Uragh Stone Circle

Stone circles can be found across Ireland. They were built between 3,000 and 500 B.C. and were probably used for rituals or religious functions; no one really knows for sure. One thing is for certain – finding them usually requires a drive down a very narrow road (so narrow that if you meet a car, one of you has to back up) followed by a hike up a steep hill through pasture lands. I’ve become a pro at cleaning shite off the bottom of my boots, but its worth it to savor a bit of ancient history.

Uragh Stone Cirlce is located on the Beara Peninsula in South West County Kerry. There’s a box for you to drop your 2 Euro entrance fee and is, like other sites around Ireland, based on the honor system.

stone cirlce

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

Pamopoly Board

This week, the Daily Post Photo Challenge is “Unique”.  I couldn’t think of anyone more unique than my friend, Pam, and her Pamopoly board. Complete with bottle caps featuring pictures of Pam at different stages of her life, this comically depressing twist on the Hasbro game will send you to Therapy instead of Jail. And you start out $1,500 in debt. Pam explains it on her blog, Putting on my Big Girl Panties. While you’re there, follow her blog! She’s going to be a famous writer one day – I promise!



I couldn’t resist the title. The word conjures up a fond memory for me. (And where did your mind go just then?!)

I last made it home for Christmas in 2008. My oldest niece and my nephew were both 4 at the time. Just before Christmas Eve dinner, Ella tore down the stairs from my mom’s playroom and through the house screaming. She stopped dramatically in the dining room, brushed the hair from her face, and declared, “Isaac is trying to screw me!”

My siblings and their spouses all looked at her with confusion. Screw? What!

Seconds later, Isaac ran up behind Ella with a devilish grin on his face…and with a giant, orange plastic screwdriver in hand.

Top 12 Memorable Moments of 2012

2012 was a year of extreme highs and lows, surprises, and good friends. Here are 12 of my most memorable moments from the past year, with pictures!

1. Posing for Trish Harding
I am not exactly what you’d call model material. But, Trish doesn’t care. All shapes and sizes are welcome in her art classes. Dressed in costume, I modeled for half a dozen students as they sketched or painted, and I even earned tips!
Posing for Trish Harding

2. The Deck Fire
In March, a house guest who visited from Ireland lit my deck on fire with a cigarette. Then he stuck me with the repair bill. Happy Birthday to Me.

I have since insured every aspect of my life. Unfortunately, there is no insurance for poor decision-making. We simply have to live with the consequences and hope for payment plans.
Deck Fire

3. Little Brother
My 35th birthday was probably the worst on record. However, my brother Chris flew out to Seattle from Minnesota in May with his company, and his visit more than made up for it. They booked me a room in the Four Seasons, paid for my fine dining, a cruise around Lake Union, and a flight in the Evening Magazine airplane over Seattle!

Over Seattle

4. Horseback riding for the first time
In July, I camped (er, stayed in a cabin with running water and electricity) in Leavenworth. I rode Titan through the steep and treacherous trails of the north Cascades and probably evaded death a couple of times. My horse loved the grass growing on the sides of the cliffs and wasn’t scared to walk right over the edge to get to it. He also liked biting the arses of the horses in front of him. Cheeky bugger.
Horseback Riding

5. Danger
I had such a great time hanging out with my girlfriends this year, I had to include a shout out to them. Our mantra can be summed up in a fuzzy cell phone photo. I’ll never tell what kind of danger we actually got into…

6. Meeting Jack McGee
I watched every episode of every season of the FX series, Rescue Me. Jack McGee played Chief Jerry Reilly for three seasons, and I loved him! In July, I had the opportunity to meet him at a gala to raise funds for the Burned Children Recovery Foundation and specifically, Camp Phoenix.
Jack McGee

7. Ryan Stiles Celebrity Golf Classic
The day after the gala, I volunteered at the Ryan Stiles Celebrity Golf Classic. Again, this event was designed to raise money for the Burned Children Recovery Foundation. I manned hole #9 with Cerise Noah, and took lots and lots of pictures. In 2012, a total of $160,000 was raised for the BCRF and their Camp Phoenix program for childhood burn survivors.

8. NYC Pitch Conference
Even though the New York City Pitch Conference was brutal, I walked away with some dear friends. And, who can beat seeing this in their email inbox?
NYC Pitch

9. Discovering the rainbow over the Rock of Cashel
In pursuit of the perfect picture, I hid in the old ruins of Hore Abbey in Cashel, Ireland in October. Little did I know that when the rain passed, I’d step out of the ruins to spot a rainbow over the Rock of Cashel!
Rock of Cashel

10. Seeing the Cliffs of Moher for the first time
Everything in Ireland is beautiful, and I had more favorite moments than I could possibly count, but seeing the Cliffs of Moher was one of the biggest. I woke up early to beat the rain and then battled the wind to get this shot.
Cliffs of Moher

11. Getting Published
Okay, this won’t official happen until 2013, but I found out in 2012. An essay based on one of my book chapters will be published in the next WhatcomWRITES, Loyalties Anthology. I’ll be reading the essay in early March at Village Books in Bellingham.

12. Reading at Village Books
I completed Laura Kalpakian’s Memory into Memoir class at Western Washington University earlier this year and was honored to read one of the chapters at Village Books. I didn’t complete my memoir while in the class, but Laura and my fellow “Skedgers” continue to give me great feedback that has helped me go from zero to over 250 completed pages. That is my greatest accomplishment for the year.
Village Books

Who knows what 2013 will bring?

I leave it with my latest fortune cookie…
Fortune Cookie

Remembering Africa

Maasai Girl
Maasai Girl

I’ve been following Global Grazers, and each time I read a new post, I want to return to Africa!  Harold Green‘s  striking photography of  Masaai people always tugs at my heartstrings too. Digging through my archives, I found an essay I wrote 3 years ago about my experience in Tanzania (when I wanted to be a nurse) and decided to share this with you today.

Remembering Africa

The gravel spit out beneath the bus wheels as we began the tired journey to Mount Kilimanjaro Airport.  Wedged between Jackie and Dora, overwhelmed by my three-week Tanzanian odyssey, I fought back tears and then finally succumbed.  Hands waved frantic good-byes from the bus windows as we crept towards the gate of the YWAM base.  Children clamored through the dusty road around us, chasing kittens and screaming wildly, blissfully unaware that their new American friends were flying home and would not be there for breakfast in the morning.  

My eyes wandered across the sea of smiling faces, indigenous people who spent hours cooking for us, translating for us, and graciously tolerating our horrible foreign habits.  I was suddenly struck by the unfortunate fact I hadn’t really formed strong bonds with any of them.  

Grueling hours had been spent in clinics, my heart breaking over a plethora of ailments.  My first patient had been an old Maasai man suffering from cataracts, among other things.  Listening to the soft crackle in his lungs, I observed the lice infesting his worn red warrior blanket and struggled to stand against the wave of sadness.  Later I would be affected by an HIV positive baby with twisted limbs and a cadaverous 8 month old Maasai child dying of malnutrition.  Mothers scrambled for a place in line as infants hid beneath blankets on their backs, waiting for hours to receive care.  

Perhaps I was too emotionally exhausted after all I’d seen to connect.  Most evenings passed in a blur of cold showers, food I couldn’t identify, and Malorone induced nightmares.  I lamented the fact that the long hours of service amounted to so little in the grand scheme of things. My evanescent presence would quickly fade under the harsh African sun while I returned to a country with air-conditioned waiting rooms, privacy curtains and cable television.     

Of course that wasn’t all there was.  There were crowded trips on the “dahla dahla” into Arusha for chocolate, heated discussions over the price of drums in the Maasai market, thieving monkeys, and zebras scratching their bellies on rocks in Ngorogoro Crater.  I would be processing this trip for months to come. 

I wrestled with my mixed emotions as a sturdy dark hand reached past the other passengers and into the small opening of the bus window.  I felt a calloused, dark hand against my cool, pale skin.  “God, see this woman’s tears and return her to Africa.”  The man’s voice was deep and prophetic, and it immediately dried my eyes.  There was a finality in those words that deeply resonated within me.  Despite the heartache and the nescience of events I considered failures, I knew I would indeed return.  It was as though his spoken words had already been written.  He dropped my hand and stepped back from the bus.  

I would reflect on his words often over the next couple of years, pouring through book after book about Africa, searching for ways to connect. Africa is a beautiful thief who can steal your heart while you watch, unapologetic for the sin.  She buries it deep within her troubled soil where it grows roots.  You can fly ten thousand miles across the world to a place you consider home, but she calls you back, either with mournful cries or seductive beauty.  Either way, your soul is no longer your own.

New Worlds


People are fascinated by pictures of doors, especially those that are old and weathered. In fact, I’ve seen entire websites dedicated to them. Perhaps they symbolize our longing to enter new worlds? Or, maybe they represent the secrets of old worlds and past lives that shouldn’t be revisited.

I found this particular doorway at Ardgillan Castle outside of Dublin.  Sure, the lighting effect is no more than a trick with a camera lens, but it carries a symbolic weight for me – like I am about to enter a new world, and some divine blessing awaits.

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words

This is my response to the WordPress Daily Post, Weekly Writing Challenge. I did not take this picture, this is just a story-telling exercise. I thought this would be fun to do, so wrote up a quick story for this photo over my lunch break today…


Linda emerged from her mother’s womb trying to speak. She didn’t cry like normal newborns, she just moved her lips as though she were trying to communicate something extremely important to the doctors. Even before she understood how to form words, Linda would lay in her crib at night joyously spurting ba ba bas and da da das  that kept her parents, Dorothy and George, awake. She wasn’t a fussy baby, just an unusually chatty one.  They wondered what on earth she could have to talk about so early in life, before she’d had the opportunity to make friends or form attachments to her inanimate playthings. Monologues of random sounds spilled from her crib, as though she’d been possessed by their elderly neighbor, Mrs. Pacifico, who had been in the habit of stopping Dorothy on the street and speaking directly to her belly and who had passed away shortly before Linda’s birth.

Dorothy would cry in distress, not wanting her little girl to be possessed by the spirit of an old, Italian woman. George assured her that no one had come back from the dead to torture her with superfluous chatter. Women were naturally imbued with the gift of gab, and their little Linda just got a little bit extra.

Linda began to combine single syllable nonsense into full sentences at a year and a half. Her excessive talkativeness became more tolerable when Dorothy could actually understand what she was saying. But still, she swore she could see a glint of Mrs. Pacifico in Linda’s eyes when she’d get on a good word run and this still caused Dorothy to burst into tears on occasion.

Too young to play with neighbor children, Linda spent a lot of time with her brother, William. However, he would grow so tired of playing with Linda due to the constant talking, that he took several naps a day to recuperate. Dorothy soon began to wonder if William had a sleeping disorder, and because of that William spent two years in doctor’s offices trying to get to the bottom of his extreme sleepiness.

George bought Dorothy a new camera for Christmas the year Linda turned four. It was an Argus C4, in a tan, fitted case with a muzzle that covered the lens, and long leather strap that she could wear around her neck. He even bought her several canisters of Kodak film to get her started. She wanted to get a good picture of her family now that she had a proper camera. But, every time she would develop the film, she would discover that she’d captured Linda mid-sentence and mouth agape. William’s eyes were always closed.

A mouth agape distressed George in particular, who believed it looked too much like smiling – something only indulgent Protestant families did. Good young Catholics should look humble and pious at all times. They should also look alert and ready for any service the good Lord required, but try as they might, they couldn’t get a good photo.

Capturing a good photo seemed hopeless, until one Sunday morning before church, George discovered Linda peering with deep longing at a picture in one of her books. The silence alarmed him, so he approached his little girl to find out why she wasn’t speaking. He soon learned that Linda wanted a puppy like the one in the window of the book. When George mentioned puppy, William perked up and began jumping up and down, begging. Linda just looked with the tenderest affection at the book and simply said, “Puppy.”

Dressed in their Sunday best, Dorothy lined up her family outside their church later that cold, April day for another photo attempt. George held their tiny hands and looked at them sternly for a moment.

“Do you want a puppy, William?”

“Yes, yes!”

“Do you want a puppy, Linda?”

Linda squealed.

George squeezed their hands and stood up. “William, if you can keep your eyes open, and Linda, if you can keep your mouth shut, this afternoon you will have a puppy.”

Linda had never tried so hard in her entire life to keep the words inside as she waited for her mother to snap the picture. Her cheeks bulged with unspoken thoughts, and William stared with tired excitement.

Linda and William got their puppy that day, and Dorothy finally got her family photo – and a moment of silence.

The Replacement Temples

When I visited Dublin in 2010 and 2011, The Temple Bar (within Temple Bar) had two painted panels flanking the front door, one of Lady Martha Temple and the other of Sir William Temple. I thought they really brightened up that stretch of road. Sadly, when I returned in 2012, the bright, colorful paintings had been replaced! I prefer the original, but I also don’t deal well with change…

I actually made a print of the original, and it’s hanging in my dining room. I had wanted to return and get a picture of Sir William Temple without a man standing in front of it so that I could have a matching set. Alas, that will not happen. Although, the man by Sir William does add a little charm to the photo.

The original Lady Martha Temple
The Original Sir William Temple

The Hole of Sorrows

Dolmens, also known as portal tombs, generally consist of at least two upright stones that support a capstone. Rising dramatically above the limestone pavement of the Burren, Poulnabrone is the most widely photographed of all the Irish dolmens and dates back over 2,500 years. Found within its chamber were the remains of over 20 people, including a baby and six children. It’s name means, “hole of sorrows”.

Happy Halloween!

Same thing, only different

My high school math teacher used to say of some problems, “Same thing only different.” Yesterday, I happened to think of that expression when I asked my friend Tracy to blow the seeds from a dandelion so I could get a picture. I envisioned a small cloud of seeds dispersing into the air, but instead I got clumps of quickly falling fluff. Wondering why this happened, I did a little research and found this was a “false dandelion”. It looks like a real dandelion, only it’s different. Most likely, this flower is actually a weed called a Catsear.

An interesting note about real dandelions, though: I found out that they can be used for all sorts of useful things such as herbal remedies for digestion or even wine. They are actually rich in vitamins and minerals too. Who knew they were more than just a pesky weed? The University of Maryland Medical Center has some information on their website, if you are interested in other dandelion uses.