Reading

It’s that time again.

When colleges or universities attempt to somehow know the applicant a little better. With their prompt questions. If you were a tree what type of tree would you be?

Okay, maybe not that exactly.

But sometimes there are the questions like, “Which book impacted your life?”

 

I am thinking I might say, “All of them.”

If it were me  (and it’s not)  I would be ready to list all of the books that had some impact on my life.

Then I thought, “It’s not the books.”

It’s being able to read the books. Being able to read anything at all.

My mother-in-law, who is living with me at the moment, is ninety years old.

And illiterate.

She has raised literate and successful children. But she came from a place and time where the education of young women was an option for parents. And as we all know parents can sometimes be a crap shoot.

If you are reading this right now do you realize the gift you have?

You can read the street sign. The map. You do not have to rely on others for your menu choices at a restaurant. You are able to read the newspaper. Help your child with their homework. You are able to fill out the arrival information on your plane trip.

Imagine not being able to read.  For a second.

The folks at the college admissions might need to rethink their questions.

Maybe something like, “How has reading impacted your life?”

Forget the books.

 

 

 

Gifts of the Season

It’s that wonderful time of the year. Good will and good cheer!

And sometimes a bit awkward. The whole gift giving thing.

What’s the first thing we think of when we receive an unexpected present from a friend or neighbor during the holidays?

Not, “Isn’t this wonderful!” but more like,”OH NO, I didn’t get them a gift!”

We feel bad. Maybe a little thoughtless. Not sure why we are programmed in this way.

But what we really need to remember is that most of those people who are giving the gifts are acting without expectation.

Accept the gift graciously and thankfully. And then let it go.

Which leads me to another aspect of gift giving.

Thoughtfulness.

Have you ever attended a White Elephant gift exchange or a Yankee Swap party?

It’s a game where everyone brings a wrapped gift. Something that they’ve found hanging around the house or in the back of a closet. Because it’s unwanted. Might be really nice or kind of wacky but mostly unwanted. There’s a numbered system and also a “stealing” component.The results can be hysterical and entertaining. No one knows who brought what gift.

I recently attended one in my neighborhood. Chatting with the woman beside me while she secretly pointed out the gift she brought to the party. It was a lovely frame that her mother had given her.

She said, “I’m like, Mum, have you ever visited my home? That frame doesn’t match a thing! What were you thinking?”

I laughed because it’s so true.

When choosing a gift are we being mindful? Is it what they would really enjoy or is it what we like or think would be best for the recipient? It can be tricky. Our intentions are, no doubt, always good. But if we are thinking more about us than them then don’t be surprised if it’s wrapped up for next year’s White Elephant party.

This season I wish you all graciousness, thankfulness and acceptance of the many gifts you will receive. Material gifts and the ones that truly matter.

Act without expectation and don’t forget to throw in a bunch of thoughtfulness.

 

 

 

Gleaned

Who doesn’t like to sit down and read a good thriller?

Sometimes you wonder where on earth the authors find their source of inspiration for a plot. And yet, sometimes you don’t have to wonder at all.

Just read the newspaper. Or listen to the radio.

Many wonderful books have been written on subjects gleaned from the daily rag. Or from the wireless.

Don’t have to be a genius to know that.

For instance, take John Grisham’s legal thriller, “The Associate.”

His plot was partly based on a rape case that took place on a university campus in the 1980s.

Many of you have probably heard about the case because it was a bit unusual.

The victim, in real life, was a young and innocent seventeen year old. Top of her high school class, from a NYC suburb and the first in her family to attend college. She was drugged and gang raped by frat boys at her first campus party about five weeks after leaving home. A party she did not want to attend but a dorm mate was interested in joining the fraternity. He was not openly gay at the time and needed a date. Or a beard as they say.

This woman’s mother is a first cousin of my Dad’s first cousins. I don’t know her and never would have met her. Two different families.

So this young girl, wakes up after the night of raping, and finds she is covered in bruises and bloody sheets. Goes to the university clinic. Can’t help her. Sees the university officials. Won’t help her. Said not a police matter but a school matter. But offer to transfer her. One of the assailants said it was consensual but he soon transferred out of the school.

I stated that the case was a bit unusual. Back then drugging might not have been commonplace. I don’t know enough about that to really comment. But what was unusual was what happened many years later.

Twenty years later she receives a letter. From the rapist. Wanting to make amends. Wants forgiveness. He is in an Alcoholics Anonymous program and is working one of his steps. He admits that he caused her great harm.

Whoa.

She goes to the police. This man knows where she lives. She finds out later that the university alumni office gave him her current address.

They told her that a case like that would have always been under their jurisdiction and not the university’s.

The police reopen the investigation. The man is sentenced to ten years in prison. Served a full six months. It was also revealed that she was, in fact, gang raped but there wasn’t enough evidence to bring the other rapists to justice.

Whoa.

This is not a story you read every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sluggish

Many of us are already starting to feel sluggish from the many social events and holiday parties.

Here in Kuala Lumpur there is always something happening on the expat scene. It’s a lively and active social life. I’d say it’s because most of us don’t have our families around us so friends and neighbors sort of become substitute family members. Who tend to congregate with astonishing frequency and celebrate everything. Also a lot of us have extra time freed up for us which we wouldn’t have back home.

Since the second week of November I have attended numerous social events. Not all involved drinking (most) but all involved food.

There was a farewell brunch for a neighbor who was moving to Scotland. Then a 50th birthday party. Followed by book club later in the evening. Next night there was another 50th birthday bash. Different person. And then my monthly cultural club lunch. Had to beg off another monthly lunch gathering due to a conflict.

Then there was a lovely Thanksgiving dinner celebration with neighbors. Jazz night. Lunches with small groups of friends. Canadian Association coffee -and mimosas if one were so inclined. Christmas party with PTA. Holiday party next evening in the neighborhood. Book Club again. Couldn’t make my monthly culture club lunch this time. Unable to commit to an upcoming cookie exchange. Another goodbye gathering for neighbors moving to the U.S. took place last night.

I have one more event tomorrow. A Christmas luncheon with the Canadian and American Associations.

Then I am officially throwing in the towel.

It has totally been a blast. But quite exhausting. I’m feeling a bit sluggish. Need to recharge the batteries.

Here’s a recipe for those of you who have had enough already and want to get ahead of the game. And not wait until that pesky new year resolution ritual rolls around in January. Flush the toxins, suppress the appetite and possibly flatten the belly.

Flat Belly Water

Pour six cups of filtered water in a pitcher. Add one tablespoon of grated ginger. One sliced cucumber. One sliced lemon. Half cup of mint leaves. Let sit overnight in fridge.

Drink the next day.

I meant drink the water. LOL

Wishing you all loads of energy as you embrace the holiday season.

 

 

The Right Stuff

John Glenn, a true American hero, died at the age of ninety-five. What an amazing human being.

He’ll always be remembered as the first American who orbited the earth.

What he might not always be remembered for was his attempt at running for the presidency of the United States.

Hearing about his death brought back a lot of memories for me.

I didn’t know him personally but I sort of felt like I did. And I’m pretty sure there is a personalized thank you note from him hiding somewhere in my personal files.

Back in the early 1980s my mom was working for Billy who was elected to the State Senate. I remember being at his house on numerous occasions stuffing envelopes with a bunch of people around the table. It was a great experience being a part of something exciting.

Next thing I knew, I was on a bus with two of those fellow envelope stuffers (friends of Billy’s, Mom’s and mine) and about forty total strangers. We were heading to Nashua, New Hampshire to campaign, door to door, for John Glenn.

I was totally out of my comfort zone. The only two people I knew, John and Chip, were organizers of the event so I was on my own. With strangers. Yuck.

The first night I stayed with a host family. It was kind of creepy. I just remember feeling really uncomfortable. First time ever staying in a home with strangers. Did not want to stay another night.

So the second night I stayed in the hotel room with John and Chip. Totally not creepy.

Because I was friends with John. I went to school with him and we belonged to the same parish. He was one of the truest people you would ever want to meet.

Chip was always at Billy’s house or his office so I was also comfortable with him. He was one of the funniest guys.

Anyway, we ate pizza that night and laughed and laughed.

Of course, Chip just couldn’t wait to get back to Rhode Island to tell my mother that he spent the night with me. She got a chuckle out of that one. LOL.

It was over thirty years ago and quite a lot has changed since then.

Except the wonderful memories.

 

John Glenn was a courageous, respectable and decent gentleman. It was an honor to campaign for him.

Thank you for your service to our nation. Thank you for your authenticity and thank you for making me travel down memory lane today to fondly recall special people and moments.

You most definitely had “The Right Stuff.”

Rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

Waving Goodbye

James Joyce once wrote, “The shortest way to Tara is via Holyhead.”

The Hill of Tara is in Ireland and was the seat of the High Kings of Celtic Ireland.

Holyhead is in Wales. If you look at a map of Ireland find Dublin and make a straight line with your finger across the water until you hit the first piece of land. That’s Holyhead.

Joyce’s message was that if the Irish people were to understand themselves and their country then they would have to leave the island.

Maybe there is some truth to that. I don’t know. Maybe it worked for him.

So here is the story I was going to write about the siblings of my great-great grandmother, Margaret Haughey. In my last posting I shared that she was the tenth of eleventh children born in the area of Lurgan, County Armagh.

For the record, I should note that most of them were born in Magheralin, County Down although some would later marry and live in the town of Lurgan. Magheralin borders Armagh, Down and Antrim.

There was a twenty-four year age difference between Margaret’s oldest brother Charles and her youngest sibling. Not at all uncommon in big families.

The family consisted of Charles, Henry, Mary, Luke, Arthur, James, Catherine, Edward, Rachael, Margaret and a male child born after Margaret.

Her oldest brother Charles married Mary Ann Leatham when Margaret was only five years old in 1845. She would soon become a very young auntie to Charles’ and Mary Ann’s two children, Arthur (1847)  and Maria (1849).

Sadly, Charles’ wife Mary Ann died in 1850 the year after little Maria was born. And Maria soon followed her mother to heaven when she died at the age of five in 1854.

That left Margaret’s big brother Charles on his own caring for his young son, Arthur.

But as many of them did back then. They kept on going.

Charles remarried. To a lady by the name Margaret McCusker and his sister Rachael Haughey married Andrew Pepper on the very same day, November 25, 1855 in a double wedding ceremony.

Other siblings married. The family expanded with lots of babies being born.

But when it was Margaret’s turn to hit the altar with her first husband, in 1863, she was not surrounded by all of her siblings. Her sister Rachael was not present at the wedding. Neither was her older brother Charles. Nor her brother Edward.

Because this is what happened.

Rachael and her husband Andrew Pepper boarded a ship to New Zealand in 1860.

Andrew PEPPER . Co Down a labourer aged 24 with his wife Rachael aged 23 & son, William John aged 2, arrived in Lyttelton, New Zealand on board Gananoque’ (785 tons) 9 May 1860;left London 9 Feb 1860 under Capt Norris.

That’s a very, very long way from home. An eighty-five day journey. Rachael had another child in Lurgan named Andrew but he must have died just before they set sail.

Things might have been good for awhile in New Zealand. But who knows?

This is what happened the following year. A little more than a year after they made the incredible voyage.

andrew.gif

That’s tragic on so many levels. The newspaper article alone is blog worthy.

Rachael’s husband was dead at the age of twenty-five and Rachael was on her own with no family or means of support. At the young age of twenty-four, stuck in a strange land so very far from home. And no way to get back home.

Could you imagine?

But family is family. And good families do their best to help each other.

Her eldest brother Charles hopped on the ship “Mersey” in 1862 and made his way to sister Rachael in New Zealand. Left his wife and family in Ireland.

Charles’ wife and children would arrive the following year in 1863 -along with Charles’ and Rachael’s brother Edward Haughey.

Another brother James Haughey would follow with his wife, Hannah and their very large brood.

Andrew’s untimely death prompted an influx of many members of this one clan to the shores of New Zealand. This one tragedy altered the course of their futures. Altered the history of my family.

The good news is that Rachael met a fellow from Tipperary and remarried. Had a bunch of kids. The other good news is that the Haugheys all did well on the islands. They survived, multiplied and spread across the land. Loads and loads of their descendants exist now.

Sad thing is that my great-great-great grandparents Luke and Mary had to wave goodbye not just to one daughter and a grandson in 1860. They, and the other remaining family members like their daughter, my great-great grandmother Margaret, would continue waving goodbye to loved ones for the next decade. While their countless family members boarded the ships. The numerous grandchildren. Nieces and nephews. And while they were waving they also knew they’d never see any of them again. Ever again.

Maybe James Joyce’s sentence had some truth to it. Maybe the shortest way to Tara is via Holyhead. Maybe, in the end, in order to understand themselves, their family and their country, they had to leave. I don’t know. Maybe it worked for them.

Note: A fellow by the name Lyndon Fraser wrote a book titled, “To Tara Via Holyhead: Irish Catholic Immigrants in Nineteenth-century.” Some of my family’s history is documented in the book with accompanying facts and photographs. 

The Past

My great-great grandmother was named Margaret Haughey and was born in Lurgan, County Armagh on March 8th, 1840. She was the tenth child of eleven born to Luke Haughey and Mary McDonald.

She grew up and married a weaver by the name of Bernard McConville on February 14th, 1863.

A baby boy, named after his father, was born January 2, 1864. Margaret’s mother, Mary McDonald Haughey was present at the birth of her grandson.

Sadly, it lists his father, Bernard, as being deceased by the time the little fellow arrived into the world.

And baby Bernard appears to have died soon after-in 1865.

So Margaret was married, widowed, a new mother and a grieving parent all in a matter of two years.

My great-great grandfather was a man by the name of Charles Dornan. He was a weaver and married a woman in Lurgan by the name of Anne Skeath on May 31st, 1863.

They would have two children, Mary and Hugh. By 1866 Charles lost both his wife and his two children. Anne died in 1866 along with her little daughter, Mary. Three short years. A family of four down to a family of one.

Margaret (Haughey) McConville and Charles Dornan, a young widow and widower, married in 1869. They would have seven children together. Lost a few of their kids at young ages.

My great-grandfather, Michael Dornan was one of their children. He would later succumb to tuberculosis at the early age of thirty-five in 1912 along with his one year old daughter, Annie, who also died from general tuberculosis that same year.

He left his wife, Maggie, with three young daughters and a son. My Nana, one of their children, was just six when she lost her dad and her little sister.

This blog posting was actually going to be a story about Margaret Haughey’s siblings who left Lurgan in the 1860s to set sail on a ship to New Zealand. I tend to veer. Guess that will have to be my next posting!

 

I remember having a discussion with a fellow a couple of years ago here in K.L. He was a guy at my husband’s office and a few of us were having drinks after work. He more or less said that researching ancestors was a waste of time. It’s about who you are now. And it has nothing to do with your ancient relatives. You have nothing to do with your ancestors.

With that being said, I have to mention that even my own husband also never quite understood my fascination with the dead. But he was certainly glad to support the project because I loved it so much. Also kept me off the streets and out of trouble. Lol. He never, ever said it was a waste of my time.

My feeling was that discovering my family’s history made me more sensitive to the plight of others before me. And after me. This man claimed that I would have been sensitive anyway. That’s who I was. I disagreed. I said that I had new appreciation for my ancestors and their troubles. We went back and forth for some time. Fuelled by passion and a couple of brewskies. He didn’t buy it.

But I did.

I appreciated the economic struggles during that time. People flocking from the rural areas and neighboring counties to the mill towns that offered employment. Migrations of people. Leaving the farms to live in cramped, damp row houses with their large families. I also imagined them toiling away, at very young ages, in the crowded mills. Spreading tuberculosis and who knows what else. Being overworked. Being uneducated. Most of the birth, marriage and death certificates are signed with “his X mark” or “her X mark.”

My heart broke at the images in my head of these two young people, newly married, losing their spouses and babies in a matter of a few short years.

I imagined how hard it was for my Nana to grow up without a Dad and what impact that had on her life.

I envisioned many who fled that life on ships for an unknown world. Because it might have been better than the one they were experiencing.

Yes, I might have been sympathetic anyway. Due to my parents raising us to care about others. But when it’s really personal you really identify with it. And you might want to do more.

I would have been totally fine if I never pursued my curiosity about the family tree. Would have a secure identity and continued community service work.

But I might work a little harder because my ancestors taught me a very valuable lesson from their graves. “It could be you. Because it was us. Not all of us survived it. But some of us did. You, mo chroi´, are the result. Make it worth our struggle.”

There are loads of quotes out there about history and the past. Most of them go something like this, “Those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it.”

I don’t want to be a part of a repetitive cycle in world history. Rather be a part of learning.

So, thank you, Margaret Haughey, mo chroi´, and the rest of you. I’m still learning and you will never be forgotten.

Eile síorai´