained state!):

Citrine bracelet

Citrine bracelet

1) This bracelet contains 8 Citrine chunks (helps with digestion and is known as the “Merchant’s Stone”) interspersed with 4mm round Hematites (increases intuition and improves relationships).

Unakite bracelet

Unakite bracelet

2) This bracelet features 10 oval Unakite discs connected with 4mm round Unakite beads. Unakite is a combination of Red Jasper and Green Epidote. It’s said to lift your spirits, help you see the beauty in life, and uncover deception.

Healing bracelet

Healing bracelet

3) This “healing” bracelet contains 3 each of faceted Crystal beads, Sodalite, Turquoise, Jasper, Blue Averturine, and Howlite. All are 6mm round beads.

  • Crystal is said to enhance the energy of other stones
  • Sodalite brings inner peace
  • Turquoise is the symbol of friendship
  • Jasper is worn for protection, luck, and to ease emotional stress
  • Blue Aventurine helps with self-discipline and inner strength
  • Howlite relieves stress and aids in sleep.
Healing bracelet #2

Healing bracelet #2

4) This is a healing bracelet featuring round stones sized 8mm each. Included gemstones are Crystal, Carnelian, Aventurine, Rose Quartz, Purple Striated Agate, Yellow Striated Agate, and Fancy Jasper. And here’s what the stones are said to do (minus, of course, the ones I’ve already listed):

  • Carnelian increases energy and guards against poverty
  • Green Aventurine is the stone of luck
  • Rose Quartz is the stone of universal love
  • Agate has so many positive qualities that everyone should have one (or more!)
Jade bracelet

Jade bracelet

5) This bracelet is comprised of 8 Russian Jade oval-shaped beads and 11 round, 4mm Fancy Jasper beads with a silver toggle clasp. Jade helps the body to heal itself. An ancient protective stone, Jade helps in clear reasoning.

Do stones in and of themselves really ‘Heal’? Who knows, but it’s fun learning about them anyway!

“Commencement” really is a Beginning

Playing right now: “Pomp and Circumstance” by Sir Edward Elgar

When I was in high school, our band played “Pomp and Circumstance” while the seniors were marching into and out of the gym for graduation.

It was a tradition, one we eagerly embraced. As we embraced our new (higher!) chair positions without our “leaders.”

A week was set aside to practice. The seniors would walk in as we played; they’d listen as their names were read aloud, then they’d walk back out as we played again.

Over and over until it was right.

So by graduation evening, it was old hat. It never crossed my mind to cry.

Nor did I cry when I was the graduating senior (eager, I recall, to get out of Dodge!)

By the time my son (AKA My Favorite Domer) graduated from high school — Class of 2009 — they’d chosen a prerecorded version of “Pomp and Circumstance” to accompany the seniors’ processional.

Call me old-fashioned, but I liked it better when the band played. Squeaks and wrong notes and all.

So I didn’t cry at Domer’s high school graduation.

But now, he’s completed his final, final exam, marking the end of his four-year stint at Notre Dame, and Commencement is right around the corner.

And I feel weepy.

I’m going to miss ND more than Domer will because, after all, it’s “home” to him. He’ll be back for football games, reunions, and such.

I, on the other hand, won’t have a reason to go back without him there.

The other day I was in the car when “Pomp and Circumstance” — the long version — played on Sirius radio, and I couldn’t help myself.

The tears just started flowing.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be emotional when Domer walks across that stage to accept his diploma. So I’ve decided to desensitize by listening to “Pomp” every chance I get.

And it’s helping.

When I left for college, my late dad termed it a “four-year paid vacation.”

Not so. I worked too hard.

Stayed up late too often studying. Involved myself in a gazillion activities. Reported for the campus newspaper. Had a scholarship to the Band.

Yes, I had fun. But not “vacation” fun.

Domer wouldn’t call his four years a “vacation,” either.

For the first time in his life, he’s been surrounded with young people just like him.

Bright. Talented. Big-hearted. Idealistic.

Kids who are athletic. Musical. Scholars. Volunteers.

Kids who recognize that they’ve been given many advantages and “To whom much is given, much is expected in return.” (Luke 12:48)

I predict good things for the Class of 2013.

Now, if I can just get past the Alma Mater. . . .!

My Camera Loves Spring

“The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.”
― Bern Williams

Is anybody tired of Spring photos? Can we ever get enough of the beauty of this season, with its new beginnings, its promises, color and warmth?

Today is gray and gloomy. Rain showers and possible thunderstorms are rolling around, and I for one need a reminder of prettier days past. Join me, won’t you?

Looks like some sort of crocus

Looks like some sort of crocus

Solitary pink tulip

Solitary pink tulip

White dogwood against a blue sky

White dogwood against a blue sky

Fence row of colorful tulips

Fence row of colorful tulips

Pink flowering tree

Pink flowering tree

Purple and yellow tulips tower over white flox

Purple and yellow tulips tower over white flox

Pink dogwood

Pink dogwood

Azalea in bloom

Azalea in bloom

There, now, don’t you feel better? I know I do!

Spring means time for Prom

Recently, I sat behind a group of six young people (four guys, two girls) in Church.

They obviously were heading to Prom after Mass, and they looked superb.

The girls’ complexions were clear, their makeup and manicures were flawless. Their thin young bodies had been spray-tanned, their hair was swept up with dangling ringlets.

Their earrings sparkled. Their floor-length gowns were stunning, and they were modest enough to cover up their bare shoulders with light jackets.

The young men wore tuxes and boutonnieres, fancy shoes and ties. Their hair was combed, their faces freshly shaven.

They whispered quietly to one another and nodded at their friends seated in other pews.

The nervous anticipation practically crackled from them.

Prom is an exciting rite of passage for a young person.

And I never went.

Back in the day, if you didn’t have a date, you didn’t go to Prom.


That meant lots of us stayed home when we should have been with our classmates. Dancing. Snacking. Having fun.

How refreshing it is today that young people ALL go to Prom.

Date or no date.

Some pair off with a special someone; others go in groups.

No one has to feel left out, unless they choose not to be there.

And it’s wonderful to see so many of the teens from our Church making time to attend Mass before the festivities.

Our priest never fails to acknowledge their presence, either.

He always tells them how splendid they look, cautions them to be watchful and prudent while having fun, and reminds them that their parents — and the entire community — love them.

A few of the kids snicker. They’ve heard this message before.

The older adults nod their heads and smile. They have, too.

But it’s a message that never grows old, no matter how often it’s spoken.

These kids are our future.

Let’s Go Lego-ing

When My Favorite Domer was little, he spent an inordinate amount of time playing with Legos.

In his little hands, these hard plastic colored bricks became spaceships. Or villages. Or monsters. Or whatever.

A $5 box of Legos was the perfect reward for a boy eager to do his best, to help out around the house, to bring home A’s.

Bribe, you say? Hey, whatever works — as long as he picked them up, and I didn’t have to step on them with bare feet!

On summer days, or weekends during the school year, his friends would come over to design and fabricate entire Lego worlds, complete with people. And vehicles to move them from place to place.

I lost track of how many pictures I took of him with his finished creations to submit to the Lego magazine.

“What do you get for winning?” I’d ask.

And he’d show me some expensive, one-of-a-kind set that he had to have.

Sadly, he never won.

But that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm. Or stop him from dreaming and creating.

Four years ago when Domer headed off to Notre Dame, he packed up his precious creations and stored them in boxes.

It’s the end of an era, I thought, figuring maybe his kids would get some enjoyment out of them one day.

Because plastic bricks don’t go bad, do they?

I was wrong. Not about the bricks, but about the end of an era.

Because boys really never outgrow their toys, you know.

Over Christmas break, Domer got a notion to break out his Legos. To look, once again, at his creations.

To see whether they were as “cool” as they once were.

They didn’t disappoint. You think I’m kidding, right? Well, you’d be wrong. See for yourself:

Trip down Lego Memory Lane

Trip down Lego Memory Lane