For the past few weeks, our house has been turned upside down by a puppy who is now, basically, ruling over everything. Fortunately, he’s extremely adorable, and can only bark, so any supreme-dictator laws he wanted to start are unable to get off the ground. Plus, he arrived here at 2.8 pounds and is now 8 (still a major, crazy difference!) and so we can still pick him up when we disagree with him.
You’ve probably heard the quote..
Happiness is a warm puppy.
– Charles M. Schultz
It’s always been so true, and what’s great is reappreciating it all over again with our warm, tiny puppy. Even though we miss Otis… Kirby has helped bring so much joy and laughter, and quite a bit of Otis’ spirit back!
One of the things I never considered about getting another dog, even though, after a couple months, I became open to it, was that they would help me remember my other dog even more.
I want to always be able to remember and enjoy Otis’ memory separately, remember what he looked like as an individual… but these two Bostons are so similar that it’s great because otherwise I wouldn’t remember half of the silly things Otis did or quirks that he had if Kirby weren’t here to repeat them.
And, the good thing is, they do have their differences. Kirby has his energizer bunny moments, but other times, he has a middle ground, and he can be very mellow and just chill out. Otis, as a pup, was either totally ON and crazy or sound asleep. There was no middle ground.
Kirby loves toys too, but he isn’t out for complete and total destruction, like Otis was. Instead, all of his original toys have miraculously survived so far, and he’s just not the type to try and rip them apart.
Sometimes the hardest part is leaving to go to school in the mornings. He is usually wanting to snuggle at that point, and will crawl up my leg and paw me pitifully. Just as I was hoping, he’s a super snuggler, it’s definitely one of his best skills. He’s such a pro, in fact, that a few weeks ago I had him in bed with me once or twice… (shh, don’t tell the dog training pros. They’ll be stunned that it in no way ruined him for life.)… and insisted on sleeping ON my face. Like, he tries to get as much of him up on there as possible. Mostly it ended up being his head. He’ll also settle for the pillow or under my chin. I can’t complain.
Although I wasn’t nearly as inexperienced or nervous my second time flying to Northern Ireland, 2014 still held a lot in the way of traveling and learning. The fall semester of 2013 in N. Ireland was a dream come true and it was only in the last moments of that semester–literally when I’d be leaving for the States in a week and a half–that I found out it was financially possible for me to return the following semester. Lesson learned there? Don’t doubt God’s faithfulness with finances. He is always going above and beyond for us, but I somehow see money as something outside of His control, and would (and continue) to worry about it when I really have no cause to do so. I’m thankful for His patience with me!
And, after having a wonderful Christmas break with my family, I looked forward to flying back to N. Ireland on the 24th of January. It was still just as hard to leave them (and perhaps a little harder, since I knew what it was like without them when I missed them–but easier because I knew where I was going and that I had my N. Irish family of friends to welcome me back), but so sweet to arrive back. It felt like arriving home. I discovered I had two homes–make that three–first, overall, encompassing everything, God. Second, wherever my family is. And third, at least for this past year, Northern Ireland. Since moving 9 times growing up, I have never had a sense of identity to a place or a connection to one but I always knew Ireland and the UK was it and that proved true. Going back and spending a semester at this home was magical, and God continued to teach me so much. Taught me more of loving people. Of working through less-than-ideal situations–one thing that travel quickly teaches you is to be flexible, in every aspect, in every circumstance, even when you’re completely lost and walked 3 miles because you missed a bus in the Welsh countryside 🙂
One of the events that stands out was an event that 3 of my friends and I from our Christian Union planned out a ministry event for the Magee campus. It was an acoustic night in our student union club and went so well, and it was so exciting to work with such a great team and plan what seemed to be like a good hit.
It was great for me–to get to know them better and develop fast friendships, to learn to work and communicate well, to share creative ideas, to work through stress and support and encourage others.
And then, after a relatively quiet February/March, 16 April marked the end of finals (and the deadline for 6 research papers I had to write in one semester–this was literally my ONLY coursework but it totaled more than 60 written pages. Whew.) and the next day, the start of my travels further from N. Ireland!
Woah, HELLO SCOTLAND! I was invited by a friend to go and help out with a church’s outreach mission there, so me and her and our other friend and a few others took a ferry from Belfast to the Scottish coast, then drove inland to Airdrie which was between Edinburgh and Glasgow. The first few days we did the mission, it was really interesting to be involved in such a cultural experience, immersed, if you will, since I was the only American I saw during my time there. Definitely get a feel for “life” there and not just “I’m here as a tourist.” I learned a lot through serving, but it was really relaxing once we took off for Edinburgh on a Monday and got a reformation tour of the city by one of the church members.
Edinburgh–I’ve written about this before. One of the best cities, one of my absolute favourites. So it was a huge highlight to spend a day there and it’s on my list to explore SO MUCH MORE of!!
We also got to experience some of the Highlands, stopping first at Loch Lomond (dream come true) and a tiny village called Luss which was very picturesque. The Highlands themselves? You can’t even call them picturesque and the pictures don’t even do them justice. It’s something which you can only really experience in person… it’ll take your breath away.
From there I went to Wales, fulfilling a longtime dream of going there (huge Howl’s Moving Castle fan here) and also seeing my best friend and penpal, Stacey, which was THE BEST part of the trip. We’d been penpals for more than 2 years before that, I think, and always wrote each other emails–first time seeing pictures and hearing each others voices was the day before I flew over there (we decided to FB friend/call each other at the last minute so we could make double sure we weren’t serial killers/stalkers, you know). I was so excited about this trip.. it was so independent and I booked a flight myself and when I got there, Stacey did an amazing job of planning a wonderful itinerary. Although I’ll probably never be satisfied and will have to return, I saw everything I wanted to and more. And meeting your kindred spirit in the flesh and realising you’re still best friends in person? Totally amazing.
After all this, returning to Ireland, me and my classmates plus a couple of friends went with our teacher to the Gaeltacht of Ireland, because we were apart of an Irish (it’s a Gaelic language) class. It was a cool experience staying with native Irish speakers, and especially going on this teeny. tiny. ferry to Tory Island, the smallest inhabited island off the coast of Donegal. That ferry ride on what was essentially a small fishing boat who’s overhead shelter we clung to was probably the most thrilling thing. Except, of course, being greeted by the King of Tory Island upon arrival (he was the spitting image of an old sea captain, tweed and hat and gold jewelry and white beard and all). We got a grand tour of the island and learned about the way of life for its 140 or so residents. Yay Irish language!
Next, me and my best friend decided to go to Dublin for a weekend since I hadn’t been yet. We saw all the tourist spots and explored more of the shops in the Temple Bar area of town, but my favourite part was going to Kildare Stud Farm which was a bus ride outside the city and where the finest Irish Thoroughbreds are born and bred. It didn’t really get any better than getting to pet those sweet foals.
Whew. I had a slight break of a few days and then MUM CAME TO VISIT!!!! I was ridiculously excited about this–she’s the one who instilled in me a passion for Ireland and travel in the first place. And this would be her first time back in 30 years, so we were sosososooso excited. We spent two weeks–the first one touring Northern Ireland and Donegal which she’d never seen and was probably our favourite part of the whole trip–and the second week we met up with my uncle from London and traveled down the west coast to Connemara, Galway, where she’d bicycled through on her first trip. The flights were crazy, and we also rented a car–my first time driving over there, but I drove the first day since she had too much jet lag and went surprisingly smoothly, I loved driving there and observing for so long helped (so did having to learn on a stick shift when I’d first learned to drive, it was only a matter of switching hands!). All in all it was quite an adventure. We even went horseback riding together, and that was wonderful because we’d never got to do it together before AND I got to fulfill my dream of riding a Connemara pony in Ireland, on a beach no less, at sunset, in one of the most beautiful places–aaaand we saw dolphins as we were riding along. No waaaay.
What a year of travel–blessed to go back to Northern Ireland, blessed to go beyond that. I am thrilled to have these memories, stories, and photos, and to have shared them with some of the most awesome people.
… or Halloween? Samhain (in Ireland)? I’ve thought a lot about celebrations on this variation lately. Last year I was in Northern Ireland for the festivities, which I heard about over and over in the weeks leading up to it–no surprise, because I lived in Derry, one of the biggest Halloween celebrations in Europe.
I can’t even remember exactly what went on, except that EVERYONE in the city and from beyond the city was there and there were lots of decorations on the ancient walls, and plenty of costumed people everywhere. The whole affair was much more Halloween-intense than I’d experienced in the States. Until I came home this year.
Two years ago, Halloween here seemed different, even in that short span of time–or maybe I just hadn’t been paying attention. For a long while now there has been the emphasis on horror and the occult, the haunted houses and violent, gory costumes. I think it only keeps increasing. But even 2 years ago at my university in the States, we only had one haunted trail, that was barely mentioned, tucked away at the back of the campus, and not even reported on in our yearbook. This year, we have 3 different haunted trails and houses (including one called The Pit in the fine arts building, which seems more like an interactive, scary show thing) plus the ones put on by the frat houses just outside the university. It was definitely confusing to come back to that when I know we only usually do one or two events for other major holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving.
Which is why I’m really disappointed. I really hate to be seen as the killjoy, the party pooper, etc. but I’ve thought long and hard about this and after being invited to haunted frat houses and Halloween parties by Christian groups (yes, I go to a Christian school) there was a double message about it that confused me. On one hand, there were the Bible studies and carpools to church and the retreat to “Grow closer to God” that they were inviting me to, but on the other, what they seemed to push even more was the haunted house and the party. As far as parties go, that’s fine, I’m not crazy about the ones that include a lot of drinking/other activities but in moderation, it’s cool. But if I wasn’t a Christian and was just interested in it, I’d be REALLY confused as to what they were promoting. On one hand we go to the beach for the weekend and learn to turn away from demons and idols and to go towards the Light, God, and the on the other, we celebrate gore, violence, and occult activity by going to a house full of chain saws and (fake) serial killers??
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
I’m sure people can interpret this verse in a variety of different ways but to me, the message is still clear. There is a divide between what God sees as good and the world sees as good–a big one that we’ve probably learned about since Sunday school. This verse is hard to deal with because for most of us, we don’t think about things that fit this description all the time. It’s definitely been convicting me lately because it’s put me in mind of what I watch and read and how many of these things just don’t fit this description.
Can stories of serial killers with chainsaws fit this description? Can celebrating ancient practices, some of which are directly spoken against in the Bible, using “harmless” activities such as haunted houses, movies, and haunted trails, fit in?
When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God
I can’t answer it for you, but I can answer it for myself, and I think there’s a huge difference in what the Bible wants us to spend our energy on and to think about and what Halloween is–that being said, I think it’s fine and fun for kids to dress up as their favourite Disney/Pixar character and go around and get candy, but when it comes to zombies, vampires, and blood and gore, I don’t get it. It’s wrong. The celebration and glorification of this–I don’t understand how it can be justified. I know it’s appealing because it’s seen by the masses as “fun.” It’s “fun” to be scared. But… how does that really glorify God.
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
1 Corinthians 10:21
Dress up as Captain America, Eowyn, the Flash, and have a fun movie night/eat some good food with your friends–but haunted houses, gory makeup? How does that reflect Christ?
Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
(thanks for reading! This is coming from someone who wasn’t necessarily opposed to halloween growing up. I trick or treated till I was in middle school but we just didn’t do the scary/violent costumes or decorate our house that way.)
Halfway through a semester… a year after I left for Northern Ireland. First of all, it’s been odd watching 9th and 10th September come and go, to think that a year ago on those days I was boarding a plane for an overnight flight–the first solo AND first international flight I’d ever taken–to a different country and disembarking in said country, moving into a new flat, and making friends at university. Those were two of the scariest, most emotional days of my life, and yet since it represented leaving for NI and just how long ago that was, it was a little bittersweet. However, as a family member reminded me, do I want that to be the thing I’m reminiscing about? I should be glad I’m past that point because leaving was so hard–and I am. I just miss the start of the adventure that it represented. The adventure I’d planned for so long, and that seemed would last forever… way into the foreseeable future. The future beyond that is here, and it’s bringing change, although change that’s not so drastic as I was used to, this past year.
School is currently almost all my time, but fortunately, I have 3 art classes and that’s the most enjoyable part. In painting, we have been working with oils, and this week we have transitioned to plein air painting which has been awesome. It’s really nice to be imitating some of my favourite painters (the Impressionists) in this very small way. The farm surrounds my professor’s house so we all park out there and walk out into the field with our easels, and the rolling green meadows and pond and cows are just perfect at this time of year.
The picture says it all.
Sculpture has been awesome, mostly because of all the banter that goes on in that class… fortunately we somehow are able to multitask and actually get some sculpting done in between teasing each other. We started out sculpting hands (and yes, it’s a beginner’s class, we just jumped in) and then moved on to a metamorphosis project where we had to go from a hand transitioning into another object. I did a thumbs up transitioning into a lovely fierce dragon (he just got fired today; not by another clay dragon, in the kiln, and once I do some repairs/wings I hope to glaze him).
This week we started working on (a) the human skull and (b) expressionism in faces. The skull, for me, was a big flop but I learned a lot about the structure so hopefully I’ll be better at it next time. The expressionistic faces we did, however, turned out to be quite fun and got some good feedback. Pictures of that after the critique… I really enjoyed making some frightening looking faces. We may also do a short claymation with them.
Drawing is swell, not many pictures of that but we’re gearing up for the critique next week so I’m looking forward to that. We’ve had a model the past few weeks which has been great because people are one of my favourite things to draw, it’s just fascinating. The hardest part has been the face. I can get the proportions and the body down fairly well (the hands are tricky, but sculpture class has helped) but the face… it’s quite different. Especially at certain angles.
Saw Guardians of the Galaxy this weekend (way behind) and I’ve been obsessed with awesome mix vol. 1 ever since. See below.
Loving new stuff by Vampire Weekend, Vance Joy, Passenger, City and Colour, Phillip Phillips… it helps all the driving go by faster!
I read Outlander start to finish.. that was an experience. Not sure I’d entirely recommend it due to it’s R-rated nature but… it was so real I’d forget I wasn’t in Scotland whilst reading it. It really makes me want to go back. Like, just back to Scotland like when I went in April. Not back to 1745. Time travel is a nice daydream but the odds of traveling to the Middle Ages and finding Jamie among the bandits who pick you up seems like it’d only happen in a book.
I’ve had Edinburgh on my mind lately… people mentioning how they’re planning trips there, have been there, etc… and every time I rave about it and tell them it is one of the cities in the UK you definitely HAVE to visit. As much as Ireland has always been my favourite, even Dublin can’t top Edinburgh. It’s not the same for everyone, but there’s something about Edinburgh that was just more relaxed, charming, and open.
The subject of this story, in particular, is Edinburgh Castle. It’s one of the most beautiful and dominant things that graces the Edinburgh skyline–which is made up of almost all historical buildings and steeples. Therefore, once we made it up steps, steps, and more steps (those in the picture were only the beginning), the view was perfect. The wide cobblestone pathway up to the castle is filled with tourists and an icecream truck, and as you gaze down the gently sloping pathway, you can see the city’s roofs, towers, and steeples below you. In a ring beyond all that are the hazy purple mountains.
I’d say they do the whole castle thing A-OK. I love Irish castles… but if I had to choose, sorry Dublin, I’d choose Edinburgh Castle over Dublin Castle anytime. The one thing I did not do–I know, I know–was actually go all the way inside. I am a cheap tourist, but if I was back there right now, I’d for sure pay for the overpriced tourist ticket and have a look. That being said, you can still see a good bit, particularly the dramatic scenery, without an entrance fee. You can go through the main gates and everything, look at the outer buildings, pretty much up to the front doors where they make you pay. Get yourself a sausage roll, bap, cuppa, and sit on the walls next to Edinburgh Castle. Look out at the mountains around you, watch the sunset. Enjoy the people watching. Particularly near the ice cream cart. And pretend to look as much unlike a muggle as possible.
I’ve been in America for a month. The time has gone by fast, it feels like it’s been forever since I’ve been in Ireland, and at the same time my memories of that place exist in my mind as if they happened yesterday and I could step back into them at any moment.
J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote in The Lord of the Rings about the road home after a life changing adventure, and even before I had my life-changing adventure it was one of the huge life lessons that has always stuck with me ever since I first read those books. This comparison is faulty in some ways; unlike poor Frodo, my journey has been one of joy and happy adventure and positive life experience, even though I had my share of tough, challenging moments. The rest of the quotation deals with the fact that Frodo’s journey ended up hurting him, but the first half I can connect with.
“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back?
The threads of the old life describe my situation so well, and make so much sense. In a way it’s like coming back to something you’ve woven but not being sure where to start it again and where you left off before. Time has gone on and changed things. Definitely the biggest changed thing is me, though. My home life is relatively the same; my family is still here and wonderful and supportive, my house is relatively the same, as is my neighborhood and town and city. Most of the same events are taking place. Even though I never felt like the city where I live is what I identify as where I’m “from”, I was fairly well used to it before I left.
For me though, my experiences have shaped me more into the person I want to be, and coming back is like trying to step in to the shell of the old Paige that used to live here and expecting it to fit. I’m glad to have changed for the better, but sometimes it seems like that changed person is linked to Derry and who I was there; part of me is fighting to go back to myself here, and the other half is terrified because that’s exactly what I was scared of whenever I thought about coming home. And if you ask, no, I can’t really pinpoint the change. Perhaps those closest to me can. It’s a general feeling of more confidence, experience, and passion that my adventures have taught me.
There is no going back, like Frodo said. Only moving forward while cherishing those memories and remembering to learn from them. I know there are adventures to look forward to, and even though I’m going to the same school in the same small town this fall I know that changed me can still have an impact on what will be a new and old experience. I don’t know what the second half is to Frodo’s questions; he figured it out for himself, but that’s not my path. All I know is that writing it out helps as does anyone that loves to listen and who cares. I have “settled” back into life here, but not so much that I’m perfectly content. Most of all I miss my friends being close and the exhilarating independence of living in and exploring a new city by myself. I miss my easy ability to walk outside of my door and walk anywhere I want to–river, city, park, tea shop, bookstore, shopping.
Every time I’ve been in this phase of life (though not to this degree), it seems impossible for me to imagine another adventure. But I never imagined my Northern Ireland adventure a few years ago and I know that means that there’s much, much more in store. It has been so good being back with my family and I’m excited to continue to spend more time with them, and to see faraway friends hopefully later this year. And this new school year, this fresh “beginning.” One step at a time.
It is nearly impossible to find mexican food in Ireland, and I guess that’s reasonable. But that, and good ACTUAL DECENT REAL pizza is what I miss from the States… so even though I’ve walked by Guapo nearly every day since September, I still hadn’t been in until today. Maybe it’s a good thing I waited because I’ll want to go back every day…
Even in Northern Ireland they know how to do a proper burrito–couldn’t even finish. IT TASTED LIKE PURE HAPPINESS AND SUNSHINE.
Except we also had literal sunshine all day and as Christina and I were discussing on our long walk back, it’s amazing how much of a positive effect the weather has on your mood. Like, I was happy all winter and winter was great but it’s amazing how much energy the sun and warm air (52 degrees!) puts back into you and makes you want to climb mountains and swim rivers and eat burritos.
Also another thing that made this day just perfect: We were walking along downtown to get to the restaurant and there is this artsy storefront fine art photographer/studio/gallery and right in the front window was an adorable little black pug, sitting perfectly still on his little chair. No one was around but maybe he was waiting for his glamour shots. So I stopped to ooh and aah over him and waved at him and he cocked his head to one side and I think I just fell in love with a pug. Oh Otis I miss you! I wish dogs were magical enough to be able to teleport themselves places!
And finally. CU Evangelism week. Tonight we had a washing dishes night where we advertised to wash anyone’s dishes and have a chat within the student village/nearby. I ended up going two places with friends and we did people’s dishes, and we didn’t get into too many conversations but I know others who went out did so I’d say that’s a pretty darn successful evening!
Check out the super snazzy poster, thanks to yours truly… Come right down to the union Monday night and hear some live music! I also have it on good authority that there will be (A) FOOD and (B) good craic (don’t worry, American friends…) so get yourself down there! Except no one reads this blog (HI MUM!) so I’ll have better luck advertising elsewhere but HEY I CAN’T WAIT!