Farewell, Ireland

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May love and laughter light your days, and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!
-Irish Blessing

Today marks the end of a passing season in my life–a season that, short as it was, has affected me profoundly. Today is our last day in Ireland. I have known that this day would come, yet it doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. I get teary-eyed every time I think about leaving this place–this home–so you’re going to have to bear with me here. This year in Ireland has been one of the most incredible years of my life, and I am sad to see it come to an end. I am excited for our future, don’t get me wrong, but this past year has touched me in so many ways. Today is the last page of an incredible chapter in our lives, and I am going to miss it–all of it–deeply.

I will miss this place–the endless rolling green countryside and the cliff-rimmed beaches. The timeworn stone walls, thick and overgrown, that line every street and farm and field. The maze of sheep paddocks that wind through the hills. The wide rivers that carve paths through the land. The unique landscape and rugged beauty that is Ireland.

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I will miss the culture. The people who don’t even know you but will still greet you with a smile and invite you in for a cuppa tea. The peoples’ fierce pride in place–that their city, their rugby team, their way of doing things is the best–no, the only–way to do things. The rich history and traditions. The ancient tombs and cathedrals and medieval cities and castles. I will really miss the castles.

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I will miss the pace of life. The lazy afternoons driving through the countryside and stopping in the middle of the road for sheep or cows or tractors to cross. The people who actually encourage us to take time off work so we can take more vacations. The laid back attitude toward everything and everyone (although, I am definitely looking forward to reuniting with my long-lost friend, punctuality). IMG_4688 I will miss the food. And by food, I mean scones. And milk straight from the cow. And beef and Guinness stew on a rainy afternoon. And a Full Irish that’s so full you can’t even think about eating again for another week.

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I will even miss the manic weather. The storms that sneak up on you, pour out their fury, then move on again before you can even open an umbrella. The light-as-a-feather mist that rolls in off the ocean in the morning. The days of endless rainbows. The sun that surprises you with its sweet presence.

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But most of all, I am going to miss our friends.

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Our friends who welcomed us with open arms and made us feel at home in a place we had never even been to before. I am going to miss these friends, who have really been more like family. Living so far away from the people and the places and the way of life that you know is difficult. But having our new friends by our side to walk through life with us has made all the difference. They have helped us, taught us, loved us. They have shared in our joys and our sorrows this year–both of which we’ve had many. They have been the physical presence of people we love when all of the people we love live so far away. To all of our friends in Ireland who have been a part of our family this year, thank you! Your friendship really has meant the world to us, and we will miss you so, so much.

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When we leave Ireland tonight we will be leaving more than a place. We will be leaving a home and a family, and that’s a lot to leave behind. A piece of my heart will always remain in Ireland, so I know that I will be back again some day to find it. This is not goodbye, then. No, goodbye is too final, too permanent. So, instead I will just say farewell.

Farewell, Ireland.

Until we meet again, may love and laughter light all of your days.

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Arizona

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My grandfather, “Popop”, passed away on March 22.  Last week I was able to travel out to Phoenix for his memorial service. While the reason for my travel was not the happiest, I was still excited to make the trek–I got to travel alone (reading! movies! sleeping!) and spend a whole week with my extended family recounting our memories of Popop and creating new memories together. This was also an important week of travel because it was the first time I had ever left my family (gasp!). Jon stayed in Ireland with the boys, making this his first time alone with both children for more than a couple of hours. While Jon was at work each day some incredibly amazing friends of ours took care of our kids and helped them have so much fun that they cried each day when they had to leave (true story!). It was, in short, a momentous week for all of us.

After a long day of travel, I arrived in Phoenix on Monday night. I had Thai food for dinner at my Uncle Brad’s house and then fell fast asleep for 12 glorious hours. On Tuesday we drove up to my grandma Sandy’s house in Cave Creek (about 45 minutes north of Phoenix) to help clean her house and set up tables for a BBQ we were having that night when all of the family arrived.

The BBQ was great, just a casual evening where we could all hang out, eat, and have fun together. Here I am with my cousins Natalie and Chrissy, my sister Erin (who had just driven over from L.A.), my nephew Noah (he’s getting SO BIG!), and my cousin Chrissy’s new (at least to me) baby Maverick:

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We all sat around tables outside (oh, how I’ve missed the sun!) and ate our nummy BBQ:

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We had family members travel from all over the country for the memorial. We had representatives from Washington, California, Arizona, Texas, Nebraska, and Louisiana all together to celebrate the life of our beloved Popop. I know that he would have loved seeing all of us together and that he would be proud to know what a special family he was a part of.

One of my favorite family moments came early on Wednesday morning when we were all getting ready to leave for Popop’s memorial service.  Shortly before we moved to Ireland I bought a puzzle necklace for me, my mom and my sisters. We each got a piece of the puzzle–something to remember each other by since we all live so far apart now. It’s been nearly a year since we got our puzzle necklaces and we still hadn’t been able to put all of  the pieces together yet. Finally, we were all in the same place at the same time with our necklaces! At about 6 AM my nephew Noah was running around the house shouting, “The puzzle! The puzzle! You have to put together the puzzle!” And, so, we did:

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We actually had two memorial services on Wednesday morning, one at the national cemetery for our family and then another at my grandparents’ church for family and friends. We started the morning at the National Cemetery in Cave Creek where Popop’s ashes will be buried among other veterans. Popop served in the military when he and grandma Sandy were newlyweds. In fact, my mom was even born on the army base in the territory of Alaska (it wasn’t even a state back in those days!). The service at the National Cemetery was short and sweet. Our family gathered together:

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And Grandma Sandy passed out family heirloom hankies for us to dry our eyes on:

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The service was conducted with full military honors including the folding of a flag:

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And a gun salute:

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After the military service at the National Cemetery, we moved on to Sandy and Popop’s church for a larger memorial service. There was a table set up near the entrance with some “Popop Memorabilia”–shirts from his favorite sports teams, M&M’s (a favorite treat), flowers, and photos:

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The service itself was beautiful. The pastor gave a thoughtful eulogy and then family and friends took turns sharing memories of Popop. My mom and dad both shared so I felt brave enough to get up and say a few words myself. I spoke about the love that Popop had for us, how he led our family in love, and how he left that legacy to each of us. Everyone who meets our family always says that they can tell how much we love each other, and it’s true. We love well because we have been loved well. Popop loved us and it showed, and will continue to show.

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After the memorial service we had a grand lunch buffet at the church that was put on by grandma Sandy’s “Lunch Bunch” friends. Then we all went back to Grandma Sandy’s house to spend the rest of the day together (and eat all of the food–oh my, the food! So much food!). Popop was always fond of Mountain Dew (the soda)–which always struck me as funny because I never knew an adult, let alone a grandpa, who loved Mountain Dew so much. When we got back to Sandy’s house we had a toast to Popop–with Mountain Dew, of course!

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Then it was time for family photos. After all, who knows when the next time will be that we’ll get this whole crazy crowd together! Here is the large group photo including all of Popop’s direct relatives: his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, in-laws, nieces and nephews. The group was so big that I barely made it into the photo (you can see half of me in the bottom right hand corner of the photo):

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After spending a whole week with my family I have concluded three things:
1. We are loud
2. We are fun
3. We are awesome

Seriously, I have the best family! It had been a long time since I’d seen most of the extended family (and this was the first time that I’d met a few of the more-distant cousins) but after this week I sure hope I get to see a whole lot more of them. Our family is full of wild west cowboys, cattle ranchers, and Physical Therapists–all kinds of crazy under one roof. I love it.

After the memorials we had a few days to spend time together and enjoy the Arizona sunshine. We went for a family hike in the desert:

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Went swimming at Uncle Brad’s pool:

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Went shopping at COSTCO!!!! (O.K., probably only a person who has been deprived of Costco for a whole year would be this excited about Costco but let me tell you…it was every bit as good as I remember it in my daydreams):

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We even had a fun night out at a bull riding show. I, the city slicker, had a great time watching the show. The real cowboys in my family, however, were not as impressed. At least, I don’t think they were impressed…I kept having to ask my cousin to interpret for me so I could understand their lingo:

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On my last day in Arizona we even had a “Feaster” egg hunt (Feaster being fake-Easter–a holiday we celebrated every year when I was growing up during our spring break in Arizona). Noah had no competition this year so he came out a champ!

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And then, just like that, my week in Arizona was over. Back to the airport, back on the plane, back to Ireland I flew. As we flew into Ireland I reflected on the incredible week I’d just had–the memories, the laughter, the tears, the love, the joy of family.

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Before I knew it I was back home again, snuggling my sweet little boys. Yes, the joy of family, indeed.

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Goodbye, USA

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Pinch me, because I can’t believe this is actually happening. We’re moving to Ireland. Today. What the WHAT?!

It’s pretty surreal that in a few hours I will actually be getting on a plane with our two children and going “home” to a house I’ve never seen before. Our “Grand Adventure” (as I’ve taken to calling this move) has been a long time in coming so I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. Nothing can prepare you, though, for something like this finally happening when it’s actually time to pack up and head out.

When we first found out about our potential move to Ireland 10 months ago I was excited, then nervous, then scared, then at peace with the whole thing. Now I’m at the point where I’m ready to be done with all of the planning and just be there already. We’ve been so BUSY for the last month that I’ve hardly had time to catch my breath, let alone get all emotional about the move (Do you know what kind of paperwork is required to move a family internationally? It’a NUTS! Now I see why all of the Mexicans just walk through the desert when they want to move…Good thinking, amigos.).

Now that I’m taking five minutes to sit down and write this all out, though, I’m realizing that I do have some thoughts that have been hanging in the back of my mind. Like, how I’m really going to miss this place and these people.

This is the house that we brought both of our babies home to after they were born, the place where our family became a family. I decorated the nursery when my belly was out to HEEEEEEERE. My husband hand-laid our wood floors with his dad. We installed the most ridiculous set of closet organizers and shelves that you will ever see in a house (that’s what you get when two Type-A’s shack up together). I’m going to miss all of that.

I’m going to miss Seattle–especially since we are literally moving during the first (unofficial) week of Seattle-Summer (FYI: In the Northwest, Summer starts the day after Independence Day). I’d say that I’m going to miss the rainy days, the greenery and the blue water–but, actually, I’ll have more rainy days, more greenery and more water when I move to the (damp) island of Ireland. I will miss the rush-hour-at-all-hours I-5 traffic, the legalized pot distribution center down the street from our house, and the CONVERGENCE ZONE (OK, so I won’t actually miss any of those things. Stay classy, Seattle.). No, I really do love Seattle and all of it’s unique and quirky traits. I will miss it dearly.

But, most importantly, I will miss the people. Our family and our friends who are like family. We live out our lives with the people we love, and it will be very hard to leave them. I know that we will meet new people and make new friends in our new home–but it’s never quite the same. So, to those of you who know us well, know that you will be missed (and there will always be room for you in our house if you want to come visit!).

I know this will be one exciting ride and I can’t wait to see where it takes us. Goodbye, Seattle. Goodbye, friends. Goodbye, USA.

Hello, Grand Adventure.