Thursday, July 29, 2021

So Grateful to Simone

When my girls and I watched the Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials in St. Louis, we were worried for Simone Biles. We weren’t worried about her gymnastics skills or abilities. We weren’t ever worried that she would disappoint us. We were worried because all the focus was on her. I mean, all the focus.

I tried to be diplomatic in my Facebook post. The whole time, we were really bothered that it seemed no one else even mattered, but we didn’t want it to appear we were badmouthing Simone:

We are in St Louis at the US Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials! We're two days in, and I can't even find enough words. Obviously, Simone Biles is a star of stars, but we watched the men last night and the women tonight, and every single one of these athletes could represent the USA, and they would rock the world.

There were 15 other gymnasts competing for spots on the US Women’s Team. Every single one of them was amazing, but they were pretty much ignored … and not because Simone encouraged any of it. She never seemed to be a diva. She just seemed to want to be part of the team. She cheered for others. She was everything you would want in a great teammate … except she wasn’t allowed to be that teammate. 

Her only fault? She was the greatest of all time, and everyone wanted a piece of her. I caught this picture to show how ridiculous it was. She was quietly taking a moment to walk into the locker room area. I don’t know why she was heading there, but I think I can guess. And she couldn’t even do that privately. When this picture was taken, there was still a gymnastics trial going on behind her. Young women were still trying to make the US team. But this camera was stuck on Simone … practically in her face.

And it wasn’t just the media. Some of the “fans” in our area were disgusting in their rudeness. A woman walked her teenage-ish daughter down to the first row while Simone was competing on uneven parallel bars, so she could get a picture of her daughter watching Simone Biles. Clearly, she didn’t give a damn about Simone. She just wanted a picture of her daughter in front of the star. She also didn’t give a rip about all the people who had paid for their seats and couldn’t see Simone because she had to get a picture of her daughter. Believe me, those people were not happy either.

A woman in our row stepped on us as she went running down with her child to get a close-up of Simone. Yes, she actually stepped on us. And it was very clear the picture was for her, not her daughter.

These were not young girls who idolize Simone Biles for the amazing gymnast she is. These were adults! These were adults setting the example for their children on how to treat another human being.

In 1991, our family got to watch the World Gymnastics Championships in Indianapolis. Of course, it was amazing. Seeing the best in the world can’t be anything but amazing, and we felt so privileged just to be there. We were a gymnastics family (and I’ve always been a gymnastics geek), so we knew Kim Zmeskal was the star to watch that year. I just remember she took my breath away, and I believe she ended up winning the all-around.

Fast forward to the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Prior to the games, Kim was on the covers of major magazines. She was the odds-on favorite. Everyone expected her to win. And then the unthinkable happened. She fell off the balance beam, and she stepped out of bounds on her floor routine. Sound familiar? We felt so horrible for her … not for us, not for our country … but for her. This human being, with the weight of the world on her shoulders, had some struggles in her routines. The thing that really upset me though, was the attitude of many Americans. Another gymnastics parent said to me, “Kim Zmeskal really let us down, didn’t she?”

She let us down?? She let us down as we sat on our couches watching this athlete who had spent her whole life training for this moment?? This was almost 20 years ago, and it still upsets me. How dare this woman think this young athlete let anyone down??

And now here we are. Simone Biles is struggling because the weight of the world has been placed on her as everyone expected her to win everything. Forget the fact that she’s human. Forget the fact that her teammates love her and vowed to step up for her. Forget the fact that, heaven forbid, they won a silver medal. 

Yes, it’s fabulous to win a gold medal! We all love hearing the national anthem as the US flag rises to the top. But these athletes are people. Most of them are very young people. They are crazy good at their sports, but that doesn’t make them robots. 

I am grateful to Simone for stepping back. I am grateful to her for saying it's for her mental health. I am grateful that she will always be one of the greatest athletes of all time, and I am especially grateful that perhaps this is the wake-up call our country needs ….  so we can focus on the humans who also happen to be great athletes. 

This much I know … our country needs to do better. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Anxiety is Real

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you know sometimes I let subjects percolate for a while before I put hands to the keyboard. This one has really spent some time in the percolating department, and I wasn’t even sure if I would write it ... but here we are.

I, unfortunately, know a lot about anxiety. I have it – not every minute and not every day – but it’s a part of me, and this past year has been a challenge keeping it in check. I have had to draw on every self-care strategy I have ever learned, and I’ve managed pretty well, but still, it’s a fact of my life. 

Looking back, I realize I had encounters with it starting in the 70s when I was in college. But back then, it was diagnosed as “colon issues.” No one mentioned anxiety, and I remember once watching a show that I think was Oprah, but it may have been Phil Donahue, where everyone in the audience was an anxiety sufferer. I remember becoming tearful watching it because I could relate to almost everything anyone said. I finally realized I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t a hypochondriac. I wasn’t hopeless. Although the treatment I got wasn’t great back then, at least I knew what I had was a real thing. 

I also remember my mom calling me, and I told her I was watching this show about panic attacks and anxiety, and she said, “Oh, don’t watch that!” I can smile about it now because she came from a different era, and in her world, talking about it would make it happen so she was trying to protect me. I do remember saying to her, “Mom, I have panic attacks.” Again, that didn’t help me progress to not having them, but I was able to say the words, and that was huge.

So, life went on, and in my twenties, I began to have full-blown panic attacks – heart-pounding, sweat-pouring, hyperventilating panic attacks. If you have never had one, well, lucky for you, because they are horrible. HORRIBLE. Mine were so bad at that time, I could barely leave my house for fear of having another one. Even going to get the mail was scary, and going to the grocery store was out of the question. It sounds crazy, right? It was crazy, but it was my world.

Many of you reading this are probably in two categories. Some of you have no idea how someone could let that happen to them, but I know there are others who get it completely. You’ve been there or maybe are there now, and you know horrible all too well.

Fast forward (through postpartum depressions and other difficult times) to today. There is treatment for anxiety. Not only that, but doctors no longer say, “Just relax. You’ll be fine.” There are still some other people who say that, but I know better than to let that upset me, because they just don’t understand. 

My personal treatment was medication, therapy, and surrounding myself with supportive people. I learned many techniques, such as slow, deep breathing; going for a walk; eating right-ish; avoiding the news; and not talking to myself in a negative way (sounds funny, but one therapist told me I had to replace the tapes I was playing in my head, and that made sense to me – another post for another day). I tried to use all of these techniques, but meds for anxiety weren’t extremely helpful to me. When my doctor and therapist worked together, though, and decided I was also suffering from depression, they agreed I needed to be on anti-depressants, and finally, the serious anxiety went away.

Here are some fun facts for those of you who may not know:

  • Anxiety can be a symptom of depression.
  • Anti-depressants are not happy pills and do not make stressors go away. As a friend once said, anti-depressants help you get back up to ground level, so you have the ability to take on the tough things happening.
  • Anxiety and depression are not invented by the person suffering from them. They are, in many cases, due to a long family history, and many people have a biological predisposition to them. 

Mayo Clinic has a really good website for medical information. When I visit Dr. Google, this is usually my go-to site. I am on anti-depressants called SSRIs, which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. There is science behind the treatment. Mayo Clinic says this:

“SSRIs treat depression by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is one of the chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) that carry signals between brain nerve cells (neurons).

SSRIs block the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin into neurons. This makes more serotonin available to improve transmission of messages between neurons. SSRIs are called selective because they mainly affect serotonin, not other neurotransmitters.

SSRIs may also be used to treat conditions other than depression, such as anxiety disorders.

So, it’s really pretty basic. Serotonin, or lack thereof, is a huge part of depression and anxiety, which means these conditions are often due to a chemical imbalance. That is really important to know, especially for the naysayers. 

Serotonin Matters

And here’s the thing. You can’t just get meds, although they have been a lifesaver for me. You also need to get help to see what things sent you into the spiral so you can deal with them and have a happier life. I went on meds in 1991, and they turned my life around. A doc once asked me if I wanted to try to go off of them at some point. I gave her a big “hell no,” and if asked today, I would say the same thing.

Back to the reason I decided to write this, I’m sharing this part of myself in case someone else may recognize themselves and not know where to turn, or someone knows a person suffering from this and will hopefully be a bit more compassionate. 

Now that I’ve opened the flood gates, I realize I have more to say, but this is enough for now.


If you need help and don’t know where to turn:
https://www.nami.org/Support-Education/NAMI-HelpLine/Top-HelpLine-Resources


Friday, December 4, 2020

I Like PBS, and I Cannot Lie

There I said it. I cannot believe I have to fess up to this, but here it is. I’m sure many of you are thinking, “Yeahhhh, so what’s the big deal?” Well, I’ll tell you. Picture it … Peoria … 1971. (You’ll have to excuse me. I just binged all 180 episodes of The Golden Girls.) 

So, my dad actually brought public television to Peoria. He believed the Peoria area would benefit from educational programming, and once Phil Weinberg set his sights on something, it would pretty much happen. He worked very hard to make it happen, and I have to give him credit for this and his many other accomplishments. So there. I did, and on with the story. 

How did this affect me, you ask? Let me nutshell it for you. There was one station we were allowed to watch in our house when my dad was home. I’ll just bet you can figure out which one it was. Yep, all the other kids got to watch Sanford and Son, but I had to watch PBS. All the other kids got to watch The Brady Bunch, but I had to watch PBS. All the other kids … well, you see the pattern. It goes on FOREVER.

I loved all those years of watching PBS, as you can imagine (she said with sarcasm and attitude). I loved them so much that I swore when I left home, I would never watch PBS again, and if people asked why, I would say, “I was forced to watch it as a child.” 

Disclaimer: I broke this rule when my girls were young because Sesame Street was on two times a day in Champaign … on PBS … and for two hours a day, I could plop my children in front of the TV and have some sanity for myself. Yes, I used Sesame Street as a babysitter, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

So, now that you know the background, here’s the update. When the pandemic started, the governor held a press conference every day, and I liked to watch them because I geek out on press conferences. It’s a fact. That was something I worked with in my professional life, and I liked to watch them to see how well they were run, how well the questions were answered, whether they used correct grammar, etc. I even enjoyed the sign language guy.

The Chicago area PBS station, WTTW, posted the full conferences on their website every day, so I was able to watch them whenever I wanted. At some point I realized to my shock and dismay (remember I’m still sort of new up here), that I was watching PBS. Not a happy day for Andee, but there it was. After several months I thought I really should make a donation to this station that had provided so much viewing pleasure for me, so I got a Passport Membership.

That was the gateway. There’s always a gateway. And before I knew it, I was getting emails about various shows for Passport Members. I thought I would at least read the emails, and before I knew it, I was looking at their website for more information. Let this be a lesson to you. That’s how they get you.

Turns out there are many shows I want to watch. I just looked for a few to mention here, and there are SO MANY. I can’t even begin to list them, but they have documentaries about everything, historical dramas, informational shows, shows about the arts. Ugh, there are so many shows! I was invited to a zoom-type presentation called Behind-the-Scenes of Chicago from the Air. I love Behind-the-Scenes shows, so I read more. Before I knew it, I had registered. I didn’t even know there was a Chicago from the Air program until I saw the email with the Behind-the-Scenes invitation. So, I watched that. It was quite fascinating. So now, of course, I have to watch the actual Chicago from the Air show. 

Fun Fact: Did you know Chicago was built on a grid? AND … the diagonal streets were constructed following the trails used by Native Americans! I learned this by watching … God help me … PBS. I told my girls about this and where I learned it, and they laughed a lot and said, “Bet Grandpa is laughing right now too!” 

Dammit. That’s all I have to say.

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Day My White Bubble Shattered

I have struggled with writing this for a very long time, and now that the Black Lives Matter movement is at the forefront, this has come back to me once again. It’s about the day, I think it was three years ago, when I was stunned to learn that white privilege does exist, and I witnessed it personally.

There were five of us at a nice restaurant in Baltimore. Two of the others were my daughter, Lindsay, and her love, Monroe. I normally wouldn’t make this distinction, but I am for purposes of this post … Monroe is Black.

So we went into this restaurant, and Monroe went to the host stand and asked for a table for five. They said we should wait in the bar until they called us, and we were fine with that. We went to the bar, which was right next to the dining area, and had drinks while we waited. The entire time we were there, we could see, maybe 10 feet away from us, an empty table that could accommodate us. After a short while, Monroe went back to the stand and asked about it. He was told something that didn’t really make sense. It wasn’t reserved, but they wanted to keep it open to balance the table service, something like that.

So we waited some more as we looked at the same open table. Monroe again went back and asked about the table. Again, we were told something that didn’t make sense.

We waited at least 30 minutes, and after I went over to ask, they finally sat us at THAT SAME TABLE and acted like it had been waiting for us all along.

Side note – my former boss and mentor often said if something wasn’t logical, there’s probably another reason for it. This definitely did not make sense. There had to be another reason for it.

At some point I had this horrific realization that I wouldn’t allow myself to believe. Eventually, I had to ask Monroe. I said something like, “Please tell me this didn’t happen because you checked us in and you’re Black.”

In his typically kind manner, with a little half smile, he said, “Just another day in the life.”

That was three years ago, and it still haunts me. That was the day my nice little bubble was shattered. I thought I didn’t have white privilege. I thought the whole concept was exaggerated. I mean, I’m Jewish, so I’ve certainly had some struggles over the years. I understood what a member of a minority could go through. I was in a minority. I got it … until the day I didn’t. I’d had no idea.

I’m still stunned that this happened. I haven’t even talked about it much because I haven’t known what to say. I don’t even know if the other two people in our group had the same perception. But I know this. It was not logical.

Now that several horrific actions have senselessly taken the lives of Black people, my comparatively minor experience has come back to me once again. It wasn’t just a fluke. It has been made very clear that horrible things have happened to people for no reason other than the color of their skin. And let me say this - I’m not angry at all police officers. I’m angry at a society that has turned a blind eye over and over and over again.

This has to change, and it has to change now. And yes, I will be a part of it.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

When Did I Become Old?

I have a lot of time on my hands now since I’m trying to stay home to avoid the coronavirus. I’m still not quite sure as to when I became old. I was living my life just fine, and now, all of a sudden, I’m not just what I refer to as an “active retiree.” The Center for Disease Control has pronounced me “old.”

My grandson likes to say it and give me a hard time about it, but it’s all been in fun mostly. One day we were talking about how much I loved him, and I told him I loved him so much that if a bus were speeding toward him, I would jump in front of it to try to save him, and without missing a beat and in all seriousness, he looked at me and said “…because you’re old.”

My immediate response to him was, “No, it’s because I love you, you little shit!” It’s possible I cleaned it up a little, but that’s exactly what I was saying in my head.

Of my group of friends in Huntley, I’m the youngest, and they’ve always called me the baby. I’ve also been called the nighttime Uber driver. Again, it’s all been in fun.

Until now.

I’m over 60, and I’m suddenly old. I have to hunker down, not just because I’m diabetic. I get that one, although it’s weird to think that being diabetic could cause me to be taken out when I feel fine. But until now, 60 just meant I was 60 (ok, 63 to be exact). I’ve always heard, and said, that age was just a number. You’re only as old as you feel. Remember all those sayings? Where are they now?

Now I’m in an old demographic, and I have to say, I’m slightly offended. A friend in our high school graduating class posted, “So, isn’t it nice to know that the CDC says we are officially old?” It made me laugh a lot because that was exactly what I was feeling! I knew it wasn’t just me, and others agreed.

Inside I’m still the same ‘70s girl who had the ‘70s experience and all that went with it. Well, I’m definitely wiser, I feel much better about myself, and I’m way more responsible; but still. I think I’m the same Andee, only better. I know getting up off the floor takes a little longer; there are hairs that pop out where they never used to be; and I often forget why I walked into a room. But other than that, I’m still me!

I guess I don’t have an important point to make here. Just be kind to all of us newly-old people, please. We were not prepared for this.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Diabetes Was Not In My Life Plan

When I was in my 20s and pregnant with my first baby, life was going along just fine thank you, and out of the blue, my doctor told me I had diabetes. He blew me out of the water, telling me I had flunked the test with flying colors. I had heard of diabetes. I remember a girl in high school passed out and then learned she was diabetic. Other than that, I knew nothing. And this was in the middle of my first pregnancy where I already was realizing I knew less than nothing, and then they threw that at me!

I was told it was likely gestational, which means it happens during pregnancy, and it would probably go away after the baby was born. I was given a diet to follow, and when I asked if there was more I needed to know, I was told, “Just follow the diet.” That was not much help, and it certainly didn’t ease my fears.

Then I heard all the horror stories from various people who really knew nothing. I was told this happened because I ate a lot of candy (not true – well, the candy part was true, but that didn’t cause this). I was told I would probably lose my feet … because that’s what a nurse should tell a pregnant woman who is newly diagnosed with a scary disease. I often got the serious pity look when I told people my news … the look that really helps a person newly diagnosed with anything. One person said, “Oh no! You’re pregnant?? Does your doctor know??”

So as you can probably imagine, it was a very difficult time for me. I was terrified that I would not be able to have a healthy baby. I was pretty scared anyway just trying to bring a baby into the world, and this definitely did not help. Then they told me I had to go into the hospital for a week so I could get my bloodsugar under control and learn how to give myself insulin shots. I tried to pretend I was cool about the whole thing, but I’m sure I wasn’t very convincing.

Moving forward a little bit, I had two healthy babies from diabetic pregnancies. The diabetes was not gestational, and although I was taken off insulin between the pregnancies and for five years after the second one, I was put back on insulin and had to accept I would not be going off of it. It was again upsetting and something I had to come to terms with. I finally did when I read a book called Diabetes Without Fear, and the author wrote about a friend of his who had stomach cancer and said something like, “I’d give anything to be able to give myself shots to stay alive.” That was a big moment. I realized I didn’t have it so bad, and I needed to suck it up and stop feeling sorry for myself.

Ok, fast forward to today, some 30+ years later. I know so much more, technology has come so far, and I've left my state of denial for good. I now have the latest insulin pump, which is referred to as an “artificial pancreas” because it acts the way my pancreas should act but doesn’t. I call her Harriet. I decided if I was going to be so intimately attached to something, it should have a name, and for reasons I do not know, she seemed like a Harriet.

Some days, Harriet pisses me off with all her vibrating alerts, and some days I’m pretty sure I piss her off as well. But most days, we get along pretty well. She lets me know if my bloodsugar is going too high or too low, she tells me if I need to test it, and I’ve learned if I listen to her, my numbers are much better, which means my diabetes is in better control.

Some days, but only on occasion, I tell her to kiss off. Last week, for example, I got to go to Lawry’s The Prime Rib in downtown Chicago, a place I had wanted to go for a very long time, and yeah, that was definitely one of those days. She wasn’t happy about it, and she got a little bitchy, but I told her she needed to simmer down. I enjoyed one of the best meals I’ve ever had, and except for her bitching the rest of the evening, I had no regrets. I knew, though, that the next morning, I needed to clean up my act, because the bottom line is the more I control my diabetes, the less I have to worry about complications.

I have a fabulous doctor now who cheers me on every step of the way. I’ve worked with other great medical professionals over the years as well, who far outweigh the few really awful ones like the nurse mentioned above. Overall I've been very fortunate. One wonderful educator told me to avoid thinking of myself as a diabetic and instead think of myself as a person living with diabetes. That was another big moment. Instead of thinking of myself as a sicko who had to be deprived of so many things, I began to think more that I was someone who could handle this diagnosis and not let it get in my way. When it became more about my decisions and my control, I did a whole lot better. I have never responded well to being told what to do. Some might think I have an attitude, and to that, I say, “No shit.” I do much better when I have been given good information and know the consequences of an action and then choose to behave accordingly.

The amazing thing I have learned is I can keep living my life and take care of my diabetes at the same time. It really doesn’t get in my way most days. I now also have a sensor that monitors my blood sugar and talks to Harriet so she can keep me in line.

I’m so grateful for researchers and new technologies that are getting better all the time. Recently, I talked to a woman who was upset that her young granddaughter had been diagnosed and was using the same pump I have. The girl’s mother can monitor the pump on her smartphone and contact the school when adjustments are needed. I can hardly believe we have come so far! I told the grandma that I wouldn’t wish diabetes on anyone, especially a child, but her granddaughter was diagnosed at the right time. The researchers are making so many advances that I believe diabetes will be cured, if not in my lifetime, certainly in her granddaughter’s.

So, all in all, it doesn’t suck too much. I’d definitely rather not have it, but I’m grateful that it’s something I can live with. I will hopefully get better at not pissing Harriet off, even though sometimes she really is uptight.

This is what I’ve learned about life plans. They don’t usually go as planned. I planned my whole life to be a teacher, and I changed careers after four years. I planned to never be divorced. Oops. I also planned to have four children and willingly stopped after two. But with all of these unplanned things, it really just meant I was going in a different direction. So add this to the list. It wasn’t what I planned, but I’m doing just fine in this different direction.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Ireland!

You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Oh my gosh, my dream trip to Ireland was beyond anything I even imagined. It checked off every box. Here’s my biggest takeaway – if you have a dream trip and you have the chance to take it, please do it. Just please do it if you can. And having said that, I will also say, I’ll try not to be too sappy with this post, but I’m not sure I can do it. I am even more in love with Ireland now, and I’m already thinking about my next trip there.

I should probably tell you the background as to why visiting Ireland was #1 on my bucket list. But first of all, this always makes me chuckle. When I told my mom years ago that I wanted to visit Ireland, she said, “But they drink in Ireland.” She clearly had blocked out all the years I worked in a bar, and that I had already been exposed to drinking because I was an adult...  Oh, that lovely woman still makes me smile every day, and this one is definitely a keeper. One of the things I had dreamed about was sitting in an Irish pub (yes, they just call them “pubs” there) and listening to Irish music and watching Irish dancers, but I decided Mom probably didn’t need all those pub details. I didn’t want to scar her.

Years ago, I started reading books by Maeve Binchy, an Irish author who wrote stories I just loved. I called them my comfort food because I felt so good after reading them. All her stories took place in Ireland, and she made Ireland sound so wonderful that I knew I had to visit someday. Ms. Binchy passed away in 2012, and I was so saddened by her loss that I decided to hold off reading her last book (which she finished three weeks before her death), because if I read it, I wouldn’t have another book of hers to look forward to.

Then when the opportunity for this trip came up, I thought two things: (1) Hell yes, I’m going; and (2) I think it’s time to read that book. So I signed on for the trip, and I bought what would actually be two books because her husband had found enough notes in her desk that her editors could put it into one more book (and how funny is this, it’s called Chestnut Street). Anyway, there’s my love story for Maeve Binchy and my dream to see Ireland.

Here’s the nutshell version of my trip: I saw so many shades of green; the cliffs and the castles are beyond amazing; I didn’t meet one grumpy Irish person; the food was delicious; and as is always the case when I travel, I learned I have a lot more to learn. I will spare you every detail (you’re welcome), but here are some of the highlights:

The lovely couple I sat next to on the plane insisted I look out their window when we were flying in. I gasped because I was so surprised to see what I had always heard about – the many, many shades of green. There they were! They were not kidding about it! So, my first impression of Ireland was a great one.

Then when we got there, we did a lot of touring, and we really did live out of our suitcases. I think we stayed in maybe eight hotels in twelve days. But I knew we had no choice so even Andee was up every morning on time and ready to face the day. Those of you who know me personally know what an accomplishment that is, and really, I just wrote this part to give myself a little shout out, because, well, it’s my blog, and I can.

I had heard from several people that the food would be bland. Well, fortunately and unfortunately, the food was delicious. Every bite … for twelve days … every soup, every salad, every stew, every side dish, every dessert, every bite of someone else’s dessert. We did a lot of eating, and I don’t regret a single bite. I’m having to deal with that now, but I still don’t regret it.

We went to a show one night with Irish musicians and Irish dancers, and I could tell I smiled the entire time because my face hurt. As we were leaving, the performers came out to thank us, and when I told them how much I loved it, I got all choked up because it was the pure joy moment I had dreamed of, so I thanked them and hustled out of there before I started blubbering. When my friends came out, they said, “What did you say back there that made them cry?” (Ugh, it was really not my intention, but then I was moved that they were moved, and so … well, okay, that could go on forever.)

A few randoms:
Pictures do not capture the beauty we saw. They don’t even come close.
Irish sheep out in the fields are really adorable. As hard as I tried, I could get not one decent picture of them.
Guinness is not my favorite drink, but I did drink a pint; I learned all those years I had poured it, we were doing it wrong; and the Irish tip of asking for a little black currant in the bottom of the glass was a lovely way of taking out “the bitter.”
Driving on the left side of the road may be more than I'll choose to undertake.

As I said, I did not meet one grumpy Irish person. And yes, I know they want to sell things to tourists. I know what working the crowd is, and I have a pretty good bullshit meter, but I felt with everyone I met, that they were genuine. They were funny and kind and happy to welcome us, and they’re working people and parents and grandparents just like we are, and I enjoyed them all very much. A shop owner and I had a fun conversation about spoiling grandchildren, which of course, neither one of us did. Another shop owner laughed with joy when I returned for the package I had left behind. He then put my items in a large, bright green bag so I would not lose them again, and he told my two (older) friends (insert Irish accent), “Ladies, you just can’t take these old people around with you, can you?”

We visited Northern Ireland as well, and that’s where I really learned how much I didn’t know. All I knew was there had been fighting there in the 70s & 80s, and Belfast was mentioned on the news a lot. They all refer to that time as “the troubles,” and they’re very happy there’s peace in their world. More than once we heard how grateful they were that their children were growing up seeing American visitors instead of soldiers with guns. They’re worried about Brexit and how it might affect them. Like nearly every parent I’ve ever known, they just want a better world for their children.

I was very touched by their sincerity. In one of our walking tours, we had to go down a stairway. There was another one nearby, and our guide said, yes, we could use that one too. He joked and said the Catholics could go down one, and the Protestants could go down the other. I asked, “Where do the Jews go?” We laughed, and he said I could go down one, and his Hindu-Irish self would go down the other. As we met at the bottom, he held out his hand to me, and we walked off together. You may call it corny, and okay, it was corny, but I also felt the beauty of the moment, and that’s how I will remember it.

As I said, I will spare you all the details of my trip, but again I want to say this. If you have the chance to do something you really, really want to do, please do it. I want everyone to experience those “Oh my God, I’m in Ireland!” moments.

Now that I’m home, I will say this. I have had three experiences in my life where I had the privilege of visiting another country outside North America. Each one was unique, each was a learning experience, and each made me more appreciative of other cultures. And as this trip ended, I got to experience another one of my true joys that never, ever gets old – touching down on American soil and hearing the words, “Welcome to the United States.” There truly is no place like home, and for better or worse, I never forget how lucky I am that this is mine. 🇺🇸