Wednesday, August 3, 2011

King's a King

Books are wonderful things, and I'm not talking about the electronic kind. I'm one of those people who shies away from the thought of an e-reader because I'm in love with the smell and feel of books, especially ones that have lived many lives with many people. The feel of a page that has been turned by hundreds before me is one I adore and wouldn't give up for the world. This typically means I'm in a constant state of panic as I try to figure out how to transport the latest addition to my printed family. I leave Dublin in about three weeks and have two suitcases, a carry-on and a backpack into which everything must fit, at no more than about 125 pounds. Thus, I have the unpleasant task of having to choose which of my books will go with me (a 10 kilo package will cost me 80 euro, and that's no small change to a grad student with an income of 0).

I'm no closer to solving this dilemma (again, the e-reader thing is out of the question...for now), but I do know at least one of the volumes on my shelf I couldn't leave behind under any circumstances: Full Dark, No Stars by the talented and wonderful Stephen King. I have been a fan of King's work for several years now and have undertaken the considerable task of reading all but a handful of his published works, including those published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. Given this, it's no surprise I'm reticent to part with this treasure, despite the fact that it's a hardcover.

But King's work in this collection of four novellas was touching on a whole new level. The stories are experiments into the darkest places in the human mind, exposing the fat, ugly issues of despair, guilt, hopelessness and greed, to name a few. The hero/ine in each tale is not someone to put on a pedestal and worship for their superhuman achievements, but this makes them no less moving. They are human, in every sense of the twisted, broken nature of human being. They face issues we can barely imagine, but that are not quite out of grasp. You can sit right down next to them and look into their world, catch a glimpse of what they feel, and suddenly understand exactly why they did the things they did. It's almost scary to think of what we as humans are capable of, and I don't mean physically.

How can one empathise with a murderer? Or look into the eyes of someone who signed away someone else's life to save their own and understand why they did it, while at the same time hating them for it? We are all contradictions in ourselves who want to look in the mirror and see the sunny side, but that darker side lurks just on the other side of glass (as it does for Darcy in "A Good Marriage"). So many authors create people we admire and aspire to be, but King offers in this wonderful collection a series of people we understand, a series of people we all have the capacity to be.

King's work has always been the epitome of character development, in my opinion. Whenever I read one of his tales, I know and love his characters, despite their considerable flaws; perhaps even because of their flaws. He writes them as real as you and I, which is probably the reason it took me three years to read It; the characters were so real, I couldn't bear what was happening to them. It was the only time I have ever connected with a work of fiction to the point of actual fear. King is the king of character development and I am his loyal subject.

So, Full Dark, No Stars has earned its place in my luggage. I have yet to decide whether the host of fantasy and horror novels it calls friends will join it. Perhaps they should stay, left in a coffee shop or cafe, to be enjoyed by another...if I can bring myself to part with them.


Thursday, June 30, 2011


It's funny sometimes the things that make us stop and remember. Sometimes it's the smell of a favorite food or a photo that's been on your wall for ages that suddenly seems more poignant in the half-light of a summer's dawn. The other day, it was just some numbers on my phone: the date, a date that I hadn't consciously thought about in weeks. I woke up feeling heavy, like someone had strapped one of those lead x-ray aprons around me and sent me off for the day. Then, around noon as I was sitting at work, I realised what day it was: the 30th of June. Suddenly, that weight on my shoulders didn't feel quite so displaced.

And just like that, memories flooded into my mind. I was a little kid again, wrapped up in my grandfather's arms, sitting in the big armchair and tucked into my Nana's robe. He was telling me stories about an incredible heroine named Mageen, his arms wrapped around me, warding me from the evils that lurked in her world. And when my mom would come to take me up to bed, I'd just give her a look and hope that she'd know I wasn't ready to leave, that I needed to hear more, that I just simply couldn't sleep until the last story was told. He never wrote those stories down, just poured them like molten memories into my young mind, branding me with the desire to write and create my own fictional worlds when he was no longer able to make them for me.

We bonded over stories the way some kids bond over sports. Some of my most loved books came from him, in packages on birthdays or ferreted away from his library when I'd visit. I don't think I ever saw him without a book in hand, pages well-loved and slightly abused by crumbs and other lunchly detritus. One of the memories of him that plays most in my mind is him walking up the stairs from the garage at my grandparents' house, wearing one of his vests with a book tucked under one arm and a takeout sack of Chinese in one hand. Even with all those things to carry, he always had room enough to hug me, smiling a ridiculously big grin that I tried my hardest to match. Books meant enough to all of us that I still remember the title of the last book he read on that fateful Lake Powell vacation, and I wonder if he ever got the chance to finish it.

And even though we may have had books to bind us, we also bonded over the things I loved in life: horses, music, swimming. We'd talk on the phone and I'd fill him in on all the new things happening in my young life. I must have rambled on so much, but he never seemed to tire of hearing my childhood tales of horseback rides and school art projects. And every time we spoke, whether it was on the phone or in an email, he would always tell me he loved me and remind me, just before we hung up, to "learn things." I hope he knows how much those words have followed me throughout my life - I went to CSU with them and started the application process here at Trinity with them playing an incessant loop in the back of my mind. Whenever I think of him, I hear those words, said as he would have uttered them: full of the sure knowledge that I would do exactly as he said, that I would learn things no matter what, it was simply a matter of course. His words offered encouragement, but in his voice there was belief, and that always stayed with me.

Last week, it struck me with unexpected force when I realised that the heaviness in my heart had settled on the ninth anniversary of Poppop's death. It doesn't seem possible that it's been nearly a decade since I hugged him, heard his voice, or played King's Corner for M&Ms (which he never "let" me win; I always had to earn it). My mom wisely reminded me that his birthday is coming soon, and perhaps that should be the day I choose to remember, but I can't hoodwink my heart. It knows that date in June just as surely as it knows the 27th of April and every other landmark date in our family. But as I sit here writing this, I expected to feel the weight of his loss once more. Instead, my eyes are burning because the memories I have of him, of us, are so incredibly precious and full of joy. We were so blessed to have had him for the time we did, and even though the 30th of June will always ride heavy onto the horizon, it will depart with a lightness we won't expect.

I love you, Poppop, and I miss you every day...just some days, more than most.

Love and hugs,

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's next?

There have been many things on my mind these days - the future, jobs, relationships, weather, etc etc. I suppose at this stage in my life those things are normal, right? I'm finishing up my master's dissertation by the 12th of August (or else) and after that...I have absolutely no idea. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

And for the first time in my life, I'm completely okay with that. Well, most of the time :]] Every once in a while I start to run through the "what-ifs" and "but what nows" and all that, but most of the time I'm pretty sound with the idea that my lease ends August 31st and, as of this moment, I don't know what comes next. It's a bit of a liberating feeling. I could be back in the US, I could stay here in Ireland, I could end up somewhere half a world away with an opportunity I haven't even heard of yet. The possibilities are so broad, so vast, so boggles my mind. Who am I to have all of this before me? What have I done so right to end up here, standing on the edge of the very great unknown, with seemingly limitless potential all around me? I'm not scared of this unknown; I revel in it.

For my whole life, I've been told by my family and close friends that I could do anything I wanted to when I grew up; anything. That's a pretty monumental statement to make, now that I look back on it. There's a very small percentage of the population of this entire globe who can rightly make that claim - I was born into freedom, I was blessed with supportive parents who made my education possible, I have a pinch of intelligence, and I was born into privileged social, cultural and ethnic categories. All of those things were beyond my control, but because of those factors and a host of others, here I am. I've heard that less than one percent of the global population attain an undergraduate diploma and, at 23, I'll have my postgraduate (given all goes well!) diploma in hand.

I feel fortunate, lucky, blessed, and so very very loved. The people who I have met and become close with throughout this life have been so incredibly instrumental to getting me where I am. Each of them helped me through some moment or another that I couldn't have weathered alone, and I am eternally grateful. All of this makes me want to do one thing - give back.

So I suppose, for now, that's my direction into this unknown stitch in time: whatever comes on 1st September (other than the anniversary of the birth of the most amazing mom on the planet) will be something that will help me give back. No matter where I find myself and or what job I end up doing, I will fill my life with moments to provide the support and love I've been so very fortunate to receive for the past 22+ years. I want to be a shoulder for people, an ear to listen, a volunteer in as many ways possible. I don't ever want to stop being known as the girl who gives the best hugs.

I want to hug the whole world, because it's hugged me my whole life.

The title of this blog seems so very appropriate now, it just made me laugh. :]]

So as I sit here and muse away (when I should really be writing my personal and professional development reflection for my dissertation), I'm content in knowing that I DO have a plan for what comes after August 31st. I'll fill my days with love and giving back to the world from now until the end, because I can think of nothing more fitting to do with a life.

This world may have it's ugly moments, friends, that much I know. But when you look past the dust and the cracks, it's a gorgeous place on the inside. Together we can keep it that way.

Here's to a life of living, loving, laughing, giving and, most importantly, hugging.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow! And snow, snow, snow, snow....

It's winter, ladies and gents. And Ireland is drowning in a slightly fluffier form of it's usual precipitation: snow! It's throwing a spanner in the works, that's for sure (US translation: wrench).

We had two (count em, two!) snow days last week, which meant the cancellation of one research and one personal and professional development seminar. It also meant the most inopportune time for the heat to go out at my apartment. Which it, of course, did. Actually, the water went out, then the heat, then we waited three days to get it fixed! Loverly.

Here's the rundown: Monday night chillin' with the roomies (thanks to Jenny, I had steak, carrots, mashed potatoes! And I furnished....wait for it...cupcakes! Who's not surprised?) and chatting with my mama when, all of a sudden, the smoke alarms start going nutso. We think maybe they need to be reset, before we realise that water is dripping into the kitchen through the lamp in the ceiling. And that happened just before Norma screamed and we realised that the water was running into Jenny's room through the smoke alarm (thus triggering all of them), through Jenny's floor, and into the kitchen. Commence girlie panic.

After several hours and multiple phone calls, we had a temporary solution to the problem: wait for a replacement water tank to be delivered in 1-2 days. Until then, limited use of water. Washing hands and a few dishes here and there was fine; flushing, showering, running the washing machine were not. Both Norma and Jenny work, so I was the designated wait-at-home-and-let-repairman-in person. It was fab.

All this when I was supposed to be moving out of the place! Had to postpone departure an extra day (partially tragedy at the old place, partially snow, and partially a difficult process of approval for the new lease), but finally made it into the cozy new apartment on Friday. I'm living with Katrin and Christiane, two amazing (German!) girls from my course. They're quite wonderful, and so is our place (other than the fact that the plumbing has to be redone for the washing machine to work...I'm just not having a good month when it comes to functional water systems!). I have some pics, but they need to be uploaded. To come soon! (i.e. when I need another distraction from studying for exams)

That brings us to the next BIG thing in the life of all MSc's at Trinity: exams are next week! Commence academic panic.

International Finance and Economics of Global Markets on Monday, International NGOs on Tuesday, International Marketing on Wednesday, and Global Supply Chain Management on Thursday. Not to mention a 5000 word Service Science paper due Friday (2/3 done!).

But the BEST part is CHRISTMAS SHOPPING on Friday, ROOMIE CHRISTMAS DINNER Friday night, FORMER ROOMIE CHRISTMAS COOKIES Saturday, PACKING Sunday, and LEAVING ON A JET PLANE!!!!!!! on Monday :]] I'm just a teeny bit excited to see the fam for Christmas. It's going to be glorious!

I'll post an update on how mutilated my thinker is after those hefty exams. It's definitely different here! All exams are essays and sources (Author, year) need to be memorised for the whole host of possible question/answer combinations. Challenging? Just a little! I'm slightly scared...

Well, it's about that time, folks. 'Round about midnight, and it's early to rise for this little MSc. Study study study study is on the agenda! Amongst the snow, snow, snow....speaking of which, here's the rest of the current snow debacle: 1) Ireland doesn't know how to clear sidewalks. Instead of shoveling/sweeping, they just leave it for a few days and then pour dirt on it. Commence alternately slushy and icy mud throughout the city. 2) They think four wheel drive means infallibility on ice. Commence multiple accidents. 3) They close streets with steep hills. Commence taxis refusing to take MSc students with 150+ pounds of luggage to their new apartments. 4) Their water supply freezes and wasteful practices in homes causes a water shortage. Commence water restrictions from 7pm to 7am.

Doesn't it sound lovely? ;]] It may snow more in good ol' CO, but at least we know what to do with it! (Love ya,'ll learn....we can hope....)

Love and hugs!

Friday, October 8, 2010

To-may-to, To-mah-to

Hello, family & friends!

It's been a while since I've written, I know. I've been settling into life here in Dublin (which is fabulous, by the way) and getting used to the strange nature of my master's course. For those of you who don't know, I am in class from 3pm to 9pm every weekday, and each class only lasts five days. For example, in our first week we took two days of Global Supply Chain Management and three days of International Marketing; we have the rest of these classes coming up in the end of October.

(left to right: Diederik, me, and Christiane)

What can I say about my courses? Well, they call graduate students "readers," and we are said to be "reading" an MSc in International Management. The postgraduate-only study and computer lab area is called the Reading Room. Any guesses on what I spend most of my time doing? You guessed it! I have foot-tall stacks of printed articles and book chapters around my room, and all just for the first three courses we're "reading." Good thing I love to read, right? Thank you, Poppop!

(left to right: me, Simon, Mael, and Jarrod)

On another note, part of this acclimation process has included quite a lot of language differences. Irish accents are beautiful and interesting....sometimes. Other times I feel like my non-English speaking classmates (whose first language may be German, French, Chinese, etc): smile and nod, but don't understand a thing! There are also plenty of words and phrases that mean very different things here. For example, were I to ask for a "ride" home from a friend, I'd be propositioning that person in a much different way than I'd intend! They also call a sports jersey a kit, a cabinet a press, a closet a cupboard, a sidewalk a footpath, a comforter a duvet, a stovetop a hob, a vacuum a hoover, an elevator a lift, a nightclub a disco, and so on.... It's certainly been interesting to get used to Irish English, and I fear I still have much to go in that respect!

(left to right: Mael, Richard, me, Sjors, and Stephen)

The amazing thing is that I'm experiencing all these language and culture differences alongside incredible new friends who are going through the exact same things. There are people in my program from all over the world: China, Greece, Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Northern Ireland, the US, and (of course!) the Republic of Ireland. There are only 21 people in the course, so we've all become pretty close. A lot of us study, go out, and take trips together. We've already built a support network of sorts, despite the differences in nationality, background, and age that separate us.

(Me and Christiane in front of the 1937 Postgraduate Reading Room)

Isn't communication a wondrous thing? Here we are, 21 very different people thrown into the same situation, and we've found a way to simultaneously experience our new lives in a very personal and a very communal way. We've opened up to each other and created a safe environment within our course, something we managed in a scant couple of days. We're already a team, and we've only just started our journeys together! It's inspiring what a group of people can accomplish with a little passion, friendliness, understanding, and shared interest.

(me and Christiane on a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher outside of Galway)

The pictures I've included in this post are of my new coursemates and I on some of our fun nights out, etc. I'll post more very soon, I promise :]]

Until then, I'll teach you some Irish! To all of you, I say "Slainte!" It's a traditional Irish toast that means "to your health." :]]]

Hugs from Dublin!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Wonderful family & friends, hello!
Today is a notable date in U.S. history, as we all know. It's impossible not to think about the World Trade Center every time September 11 rolls around. So, while thoughts of the U.S., past, present and future, jumbled their way through my head, I decided to do the one thing that would clear my mind: take a walk.

I'm fortunate enough to live five minutes from Phoenix Park, one of the largest fenced parks within any capital European city. If you want to learn more, visit: Needless to say, I made my way to Phoenix Park for some pondering time.

To begin, Ireland is incredibly gorgeous country. Even within Dublin, there's a certain timeless beauty to the bustling streets, so elegantly cobblestoned years ago, and the friendly people that surround you. But Phoenix Park, friends....well, it's stunning. Today was no exception; the sun was shining the entire time I was out (minus five minutes, just enough to get me wet on the walk home!). The startling green color that so typifies Ireland was in full force today, and Nature was overwhelming me with feelings of peace, love, and bliss.

And that's where it all clicked for me on this of all days. Ours is not the only country to have suffered great tragedy, nor are the terrorists responsible the only perpetrators of such crimes. We have had a history, as a species, of violence, death, and destruction; and, though it pains me to say it, we have a future of it awaiting us, as well.

But the extraordinary thing is the resilience of all the qualities that make human beings great: hope, love, trust. Even though we've been knocked down countless times, we have rallied together through the strength of love and hope to conquer yet another day. As I walked through Phoenix Park, I was reminded of the collective attitude within the U.S. following 9/11. For once, it wasn't a line from a country song to say you were "Proud to be an American." It wasn't just politicians running for office who wore American flag pins on their lapels. It was everyone expressing their love and appreciation and belief in a nation momentarily torn asunder: the young, old, Republican, Democrat, one and all. It was beautiful, and it was just one true showing of the potential of our species to be utterly and truly great.

On this day, I chose to remember that uplifting feeling of love that soared through me in the aftermath of 9/11. I was an American, I was part of a group with a common interest, I was damn lucky to be there. Even though I love Ireland and Europe, I know that the U.S. will always be my true home, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thank you, "my fellow Americans," for showing me the beauty in humanity, and thank you to Phoenix Park for providing the astounding natural vistas that inspired that blissful thought. There's hope for us yet, everyone, and it leaves within each of us.

Many, many hugs,
(I took these photos on my walk today :]])

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Digs!

Hey there!
So, here I am in Ireland :]] It's been an eventful few days, that's for sure! I've been running around town setting up bank accounts, getting an Irish SIM card for my phone, and other things of the like. I'm sorry I haven't yet had time to post :]] No worries, though! That's about to change.

If you're friends with me on Facebook (find me at, you've seen my pics of my new apartment. But here they are again just in case. The first is the view out my window (on a rare moment of sunshine!) :]]

I look out over the neighborhood of Smithfield, which is just a bit west of City Centre. I walk about 30minutes to get to Trinity, where I'm pursuing my degree. It's a little less than that to get to grocery stores and the like, which isn't too bad. It's great for my figure!

I'm on Skype and iChat a ton, so if you use those things let me know! Fortunately, I live very close to the school where I worked all last summer; in fact, I've been walking past it every day. I dropped in yesterday to see some of my friends and say hi to everyone, which was tons of fun. Some of the girls and I (Tanya, Andrea, and Mags) went out for a bite last night and caught up. It was a lovely evening, full of stellar company and conversation.

My roommate, Norma, is an absolute doll, as well. She met me at the airport when I arrived early Monday morning (5:00am, what a trooper!) and helped me haul my luggage down to the apartment through the rain. I had two checked bags, a carry-on, and a backpack, weighing (in total) about 150 pounds. Thank goodness Norma helped me, I never would have been able to manage on my own!

The day I arrived, it was dreadful weather (which I, being me, loved). The folk at the Student Fees and International Management Offices accused me of bringing the rain with me. It's been a bit clearer and somewhat sunny since then, which is lovely. All weather here is lovely, truth be told!

Today has been less busy; I went to the bank for a bit after a fantastic lunch with Teresa (my former supervisor) at the Korean buffet on Capel Street that we used to go to. Hopefully I'll have a quiet evening in tonight so I can continue to train my sleep cycle to appreciate Irish time's been mostly smooth sailing but this morning was a bit rough, haha!

I love hearing from home, so feel free to message me! I'm on Facebook lots, too :]]