Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Becoming an Irish citizen!


Dia dhuit! Most exciting news of the day, week, month, year? I'm eligible to become a citizen of Ireland. And who else do I have to thank but you, you, you!

As it turns out, a few others deserve mentioning.  Kevin Michael, your father, was born in Dublin, Ireland, 1922. I remember quite clearly "reading" him stories and mussing his hair when he lived with us.  He's been dead twenty years and I'm sure he never would have guessed at the enormous gift he's about to give me.

I hope he'd be as excited as I am.

the new Irish immigrants, Bronx, circa 1940
... Grandma is on the bottom right.

Here's a rundown of the steps I've taken so far:

1. Realizing eligibility. Since my grandfather was Irish, I'm legally entitled to "become" Irish as well.  Information about what's needed can be found here and here. I suppose I could have realized this at any moment, but I prefer to think the Universe has an altogether different sense of time from the beings who inhabit her, making now the perfect moment. 

2. Pursuing the documents. Since my Dear Mom never registered her birth in the Foreign Births Register, I now have to amass loads of documents, some of them from Ireland, including:
  • Full civil birth certificate 
  • Civil marriage certificate (if applicable);
  • Copy of current passport or identity document, if alive, or death certificate; 
Each of these must be presented for my grandfather, my mother and I.

UPDATE: Grandpa's birth certificate has just arrived from Ireland!  I opted to mail in a request form, because requesting the document online was crazy expensive! This way, it only cost me TEN EURO and was delivered in less than a week. Here's the moment I received it:

3. Going online. With Vitalchek and a little help from Mom, I was able to track down Grandpa's death certificate in less than an hour. While I was at it, I also ordered copies of my birth certificate and my mother's. Total cost: less than $100.

4. Future steps. Almost all the documents are ready. When I come back to America in August, the final dossier will be prepared. It's a little more elaborate, but considering what I stand to gain, the effort is unquestionably worthwhile.

So, Dear Mom, this has me thinking about the incredible reach of generations. As a third generation American,  I never paid much mind to roots. That's changed; my desire to explore them is stronger than ever.

It also has me thinking about reversal of fortune. Your father emigrated, as so many did and do, hoping for a new and better life. To escape famine and later, the spectre of Europe's Great War. And the experiment worked. The American McManuses and Walshes went on to attend college, to have great families, to affect positive changes in the world.

Nearly a hundred years later, I'm seeking to do the same. The reasons may not be identical, but they're not entirely different, either.

And don't worry, Dear Mom! I promise to come home and visit, no matter where in the world I end up.

Until next time,


Friday, June 24, 2011

holy shit! (part II)

oh dear Mom,

holy shit. the cat has more in common with Luc than i do. aside from the whole "different species" thing, they're practically kindred spirits.

here's a little list of similarities:
  • small, yet heavy
  • most charming when silent
  • affectionate, but don't like to be held
  • whiny when hungry
  • is always hungry
  • therefore, always whiny

hey! what do you mean that sounds exactly like me?! 
i am not sm... i mean, i don't wh...  fuck.


  1. Agility......  INCA
  2. Native Intelligence......  LET'S WAIT AND SEE
  3. Vocabulary...... TIE
  4. Scratching......  INCA
  5. Taking big, messy poops......  LUC
  6. Milk desired...... TIE
  7. Milk obtained.... LUC
  8. Ability to undo every last productive thing you've accomplished in the preceding hours.... LUC
  9. Creative ribbon dancing.... TIE
  10. Destroying all concentration.... TIE
another similarity: you can easily see their essences. they are clear and unfiltered. their needs and joys are so basic, and they are mostly either filled with love or milk.

is this how you fell in love with me?! i think it must have been, but only you know.

i have to say, Luc has a much nicer smile than Inca. and of course, he'll surpass even the most clever of cats. he'll grow up to be something called a Man. he'll have opinions, girlfriends or boyfriends, he'll read newspapers and write emails. maybe he'll curse the alarm clock in the early morning or get up with the dawn like he does now. he gets a real charge out of beating me in the head with an empty Evian bottle, so i'm sure he'll be musically inclined. a full set of teeth are destined to be his.

i'll be in my forties when he graduates high school.

but for now he's in diapers, in pajamas, little bigger than the cat. matter of fact, i think i hear him calling now...

 until next time,


    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    holy shit!

    whoa dear mom,

    holy shit!

    as you know, i've recently started caring for a beautiful baby boy. formerly, i'd make up all kinds of excuses not to go near them.

    wanna hold the baby?
    no no, i'm allergic. but thanks.

    hey gina, could you take the baby for a sec?
    you know what? i just ate. no exercise for at least half an hour, sorry!

    perfectly astonishing, then, that i'm spending this summer in company of a baby... and what a baby he is.


    Name: Luc XXXX
    Weight: One and a half average adult size (female) bowling balls.
    Size: Quarter of a Gina.
    Likes: Elephant noises, cheese, peek-a-boo, eating twigs.
    Speaks: Babble. Fluent.
    Work History: Professional demolition man.
    Salary Expectations: Cookies.

    happy baby and happy lady

    edging ever closer to thirty, it's an interesting place to find oneself in. i mean, i'm almost the age you were when you had me!  and not too far down the line, a decision waits about whether i, too, shall join your ranks.

    i have to admit that i'm taken by him. he's charming and delightful and so in the now, it's crazy. with him, it's all about the journey and every destination is paradise. i'm a student in the school of baby consciousness, of discovery and wonder...

    and then he loses it and i think, "wanna go play with the sharks, Luc?"

    it's incredible, the amount they eat. i don't eat as much as the baby does (then again, my brain stopped growing loooong ago.) but did i really eat that much? did i, too, gum your favorite shoes to death? did i  bicycle-peddle all over your face while you changed my diaper? and even though i was a nightmare colic baby, you continued loving me anyway? that's pretty badass.

    which brings me back to holy shit. this baby isn't mine and i won't make you a grandmother in the immediate future. the generational cycle is pulling -- i feel a part of it and apart, and it's complicated, as i'm sure it was for you, too.

    but i hope, if or when it's my time, that i can remember Luc's absolute delight this morning as i changed his shitty diaper... which is to say that anything, anything, can bring us a little bit closer to grace.

    sour face!

    until next time,



    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Balcony Garden of Deliciousness

    oh. dear. mom.

    guess what! i have a something that starts with the curliest cursive letter in all the alphabet.

    not a gimp, nope! not a gurgle, nor a garter, but getting close, close, closer....  A GARDEN! a wonderful little garden.

    i have to confess: i was a little worried that i'd inherited your black thumb, which killed houseplants practically on contact. even the cactus, that low-maintenance failsafe of domesticated flora, shriveled up under your ministrations like overcooked bacon. (it's a wonder i survived infancy.)

    but not to fear! i've been doting and my plants are a-thriving! i've got:

    • eight salads
    • one basil plant
    • one purple sage
    • silver thyme
    • flat-leaf parsley
    • chives

    salads are under cones, to the left.

    thyme, sage, flat-leaf parsley... yummmm

    everyone in the world (no one but me) is super stoked about all the wonderful potions and folk remedies i can now conjure up from my very own mini-garden. my newest nighttime ritual is to rub a sage leaf all over my gums (sage is a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial as well), meaning i never get kissed after 9PM.

    also, it was incredibly satisfying to rid my salads of powdery mildew using... 

    hello? MOM! are you SLEEPING?  uh, what does "just resting my eyes" mean? i'm telling you about how i killed the dreaded powdery mildew using only 1,000 google searches, a spray bottle and water + milk in a ten-to-one ratio and your eyes are on standby? no wonder all your plants turned to mulch.

    the saved salads, by the way, are purple-leaved and delicious. if only you were here... i'd certainly invite you to share one with me.

    until next time, your budding gardener (get it?!)


    Monday, March 14, 2011

    isolation, creation: Piney and the Underground Girl Who Saw Light

    oh dear mom:

    living far away from family and friends is sometimes lonely. after all, i don't have you around to harangue me with demands to fix your phone, which you swear is 'utterly and completely broken', only to discover your rage-oid dog gnawed out the battery compartment while you were sleeping. whoever thought i'd miss that?

    strange enough, i do. and i can hear your response as if you were sitting in the room: so what are you doing about it?

    why, lots of things! i give myself fake interviews, collect roadside trash, wash myself in cooking supplies and massage my houseplants, for starters.

    in the remaining few hours, i try -- and sometimes succeed -- in making art.

    i have been collaborating with a wonderful Japanese artist, Takeshi Nakajima, to produce a book, Piney and the Underground Girl Who Saw Light. 

    Takeshi, if you remember, was my student. i was supposed to be teaching him English. we began this book instead and have been working on it ever since. 

    Piney and the Underground Girl is the illustrated story of a pinecone and a subterranean girl who serendipitously meet.  you see, the Underground Girl has never ventured from her cave and Piney, as all pinecones do, must soon fall to earth. can they possibly help each other with these transitions?

    page three: the Underground Girl hears music.

    sometimes, i'm really sad to be away from you. but if i hadn't left the U.S., i don't know that this project would have come into being. i'm really pleased with how it's coming along.

    page six: the Underground Girl's delicious vision of the world above.

    so yes, i'm far away from almost everyone i love... and this is what i'm doing about it.

    oh dear mom, i'm learning that isolation can really pay. it gives time to create and space to imagine. know what else pays? having an awesome mom who encourages you to dream.

    love always,


    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    tasty tooth powder, part two!

    "and what, exactly, does tooth powder have to do with me? i'd rather hear about something funny. after all, i gave birth to you --- so i must have a pretty good sense of humor!" -- oh dear mom

    well! after i recovered from the hysteria induced by sipping from your boundless fount of wit, i decided to take your question seriously. and really, dear mom. this one is easily resolved. i'll do it in two neat steps:

    1. if it has to do with me, it has to do with you.
    2. see number one.

    i do hope this is the last time we have to have this talk.

    so last week, American folk hero Erin Gleeson testified as to the awesome powers of baking soda on teeth.  her spot-on suggestion to put a drop of essential oil directly on the toothbrush got me thinking about my own routine.

    i always follow up my baking soda brushing sessions with a homemade mouthwash. it gives me a tingly feeling. like when you used to give me a  'good smack in the mouth', but more minty.

    how to make the mouthwash, you ask?
    • Bring two cups of water to boil.
    • Throw two whole cloves into the boiling water and simmer for half an hour.
    • Allow the liquid to cool. While the water cools, rummage through your teetering mountain of smelly recyclables until you find that old witch hazel bottle from last month. Or, use a spare jar.
    • Remove the cloves. Pour the caramel-colored liquid in the smelly old bottle/shiny clean jar. 
    • Add with 15 - 20 drops of the essential oil of your choice. (I prefer peppermint with a dash of tea-tree.)
    • Cap the bottle/jar/receptacle and shake, shake, shake, senora!

    oh really?

    oh ye of little faith! it's easy and refreshing, though perishable. i'm still tweaking my recipe. next week, i'm going to experiment with fresh herbs and alcohol, two mainstays of your hippy youth. but for now, my teeth are shiny, clean and fresh.

    coming soon: sourdough, seitan and an interview with my one and only oh dear mom! (that means you. prepare yourself!)

    love always,


    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    tasty tooth powder!

    O.D. MOM, momming hard since 1983 --

    today, i regale you from far, far away with yet another a cherished topic that will make you put down your coffee, scramble for your dollar-store glasses, re-read this post in perfect 20/160 vision and yell "what in god's name!"

    like it or not -- betting on not -- here's a recipe for some tooth powder i just made:

    • 1/2 c. baking soda
    • 10 - 15 drops peppermint oil*
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (or more, depending on your love of spice)
    • 1/2 - 1 tsp. sea salt (optional, used as an abrasive.)
    • a pinch of bentonite/green clay

    add all ingredients together in a clean, dry jar. mix well. at this point, you can just dip your dry toothbrush in. or pour a tiny bit of powder in the cap and swish the brush around. water will make your tooth powder get all clumpy, so add water AFTER the tooth powder is already on your brush.

    * other possible oils are tea-tree and clove...  or you could opt for fresh herbs. whatever your imagination/budget permits!

    this has never not been a good idea, so i must insist you disregard this rare lapse in judgment:

    exercise caution when smelling your tooth powder!
    otherwise, you may end up looking... incredibly stupid.

    truth: i've been using tooth powder plus home-made mouthwash for about a year and have noticed a LOT fewer problems -- particularly with my gums. my teeth feel nice and clean afterwards. there are no plastics or detergents or words with too many consonants involved. plus, one batch lasts, like, six months. in case you are quaking with worry, i sometimes still use regular toothpaste. but not often.

    oh, and while we're on the subject, i'm really interested in testing a new tooth-care concoction using neem-leaf powder... early birthday present? 


    what?! um, of course i expect to get birthday gifts forever. what's wrong with that?

    mint-flavored kisses,


    ps: i'd love to send you some, but the post office would probably mistake it for anthrax. sorry.