A Trip To The Embassy

I was excited. We’d only lived in Ireland a few months—long enough to begin to feel the reality of deep differences, but not nearly long enough to adjust to them. Our second son had just been born, a different experience in a different medical system, and we needed to register his birth at the United States embassy. American soil, in Ireland. It would be nice to get a little taste of all we’d left behind. A few hours on the motorway got us to Dublin, where we found the US embassy—a big round thing looking out of place on its street-corner, like a landed UFO. Like us. 

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Two British White Men And The Foundations Of Racial Equality

William Wilberforce was a British white man who was born into wealth, and quickly attained significant political power. He was elected as a Member of Parliament at the age of 21, while still a student. From such a position of privilege, what could Wilberforce ever legitimately say about racism? He had no personal experience of slavery. And yet, it was Wilberforce who spent most of his life and strength spearheading the effort to end the slave trade in the British Empire. 

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Books To Be Quarantined With

All of a sudden, we’ve got extra time on our hands. The children are home from school, lots of us are working from home, and we’ve got two weeks (at least) of cancelled events and nobody calling over for a cuppa. It’s a perfect time to pour that cuppa for yourself, sit down, and pour a few good books into your soul. Here’s some that my family and I have found enjoyable…

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Living In Far Away Problems

The news is a problem. It always is, one problem after another. Short problems and long ones, wildfires and wars and whatever else is going wrong. Even though most of the problems are thousands of miles away, I still receive constant updates on their status. Which is good if it prompts me to pray for those involved and give to help with relief. I’m glad the world is connected well enough for aid and prayers and concern to flow to far away areas of need. We need more of that, not less. But there’s a danger in it as well. 

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Some Dreams Need To Die

I know. It doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? “Follow your dreams” sounds a lot better. It’s the message of Disney princesses and rock stars and pretty much everyone else. And a lot of times the princesses are right. A lot of times we really do need encouragement to keep going towards a goal. It’s good advice.

Except when it isn’t.

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Do Great Minds Really Think Alike?

I’ve said it many times, as an automatic reflex. Just like “bless you” after a sneeze or “you’re welcome” after a “thank you”, the phrase “great minds think alike” rolls off the tongue naturally whenever two people have a similar idea. It’s a friendly way of complimenting others and ourselves simultaneously, a verbal pat on the back for being mutually great. It’s a bit of fun. But that doesn’t make it true.

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Trails Are For Following, Not Just Blazing

It seemed like a good idea at the time. We were tired, and ready to get back to camp after a day of hiking. The map indicated that a straight cut had been made through the forest for the sake of power lines, and it looked like the perfect shortcut to bring us to our tents and dinners. We left the trail. It wasn’t long before we regretted it. The forest had been cut at some point, yes, but it was doing a good job of coming back. As we picked our way through the brambles and saplings, we didn’t notice the hornet’s nest, but they noticed us. To make matters worse, we lost our bearings in the unexpected undergrowth and missed the place where we had intended to rejoin the trail, heading off in the wrong direction without even realising it. Eventually, we discovered our error and limped the long way back to camp with our scrapes and stings – and a new appreciation for trails.

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Peace, And A Padlock

Sir Winston Churchill once said that “If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way towards one another”. 

But he still bombed Germany. After they started it, of course. Turns out that “one another” bit was crucial: it’s hard to behave peacefully and helpfully towards someone who is trying to take your homeland by force. Peace is a great idea, though, and a wonderful experience for those of us privileged enough to live in it. Since my home is in Europe, I’m thankful that our wars of the past century have stayed in the history books instead of boiling over in more bloodshed. Yes, the nations of Europe still fight with one another, but the fighting is now done over champagne in Brussels instead of the trenches in Somme. Still, we all have armies. 

Just in case.

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Of Blogging For A Year (And Also O.C.D., Music, And Travel)

I missed the bandwagon. Years ago, blogging was the thing to do, but it’s well past its edgy coolness now. It’s one of the older platforms in the world of online discourse, but a year ago I started anyway with a post called “What’s New About New Ireland?”. The fact is, some thoughts don’t fit neatly into the confines of a tweet or the text on a meme. For me, the process of distilling my scattered thoughts into words and sentences and paragraphs each week for a year has helped immeasurably to sharpen those same thoughts in my own mind. I hope it has been helpful to others as well. I like the freedom to write about anything I’m thinking about, which is why I used only my name for the site address: the thing holding these thoughts together is the fact that I thought them, and even that is a stretch because most of my thoughts are gleaned from the brains of others. Along the way, I’ve developed a growing appreciation for the amount of work others put in to expressing their thoughts carefully and well amid the constant stream of articles, news stories, and posts that is our modern internet. It’s not an easy task to sharpen English into the kind of point that can stick and do lasting good, and those who do so well have my respect.

On that note, and as a way of celebrating a year of blogging, I’d like to draw your attention to a few other Irish blogs that I have found helpful: Continue reading Of Blogging For A Year (And Also O.C.D., Music, And Travel)

My Education In Possum Holler

It was my mother’s dream to have a log house, and my father built her one in Possum Holler, in the rolling hills of northern Alabama. You’d have trouble finding that name on a map, but it’s the place I grew up alongside the peach and pecan trees my Dad planted in front of the house. I didn’t see very many Opossums there, but it was a Hollow in the mountains, so that fits. There was a lake as well, and a small cave to explore, and a sinkhole, and the forest on the mountain behind us was basically endless. I would certainly have gotten lost several times in those woods, if I hadn’t had our dog along to show me the way home. She always knew, and I learned to trust her, even when I thought she was wrong.

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