Monday, August 28, 2006

Day Two - The Reason We Actually Came to Ireland

Well, you might have thought the Guinness was why we were there - but no. My dear, dear, wonderful friend Joyce (who also happens to be my boss) was getting married. She made the trek with her then-boyfriend Mark to see Sam and I get married and it seemed only fair we make the trek to Ireland to see them get hitched. (We totally got the better deal.)

So, on Saturday morning, John met us at the Clifden House (where we were staying) and we headed to Manouth, County Kildare to check in to our hotel for the night and then head to the church. The navigating came a little easier this time 'round (as soon as I figured out "slip" was indeed NOT the name of the road, but rather Irish for "exit ramp") and we made it to the Liffey Valley House without much ado. Wonderfully, we met Peter and Tracy in the lobby and after all of us changed into our "wedding clothes" we headed to the bar to get "a pint for the road."

This is day two of both breakfast and lunch consisting of Guinness alone.

We drove through some beautiful country to the church, a small stone building in the midst of beautifully green fields. Here's Sam, and the church:

And the both of us all dolled up:

(side note: is it wrong when I first saw this photo the first thing I thought was, wow, our kids are going to have the greatest eyes?!)

We actually made it quite faster to the church than we thought we would, so while we waited we ended up videotaping John as he practiced his reading (he was doing one of the Prayers of the Faithful). You know us well enough to know we weren't any help. Poor John really was on his own - but he did a wonderful job once we were all in the church and unable to tease him from feet away.

And, of course, Joyce was more beautiful than I can describe. The whole wedding, really, was more than I could find words for. I feel so honored to be invited to friends' weddings, it's such an initimate affair. Each is so different, so unique. It's such an awesome insight into who they are, what they value . . . And Joyce's was her to the core. Classic, elegant - full of grace. Just like her.

And it only got better. After the ceremony we all piled into our cars and caravanned to the manor house (where we had checked in earlier) for the reception. This was unbelievably awesome. Not only was it outstandingly beautiful, but Joyce and Mark's family and friends made us feel right at home.

Here's a shot of me during the cocktail hour, I'm sure right before I made the declaration that tomorrow we are eatting a meal before 6pm. And Guinness is not a meal!

But of course, there was a meal. In courses even. And it was probably one of the greatest meals I've had. I'm actually writing the hotel this week to ask for the soup recipe. See below for how much happier I am when fed . . .

We were at a table with some of Joyce's friends from school, and they were awesome. We had a long conversation trading tips and tricks as to what to see in each of our home countries. And, at one point we were discussing common misconceptions about what constituted "irish" - as in, leprechauns? Not Irish. And I asked, what about THE Irish Toast? "May the road rise to meet you . . ." And they are gaffawed and laughed and were like, no way. No one here ever gives that.

Two minutes later, Joyce's dad stood to give his toast and god bless him, he said "And I'd like to end with an old Irish toast. Joyce, Mark, may the road always rise to meet you, the wind be at your back . . . " It took all we had for our table not to burst out in laughter.

The rest of the night was even better, if that's possible. We alternated between sitting at a table near the bar and conversing with our new-found friends, to dancing with them out in the ballroom. We discussed everything from how great marriage is, to when are you coming with us to Montana, to politics (stretching from us and our 'merican madness to them and Northern Ireland). It was at once eye-opening and enheartening. I felt, for the first time, like a global citizen.

And when they came running over saying - you have to dance and I realized "I'm living in America" was playing, well, it coudln't have been any more fun.

Have I mentioned the fun? The last dance of the night was "New York, New York" and I must admit it brought tears to my eyes. I forget, sometimes, how lucky I am. To live here, to be here. To have all the opportunity and all the wonder and magic of this place at my fingertips every day. Not everyone can make their home here, and standing there in that magical place thousands of miles away . . . one arm around Sam and one around Joyce's Uncle Joe, I was overwhelmed.

Sam and I are so very lucky. We have truly made it here, as corny as it sounds. And have made some amazing, wonderful and truly spectacular friends along the way. And the goodness just keeps coming. I guess sometimes it really does take seeing how far you've come to truly realize where you're are. That night my heart was so very full. I wish I had a picture for that, but sadly all I have to give you is the scene of all of us out on the back porch long after the deejay had closed shop - Americans, Irish, family and friends indistinguishable beneath a star-filled sky; drinking Guinness and singing songs up to the moon.

It's why we traveled so very far, but it didn't feel so far at all. Not really. It felt just like home.

And Sarah, I agree. This IS a classic.

She says: We've got to hold on to what we've got
'Cause it doesn't make a difference
If we make it or not
We've got each other and that's a lot
For love - we'll give it a shot

We're half way there
Livin' on a prayer
Take my hand and we'll make it - I swear
Livin' on a prayer

Friday, August 25, 2006

Our first day IN Ireland

We got off the plane in Dublin and I once again grabbed my passport from Sam (Yes, he carries it, so what. I got married BECAUSE it means I no longer have to be responsible about things like that. I now merrily wander through life, forgetful and oblivious, trusting Sam has gathered what I need to sneak me across the borders. It's a beautiful thing.) So anyway - holding my paasport up like a golden ticket I stood anxiously in line at Customs for my stamp.

People, my STAMP. To PROVE I went somewhere. Real. Foreign. Exciting. I can't help I'm four years old. So we got our stamps, the whole time me barely containing myself and my sheer excitment, and then headed off to get the car.

That's right people, the car. You know, in Ireland. Where they drive on the left-hand side. And what's better, we got a manual. Stick shift! Woot! Go back up and read that part about why I got married again. That's right, I totally was not driving. In fact, when we got in the car John and I had a lengthy discussion about how weird it all was and how we would NEVER drive. And PS, Sam, cheers to you. Cause us? We're not doing this NO WAY. Um, you want us to help NAVIGATE?! But everything's BACKWARDS and CADDYWHOMPUS! And look! We're on the wrong side of the road! On the highway! Good thing YOU'RE driving! Cause, no thanks!

Needless to say we weren't much help that first fifteen minutes or so.

John DID actually try to navigate some, but we soon found that not only do the Irish not believe in street signs so much, but when they do they place them halfway up on the buildings. So I spent quite a bit of time yelling out whatever I saw on buildings as we passed as John desperately searched on the map. Of course, we then discovered the streets changed names every three blocks. So all I was doing was confusing everyone.

I continued yelling. It was fun.

After a comedy of errors trying to find Trinity College (harder than you'd think for as big as it is). We dropped John off with promises to meet him in an hour at the Guinness Storehouse. Magically, when we got to our bed and breakfast, Peter and Tracy (who had gotten there the day before) had left a message saying they'd be at the GS at the same time. Beautiful.

Now, people. There are some things I know. Like for certain. For reals. One of these things is that I love me some Sam Stiers all crazy-like. And becuase I love him as I do, and know him as well as I do I knew the VERY FIRST STOP we would make in Dublin, in Ireland, was the Guinness Storehouse. And while I myself, wasn't so greatly anticipating this event, it was practically all he would talk about it the weeks leading up, which in turn made me excited. Much like the first time you take a kid to Disney. You know they'll just be enthralled with the magic and wonder of it all suddenly being so real right there in front of them. This was Sam and his Guinness.

So we got there, and seriously, I have to say few museums I've been to are better curated. It was AMAZING. Even the entry tickets kicked ass.

Here's John and I standing on the 9,000 year lease Arthur Guinness signed with the city of Dublin. That's right, NINE THOUSAND years. They thought for sure he'd fail. Obviously, they were suckers.

I believe at the moment Sam took this I was saying "mmmm, yummy beer!"

We got to go through and see the whole process of how they make Guinness, which is amazingly simple and yet so very cool. This is Sam smelling the roasted barley, pretending he's a Master Brewer. . .

Um, then we - well, ahem - drank.

And then got some more to drink . . .

And then headed upstairs to the bar, and drank some more . . .

It was way good times.

Mind you, we still hadn't eaten since the night before in the airport, but that's cool. On the way out we stopped at a pub. And got more Guinness.

We did eventually make our way to City Centre to meet Mark (the groom) and share another pint or two. And THEN after much searching (apparently the Irish eat before 9pm at night) we found food. And, I was fairly proud of us for lasting as long as we did. Though the end was a bit fuzzy, I've got to say, we pushed through. SO tired! SO excited!

All in all, a perfect first day.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Day One

Well, day one really started Thursday and ended Friday due to travel, of course. I worked 12-14 hour days the whole week before, so by the time we got to the airport I was ready to collapse and sleep for an unending amount of time.

The airport was surprisingly easy. We were careful how we packed and checked all our bags except my big purse and breezed through check-in. John called while we were eatting and we all headed to our gate . . . I was practically falling asleep at our table during dinner, but as soon as we got to the security line and our gate, I was totally excited and ready to GO!

Here's John and Sam at the gate, reading some mag and watching the Giants/Chiefs game on the tv behind me. I was reading "O Magazine" and being chatised heavily for it.

And this is me, so excited I might burst and ready to get on the plane where I can once again show someone my PASSPORT!

I slept the sleep of the dead the whole way there. I remember none of the actual flying part. I woke up to us landing - IRELAND! But alas, no. We stopped in Shannon and couldn't get off the plane. And so I leave you with my first look at Ireland. . .

Tomorrow, the Guiness Storehouse.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Cronaím Thú hÉireann

So, we're back. I'm working steadily on a new pitch for an exciting client, and IM'ing Sam places I want to go to soon that are all located far far away. And complaining, regularly, that we are home.

Needless to say, I am not ready to be here and had an amazing, wonderful, fantastic time. A time, I know, will be difficult to put words to. (But will, with photos, over the next couple days.) What I can say is that every moment, every second, exceeded my best hopes and most discriminating expectations. I'm still not quite believing that mere days ago I hung out of a castle built thousands of years ago waving to my husband, two stories down. That we entered a sacred space, built 5,000 years ago, still perfectly intact and watched light creep across the rock and spread beneath our feet.

I now understand what color, exactly, emerald green is. And I fear I won't be able to bask in it again until we go back.

The people were friendly and kind. The land lush and rolling. There was a home-ness to it all. A comfort I didn't expect to feel. An "at ease" that was there I'll admit I haven't felt anywhere else. It was at once just like the home I grew up in and the place I have always hoped to find someday.

I can't wait to go back. I can't wait to keep exploring, not just there, but the rest of this awe-striking world we live in. This trip gave me new perspective on what it means to live here: in this country and this city. What it means to be a world citizen, an American . . . me. I found that everyone has that aspect of their history, their government - the perceptions these things project - that makes them talk in hushed tones and sideways glances. That everyone wants you to know, in your heart, the beauty that is their culture, their hills, valleys, beaches and mountains. And for you to forget what you assume, have heard, might think. For you to see their home through their eyes; from their hearts. We are all so very universal. So alike. So human. It filled my heart, fills it now - just thinking on it.

Thank you Ireland. For treating me as if I was home. I missed alot of happenings here in the states while I was with you, and while it may be blasphemous to say out loud, I truly am not sorry for missing a second of them.

I miss you, Ireland. Already.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Back home!

We couldn't have had a better time, details to come soon (and pictures!) Til then, this is us Friday, mere hours in Dublin and already at the Guiness Storehouse . . .

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Off to Joyce's wedding! See you next week!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Part Dos

A pic of Sam and my co-workers all singing "Chumba-wumba." I'm purposely not posting clear photos of my fellow xm-ers as it just doesn't seem right to, but I'd like to point out that a majority of those singing are ever so definitely my superiors. Have I mentioned how much I love my job?

Karoke was awesome. Christian, May's husband, started it off and then May called Sam out specifically to sing. Ha. I swear to this moment I had nothing to do with it, I toldhim that's what he gets for being so fun.

And after perusing the book FOREVER, trying to talk James into singing "Ebony and Ivory" and being turned down, he finally settled on "Brown Eyed Girl." He was, as always, super sweet and dedicated it to his bride, singing "blue eyed girl" at each turn. I sang back-up on the "sha-la-la's."

We stayed until the restaurant closed us down, and then some. On the way out we saw a spitting carp (well, James and John saw it, but I believe them, mostly) and a strange item hanging from the post in parking lot. I submit item A for your examination:

At first poke, it was determined to be a blowfish of some kind, possibly of the voo-doo variety. John seemed not so keen on this and we walked away quite hurriedly. Sadly, though, we came right back, as there was no way out of said parking lot. Just a locked gate. James braved the voo-doo phenom and it was later determined the original theory was in fact flawed. It was some sort of hedge hog of the stuffed variety.

Though this is the last time I tell this story this way. From now on it's totally a voo-doo blowfish. That's so much more exciting.

So that was our weekend - thanks to May it was one of our best of the summer.

P.S. I don't know why we look so soused in these last pictures. It was WAY before we started drinking . . .

May's Wedding

My friend May got married this weekend, thereby beginning MY holiday season.

May's Wedding, Joyce's Wedding in Ireland,
Leslie and Andy visit,we go home to see a K-State game,
Sarah visits for S&M Birthday Bash 2006,
Hawaii, our first anniversary,

and THEN! the real holidays . . .
HalloweenThanksgiving,OMGCHRISTMASNEWYEARS - it keeps going!




So, little to say I've been pretty excited. And, seriously, it was MAY's WEDDING. May and I have been sitting within three unobstructed feet of each other for two years. She listened as I planned my wedding, and offered up opinions and comments and a safe place to vent throughout. Now, we share a cubicle and I watched as she nonchalantly planned and executed hers with a grace only May could accompish.

And it was lovely . . . beautiful, amazing, cool. Sam and I rode with John and James, meeting them in New Jersey. NJ once again showed us WHY GOING THERE IS SUCH A BAD IDEA, by trapping us on the highway and making us late to the ceremony. But! We made it just in time for the vows, which is really the important part anyway, though I'm so sad we missed May coming down the aisle in the beginning. I love that part.

The ceremony was so cool, part in English, the majority in Korean, some Chinese (I think). And the choir! Dear lord. The whole thing was ever so dramatic and lovely. I can't even tell you.

And then there was reception number one, outside the church under these beautiful tents. Next to an even MORE beautiful spread of food. There was everything you could imagine: roast pig, sushi, kim chee (?) and lots and lots of splendid food I could not identify. But no matter! We loaded up our plates!

This is me, thoroughly enjoying my meal. I have no idea what any of it is.

See, no idea what this is. But oh so good!

Of course, Sam thoroughly enjoyed it as well.

May and Christian also had a traditional Korean ceremony, which was just captivating. I took some pictures, but not great ones, as I was too excited and entranced to really concentrate on CAPTURING any of it. . .

But! It was not over! After the Staten Island awesomeness, we piled in cars and headed to Flushing, Queens to continue the partying, all rightful-style; alcohol and all. Again, with the amazing spread of food (the guys all loading up their plates AGAIN with yummy beautiful, unidentifiable tasties - of course, I was the only one who had no idea, I think). There were ice sculptures, smoke, dancing and . . . KAROKE.

Yes, be jealous now. There was karoke, and oh, yes, we sang.

(More to come! This post wil be finished after I attend to, you know, um, work.)

Friday, August 04, 2006


Sometimes going back to an illustration you worked on years ago is like coming home. You remember vividly where you were in your life, what music you were listening to, why you felt compelled to do this one image. I've decided to go revisit some of my favorites and bring them up to speed, and finish the ones I haven't yet. I've decided perhaps the key to not being too critical is having more than one to work on at a time, to give myself some breathing space.

So "Redwing," my self portrait, got the night off.

And tonight I went back, found a favorite, and fixed it up a bit. I thought I'd share . . . I did this my first year here in NYC. I believe once you know that, the image pretty much speaks for itself (and me).

Thursday, August 03, 2006


So it was all I could think about. Every time I bent over in sheer pain. Every time the tears made it worse. Every time I held the phone in my hand, promising myself five-more-minutes-til-I'll-call-the-ambulance. Every time the doctors refused me pain killers, but could never tell me what was wrong, or if the medicine they gave me was working. Every time I got up, every forty-five minutes, to force my eye open with my fingers and put drops in . . .

What if, when all this stops, I can't see?

And then, when the doctor looked at me and said "You have to go to this specialist RIGHT NOW, or you *will* lose your eye."

Well. Then all my worrying came into sharp focus. Suddenly, the pain in my eye was nothing to the pain in my heart. What then? What if I know I only have months, weeks - or how it felt, just days left? To see? To know what was around me?

I wasn't sure what to do with that question. All I could think about were all the paintings still in my head. All the descriptions of them still in my notebook. . . all the dreams I had transcribed that would go to waste. The images I had been planning for months, just dissipating. I couldn't breathe. The thought of it brought tears to my eyes, which in turn stopped me cold with more pain.

What would I do with the time that was left? Now that I was pushed against the wall, how would I respond?

Simple, I would quit my job. And I would paint. I would sketch, I would somehow make all my urban saints real. I would give them life, of some sort, before they were trapped in a small broken notebook in the bottom of my purse. I would give me life, before all my dreams were caught in words. Trapped in hastily scrawled ink across wrinkled paper. No shape, no light, no color. No life. Not the life I had, in my heart, promised them.

I started planning them in my head. Thinking as soon as I felt well enough to open my eyes in the light for a while. . . and while things got better, the fumes, I knew, would be too much. And I waited. Sam helped me clean the apartment, and I organized my supplies, my thoughts; screwed my courage.

Because while I can see again (though not as well as before), I never want to feel how I felt those days I honestly feared I wouldn’t. Because more than the fear of not seeing, it was the fear of letting down these characters in my head. All these portraits that have life to me, have stories and plans and prayers. I know it’s silly, but it’s up to me to bring them into this world, I’ve vowed to them somehow. They have work to do, I can feel it. They just need me to make the door.

Or perhaps, less insanely, I vowed to myself. I have work to do. Either way, I’m taking it seriously now. I’m not letting it, or them, slip away. Time to us both is too precious.

And so, there has been progress*.

*click to see larger