Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Message from the Birthday Queen

Today is my birthday. I absolutely love my birthday. For one thing, it's the perfect date numerically. In the U.S. format, it's 7-27-72. (It loses a little of its luster for me in the European format, but I still find all those 7s and 2s satisfying.) I'm also a big believer in the Birthday Queen approach to birthdays.

Because I'm the oldest of three and the only girl, 364 days of each of my formative years were about sharing, playing nice, knowing better, giving in, taking care, and compromising. But on that special (and usually thundery) day near the end of July, I got to be the boss for a day. Picking the dinner, the activity, being fussed over – my birthday was the one day of the year that was completely All About Me.

Carrying this approach into adulthood has been good. I don't get depressed or morose or worry about my age. I have the rest of the year to do that. Instead, I rip the lid off the day and concentrate on sucking down every last drop of Birhtday Goodness. I have a fantastic time dragging Peter (who is the best Birthdayland subject that a queen could ask for) out, usually to do a bizarre agricultural activity. Past birthday activities have included trips to the county fair, visiting a dairy farm, fishing, hiking, horse riding, and a trip to a large cat refuge in the middle of nowhere, Indiana.

The plan for today is to trek out to County Offaly to ride the bog railroad, visit a petting farm, and possible see monastic ruins. It also might involve a film, possibly The Simpsons. I don't know what else a girl could want. (Although I have to admit that I do sort of miss the thunderstorms.)

The other thing I like to do on my birthday is think about what I've learned in the year and what I want to accomplish for next year. I'm still working on the second one, but I think I have the first one sussed. I learned my most important life lesson on the back of a horse on a rain swept beach in Connemarra.

I love riding and started when I was about 7. As a kid, the only thing I ever wanted to do was go fast. But the adult me, with my awareness of accidents and broken bones and head injuries, has lost that need for speed. But I do enjoy a good canter and had filled out the information form honestly.

As the assistant and the two beginners on the ride trotted down the beach, I waited with the lead rider for my chance to have a good canter. The horses were pretty well-mannered and wore what the lead rider called a “neck straps”, which provided an extra handle to steady yourself. (I'd never seen this piece of tack before.) I hadn't had to use the neck strap on the ride down the beach and didn't think I'd need it for the cantering.

Cleggan Beach is probably gorgeous in nice weather, but on this day it was hard to tell where the grey of the ocean stopped and the grey of the sky began. My horse was fidgety, eager to tear down the beach. The lead rider's horse was as hot as I've ever seen a non-thoroughbred. She looked like she could take the whole beach in a single bound like Super Horse.

When the assistant and the beginners were at the far end of the beach, we took off. My only instruction was to stay behind the lead horse. The easy cantering lasted for about three strides. Then we were galloping – fast, with the wind and rain lashing at us. I grabbed onto the neck strap and felt every muscle in my body tighten up. This wasn't feeling very fun at all.

We made it to the other side of the beach and then had another wait. When it was our turn to go again, it was again only a few strides of cantering and then a full-on gallop. This time, I forced myself to relax. I let go of the neck strap, took a deep breath, relaxed, and just went with the motion of the horse. It was the most fun I've ever had on a ride. It didn't feel fast and scary anymore. It just felt right. We had about five or six more races along the beach and I enjoyed each one more than the next.

I realised that the relaxing, the letting go and giving in, was what made the ride so enjoyable. Trying to control every second only made me anxious – it didn't make me safer. In fact, I was better off when I was relaxed. At one point, the horse dipped his head and had a little stumble. Had I been clutching the neck strap, I probably would have tumbled off. Being relaxed allowed me to maintain my balance and just move with the horse.

This is a lesson that is applicable to life as well. I've been making a conscious effort to let go of my concerns and worries. Living in Ireland has helped me with this. I've been able to internalise the Irish-Zen attitude that is encapsulated in one of my favourite phrases: "Ah, sure, it'll be grand." Sometimes, you just have to drop the neck strap and enjoy the ride.

Friday, July 21, 2006

My Latest Guilty Pleasure

In general, it's vegging out in front of Animal Planet. I especially enjoy the various Animal Cops franchises, although Peter prefers if I didn't watch them because at least one story line always ends in tears. (Mine, of course.)

But just now, I discovered a show that has rocketed to the top of my guilty pleasures list: Horse Power. It's got everything - horses, competition, intrigue, relationships. What more can you want?

I'd like to learn how to jump but I'm afraid I'd be too much of a wimp. I've never (*knock on wood*) fallen off a horse and the superstitious side of me is sure that jumping is just tempting fate. "Horse Power" is letting me live vicariously. And safely.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Couple of Hints

So, the musical meme went pretty well, but I hate to have it in an incomplete state. So here are a few hints to help with the guessing.

1. Fhuras am pige ruadh.
Hint: Not only does the name of the band begin with a C, the title of the song is in the lyric.

9. Go, go, go, go now, out of the nest it's time.
Hint: The singer is a woman who also plays the piano.
Credit to John - don't kick yourself too hard. It's difficult to match up lyrics without the tune behind it. Tori Amos - Mother

13. I want your silent parts.
Hint: The band shares its name with the world's second largest international organisation.

14. Take, take all you need and I'll compensate your greed with broken hearts
Hint: This band has a song featured (not this particular one though) on the soundtrack of the movie Millions.

16. The confusion that arises says it all
Hint: OK - this is probably too easy of a hint, but what the heck. This band is the predecessor band of the original creators of the song in #7.

17. My book has more bookmarks than pages
Hint: An Irish band who share their name with a famous type of plane.

18. There must be something that we can eat
Hint: This band's name is also the last name of a very divisive American President.
Credit to the mysterious A lurker - Bush - "Everything Zen"

19. Your body may be gone I'm going to carry you in, in my head, in my heart, in my soul
Hint: This band's name comes from a phrase in a Viriginia Woolf story. It's two words and one of them is a type of rodent.

20. I think I love you but to say so would bore you
Hint: A new(ish) Irish band whose debut CD was recorded in a Dublin bedsit.

21. Many's the day I took for granted
Hint: This is by an Irish American band from L.A. whose music can probably best be described the love child of traditional Irish and punk music.

25. My friend assures me it's all or nothing
Hint: This band's name comes from an English divination poem.
Yay! Credit to Lex - "Anna Begins" - Counting Crows

Play on.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Jumping Off the Music Meme Cliff

Well, Fence jumped off this particular cliff first and it looks like a whole lot of fun, even though I wasn't able to get a single one of hers right. (OK, I got number 16 right, but Alan beat me to the answer.)

The rules are simple - random up the I-Pod (or I-Tunes or whatever non-Apple heretical MP3 player you might have) and give the first lines for the first 25 songs that come up. The rules were no easy songs and no repeated singer/group. I have a bad case of Lyric Dysfunction Disorder, so I double-checked several of the songs. And it should go without saying - No Google-Fu! (Although, if one of these becomes an earworm that you can't place, I'd rather have you cheat than go mad.)

1. Fhuaras am pige ruadh
Shane - Thanks for playing. Good guess, but wrong. I will tell you that you're on the right-ish track and the name of the band starts with a C.

2. I sincerely miss those heavy metal bands we used to go see at the landing in the summer
Credit to Dave of RFN (I was hoping you'd play because I knew you'd get this one) - Wilco - "Heavy Metal Drummer"

3. Hey, don't write yourself off yet
Credit to Arbusto - Jimmy Eat World - "In the Middle"

4. Well I didn't see much future when I left the Christian Brothers' school
Credit to Nine Moons, who is apparently a girl after my own heart - Saw Doctors - "N-17"

5. I am just a poor boy though my story's seldom told
Credit to Fence - "The Boxer" - Simon and Garfunkel

6. Oh great ocean oh great sea
Credit again to Dave - U2 - "One Tree Hill"

7. How does it feel to treat me like you do?
I am guessing that Arbusto meant 7 instead of 4 when he said "Orgy - Blue Monday". He's half right at least - it is "Blue Monday", but I've never heard of Orgy. It's New Order. Accept no substitutes!
Update: Arbusto, for the love of god, please do not say things like that. You're making me feel ancient. That band you never heard of wrote the song. Probably when you were in the womb.

8. I, I'm thinking it's a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images
Extra Credit to Shane for covering all the bases - "Such Great Heights" - Postal Service is the version I have.

9. Go, go, go, go now, out of the nest it's time

10. Stormin' through the party like my name was El nino
Credit to a giggling Shane - Sum41 - "Fat Lip"

11. Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick
Credit again to Shane - The Cure - "Just Like Heaven"
Do you remember when we saw them at the Colessium? Realising that was like 17 years ago is making me feel really damn old.

12. Never made it as a wise man
Full marks to Arbusto, partial to Fence - Nickleback - "How You Remind Me"

13. I want your silent parts

14. Take, take all you need and I'll compensate your greed with broken hearts

15. Every day I love you less and less
Credit to Dave - "Every Day I Love You Less and Less" - Kaiser Chiefs. I see now this one might break the "too easy" rule but my defense is that I didn't really know the name of the song. I just have the old school I-Pod Shuffle, after all.

16. The confusion that arises says it all

17. My book has more bookmarks than pages

18. There must be something that we can eat

19. Your body may be gone I'm going to carry you in, in my head, in my heart, in my soul

20. I think I love you but to say so would bore you

21. Many's the day I took for granted

22. I pictured a rainbow, you held it in your hands
Credit to Fence, who had a good guess - Waterboys - "Whole of the Moon"

23. I would swallow my pride but I would choke on the rinds
Credit to Arbusto - Eve6 - "Inside Out"

24. She came from Greece, she had a thirst for knowledge
Again, credit to Fence - "Common People" - now here's where I let the side down - I think it is Pulp originally but this was the fantastically cheesy William Shatner version

25. My friend assures me it's all or nothing
This one is still up for grabs and I can assure you it is most definitely not O-Town.

Shameless (Him)Self Promotion

As you know, part of my duties as the Lovely Assistant for Peter Cox Photography is to let everyone know when pretty new pictures are available for browsing, buying, viewing, and generally admiring.

The photographs from the Iceland trip are now online and they're making me pretty jealous that I was at home. My favourites are Evening Walkers, Rainbow, South Coast, and Late Evening.

So, check them out. Just don't ask me how to pronounce any of the names!

Monday, July 10, 2006

My First Book Report As Gaelige Gaeilge

Léigh mé an leabhar - "Bhi Oisín ar Scoil". Bhi an leabhar go maith. Chuaigh Oisín ar scoil. Ansin léigh sé agus shcriobh scriobh sé. D'ith sé a lón. Bhi Oisín ag canadh agus ag rince agus ag súgradh. Bhuail an cloigín go minic. Rith Oisín abhaile ar a trí a chlog.

Ed. Note: Intended translation in the comments. This is the first thing I've ever attempted to write in Irish, so please correct me. It's the only way I'll learn. I am unfeasibly pleased with having read this book and understood 85% of it the first time.

File under:

Friday, July 07, 2006


Or at least that's how I feel. So, Peter missed his connection in London last night because his plane was delayed leaving Iceland. Fair enough. These things happen.

He was meant to be on the 6.50 flight from Heathrow to Dublin. I was driving into the airport, luckily just passing my place of employment, when I got a text. He wasn't on the plane. He was going to be on the 7.45 flight. He rang me and said something about a stupidity fee, but I couldn't figure out what that was all about. I told him I'd go into work to put in a little time and then drive up to collect him. I already had the car and it was going to cost an arm and a leg to park it all day.

Fine. It wasn't until I was in work that I realised I'd gotten a text before the 7.45 text. He wasn't on the plane because his alarm didn't go off and he slept too long. He's lucky I didn't know that when we spoke. I was not amused.

My lack of amusement got even worse on my drive to the airport. I was just at the Donnycarney Church when I heard about the bomb alert at the airport. The third one in three days. Fantastic.

I arrived at the airport roundabout just as the gardai were shutting off access to the airport car parks. I had a lovely morning driving around the outskirts of the airport, hanging out in Swords, waiting. When the airport roads were open again, I managed to stash the car in a long-term car park and I'm now in the arrivals hall, waiting for Peter who is waiting at baggage claim. In the time the airport was closed, something like 40 flights landed so the processing logistics are a bit nightmarish.

All I can say is I don't know where I would be without text messages and pay-with-coins internet kiosks. I've bought 2 euromillions tickets for tonight's draw. I gotta figure that we are due a bit of good luck already.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Everyone's Favourite Game

It's time to play everyone's favourite game. No, not hurling. It's time for Good-News-Bad-News!

So - the good news is that my parents received my refurbished laptop. The bad news is that it doesn't have my hard drive in it. It's a completely fresh, empty hard drive. Even though I got assurances from the Laptop Manager Man (LMM) that I would have my hard drive back.

When I rang LMM, he sighed heavily and said, "Well, they screwed up." He's allegedly investigating if there is a way to undo this screw-up. I think, for my own mental health, I am going to have to give that hard drive up for dead. If I get it back, it will be a bonus.

The frustrating thing is that I don't know exactly what I've lost with it. I have copies of my two completed novels, but the copy I have of the novel-in-progress is old and I've probably lost at least 20 or 30 pages, plus my notes.

The take-home lesson here, children, is back up your data. Every. Night. No matter what.

EDIT: Let's play Good-News-Bad-News again. The good news is that I get another good night's sleep. The bad news is that Peter's flight from Iceland to London was delayed, which caused him to miss his connection. Here's more good news - I heard his voice, but the bad news is that it was only over the phone. I'll be collecting him from the airport tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Every Thorn Has Its Rose

For the last week and a half, Peter's been in Iceland. Now, in the course of our relationship, 10 days apart isn't really that long. We had to do the long-distance thing very early in our dating and had a stretch of 14 months in which we only saw each other for a week. (I would not recommend this sort of courtship in general, but sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do.) Ten days is nothing compared to that but I still miss him fiercely.

It's not that I'm overly dependant or unable to be alone. It's just that, for us, being together is better than being apart. We've mastered the art of being together but separate. We're quite companionable and can do different activities in the same room, co-existing in the same space, taking pleasure in each other's company while still relaxing in our own solitude. Peter is a fantastic calming influence on me. Just being around him, makes me relax and slow down and not worry so much. He's good for me and I'm good for him (at least I like to think that I am).

Text messages have been our sole method of communication during his trip. I've enjoyed reading about the giant skua that dive-bombed the workshop and the bus getting stuck in a river. I've delighted in telling him about our two big camogie wins (although we lost a disappointing and brutal match by a single point last night). But I really miss hearing his voice.

So, tomorrow, I will be waiting anxiously and excitedly at Dublin Airport for his arrival. (And if that poxy work stoppage delays his flight, I will....well, I don't know what I'll do but I will be most unhappy about it.) But, as much as I've missed him and as excited as I am for him to come home, I do have to admit that there is one up-side to Peter's being away.

I sleep SO well when he's gone. I'm not the world's greatest sleeper. I sleep lightly and am prone to waking up at any noise. Peter goes to bed well after I do and even though he's great at quietly sneaking into the room and getting ready in the dark, it still sometimes wakes me up. Or at least makes me conscious enough that I start to think about things like having to go to the bathroom.

Plus (and I have Peter's full permission to disclose this), Peter snores. And I don't mean any cute little cartoony snores. I mean he can work up into window-rattling, toe-curling, finger-nails-on-a-chalkboard, grating-wailing-oh-please-make-it-stop kind of snores. The sort that I can sometimes hear in the morning, when I'm downstairs, in the room furthest from our bedroomwhen all the doors between us are closed.

We considered getting him a sleep study when we were in the States but somehow never quite got around to it. The snoring isn't always THAT bad, but when it's bad, it's really, really bad. To be fair, he's usually pretty good about stopping when I (loudly) ask him to stop or when I aim a couple of sharp elbows at his ribs. A couple of months ago, I was exhausted and his snoring had woken me up several times in a few hours. I crawled over to his side of the bed, put my head on his pillow, and whispered in his ear "For the love of God, you are killing me. Please stop it with the snoring." He stopped immediately and when I related the story to him in the morning, he remembered hearing my request.

Some nights are better than others but some nights are pretty heinous. One particularly memorable night happened when we were living in Wheaton. He'd been snoring and I'd been begging him to stop with no results. I elbowed and when that didn't work, I had to resort to kicking. Finally, the snoring stopped and I had several blissful moments of silence. But then the snoring started again. So my harranguing started again and was met with a very irritated, "For fuck's sake, it's the goddamn dog!" The snoring stopped right quick, since the dog was startled awake. Peter still doesn't understand why I wasn't able to identify the snoring as coming from the right when he was on the left of me. I maintain that it was just loud snoring and I couldn't tell where it was coming from - it was just every where.

So, even though I've felt all lonely and empty inside, I've had nine glorious nights of many uninterrupted hours of sleep. It's amazing. I wake up feeling so rested. Sleeping well is about the only good thing that comes out of Peter's absence. It's a pretty big positive, but it's not enough to make up for all the negatives. The fact of the matter is that poor sleep and having to listen to snoring (which is absolutely my all-time most hated noise) is well-worth the benefits of being able to spend my time with Peter.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Anger Management

Over the course of about two years, I spent a small fortunte on cognitive behavioural therapy. That's just a fancy way to say I saw a shrink. And I should really say that I invested that money, since I'm definitely a happier, more balanced, more resourceful person since then.

One of the (many) issues I had to work on was anger. For various complicated reasons, I was terrified of anger. As a result, I didn't get angry. Great solution, right? Wrong. Just because you don't express or feel your anger doesn't mean you're not angry. it just means you're saving it up for a later date.

Imagine my surprise when I learned I was angry. Really, incredibly, deeply angry. Poor Peter had to live with Anger Girl for a few months while I processed all the old anger and developed coping mechanisms for dealing with anger properly in the future.
Now I can admit that I do get angry. That goes a long way to handling the anger. Feel it. Express it appropriately. Figure out the root cause and find a solution. These are all handling mechanisms that I use now.

Yesterday, we had an away camogie match. I started for the first time in a few matches, this time at left full-forward. I was stomach-churningly nervous and the first time the ball came my way, I totally screwed up, which did nothing for my nerves.

There was a lot of action down at my end of the pitch for the first 10-15 minutes of the match. The girl marking me was tough - bigger than me and given to pushing and throwing elbows and hips. We had a couple of scraps over the ball and I came out the worse in all of them.

In our third encounter, she sent me flying backwards. I landed with a thud about two or three feet from where I lifted off. My head banged off the pitch and I saw stars. Then, I was angy. Very, very angry.

When I peeled myself off the ground and got back into the action, my anger focused me. I wasn't nervous anymore. I wasn't worried about screwing up. All I wanted to do was get that ball into the net.

You might think that my anger made me want to kick that girl's ass. You'd be right, but in the wrong way. I was angry, not suicidal. I wanted to beat her figuratively rather than literally. I had to use my anger wisely, focus it in the right way, and play to my strengths. I wasn't going to be able to push her off the ball or knock her over. But I was a lot faster. I could beat her to the ball. I could run in front of her to block her from getting to my teammates. I could run in on the goalie she was meant to be defending.

So I did all of these things and I played my best match ever. This isn't to say that I didn't make mistakes, because I did. But I didn't fixate on them. All my energy went into playing, not into worrying or second-guessing myself. I was able to lift the ball twice and run with it. I had several good passes. I even score a goal.

Except it didn't count. The goal line was very sandy and although the ball did cross the line, the ref didn't see it. The ball didn't travel that far over the line, so it was easy for the goalie to nudge it forward and claim that it hadn't gone over.

More anger for me to use, although now I have to be careful not to become bitter over the non-goal goal. In the end, our team won 4-4 to 0-0 (16 points to 0 points). I learned a valuable lesson and proved a few things to myself. Really, you can't ask for more than that on a Sunday afternoon.