• THE NEW NORMAL

    It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on my blog, and although I do want to return to regularly scheduled programming soon, I felt the need to address my absence. Not because I think anyone cares or noticed, but because it would have felt weird for me to continue on as though everything was normal, as though everything was the same as before.

    Normal is an odd concept.

    Society thinks that it’s common sense, that’s it’s fact. That it’s always been and will be always be. But the truth is it changes constantly. It’s relative. It depends on the year, the location, the country, the culture, the family. Everything changes. Society changes. Normal changes. In the personal sphere, normal is what’s known, what’s comfortable. What we do everyday. Normal life. But normal changes. Sometimes it’s expected, it’s slow, it’s predictable. But sometimes it’s none of those things. Sometimes things change so quickly it causes whiplash. Suddenly you’re plunged into the unknown, the new. Abnormal life.

    But that’s the funny thing, it may seem abnormal at first. It may seem so foreign and strange. But soon it simply stops. It stops being foreign and strange. Soon it becomes everyday life. And it’ll surprise you how fast that happens, how quickly it all becomes normal: going in and out of hospitals to visit, talking about insurance, joking with the guy in the opposite bed about cancer after finding out that he had the same type several years ago. It’s now the new normal. Things have changed, and not the slow gradual change that most of us experience throughout our entire lives. This had been sudden. A sudden new normal.

    That is not necessarily a bad thing. You learn things; you learn about yourself, about life, about the people around you. You figure out what this new normal looks like; what you look like in this new normal. And thankfully in this situation, things may eventually go back to being, for the most part, like they were before. We may need to make a few adjusts, but at the end of the day we’ll have the same laughs, watch the same quiz shows together, argue the same petty things. No matter what happens, it’ll become normal. It always does.

    I’m sorry this post has been vague, but it’s not my story to tell. I just wanted to get this off my chest before starting to post again. As I said, regularly scheduled programming will resume soon.

    Jane x

  • MY SCRAPBOOK

    I’ve always loved the idea of scrapbooking. I literally have boxes of tickets and other mementos at home. I have such a terrible memory so I think that’s part of the appeal, I’m just drawn towards different ways to keep records of events and things that happen to me because I know I can’t rely on my own mind. The problem is, I also love crafting so I always get carried away and in the past, I’ve spent over a week working on the first 2 pages of a scrapbook before getting distracted and not continuing it.

    However, I was really inspired by Gabriella Lindley’s (VelvetGh0st) scrapbook, which was mainly pictures.  It wasn’t as detailed as the ones you see on Pinterest but it was something I felt was achievable. Last year was pretty crazy for me; I moved to another continent and did lots of fun new things, so I decided to back track quite a bit and make a scrapbook for all of 2016 using the photo stream on my phone as a guide.

    I order a bunch of photos from here and sorted out all the mementos I had. I bought a black paper sketch pad (here) and a silver gel pen (here) from Amazon. I also used multiple glue sticks, super-glue and the label maker my boyfriend got me for Christmas (here). I love scrapbook paper and washi tape but I knew if I started down that rabbit hole, I would never get it finished.  It still did take me a bit of time but I’m pretty proud that I managed to complete it.

    PLAYING AROUND WITH LAYOUTS

    When I printed my photos from the Social Print Studios website, I got 5 different types that they offer: Mightly photos, Miniprints – Rectangular layout, Miniprints – Square layout (these are the ones that look like polaroids)  and Squares. I tried to play around with different layouts, some pages have a lot going on, some are more simple. I dedicated multiple pages to bigger events, but put multiple smaller fun times on the same page. I used my label maker to make headings for different events and used the silver gel pen to write little things to explain the photos. I wanted someone who wasn’t me to be able to look at my scrapbook and know what had happened to me.

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    KEEPSAKES

    I also tried to add texture by adding all the little mementos I collected through-out the year. Tickets are the easiest thing to keep but there’s a lot more you can add into the mix.

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    Lanyard from a work conference

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    I cut out different parts of the ferry schedule pamphlet and added a picture of us on the boat.

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    While we were in the metro parks one day, my boyfriend picked this flower and gave it to me. I pressed it for a few months so I could keep it.

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    My cousin, my boyfriend and I won tickets to a Cavaliers game, so I included the tickets as well as our winning raffle ticket.

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    During the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Champions parade they shot confetti everywhere and I saved a few pieces.

    INTERACTIVE ELEMENTS

    I added some interactive elements, different cards and things like that so that there was some fun movement in the scrapbook.

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    A Thank You card from a friend

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    Map from the hotel I stayed at in Florida

    CAPTURING A FEELING

    As well as capturing the big things that happened, I wanted to capture the atmosphere and the feelings I had as well. This proved to be a bit difficult but I played around with a few ideas. I think if I want make another scrapbook for this year, I need to make a conscious effort to photograph the little things around me.

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    I included a page showing some of the little Christmas details around our apartment to remind me of that time.

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    Unfortunately, my cousin had a miscarriage on Christmas Day. Everything else in my scrapbook is about happy times and I did struggle with whether or not to include bad things that had happened. This had a big impact on me and my family, and I wanted to make sure the baby was remembered so I decided I had to include it. 

    Jane x

  • HOW TO BUY THE BEST PRESENTS

    I’m good at buying presents.  There’s very very few things that I think I’m good at, but buying presents is definitely one of them. I like shopping and I like curating things, so buying presents is an extension of that. I mean, it’s shopping without the guilt, what’s not to love?  I think anyone can be good at gift-giving, it just take preparation and planning.  Even though I enjoy it, I still think finding the right gift can be very extremely stressful. So here’s how I approach it to try and make the holiday season go a bit smoother:

    Make notes
    It might be a little late for this one this year, but I think it’s one of the most important tools. Whether it’s on a phone or on a piece of paper, make notes when your friend and family say they like something. I have a notebook where I write down thoughts and ideas, along with things they’ve said they like. It might seem silly in January to write down that your aunt said she liked the necklace she saw online but you’ll be glad in November.
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    Search general topics
    If you don’t know what specific item you want to get someone, try searching some bigger topics on online stops; just more general interests will give you some inspiration and help give you an idea of what’s out there. Brain storm about what you know they like; food, movies, products etc. For example, I know one of my friends loves The Nightmare Before Christmas. So I went onto Amazon and literally just searched for ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’. I scrolled through a few pages, and found a mug that said ‘Skellington Coffee’ in a copy of the Starbucks logo. This is perfect because the person I was looking for loves Starbucks too. I would never have thought of searching for this exact item, so sometimes just approaching it from more a general perspective means that it’s not only less daunting but you might something you didn’t even know exists.

    Don’t be afraid of gift cards
    People think they’re impersonal, but it’s all in the delivery. For example, I’m going to put a Starbucks gift card in the Skellington Coffee cup I mentioned above. Sure it’s a gift card but it’s something she will use and it’s presented in something thoughtful. You don’t have to buy a mug, you could make their card, buy some chocolate you know they like etc. Or really just buy a giftcard to a place you know they love. Maybe it’s because I know I’m hard to shop for and I’m very picky, but I would never be mad at a giftcard. On a sidenote, did you know you could get Netflix giftcards? I didn’t!! But that’s so cool!

    Gift guidessushi-socks
    It’s time consuming but look at gift guilds, both on YouTube or online stores. They tend to have more general presents but they may get your imagination working. Most websites have them, I love ASOS for random gift ideas (really I just love ASOS in general), but there are tons of different options out there. I found socks on ASOS that I’m going to give people this Christmas (sushi socks and Star Wars socks – both are sold old but they have tons of other options).  I think funky socks are a fun idea because they’re a classic – the ultimate socking stuffer – but if you find a cool pair with something somebody likes on them, they are also thoughtful and useful.

    Keep an open mind
    You never know when you’re going to see something for somebody. Recently I went away for the weekend and ended up in a wind-chine store (who know they were a thing?).  They had a bunch of random things, and in a corner I found some fossils. Now I know that seems like a ridiculous present but the person I bought it for will love it! So the moral of the story is, you never know when you’re going to find something, so if you’re struggling to find something for someone, try not to stress about it, just keep your eyes peeled and your mind open.

    Experiences
    Remember, presents don’t have to be a physical object, you can always go for plays or concerts.  That’s what my parents are getting me for Christmas, tickets to see the King and I in February.  I normally get that kind of thing for my parents too. It gets more expensive, but in the past I’ve gotten them tickets to something in the UK and bought flights and a hotel for them too. Food is also always a good options, so whether that’s a cooking class or a giftcard to dine somewhere, everybody’s gotta eat!

    Remember that giving gifts should be fun and about the thought, don’t get too stressed out about! Have fun with it and enjoy the holiday season.
  • Cope-plaining

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    I can hear myself complaining all the time; hear myself spew negativity. I can feel myself trying to mask the disdain in my voice when I talk about the US, and I remind myself constantly that I need to stop romanticizing Ireland in my mind. Some people are intrigued; intrigued by other countries, other ways of life. This is all they know. They want to hear about how different the US is. But I’m sure even that has it’s limits.

    I make fun of myself for doing it.  I know it’s annoying.  But it seems like people just accept the way things are here, that’s why they don’t complain. I realise that that’s probably one of the main reasons I do it. If I don’t complain, I accept it, then it becomes normal and Ireland starts to feel further and further away.  This becomes my home.  And it is, to a degree, my home for now.  But it’s not who I am or where I’m from.  So I complain as a coping mechanism, to remind myself of Ireland and remind myself that I don’t belong here. As a coping mechanism, it’s self-destructive. It’s not healthy but it’s a double edged sword.  In one way, it reminds me that I’m not stuck here, that I don’t belong. That this is just an experience and it won’t last forever. But it also reminds me that I don’t belong, that I’m not a part of this place, that I’m by myself. I only really have me. Sure, there are people around me to help if I need it, but they don’t really understand where I’m coming from. They don’t know how strange this place is for me. They don’t know Ireland.

  • Planned Parenthood

    Driving there, I felt alone. I wasn’t sure why, I’ve always been independent. I’ve always done things by myself, for myself. But I felt lost. He said he wanted me to feel comfortable with my decision. But that was the problem, I wasn’t comfortable with any decision. I don’t want to go on the pill but I also didn’t want to not be on it. I was scared of what would happen to my body that was outside of my control, no matter what I decided to do. There was no real choice, it was the lesser of two evils. He had been supportive and inquisitive. I didn’t remind him I was going and he didn’t text me about it, before or after. Nobody wanted to tell me what to do with my body and I didn’t want them too. But that was a lonely place to be; I was the only one struggling. I was the only one unsure and torn and sad and confused and frustrated. I know other woman felt this way but even people who had been in this situation couldn’t make any decisions for me. In reality, I knew I didn’t have a decision. I had to be on birth control if I was going to have sex. That was that. But that was a hard pill to swallow and I was going to take it alone.

    EDIT:

    These t-shirts are great and 25% of the profits go to Planned Parenthood.

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  • Closer To My Roots

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    My favourite thing about Cleveland is the Metroparks.  I will actually choose the longer route to and from work most days so I can drive through them.  Everything is starting to turn green and bloom at the moment and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  I don’t know why, I’m not a super ‘outdoorsy’  person.  I can’t only handle being in the sun for more than about 2 minutes before I need to crawl into the nearest hole and hibernate. My mum calls me a mushroom because I spend too much time indoors.  The other day, I was at my cousin’s track meet and I had to hide from the sun under an umbrella. Yup, I was that person.

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    But there’s something about the leaves and the branches and that speckled sun light… I grew up going on hikes with my Mum. She grew up in the Dublin mountains and the little cuts she got falling out of those trees turned into scars. She can’t escape it, the rivers and the plants fueled her as a child and shaped her into the adult she is today. She’s a hippie.  Not the tie-dye-wearing, incense-burning wannabe type, it’s just who she is.  Well that particular apple didn’t fall too far from the literal tree. Being surrounded by trees makes me feel at peace and my Mum is probably the reason that I love pretentious quotes like this:

    ‘By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us’ – Robert Macfarlane

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    Anna Saccone-Joly necklace available here!

    So I’ll drive an extra 10 minutes so I can feel modest. So I can feel all warm and fuzzy inside, feel closer to my roots and closer to who I am.

  • Timing is Everything

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    Timing is everything. The moment. The regret. When to act and when not to act, it’s a game of chance. So many variables that you don’t know and have no control over. Should you do it? Why didn’t you do it? Not enough time to think anything through. People everywhere. Stay cool. Stay within the lines. Follow the crowd. Be respectful. But, but, if only.

    Okay live and learn. Let it sink in. Let yourself feel the regret. Make note of what you’re going to do the next time. And move on. Embrace time, while embracing the lesson. Let the two intertwine, and be a little bit more of who you want to be at this time tomorrow. Because timing is everything.

  • Alone in Detroit: Being Independent

    I needed to do something for myself.  I needed to prove that I was still independent, that I was still me. Because being independent is a bit part of being me. Probably to a fault, but having to rely on people to take me places, on top of all the changes and complications associated with moving aboard,  was starting to make me feel like the rug was being swept out from under my feet. I wasn’t me, I was falling.  So against everyone’s wishes (aside from my parents), I drove to Detroit by myself. They were probably right to be a little concerned. I had only driven a car in the US for a grand total of 30 minutes, but none the less, I hired a car and made the nearly 3 hour drive. Now I know Detroit has a bad reputation, and I wasn’t taking that lightly. But I had done my research, I’ve traveled by myself before, and I just felt like this was something I needed to do. I had to believe that I could make this happen for myself.

    I went up to see a Lukas Graham concert, and they were pretty incredible actually. I don’t have a great ear for these things, but they sound better live that the CD (though the US version of the album has always sounded a little over-produced to me). Lukas should just always sing live. All the time, every day.  His voice is melted chocolate.  I went through a period of going to concerts frequently but in recent years, I’ve fallen out of that. But being there, feeling the buzz and letting the music (and the whiskey) seep into my soul, was the best form of therapy.

    After the concert, I went outside and happened across a car dealership commercial being filmed; so I loitered in the artificially bright Detroit night watching a girl in high heels attempt to look graceful getting out of a low sports car (something I could never do). When they were finished, I wondered to a small bar right by the venue and sat down with my whiskey.  I was only there for a few minutes when this guy started talking to me; he wasn’t hitting on me, he was an older guy who does sound for concerts, so he spends 8 months touring and 4 months sailing in Thailand. He was with a few guys and one of them just happened to be Lukas Graham.  I didn’t know anyone in Detroit, let alone anyone in that tiny dive bar, but a bunch of us from different worlds collided there that night. Everyone was nice, nothing was serious.

    I bought the ticket for the show a while ago, and to be honest, I thought I’d be more settled into my new life in Cleveland by the time the concert came around. But in a way, it came at the right time. I’m not religious; sometimes I wobble around being spiritual, but ultimately decide that there’s too much out there that humans can’t comprehend and that kind of thing, if it does exist, is probably beyond us. However, sometimes things happen just when you need them too. Maybe it’s the universe giving back or maybe it’s completely by chance, but Detroit caught me right when I needed it. I was about to hit the ground hard but I found something there that showed me I could pick myself up.  In that night, I was content.  I was independent.

  • My Heart Sways Back and Fourth

    Moving to a different continent from the one you grew up in is hard. It’s all or nothing.

    There are things I like about Ireland, and there are things I like about the US. There are things I dislike about Ireland, and a lot of things I dislike about the US. Ireland is my childhood. It is who I am and what made me. But I have family in Cleveland. Crazy, fun family, who despite the fact that I’ve only spent a few summers here, I see more than a lot of my Irish family. I have a good job here. There are things about both places that make me feel certain ways, but what’s hard is there is no in-between. It’s one or the other. Sure I can fly back and fourth, but when I am in one place, I’m in one place. I think it’s a coping mechanism.

    I’m terrible at keeping in contact with people when I’m not in the same country as them. My head wants to focus on what’s happening in front of me. My emotions have other ideas. I’m not even sure what exactly I’m sad about. But sometimes I get sad here. I want to be here. But I want to be home. My heart sways back and fourth, sailing aimlessly around my chest because it doesn’t know where to dock while the tide rises up into my eyes. I don’t want to be homesick. I want to enjoy my time here. I want to enjoy the people and the landscape. I want to enjoy driving around and the fast shipping when I shop online.

    But yet, I feel so unsure of everything here. Things are different, people are different, the atmosphere is different. People here don’t know Ireland the way the rest of the world knows America. They’ve never watched Irish tv or Irish news; they don’t know what craic is or the significance of a cuppa. They don’t even know what shape Ireland is on a map (I draw a pretty good Ireland in Pictionary and no one knew what is was – even the people who knew i was trying to draw ‘irish dancing’). The U.S. is more different from Ireland, from Europe, than even I perceived before moving here. There’s a language barrier and a cultural divide bigger than you can image.

    But I will live my life here. I have promised myself that I will be here, I will breathe the air and experience things and I will be here, while my heart sways back and fourth.