Tuesday, December 14, 2010


A wise man once sang, "Jennie, don't be hasty", and it's high time I actually took his advice. You tend to discover things about yourself when you uproot your life, and without sounding prophetic, I've learned a lot. What exactly I'll do with this knowledge is still undisclosed; however, I'd like to think that this is all part of what Jeremiah 29:11 promises. <love that verse>>

This being said, the biggest message I've taken so far is to slow down and exhibit patience. A virtue which has never been my strength. When I start to train for a race, I want results immediately. When I call home, I want my mom to pick up on the first ring, and when I'm waiting for the bus? Well let's just say that the Irish public transportation has increased my blood pressure on multiple occasions. What does all this accomplish? Absolutely nothing.

I say this with affection, but it has been my experience that the Irish time frame tends to have a bigger window, shall we say. If one says, "I'll be home in five". They might actually mean...say, 15, 20, maybe 30 minutes. I'm learning to adjust, but recently had a mini-crisis as I learned the train system was on a delay, therefore my arrival time to work would certainly be 15 minutes off my start time. I found myself in a panic as I frantically texted my boss with as many apologies and exclamation points that I could type with frozen fingers. She wrote back simply, "Jen, we are on Irish time. Get here safely and when you can." I suddenly realized that my frenzy was completely unnecessary and rightly so- fifteen minutes is a infinitesimal sliver of our lives. And so I waited...but instead of breaking out into a sweat, pacing, and making those around me visibly uncomfortable, I picked up the newspaper, took a deep breath, and calmed down.

The ups and downs of the past few months can't be denied. The ups are so frequent that I occasionally have to stop and shut my eyes, willing myself to remember these moments as vividly as I possibly can. I can honestly say I felt true and utter joy when arriving to Rome, jogging along the coast of Dublin, sledding in the fresh snow, and searching for sea lions in the Sandycove. I can also hold my head up high and admit that life abroad is not always peaches and cream. Every once in awhile, I long to be surrounded by the people that have known me for years and already appreciate my quirks and occasional (okay, frequent) common sense blunders.

As ungrateful as it may sound, there are moments when I wish I was on Ellie's couch, watching America's Next Top Model, drinking champagne, and laughing with Kelly. Jeff will have made us a meal we don't deserve (as per usual), and we'll be laughing till we cry...

...because that's what we do.

But in the mean time, I continue to trust that I'm exactly where I'm meant to be. And maybe, just maybe, waiting isn't so bad after all.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Spoonful of Sugar

It would appear that my course has been slightly altered as I made the difficult decision to part ways with the family I worked for and lived with. To be fair, it was not a rash decision as it had been on my heart that perhaps this was not the best fit for me for some time. I sought the wisdom of my dear friends and family, spent time in prayer, and ultimately, made a somewhat unexpected decision.

I shared that there were some challenging times, but I want to clarify that I'm not opposed to pulling myself out of the valleys. Doing so was actually one of the key motivators that brought me to the Emerald Isle to begin.

Without boring you with the grainy details of my diaper-filled days, I will share that the family I lived with had a very different mentality when it came to rearing children. Now anyone that knows me know that my own furry child, Phoebe Louise, has zero rules and is told that she is perfect on a regular basis. But my puppy pedagogy is quite different than real life, and I'm a firm believer in positive discipline, boundaries, and ultimately- a respectful relationship between the authority and child.

To say that this was nonexistent would be an understatement. So as I adapted my comfort level to fit the needs of this very detail-oriented family (yes, I was required to take their temperatures four times a day, "just in case"), I found that the only constant I could rely on was a very aggressive, defiant, and obstinate child who showered me with a colorful realm of disrespect.

At first, I pulled out all the stops. I harnessed my days in the classroom, and I spent my morning off creating a colorful reward chart. You know, to intrinsically motivate this kid to behave. I placed his favorite toys strategically around the house so I could grab one to distract him when he flew into a fit of rage. I made heart shaped pancakes, smiley face fruit plates, and recited every nursery rhyme known to man. I also succumbed to the gods of bribery as I bought his favorite treats to entice him away from the dark side. All of this was intended to soothe the young boy, but ultimately, it appeared to be in vain.

Anyone who has worked with children will tell you that these are temporary fixes. Dangling a carrot in front of a child will work for a small period of time, but without proper discipline and the instilling of respect? Back to square one. And I found myself with a seemingly permanent ticket to square one.

My frustration mounted as I tried to effectively communicate my concerns, only to be told that he had "never acted this way before!" Let me tell you, that kid did not come up with that number overnight. I felt my spirt falling as I began to daydream about exactly what I would say if I had my Scarlett Johansson moment, found the hidden nanny cam, and got to candidly share my frustration. I finally came to the conclusion that the work environment wasn't conducive to neither myself nor the lad's well-being.

All in all, my quest to be Mary Poppins has been put on the back burner for now. Not only did she unfairly use magic when caring for children, but she also had the on-going support of Dick Van Dyke, and I have yet to see that one-man band!

So yet again, here I am, scratching my head, wondering what this year will bring.

But for now? I'm going to accept the generous offer of friends to use their spare bedroom, take advantage of my new neighborhood, and perhaps head to the Ring of Kerry for a hike.

Perhaps my original dream was too good to be true. But I have a feeling that the best is yet to come.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Scarlett & Caspar

Clumsy in Malahide.

Of course I brought caramel apples to Ireland. Of course he's wearing an Illini sweatshirt.

Found this hilar.
Forbidden entrance to...
Caspar the Ghost?
OJ Simpson and his damning glove?

Nanny Diaries:
Scarlett Johansson and I have next to nothing in common, except for our affinity for Ryan Reynolds. Yet, as of lately, I can't help but think that perhaps-we have more in common than I once thought. To be fair, I don't hold a candle to Scarlett...but after the past few weeks...?
...my stories might.

Her rendition of Nanny Diaries struck chords across America as families reevaluated the way they treated the "help", and the "help" formed a union against mis-treatment. We all watched in agony as she trumped her families' controlling hold by finding the nanny cam, and er, giving it a piece of her mind.

In similar news, I recently read the book "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett, and I was mesmerized by the portrayal of African-American maids in the early 1960's. The shock, the blatant mistreatment, and direct disrespect made my heart plummet.

All this being said, I'm certainly not comparing my recent events to that of a pre-civil rights maid, but you do begin to make connections in an abstract sort of way.

The past few weeks have presented new and unforeseen challenges. So challenging, in fact, that I've considered making Nanny Diaries, Part Deux: the European Drama. To blend in to another's family can pose many obstacles, most of which are to be expected. To enter the same doors as four other people on a daily basis has been more difficult than I would have thought.

I committed to asking for guidance through this challenging time, and as I prayed fervently and specifically, I heard my coveted answer: stay and positively impact this family.

And so I will....

Monday, October 4, 2010

Candy Corn...Lots of it.

A week in photos: A very generous visit from the Halloween Fairy! Fall has officially arrived in Ireland- I'm thrilled!

Proof that I have something that resembles a teeny social life- vino over the River Liffey.

Not too shabby!

A village indeed.

I still haven't mastered the lingo, but it's forever a work in progress. Recently, I stopped by the post to mail a package. It's a tiny little building clearly marked "Poste. I patiently waited in the "queue" and as I arrived to the front, was cheerfully informed that "No no, dear, we don't do the mail here".

"Oh, so sorry- I thought I was at the post office!"- I cried as I turned a shade of crimson.

"Oh dear, you are, but we simply don't do the mail here. Good luck!" She smiled and sent me on my merry way.

So no post, at the post....such a curious thing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Trad, Bubbles, & Inertia

Killarney...peaceful- isn't it?

Life's better with bubbles

He is a true joy.

Two weeks down, fifty to go, and I think I rather like it here. I'm continually mesmerized by the gorgeous landscape, and I'm slowly deciphering the Irish lingo. I still make the darndest rookie mistakes, but I do my best to laugh them off. For the record, telling someone you got a "ride" is not the equivocal in Ireland. I now know why people raised their eyebrows when I shared that I had been "getting rides around Dublin".

I scarf down a piece of humble pie every day as I am forced to leave my comfort zone and ask anyone and everyone for assistance- which way to the grocery, is this the correct bus stop? am I going the right way?, etc. My goal is to "blend in", but I have to say that underestimating the speed of the bus and flying three feet into the lap of an elderly man may have prohibited that.

What can I say, inertia got the best of me.

I'm also trying to recognize "trad" (traditional) Irish music, and I've found that rarely played is: Danny Boy or When Irish Eyes are Smiling. Haven't yet heard Christmas in Killarney, but I suppose that's seasonal.

Life is grand.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

One week down...

"Okay, I won't. I won't. I promise!!!"

Classic self-portrait. Aka- currently have zero friends to snap a photo. Presume they'll be many more

Though I'm confident in my decision, I would be lying if I said there hadn't been some challenging moments this past week. I was warned of the inevitable loneliness that can accompany an exciting adventure, and have occasionally felt an emptiness in my heart that used to be filled with the laughs of my dearest friends. Not to worry, I've filled that space with new plans, two energetic lads, and an omnipresent Friend who never fails to listen when I need Him. I've learned that my strengths and weaknesses seem to be magnified when transplanted to a new culture, and here is what I've found.

Things I'm good at: trying new foods, wandering aimlessly around quaint streets, admiring the various football practices at the park, googling anything and everything, sailing, and entertaining tots of all nationalities.

Things I'm not so good at: dressing the boys in the correct clothing, understanding phrases like "hot press" (still not entirely sure what they meant), blending in (the moment I open my mouth, I'm outted), cooking from scratch in any capacity, sailing (no, it's not a typo; it is in both lists as I've decided to join a nearby sailing club in hopes of making a few friends. So I'm presently terrible at it, but soon- I'll be a star), looking remotely presentable sans straightener, not shrinking sweaters in the wash, making the boys oatmeal correctly, getting on the local bus going in the correct direction (oops), and to be honest...much much more.

So yes, I've been humbled...but I will prevail.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In Dublin's fair city, where girls are so pretty...

My new home!!!

...just kidding, but isn't it lovely?

Since my arrival, I catch myself smiling at odd moments. Apparently, that's what you do when you are in love, and I think I just might be. My first few days have been a whirlwind-complete with a semi-flawless travel itinerary from ORD to HTR to DUB. My biggest conundrums were a.) heavy heavy bags, and b.) my luxury meal on business class was going well until I may or may not have catapulted one of my shrimp across the quiet cabin. I thought I was discreet until the flight attendant ran over it with her cart, and it became a sad form of airplane roadkill.

I'm settling into my new home where I was welcomed with open arms and lots of cherubic smooches. The weather has been kind thus far, and I'm enjoying sporting my fall attire for the cooler winds. My "small world' policy was reinforced when I ran into a Charlotte friend at a local restaurant- what are the odds?

Pints are on me for the person who can identify the meaning of the followings words: (no cheating!)

bits & bobs

I'm battling jetlag with a might fervor, and I'm excited to see what tomorrow will bring...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sweet Sorrow

Thus far, my goodbyes have been fairly painless. My friends are certainly near and dear to my heart- my pillars of strength, support, and laughter, but I've been able to manage my tears quite well. I've been biting my lip, giving hearty hugs and a few high fives- no tears! I thought I was just a brave, brave soul....yeah, I was wrong.

Apparently, I've been rationing out tiny portions of emotions only to find that there was actually a reservoir in waiting. It just so happens that my adventurous parents had planned an elaborate trip to Canada with friends. It just so happens that they had concocted this plan long before Europe was more than a dream, and therefore, they left four days in advance to my departure.

"No big deal", I thought. I'll probably enjoy the alone time; I mean, I'd heard my dad's ill-timed jokes multiple times. My ever-maternal mom had left a lengthy and detailed to-do list that even included "get to airport to fly to Dublin" in huge font.
Thanks, Mom.

I anticipated that I'd be somewhat relieved to say goodbye....wrong again.

I dropped them off early this morning and low and behold, my grief poured over like a waterfall. I have been a blubbering mess since 7 am this morning. I cried sorting the mail, walking the dogs, and checking my e-mail. What's come over me? I sincerely love my parents, but my God, I've lived apart from them for nearly ten years.

I turned to a dear old friend for comfort- a faithful companion that has never let me down.

Bunny Tracks ice cream. I'm recovering nicely.

My only theory is that this was simply the pent up goodbyes that have been hiding behind my courageous facade.

So Kelly, Ellie, Caris, Shelley, Jeff, Kerry, Sara, Rhetta, Alex, Kristin, Kelsey, and more- a few of those tears were for you. I'll miss you much.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lucky Duck

Already feeling rather struck with luck to have my beautiful friend travel cross country for a final visit. Can you tell who's who?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Leap Year? Hardly...

One of the wonderful things about moving abroad is the tremendous amount of cookies cakes purchased.

It's been an interesting journey to get to where I'm at, and I'm frequently met with the cocked head and surprised stare- "You are just moving? Like that?" I wish that I had an exciting rationale or an inspirational story, but the truth is, my story is not nearly as compelling as Elizabeth Gilbert's or that cute red head from Leap Year (and yes, I saw it approximately 6 weeks ago, and it may or may not have influenced my decision). No broken heart or wine-induced epiphany- just the realization that without a job that I loved, a husband, or mortgage- I was as "free" as a bird to do and live as I please.

Don't get me wrong, I'm eternally grateful for this gift. The prospect of meeting people on exciting adventures, sampling foods and wines that don't even exist in Charlotte- is absolutely appealing to the likes of me. I've committed to make this blog minimally annoying as possible, but I cannot guarantee that you will not want to slap me when I post pictures of Giant's Causeway or the Canary Islands...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Why, you ask?

Because when I saw this ad,
I simply had to oblige:

Wanted: a nanny for two adorable children
If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Rosy cheeks, no warts!
Play games, all sorts

You must be kind, you must be witty
Very sweet and fairly pretty
Take us on outings, give us treats
Sing songs, bring sweets

Never be cross or cruel
Never give us castor oil or gruel
Love us as a son and daughter
And never smell of barley water

If you won't scold and dominate us
We will never give you cause to hate us
We won't hide your spectacles
So you can't see
Put toads in your bed
Or pepper in your tea

Hurry, Nanny!
Many thanks
J & M