Posts Tagged ‘ireland’

It’s been eight years since I started this blog. Seems hard to believe.

I’ve had visitors from all over the world. The biggest “hits” on my site are from the United States. Followed by India and Ireland.

India because I once wrote about a young Brown student who went missing. Now every time someone searches the first name (not necessarily him but the first name which seems to be popular in India) they come across my blog. And we all know India is a well populated place.

Ireland, I suppose, is just the power of a big family. And lots of friends.

I have wondered if I should just let it go. Maybe it’s getting old. Maybe I am constantly regurgitating old stuff.

So, I’m looking for feedback. Should I go out like Johnny Carson? At the top of his game when people might actually miss him?

Or should I continue writing this blog?

Be honest. I can take it.

Thank you!




Read Full Post »

Everyone’s always taking photos these days. It’s great. Most of the time.

I take loads. Tons. Mostly because I don’t have my glasses on at the time and end up deleting 75% of them later. Always hoping some actually make the cut.

But there are some photos that are just not worth taking. 

Like when someone crosses over a safety barrier to take a photo by the edge of a cliff.

I read this past week about the Polish couple that plunged to their death from a cliff. In front of their two very young children. It happened in Portugal. Some of the news reports claimed they were taking a “selfie.” I do not know if that is true because I have also read that the children were given the camera to take the photo. 

The fact is that there was a safety barrier that they hopped over to get to the edge of the cliff.

And now their two little children have a picture in the head for the rest of their lives. That they will never be able to delete. 

Reminds me of a recent trip this past summer to the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland. I was with Annie and two of my cousins. So beautiful but always gets me nervous and thinking. I told Annie (15) beforehand that we were to stay on the path. 


There were safety barriers in some of the areas. But there were a few folks from Australia (and possibly other places) who hopped over the barrier so they could get some photos. They weren’t exactly on the edge but on a mound of dirt/grass. The problem is that one wrong move or stumble could send someone down the hill and then off the cliff. 


The photos they were taking were ones with their hands raised in the air like they were falling. Just trying to go for the funny shot with the craggy cliffs and wild ocean in background. There wasn’t anything funny about it. 

My cousin was beside herself and didn’t care who heard her. She was like, “Are they insane?” 

A fellow (friend of the one who was having his photo taken) heard her and said, “He’s absolutely mad.”

The thing of it is this. We all would have felt terrible if the man slipped and fell. The value of life and our fellow human beings and all that.

But we also would have a horrible image in our head for the rest of our lives. Totally not cool. That is what my cousin was upset about this day.

Many people already have pictures that cannot be erased. They don’t need others, who are unnecessarily taking risks, to add more to their mental gallery.

I arrived back in Malaysia the beginning of August. One evening I was driving back home from the city of Kuala Lumpur and realized that I had forgotten (after being in United States and Ireland) what a menace the motorbikes are here. They dart in and out of traffic and they are everywhere! So scary. I am always afraid I will hit one of them.

This particular night I hear the roar of three bikes together passing me on my right. On the highway and going very fast. Three pals from the look of it. 

One was driving his motorcycle on his stomach! Totally prone. I couldn’t believe it. Then the two guys on another bike behind him are taking pictures of him on a mobile phone! Not the driver but the passenger. But still! And the third motorcyclist was just supporting them with laughter.

I found out at lunch yesterday that this was called “planking.” Oh my gosh. I learn something new every day. I was also told that the fellow who had the phone was probably filming it. And making a video.

All I could think of that evening was, “Please God, don’t let them fall and make me run over them on this highway” and “Please don’t let them crash and make me witness it.”  

There really are some photos that are just not worth it. 

Read Full Post »

We were having breakfast at our Limerick hotel. The lovely young waitress heard my cousins’ accents and asked them if they were from New York.

They responded affirmatively.

She said, “My Granny and Granda met in New York.”

We smiled because our own grandparents also met and married in New York. Before they headed back to Ireland with their growing family.

None of us would have been sitting in that hotel restaurant if it weren’t for New York.

She told us that her Granny was sent to America to work at the age of fourteen. Must have been so scary. She was the eldest of twelve children and was promised that some of her siblings would follow her.

That didn’t happen. She was living with a cruel aunt who took her earnings. So was totally on her own.

She then met the man who would become her husband. Had some children before returning to Ireland.

The young girl, in her lilting voice, said, “So you see, Granda rescued her, like. And they never, ever would have met in Ireland. Granny was from Clare and Granda was from Sligo.”

She continued in an awed tone, “So, when I think of love. I think of that.”

Just the way she said it made my eyes fill up.

I just love stories with happy endings.


Read Full Post »

This one is for my Auntie Maureen in Dublin, Ireland. She will soon be turning eighty years old. The fourth of the seven kids to do so. Bless her and bless them all.

I know everyone gets a little on edge if they think I am going to write about them. But I do not think that anyone should worry. My blog is intended to share things I have learned on this journey called life. Never to disparage. Maybe poke a little fun. But usually at the ones that can take it.

She can take it.

Maureen, who is fluent in the Irish language, has many different names. Maureen is what we call her. She was baptized Mary Frances. She was never, ever called that. Her husband called her Maire. Irish for Mary. She has said on more than one occasion that she will accept cheques made out to any of the above names.

She is one of seven wonderful children that my Granny and Granda brought into this world. My grandparents both made their way, as single young people, across the Atlantic Ocean to New York City. Luckily, for this huge clan, they met and married.

Maureen was their fourth child born in New York. The family would soon make the decision to return to Ireland in 1935.  Maureen’s older twin siblings, my Dad and his sister Betty, would turn four years old during that voyage on the “Transylvania” They landed in Glasgow on March 24, 1935. The family was met in the port of Derry by my great-grandfather Lennon and my great-uncle Frank McCabe.

There would be more children born in Ireland and the family was complete after the birth of three more lovely girls.

Auntie Maureen grew up in Ireland. Met the love of her life there and made a family of her own. All lovely.

She has a love of Irish history, language and ancestry. But that’s not all.

She is good-humored. We were once in the back seat of a car. She hadn’t been feeling well. A bit of a cold. So she would blow her nose now and again. And whip out the Chapstick tube meant to moisten her lips. It is a clear lip balm. Well, at one point I looked over and there was Auntie Maureen going at it for a good few minutes taking care of those lips. But she had mistakenly taken out her colored lipstick. I gave the “stop” signal immediately upon noticing. It was a bit like a mad woman in a horror flick. I had visions of a little boy going crazy on his sister’s dolls with a tube of lipstick. The point of it was that we had a good laugh.

She is a loyalist. Okay, that was a joke. Sort of a joke. By definition she is a loyalist. One who is loyal to a cause. She is and will always be loyal to her Ireland.

But not just her country.

She is loyal to her family. She is the go-to girl for all things family. History, ancestry and current day news. She is the one that keeps connected with all branches of the family. Whether it is the folks from our ancestral town or local Dublin folk. Or family across the Atlantic. Or ones that lived more than a hundred years ago. It’s all about being connected.

She is dependable. The one that would run around and take care of business. Whether it was wrapping up details of her parent’s affairs or getting Aunt Mary situated in her old age. And if she said she would do something, by golly, it would get done. She would be the one to visit you and check on you.

She is a woman. Of course, you know that.  But when I was younger, I was just a girl and she was just an aunt. A lovely auntie but just an aunt. When I grew older and I became a woman myself I was fortunate to be able to spend time with her. And then I realized that it was no longer just kid and aunt. So, I asked her about her life. Woman to woman. Childbirth. Raising children. Living with in-laws. And she was open and honest with me.

She is sacrificing. Whether she acknowledges it or not. My Uncle Stiophan, may he rest in peace, was most definitely the love of her life and they raised two wonderful children together. In the home of his parents. Without complaint. Now, I am sure the in-laws were lovely people, but I think we all can imagine the sacrifices that took place on a daily basis. With all eyes upon you and not a ton of privacy. Raising kids is hair-raising enough. I couldn’t imagine doing it in front of other folks. Especially if they weren’t my own parents. The ones who raised me. Forget about raised hair. I’d probably lose my hair.

She is helpful. When I started actually researching my family’s ancestry she was with me all the way. My kindred spirit. Assisted me in so many ways. On both sides of my family. Tromped around graveyards and churches. Sometimes in the pouring rain! Well, it is Ireland, after all.

There was one graveyard in Ballynahinch, County Down, that took us hours to find.  A priest had told us it was just down a lane on the other side of town. Off Crabtree Lane. We were just about ready to give up and head back but we gave it one more go and the fifteenth cruise around the town finally paid off. With the help of God and a friendly fellow who led us there. It was a bit creepy with the overgrown trees, bushes and terrible gray clouds that made the place almost black.  We were all alone. There were gaping holes in the untended grounds. I kept thinking a skeletal hand would reach out and grab my ankle bringing me into the netherworld. I said more than once, “And that was the last time we ever saw Maureen and Mary!”

She is adventuresome. We explored different places together. We visited the St. Patrick’s Center in Downpatrick. And we just missed the start of the tour. But there were a bunch of British tourists already grouping together. Yes, that’s right, we quietly melted into their group while giving an occasional nod or smile. Imagine the two of us with a group of Brits in Northern Ireland. We were not going to give up our “free” tour by tipping them off with a slip of the accented tongue. Don’t worry about us “getting over” on the St. Patrick’s Center. I am sure we made a donation along the way. And I gave them a bit of good PR after the enjoyable visit.

She is resilient. She lost her loving husband Stiophan. I remember she sent me a note saying “Life will never be the same.” I never forgot that and knew that it would be true. But she kept herself busy. Maybe even too busy, by her account, during the grieving process. And no, life never would be the same for her after losing her best friend. But she kept going and continued to create a life of her own. She has friends, sisters, children, grandchildren, activities, and hobbies that keep her involved and living. Not the same life. A different one. But still a life of her own.

She is smart and quick. About five years ago I wrote her a note asking for family information but I sent it to her daughter, my cousin Maire. Because Auntie Maureen wasn’t “on the computer” and didn’t have an email address. Well, that quickly changed. Within a couple of years she was not only “on the computer” but she meticulously typed up a book on our family history from her perspective. She thanked me for giving her the nudge to document it. I can’t thank her enough for her dedication to the history. She also thanked me for having the courage to send her very first email. I was so proud of her. Sure, there were a few, “I sent you an email but it seems to have disappeared!” but in time she became an old pro.

I think you get the idea. She was and is all of these things. There are many adjectives that can be used to describe this woman. Welcoming, warm, helpful, loving, intelligent, good-natured, good-humored, interesting, loyal, dependable, charitable, devout are just some that come to mind.

I really just wanted to wish her a happy birthday in case my card gets lost somewhere between Malaysia and Ireland. But it morphed into this blog posting.

Auntie Maureen, or whatever your real name is, I hope you have a wonderful day filled with good health and happiness. Not just on your 80th birthday. But every day for the entire year. And many, many more years.

In the last eighty years you were a caretaker, mother, friend, lover (yeah, that’s right, I said lover), aunt, niece, cousin, daughter, companion,  and grandmother. And each and every one of us is a better person for having felt your touch. We all appreciate you.

I love you and I am glad that you are my aunt.  And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Go mbeannaí Dia duit

Your loving niece,

Mary Beth


P.S. My apologies for not using the fada on appropriate words. Auntie Mairead once told me how to do it on my keyboard but it didn’t work. I know where they belong. I just don’t know how to get them there. You probably learned that in your first computer course.


Read Full Post »

Well, you all know I have been wanting to lose five pounds for the last decade. Laugh out loud.

I now have an added incentive. Sometimes these things just smack you upside the head. It just happened to be something I was looking over again the other day.

When my Granda Lennon arrived in America in 1925 from Liverpool he was an employee on a ship. He was discharged in New York City. The passenger manifest stated that he was 20 years old. That he stood five feet and seven inches. And that he weighed 3 pounds more than I do at this very moment.

Okay, now either Patrick was one “skinny malink” (an Irish term my mom used for real thin folk) or I have my work cut out for me! I can only hope that when he returned to his homeland of Ireland for good in 1935 that he had filled out a little.

The other thing I can hope for is possible errors at the immigration port. I think we all know there has been more than one mistake made during processing at those busy places. Any Greek person named Brown, formerly known as Bakalakis, can attest to this.

There were a few errors that I noticed.

One was that he was twenty years old. He wasn’t. He was born in 1907. So either he needed to up his age to gain employment, my math stinks or someone typed in twenty while looking the other way.

The other thing listed was that his race was English. My grandfather was an Irishman. He might have been living in Liverpool (like the other Lennons that all trace back to Ireland) when he boarded this ship but he was born in County Louth, Ireland. The document also lists his nationality as British.  I repeat. He was an Irishman.

Anyway, I am thankful for these errors.  Gives me hope that I don’t have that much work ahead of me.

I mentioned my grandfather’s weight and age to my husband. Didn’t even occur to me that they were about the same height. Of course, he had to say, “Yeah, I weighed the same when we first met.”

I wanted to grab the malink by the nape of his skinny little neck.

So, back to the drawing board. I perused the passenger list once again. Of the thirty people discharged that day in the port of New York there was more than one skinny malink.

I think I have my work cut out for me.

Read Full Post »

Last week, Rory, my eldest and twenty-one years old, called me from a nearby Malaysian island. I asked how this was and how that was. Great conversation.

But then I blow it. Like I always do.

She said she was going to go for a swim before getting on the ferry that would head back to the mainland.

I immediately said, “Wait? What? Where are the other girls? Alone? You’re not going swimming alone? You can’t…………..”

She was like, “Mom, you always do this. It’s all going along great and then you……”

I guess the end of that sentence would be, “act like a mom?”

My entire family acts like a mom. Even my dad. Maybe it comes from his side of the family. Bunch of bosses. Not sure why she doesn’t get that after twenty-one years.


“Start moving into the left lane now. The exit’s coming up in fifty-four miles.”

“You’re going to stop in and see “insert any neighbor’s name”, right?”

“The gas tank is only 3/4 full? Fill it up. Better to be safe.”

“Put on the light if you are reading. You’ll go blind sitting over there in the dark!”

“Back the car in.”

“You can’t go out without a coat!”

“You have to stay to the left of the bike path when walking. Only the bikes are allowed in the right lane!”

“Eat your salad. It makes you pretty.”

“Eat your carrots. You never saw a bunny with glasses, did you?”

Dad’s sister, Auntie Rose Marie in New York speaking on the telephone to her adult daughter who is vacationing with me on Cape Cod  

“Everybody got their sunscreen on?”

Calcium and daily vitamin consumed?


“Helmets?” For the love of God, I’m walking!

“Sensible walking shoes?”

“Bottled water?” It was a stroll not a jungle trek.

“Don’t drink and drive.” On bicycles?

Cousins (daughters of Dad’s sister, Rose Marie, while we were spending time together this past summer)

“Everybody got their sunscreen on?”

Calcium and daily vitamin consumed?


“Helmets?” For the love of God, I’m walking!

“Sensible walking shoes?”

“Bottled water?” It was a stroll not a jungle trek.

“Wine anyone?”

Auntie Maureen in Ireland

“Just stay directly on the footpath.  All the way. Do not veer towards the right. Do not veer towards the left. Just stay directly on the path and you won’t get lost. Just stay on the path.”

“No, don’t set your handbag down there on the seat. Mind it.” During Sunday Mass in a suburban Dublin church.

“Do not look them directly in the eyes and watch your valuables.” Little tinker children loitering around us in the city. Okay, maybe she didn’t say anything about looking them directly in the eyes.

Dad’s youngest sister, Aideen, in Ireland calling her adult daughter (who I was staying with) after a week of suggestions on what we should be doing. 

“What’s on for today?”

My cousin answered, “How could I know? I haven’t been told yet!”

I was laughing. Sure, we are adults but we are so used to being bossed around by the Dads and the Mams that it is almost second nature to us. We take directions very well.

Why, oh why, did it skip my daughter’s generation? Why doesn’t she get this?

My dad has three more sisters that luckily escaped this posting. And I could go on but just wanted to give you a taste. An idea. What Rory needs to always remember. This “bossiness” only stems from a true love, a desire to protect, and a willingness to demonstrate the utmost caring.

But she might not realize it until she has one of her own. And starts to “blow it” or gets a bit “bossy.”

Sending thanks to every big bossy person in my family that blew it. The day you stop will be the day you don’t care.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts