Search

The Wandering Widow

Observations, Tips and Reckless Truth Telling on the Road Through Grief

Tag

Grief Recovery Project

The Wandering Widow’s Grief Recovery Reading List

A Grief Recovery Project Post

As I was packing up my house and offloading most of my worldly possessions, I had the privilege of un-welcoming a new member to The W Club.  Since I couldn’t take them with me, I decided to give her the books that made the most impact on my grief recovery. As I was writing notes to her on how each one made a difference for me, I thought that others might like them too. All of these should be available through your local library if you don’t want to purchase them.

Books on grief and grieving are plentiful, just ask Amazon. Since I was already working with a phenomenal counselor, I found the books that helped me the most weren’t specifically grief related.  And they all came to me when I needed them most. Funny how that happens. Here are my Top 5, in the order they showed up in my life over the course of my first year of widowhood.

1. Carry On Warrior by Glennon Melton

Hi Lisa, Nowhere near what you are dealing with right now, but in my dark postpartum days I found a little light in some of this book. You are the definition of warrior my friend. Love you–E.

One of my besties sent this one to me when she knew I was struggling with talking about how I felt and in real danger of imploding.  Carry On Warrior encouraged me to become a Reckless Truth Teller.  An RTT keeps it real, forgoing the carefully curated image and social media profile. The idea is that we not only help ourselves, we help others by being REAL and authentic. The truth is, we have a lot of people in our lives who would like to help us, they just don’t know how. If we can’t share with them, they become just as helpless as we are. This book encouraged me to blog about my grief journey, in all its good and ugly bits, and not try to keep my grief to myself.

2. Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser

“And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” –Anais Nin

Another sweet friend gave this one to me.  Have you heard of kintsugi or kintsukuroi? It’s the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with resin and gold to make it more beautiful than it was before. Broken Open encourages us to be accepting of what is, and allow ourselves to be okay with being broken. That by having been broken we are made stronger and more beautiful. This book resonated with me in a way none of the others did.  Every other page would find me exclaiming out loud, “Yes!”  I sobbed. I highlighted. I wrote notes in the margins. I fell in love with each quote Lesser included as if they were selected just for me. I realized that being broken open allowed me to grow and that our greatest tragedies can also be the catalyst for our most significant transformations.

3. When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron

“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.”

I was struggling through the middle of an 8-week meditation challenge when this book showed up, a recommendation by another widow and I couldn’t wait to read it. This was the least emotional of the five books on this list, but the advice within was sound and incredibly helpful. The basic premise is that we create our pain and suffering through our expectations. That once we accept that death and suffering are inevitable parts of being alive, we can find true peace. It’s a bit dry, but I filtered all of that down to a very Buddhist version of Live Now.

4. Blessed Are The Weird by Jacob Nordby

“Lisa, this book is written by one of my close friends, and I think you will really enjoy it. It’s deep, it’s insightful, and I think you’ll find yourself nodding along throughout the book.” –M.

Another gift, this was intended to be inflight reading for my spring trip to Europe, but I didn’t get to it until after I was home. I started reading at a time when I was beginning to struggle to keep my newly rediscovered happiness, and questioning whether or not to continue blogging about my grief journey.  I’d been debating (or talking myself out of) starting a new creative project. Nordby’s passion and dedication to the creative weirdos inspired me to begin the new project and beg for a meeting. This book also started me down the path of walking away from everything I know in search of my Live Now adventure.

5. The Afterlife of Billy Fingers by Annie Kagan

“Keep listening for my voice, and always, always and forever remember my love.”

When Jacob Nordby, author of Blessed Are The Weird, and I met for coffee and a mutual sharing of our stories, he told me about this book. Jacob thought I’d like this one, and he was correct. Written by a woman who lost her older brother, this book chronicles her experiences of communicating with him as he shared his view of the afterlife. (FYI, I don’t care what your beliefs are, there is no room to tear apart someone else’s coping mechanisms). Since none of us has a way to travel there and report back, I found this book comforting and full of hope.   When you watch someone die a gruesome and violent death, the idea that the afterlife is peaceful is one that brings peace. And, as it appeared in my life close to the one-year deathiversary milestone, it also felt a little like Dan was saying the good-bye he wasn’t able to a year ago.

So there you have it, my Top 5 favorite grief journey books. If you have one, not on this list, I’d love to hear about it.

XOXO,
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce

BONUS BOOK:

You already know about my fondness for J.M. Storm’s writing. If his poems were songs, they would have been the soundtrack to the last year of my life. His book, In My Head was the only book to make the cut and make it in my suitcase for this adventure abroad.

Surviving Grief Milestones Alone

A Wondering Widow Post

When I started this grand adventure, there were only a few things I feared. One of those was this two-week period in November that encompasses four back-to-back grief milestones. I wasn’t afraid of the days themselves; I’d already survived them once before. No, what I was afraid of was attempting to get through them all by myself, 5000 miles away from my family and friends. Although my new friends have reminded me I’m not alone even though I’m far from home.

I will not allow my fears to limit my life. And while I could feel my stomach starting to knot up as the first date approached, this was no exception. So I broke bad with a little strategery and will power. I made sure to stack my calendar with fun activities and outings with new friends. My family and friends back home were put on a regular FaceTime schedule so I wouldn’t feel so isolated. And my lovely W’s surrounded me with their long-distance love and support. And most importantly, I gave myself permission to feel the feelings, good or bad. And they’ve been mostly good.

And I made it through the first milestone, the second anniversary of losing my Dad. For those of you who are new, losing him kicked off my downward spiral year-and-a-half of hell. My Dad died a month after we learned of Dan’s terminal diagnosis, and eight months before I lost Dan. The day I told him about it he was heartbroken since he loved Dan like his son. I didn’t want to tell him but had to fess up that I was going to break my promise to visit him every day due to Dan’s chemo schedule and care needs.

We had a heart-wrenching conversation about it. We’d already had a plan of care meeting scheduled for that day, and Dad shared with the social worker that he was concerned about his family and that he didn’t want to be a burden. He believed it was too much for me to deal with and he didn’t want me to visit anymore. My tough as nails samurai Dad cried. I cried. Hell, the social worker and head nurse cried. It was horrible. And, in case you were wondering, I did successfully negotiate my way into continued visitation rights.

That was the last time we had a lucid two-way conversation. Dad knew caring for both of them was going to break me but that I was going to do it anyway. With each visit, I noticed he was a little further away. I will always believe Dad let go intentionally, his last sacrifice to take care of his little girl. I saw it in his eyes that day that he’d made the decision. For those of you who never met him, my Daddy had a willpower like no other. He quit smoking cold turkey the day I was born. He approached everything in life that way. When nothing else would work, sheer will would win the day. That was the Ikeda way. He was the strongest person I’ve ever known. So when he decided that it was time for him to go, it was go time. That Friday the 13th (he was also a real joker) he’d waited until after I’d already visited and til his favorite nurses had left for the weekend. He was alone, which was how he wanted it. No drama, no fuss.

People that knew my Dad have told me that I’m just like him. I take that as a huge compliment, even though I don’t always see it. But I know he’d be proud of me, willpower-ing my survival through this grief journey and all these $hitty milestones. He’d high-five my efforts to re-frame these dates with new happy memories. And he’d give me one of those magic hugs and tell me he loved me and to have faith that everything was going to be okay.

Whew. One down, three milestones to go.  But with the help of Team Lisa and the will to choose a positive outlook, I’ve got this. Everything is going to be okay.

XOXO,
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce

P.S. If you are lucky enough to have your Daddy with you, please stop what you are doing and call him or visit him RIGHT THIS FREAKING MINUTE! Hug him for me. Tell him you love him for you.

One of the last photos before Parkinson’s Disease stole his ability to smile.

Adventure Part 10 – Kildare, Ireland

A Wandering Widow Post

I wrote in my last post about the essential role Forgiveness played in my Grief Recovery Journey. And I’ve worked incredibly hard at it. But if I’m entirely truthful, I have still struggled to forgive God/The Divine/The Universe/Whatever You Want to Call It for allowing two of the people I’ve loved most in the world to suffer and die the way they did. ALERT: This is not a religious post, so if you’re thinking about chiming in about faith and spirituality, or with any religious platitudes, you can back that truck up right now. Go on, back it up. I’ll wait. A little more. Yep, okay we’re good.

Just like those I visited in Scotland, Ireland has many ancient sacred sites that I wanted to see. Without a car, that was next to impossible. I got a great referral to Teresa Collins, a psychic medium who does private tours of sacred sites, and booked a day with her. With decision making fatigue setting in, I decided to go with the flow.  And in a “hey show me watcha got” move I let her choose our itinerary based upon what she thought I needed most. I just knew I wanted to go somewhere interesting that most people don’t get to see.   She picked me up in Kilkenny bright and early and we headed out to Kildare to explore the sites associated with St. Brigid. Not the stone circles I was anticipating, but still fascinating, so coolio.

We visited some beautiful places, but the best part was the surprise meeting she’d set up for me with Sister Mary of the Brigidine Sisters of Ireland. I’m not Catholic, and the only things I know about the Catholic faith are what my beautiful friend A.E. has taught me over the last few years. I knew nothing about Brigid (Saint or Goddess) except for what I crammed the two days before our tour. I won’t go into details since this was a profoundly moving experience for me, but it was a quantum leap forward in my grief recovery.  All I know is I left with peace, love, and forgiveness in my heart and a Sister Mary hug to go with it. I’d say Teresa knew exactly what I needed.

XOXO,
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce

BRIGID

St. Brigid of Kildare was born in the mid-5th century. She was a spiritual leader, peacemaker, and an advocate for the poor. She also bridged the pre-Christian Celtic and Christian Celtic Spirit, establishing monasteries for both men and women. Unusual for her time, she also held a leadership role in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

IMGP2557

The Solas Bhríde Centre is close to both St. Brigid’s well and St. Brigid’s Cathedral, the original site of the monestary. The Centre and Hermitages are unique for many reasons, one of which is their commitment to protecting the environment. The facility uses 0% fossil fuels, being powered by wind, solar and ice tubes. Ice tubes were new to me, but the simplistic explanation I took away was that it works similar to the warm coils in the back of the freezer, only in this case it’s the reverse. The ice tubes provide heat. Pretty cool stuff.


Contact The Brigidine Sisters for an appointment if you’re interested in learning more about what they do or want to book a stay in the hermitages.

IRISH NATIONAL STUD

I’d seen the Irish National Stud on a map of Ireland as I was preparing to leave Scotland. I thought it was funny, and even made jokes about how us single ladies would appreciate it if all maps were so clearly labeled. Whomp Whomp. Guess you had to have been there.

The National Stud is where Ireland’s prized stallions are stabled and live a life of luxury in a stall larger than my first apartment.  It is amazing. In addition to the stables, there are beautiful gardens onsite available to tour. If you’re in Kildare, don’t miss it. Oh, and just in case you aren’t used to being around prize stallions worth more than your entire stock portfolio, standing at the edge of the paddock exclaiming, “Ooh look at the pretty horseys,” is not how you look cool.

THE JAPANESE GARDENS

I’ve seen a lot of Japanese gardens in my life, and the one at Kildare is one of my all time favorites. Definitely in my Top 5 if not tied for first place.  Designed by Tassa Eida in 1906, this garden packs a lot into a small space. The garden represents the journey of life we all must take, and walking the symbolic paths from birth through death is like being transported into a Japanese poem.  I almost cried at the end when I reached the Hill of Mourning. i’m so glad I ended up here in the fall since that’s when Japanese gardens are at their most beautiful.

IMGP2576
Even if there was such a thing as an Easy Path, the Path of Life is so much more beautiful.

IMGP2581IMGP2585IMGP2593

 

ST. FIACHRA’S GARDEN

A tribute to Ireland’s natural beauty, St. Fiachra’s Garden is almost wild compared to the formality of the Japanese Garden. Take the time to stroll through and find the fairy gardens and sculptures hidden in the trees. You can even walk through a reproduction beehive shaped stone monastic cell, which you can still find ruins of all over Ireland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgiveness and Grief Recovery

A Grief Recovery Project Post

to-forgive-is-to-set-a-prisoner-free-and-discover-that-the-prisoner-was-you

Considering we teach children that forgiveness is a good thing, we really suck at it as adults. It’s been the hardest thing for me about my Grief Recovery Project. In the quiet hours when we’re alone, it’s all too easy to go back to the dark side of anger and blame.

It took a long time for me to realize how much anger I was holding on to. Once I finally acknowledged the rage that had been simmering under the surface, I had the monumental task of working my way through it. Remember playing hot lava as a kid? I was unconsciously jumping over that anger, which was making it impossible for me to move forward with healing. Feel the feelings, remember? Those of you that had a front row seat to my Hulk Smash mode know that I did finally explode. Thanks for sticking with me when I was a big, green, rage monster.

After lots of crying, screaming, and gnashing of teeth I forgave. I forgave the doctors for not saving him, and for their role in stretching out his suffering needlessly. I forgave Dan for dying and leaving me. I forgave a lot of people for a lot of things. And I eventually forgave myself, although that took a lot longer. Funny how much easier it is to forgive someone who took advantage of you in your moment of vulnerability than it is to forgive yourself for failing to save the one you love the most. But forgiveness slowly happened, and my burden got a titch lighter.

save

You know I like to dissect things, so I still look at forgiveness often. I’ve come to view it not only as a powerful and necessary grief recovery tool but lately as an important part of the Live Now philosophy. You’ve heard me talk about living every moment to the fullest, of making sure your friends and family know how much you love them, and of not letting fear stand in your way of living. Well, life is also too short to deprive yourself of peace because you are angry.

If only we could forgive as quickly as we cut people out of our lives. A few years ago Dan and a family member severed ties. When he knew he was running out of time, he wanted to mend fences, but the other person wouldn’t cooperate. (Geez! Hatfields and McCoys got nothing on Bains). It created a lot of pain for Dan that he was going to die without being able to say his final peace. By the time the other individual agreed to meet, Dan had lost most of his ability to speak. He’d also lost his interest in ripping this individual a new one. He’d figured out that forgiveness was all that mattered. He knew that at the end, being right wasn’t important. He’d learned that the time we waste being angry and hurt only deprives us of any possibility of good things that may come from forgiving, even if the other person doesn’t care to receive it.

I’ve come to believe that forgiveness is what allows us to move forward with the new lives our grief journeys lead us to. However you get there, I wish you the peace it brings.

XOXO,
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding Grief: Grief Recovery is a Privilege 

A Wondering Widow Post

I was recently accused of putting a positive spin on grief, and it wasn’t intended as a compliment. I won’t lie. Once, when someone screamed at me in anger that I was Pollyanna, I thanked them and took it as one of the best compliments I’d ever received. And that was before cancer ever showed up on our radar. I DO try to find the glittery silver lining in whatever $hitclouds life throws my way. I know some people find it annoying. But it’s how I survive. No matter what, I choose to believe people are good, things get better, and love is real. There you go, a little Lisa 101 to give you a point of reference.

But no. No matter how hard we try to focus on the positive, there is no positive spin on grief. WE can grow and transform and develop, but grief itself sucks. It’s the evil joy stealing vampire that won’t let go of your heart. Ever. Ever ever. But you can find a way to make it less deadly and more symbiotic, like one of those gross fish parasites. How’s that for a lovely visual with your morning Cheerios?

Those of you that have been following along know I was repeatedly encouraged by my grief counselors to “feel the feelings” and that I chose to go deep into the grief recovery process. I’d usually say that I dove head first, but in this case, I could only push myself up from the bottom of the abyss. And I recognize it was a privilege to be able to do so.

I talk to the other widows in my tribe regularly. From all over the world; in person and online, we share our grief journeys. And the thing I don’t usually like to talk about is not everyone moves forward. Not everyone can, and not everyone wants to. I’ve met widows that have been on this journey for years, sometimes decades. And they are stuck. They weren’t allowed to grieve the way they needed to and have lived with the pain for so long they don’t know how to get out and no longer care. They have been abandoned or left behind by family and friends who couldn’t handle their grief. They are no longer living and wrap their grief around them like an old tattered blanket. Maybe it’s better to have something familiar and horrible than something new and scary and MAYBE beautiful. (FYI, for those of you even thinking about telling a widow she needs to move forward or that she’s stuck, please see me first so I can throat punch some sense into you).

I’ve also met widows that have no help. On top of the emotional black hole, they are struggling to survive on their own financially.  Taking time to “feel the feelings” is a luxury they don’t have. Not dealing with the feelings takes a toll on your physical health and mental well-being. It’s a vicious cycle. There is a reason that widows as a demographic live at or below the poverty level. My heart breaks for them. I know that I am one of the lucky ones.

So many widows are forced to go back to work before they are emotionally ready. I worked for the world’s BEST company who not only waited for me, they picked up a f@#$%^g sword and helped me fight my way back to life. When I made the difficult decision to leave, they lifted me up on their shields and celebrated my survival and new adventure like a bada$$ Viking queen. I am blessed. I know not everyone has that kind of support network.

And unlike many of my fellow widows, Dan and I had the chance to say the things most of us think we have more time for. We chose not to say goodbye because there wasn’t enough oxygen on this planet to allow us to breathe those words out loud.  But I know without a doubt that Dan loved me, and that he knew I loved him. I know without a doubt that my family and friends love me and have saved me repeatedly, from the worst situations to just holding space with me when they didn’t know what else to do. I have no question in my heart about how much I am loved.

After spending so much time being miserable, bitter, hurt and angry about how life cheated me out of my happily ever after, I’ve worked hard to find the positives and be grateful for the time we had. And don’t for a second fool yourself into thinking it’s easy. Learning to re-frame life’s most f@#$%d up moment is harder than any mountain climb I’ve ever done. And I think that’s what makes the most significant difference of all. When I meet all of these widows at varying stages of their grief journeys the ones that can still be grateful for what was, in spite of the pain of what is, seem to be the ones that find it “easiest” to move forward.

To my fellow grievers, my random thoughts are in no way meant as any form of judgment. We all walk paths that are unique to us. When the clouds roll in, and I’m straining to find the silver lining, I pull that glitter straight out of my heart and throw it around until I can find some light. I’m happy to share if you need some for yours. And no matter where you are on your journey, don’t ever forget you’re not alone, you matter, and you are loved.  Of that I’m positive.

XOXO,
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.

P/C Pixabay

Broken Is Beautiful

A Wondering Widow Post

Kintsugi, or Kintsukuroi, is the Japanese aesthetic that repairs broken pottery with lacquer mixed with gold powder. The belief is that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken. This philosophy honors its survival rather than hiding the fact it was once damaged.


I love this metaphor as it applies to grief recovery, and not just because glitter is my favorite color. I can remember sitting with my grief counselor bawling about how broken I was. And being broken was terrifying. But somehow owning my brokenness, out loud, made it a little better. The simple act of acknowledging my being shattered meant that I also had the opportunity to put myself back together. Someday. With precious metal as the glue.

And it wasn’t easy, but it happened. First I had to crawl around on the floor picking up as many shards of my life as I could find. I was already a broken mess of a grieving human being and their sharp edges cut me open as I tried to make them fit where they once belonged. No one warned me that the grief recovery process could be so gruesome, bloody and painful. What I couldn’t find either couldn’t be replaced or didn’t need to be. The reality is when you’ve suffered a massive loss, you’ll never go back to being the person you once were. Some of those shattered pieces of your heart just turn to dust.

The good news is, with time, your heart has the potential to end up stronger, and more beautiful than you could have ever imagined. Those missing pieces create space for the light to get in, and eventually for sparkly precious metals.


A few months ago I had a conversation with a friend and fellow W. We were discussing our grief journeys, our survival, and the fact that we were both transformed into new people through the grief recovery process. Stronger, kinder, wiser, braver, more loving people. We struggled for words for a bit but were eventually able to express that it was the deaths of our beloveds that were the catalyst for us to become these better people. We were able to take the horror and the pain and transform their loss into a blessing. And that while we never wanted it, we were grateful for all of it. I’m sure if anyone else had been eavesdropping it would have been an odd conversation, but we knew what we meant. Grief’s fiery forges took the raw material of who we used to be and made us MORE.


Neither of us would have EVER surrendered our husbands no matter what kind of higher evolution was waiting for us, but we didn’t get a vote. 

And no matter how much time goes by, or how much happiness I’ve created in my new life, every now and again I find another shard. It slices through the soft pink scar tissue of my heart. It hurts. But I know that it’s just a matter of time before it’s glued in there with gold.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.

Adventure Part 7 – Killarney, Ireland

A Wandering Widow Post

Killarney was one of the stops I’d made on my spring trip, and I had some unfinished shenanigans that needed my attention. Since I am leaving a lot to chance on this adventure, it made perfect sense to travel from Northern Ireland to about as far South as I could go in one day. Um, no. It’s a good thing I’m not in a hurry because I spent a whole day on trains, trams, and buses. Fortunately, I continue to luck out meeting cool new people on trains, and this travel day was no exception.

It was also the first place on this adventure I was going back to with a big item that needed checking off my list, and I found my closure at a whiskey bar. I know you’re shocked, but I’m convinced all good stories start with whiskey.

When I first visited Killarney in April, I was having a rough time. I was having fun, but crying myself to sleep every night that I was here on this dream vacation without Dan. After two weeks on the road, I was tired of living out of a suitcase. (That sounds hilarious now). I was tired of getting lost everywhere I went. (Also hilarious since Killarney isn’t large enough to get lost in unless you’re like me and getting lost is your superpower).

So there I was, tired, hangry, and couldn’t find my way back to my hotel. To prevent yet another public cryfest, I got angry. I started yelling at Dan (in my head, no need to let ALL the cray-cray hang out) that this was all his fault. I was angry at him for dying. I was angry that he’d made me promise to take this trip anyway. And I was hangry and knew I was going to lose it soon. I yelled at him to find me a place to have a good meal and an even better whiskey, that wasn’t too crowded with tourists at that hour.

Imagine my surprise and relief when I turned the corner and found Murphy’s Whiskey Bar. My lunch was fantastic, and I did get to try a fancy new whiskey. I also noticed a wall of American police patches behind the bar. There were none from Idaho. It felt like Dan had led me to that spot, and that’s where he wanted his last Caldwell PD patch to end up. (I’d found it in a box just before leaving for Europe). So, threads still attached from where I cut it off his uniform, it’s traveled with me ever since I left home. Now it lives at Murphy’s. Somewhere he is laughing that not only is he hanging out in a bar, he’s also hanging out in an Irish whiskey bar with a bunch of other cops.

The only thing better than checking one off the list is having friends there to help you. All the way from Idaho!

 

When you visit Murphy’s on your next trip to Killarney, look up and raise your glass to Dan Bain. I officially close this chapter of the adventure. Cheers. (Details below as usual)

XOXO,
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.

 

 

THE KILLARNEY PUB CRAWL

Killarney caters to tourists, and you can find live music pretty much every day of the week. I ran out of nights to check it all out.

***PSA: Ordering a Black and Tan or Irish Car Bomb at ANY bar in Ireland makes you an insensitive ass. (If you don’t know why, pick up a freaking history book or google The Troubles). You may be asked to leave. Even if you’re allowed to stay, you’re now embarrassing me. Don’t do it.***

Murphy’s Whiskey Bar: There are two sides to Murphy’s, separated by hotel reception. The cop patches are only on one side (door number three). An excellent choice for lunch or dinner, with an extensive whiskey collection and live music on the weekends. And you can’t forget your opportunity to take a photo of that super sexy Caldwell PD patch for Facebook and Instagram. Tag me so I can send you a virtual high five.

Here’s the scoop on the patches. For my non-American friends, historically many US cops have had Irish heritage and a strong connection to Ireland.  One or two patches showed up at the bar one day, and more followed suit. You know how that goes, it then takes on a life of its own. Each patch is a story about how it got there and the person or department it’s connected to. I love that Murphy’s allows them to stay, and that Dan Bain and Caldwell, Idaho (and maybe even me, too) are now part of it.

The Lane Cafe Bar (in the Ross Hotel): If you’re tired of traditional Irish pubs (we’ll have a chat about that later) this contemporary cocktail bar will take good care of you. Good food and a surprisingly large menu considering cocktails in Ireland are limited to two shots.

The Killarney Grand/Liquid Lounge: Live music every night in the traditional bar on the ground floor. Upstairs is a cocktail bar that opens around 11:30 pm with a fantastic piano player.

Reidy’s: Fun place with multiple bars, each with their own theme. Start at the front and keep working your way back until you find a spot you like.

Courtney’s: Pulling pints in three centuries, this traditional pub has a cool, down-to-earth vibe. Perfect place for a pint or a whiskey. TIP: the fireplace is en fuego hot, so don’t stand too close unless you want to set your backside on fire.

O’Conners: Another traditional pub, covered with signed dollar bills. O’Conners will have a soft spot in my heart as the place I tried my first Guinness.

THE FOOD

The Flesk: Open only for dinner, and I recommend making reservations. A friend suggested this place, and it didn’t disappoint. Excellent seafood and superior service. I wasn’t out of place in my usual jeans and hiking boots, but you would also blend in if you wanted to dress up a little. Thomas was a gracious host, and you’ll have to ask him about the connection with the American Legion.

THE RUGGED STUFF

IMGP2171
Torc Waterfall

 

Last time I was here I wasn’t able to get out and do any hiking. I overcame my reluctance to hike alone because the trails in Killarney National Park desperately needed my footprints. Glad I did because I found one that’s now on my Top Ten. I’d say “check that one off the list” but know I’ll be back for more. The proximity of this beautiful National Park to the center of town is hands-down my favorite thing about Killarney.

You know I hate driving, so the hop on/hop off Red Bus was my best friend to get to and from town to Killarney National Park sites. Torc Waterfall is about a 5-10 minute walk from the parking lot where you get dropped off. Don’t stop there or you’ll miss all the views. There are three looped trails with varying degrees of difficulty and length to choose from, and bathrooms next to the parking lot.

IMGP2166

Keep going, and you can follow a trail along the lake past the Muckross House estate. It’s easy, beautiful and it goes for miles. I encountered only one other hiker that day, so it was like we had the lake to ourselves. I loved it so much I went back more than once. The bus will get you back to town when you’re ready.

IMGP2223

Want to stay on a paved path but still be in nature? Start at Killarney House and Gardens and continue until you get to the River Walk. Paths are well marked and maintained, and you’ll get to enjoy some up-close views of the red deer and Kerry cows that roam the area. I know towns and cities in the US that would kill to have a natural resource like this.

IMGP2363IMGP2331

Unfortunately, all the ocean-faring activities I’d hoped to do wrapped up at the end of September due to weather. Even when you don’t have a hurricane headed your way, the season ends the first part of October. It looks like I have yet another reason to come back. If boating out to the Skellig or Blasket Islands is a high priority for you, be sure to plan accordingly.

THE PEOPLE

I still can’t get over how friendly people are here. When I got into town, my new neighbors picked me up at the train station, took me to the market, and checked on me every day. And I lucked out with the Airbnb jackpot. Great place and the most attentive and friendly host I’ve ever met, and that’s saying something since they’ve all been fantastic.

Everyone I met gave me great tips for dining and suggestions for the next stops on my adventure through Ireland. I don’t know if they make everyone in Killarney kiss the Blarney Stone when they are born, but I’ve heard the best stories since I got here, and been in stitches since everyone also seems to be a comedian. Even the rare cranky ones.

 

 

BONUS BEACH DAY!

Hurricane Ophelia blew out all the grey weather and my last full day in Killarney dawned with sunny, warm, blue skies. Since I’ve been so openly in love with Scotland’s beaches, one of my Irish friends decided I needed to give Ireland’s a fair shot. Yowzas, I’m torn. I love the Carribean blue and wildness of the beaches in the Orkneys and Hebrides, but being able to run around the beach and watch surfers without a jacket won out for personal enjoyment. I could have stayed forever.

A short drive up to North Kerry made for a fun afternoon of beach hopping. Ballybunion Beach was my favorite of the five with the cliffs, castle ruins, and a long stretch of sandy beach. I’d recommend staying the night, so you don’t have to rush back, but be aware that most restaurants close up shop in October.

The Kids Are Watching

A Wandering Widow Post

In case you haven’t figured it out by now,  I live in “unconventional” mode as I endeavor to figure out this new post-Dan reality. I try hard to be a good person, but after decades of taking care of everyone else first, these days I do what I want. I don’t feel bad about eating or drinking like a rock star, sleeping in or staying out all night. I don’t feel guilty about leaving home to live the life of a nomad. I don’t feel guilty that I haven’t got a clue where I’m going next or when/if I’ll ever come home. I don’t even feel bad about the fact that other teenagers who have shown up with nieces and nephews were warned not to be shocked by their Aunty Pirate who SOMETIMES sports a colorful vocabulary that could make a Marine blush. Before you lecture me, they hear it all at school. And I kinda DGAF.

But there is one thing for which I give many f@#$s. I’ve recently learned there is a group of young people who are watching my every adventure move. Their parents are sharing my travel stories (language cleaned up, of course), or they are following on their own. (Dear parents, rest assured I keep Instagram clean). I have heard that teenagers sit around sometimes and talk about what adventure I had that week. OMG!

This knowledge is overwhelming on multiple levels. For the first time in life, cause it sure didn’t happen when I was one, some teenagers think I’m cool. I’d high five myself, but what a freaking responsibility. I’ve said from day one of this adventure that what I want my nieces and nephews to remember about me is that I lived the #$!@ out of every minute and that no matter how scared I was, I never let fear stop me from pursuing life and love. I want them to learn that risks are worth taking and that making memories will always be more important than acquiring things. I want them to know that sometimes life is $hit for no reason (thank you Sheila for this quote), but we have a choice in how we move forward when bad things happen. If your kids are following along, I wish the same for them too. And, no promises, I’ll see what I can do about the language.

XOXO,
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.

Adventure Part 6-Northern Ireland

A Wandering Widow Post

Before I left Scotland, someone in Glasgow described Belfast to me as very European, and I had no idea what that meant. I get it now. Belfast boasts a diverse population with a seemingly endless supply of shops, restaurants and pubs to enjoy. If Scotland’s landscapes and single malts are rugged and handsome, those in Belfast are smooth, charming and a helluva lotta fun. Wait, what were we talking about?

Unlike Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, this was my first trip to Northern Ireland. For those of you who didn’t pay attention in school, NI is a separate country and part of the UK. I’d heard that the people of Belfast like to have a good time, are iffy when it comes to the rules, and have a quick (and dark) sense of humor. All accurate from what I’ve observed. My outsider’s theory is that their experiences during the Troubles have cultivated a collective “Live Now” attitude, which resonates with my heart and might be why I fell in love with it instantly.

It hasn’t stopped raining since I got here, but it feels warm and welcoming nonetheless. I’ve spent a good chunk of my waking hours laughing, and laughter is good for the soul. The day I spent at the salon getting my hair cut, laughing so hard I was almost crying at my sassy young stylist’s descriptions of Irish men and football players by region. I’m laughing out loud right now as I remember it. She should take that comedy bit on the road! Or listening to my driver’s explanation why Belfast is the best city in Europe. (FYI every taxi driver in every city I’ve been in insists their city is the best value for the money). Or laughing while listening (it’s not eavesdropping if they’re so loud you can’t help it) to a group of university students’ thoughts on life, girls, and why they are going to solve the world’s problems. Cheers dudes, I genuinely hope you do.

Don’t get me wrong; Northern Ireland has its share of rugged beauty. With the Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-rede (not for the faint of heart) rope bridge, and countless miles of gorgeous hiking trails, there is a lot more to this place than just the city.

Although after just one afternoon I decided to make Belfast my home base for this week. I had to hopscotch my hotels a bit since the sold-out FIFA World Cup qualifier between Northern Ireland and Germany affected availability significantly. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Right? I got laughed at by everyone I asked about getting a ticket, but thanks to some new friends I connected with a lovely gentleman who was too ill to attend (I really hope you’re feeling better Dave!) who agreed to sell me his ticket since I was a visitor. Wow. What a memorable experience! To all the doubters who told me to give up trying, this is a good reminder that all kinds of good things can happen in life if you have faith, friends, and don’t quit taking chances.

One of my faves.

If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, don’t forget to head north. I fell in love with Belfast and will be back soon since a week wasn’t nearly enough time to get to know this city. (Details below as usual).

XOXO,
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.

 

THE WHISKEY

That’s right you typo maniacs, now that I’m in Northern Ireland that’s how you spell it. There’s lots of it. Some of it is crap, some blessed by the angels. Maybe someday when I’ve completed the Scottish single malt challenge, I’ll start working my way through all the Irish stuff. Until then, you’ll have to decide for yourself what your favorite is. My current splurge is the Redbreast 21, and I will forever owe a couple of cool Canadian dudes for this recommendation.

THE PUBS

There is no way to get through all of them, so here are a few I recommend.

Brennan’s Bar (City Centre):
Fabulous service, decent pub food, good wifi, and Sunday’s feature an all-male staff. Don’t judge me. It backs up to a tiny street called Bains Place, so I was obviously meant to be there. That and it came highly recommended by some Idaho friends who were recently here. Thanks Jimmy and Michelle!

The Crown Bar (City Centre):
Owned by the National Trust and directly across the street from the Europa Hotel, the Crown features some incredible woodwork and stained glass. This place is worth a look even if you don’t like pubs, but it’s likely to be packed at all hours of the day.

The Harp Bar (Cathedral Quarter):
This one came highly recommended by my Belfast guru, and I can see why. We loved it so much we went back three times! The live music and atmosphere quickly made it our favorite place. My only complaint is that my drinks were always double the price when poured by a female bartender.

The Dirty Onion (Cathedral Quarter):
One of several pubs that claim to be the oldest building in Belfast. Friday night was rocking with fantastic live music, and the patio was full. Sunday night not so much. It’s around the corner from Harp Bar and The Duke of York, so be sure to stop in.

THE FOOD

Just like the whiskey and the pubs, there are almost unlimited dining options, so here are my two favorites.

Hadski’s (Cathedral Quarter): An epic Belfast Pub Crawl can really work up an appetite. We found Hadski’s and lucked out. They were full, but had two seats open in front of the chef. Are you kidding me? Those are the best seats in the house because your dinner comes with a show. The food was plated so beautifully I felt bad digging into it. Then I realized it was so delicious I didn’t care and had to refrain from licking the plate. If you’re going to be in the Cathedral Quarter, go there. Happy noms!

Fratelli’s (City Centre): I stayed in City Centre for a few days. I liked Fratelli’s and dined there more than once. I’d describe the food as Italian with a delicious twist, and the restaurant has a robust wine menu. Hey, a girl can’t live on whiskey and pub food alone.  Excellent service despite being a solo diner on very busy evenings.

THE RUGGED STUFF

Giant’s Causeway: This lengthy stretch of hexagonal basalt columns is geology nerd cool, and far more accessible than Scotland’s Isle of Staffa. That may also be why it was less impressive to me. Sorry, Northern Ireland. I still liked it, just wish I’d visited the Causeway before Staffa. My recommendation is to get there first thing in the morning (or late in the day) to avoid busloads of annoying tourists.

IMGP2148

I promise to give it another shot. I do appreciate that so many people can go to experience the science behind this world heritage site, and it looks like some fun hiking. Minus the tourists. And before you say it, I’m a traveler, not a tourist. Completely different mindset and behavior.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge: They closed the bridge for crossing the day I visited due to crazy high winds. While disappointing, I didn’t come all this way to die. It’s a freaking rope bridge. It sways in the wind. If the wind were strong enough to push grown men (and one short girl) around on the trail, attempting a crossing would be beyond terrifying. I’ll be back to take on that bridge another day.

 

THE HISTORY

The Troubles: In my opinion, political history tours about the Troubles are necessary for foreigners to understand the current culture of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. When I mentioned the Troubles to family and friends back home, I was surprised how few people knew anything about it beyond a song by U2 or some vague recollection of the IRA. I know it isn’t our country’s history, but it is part of our global history and no different from taking a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii or visiting the Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan. I won’t go into detail (click the link to educate yourself) but felt the tour I did was pretty neutral and fact-based, and I learned a lot. Kudos to my guide JR because I was unable to guess which side he’d grown up on, and he still won’t tell me.

Another thing I think I liked about Belfast, is directly related to the Troubles. I can’t quite put my finger on it and will probably butcher this, but there were so many widows created here during that time frame that my being a young W is no big whoop since everyone knows one and it doesn’t make me a freak of nature like I often feel at home with non-W’s. The loss of life during The Troubles is horrifying but, for the first time since Dan died, I feel like my tribe has expanded beyond my local widow’s group to an entire community. As I said, there is no clear or easy way to describe it, it’s just a feeling I have.

Quote
This quote is part of a display at Belfast City Hall.  This last room on the tour displayed several quotes from widows on both sides of the conflict. It was powerful and emotional and I had to leave before I lost it.

 

Irish Genealogy: Do you claim Irish heritage? JR gave me a good tip, and I spent some time at PRONI, the Public Records office, trying to track down additional information on my great-great-great-great-grandparents who left Co Antrim sometime after 1802 for the US. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information available before the mid to late-1800s unless you know what church your ancestors belonged to, so the only new bit of information I was able to glean was the name of their parish. Kudos to the lovely Paul who spent a fair amount of time helping me search, even though I could tell by his facial expression that it was hopeless. And the fact he said to me that it was almost undoubtedly impossible if I didn’t know the church affiliation. (Dear Paul’s Boss: Please give him a raise because he didn’t roll his eyes once despite my endless and annoying questions and “what if” optimism).

There is no charge to visit PRONI, but you’ll need valid government-issued photo identification to access the records. Your passport will do fine to get your new official ID card. PRONI is just a short walk from the Titanic Museum, so if this is something you’re interested in schedule adequate time to visit. And bring as much information with you as you can. Names and dates alone aren’t very helpful.

 

 

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑