Christmas Recommendations

In case you’re visiting Ireland this Christmas (or you live there and you really want to see what I’m going to say), I wanted to share a couple recommendations with you.

Lullymore Heritage Park (http://www.lullymoreheritagepark.com/) has an absolutely charming Christmas experience for you and your family. They’ve got an elf hologram, an illuminated walk through the woodland, and an absolutely amazing winter wonderland, complete with Santa (and a SNOW QUEEN!!). Yes, I’m biased, but you’ll thank me for it later.

If you’re going to be closer to Dublin, please, please, please don’t miss a stroll down Grafton Street. You will be mesmerized by the strung lights above and the cobblestone below. Gaze at the Christmas window display at Brown Thomas (and all of the pretty things you can’t afford) and then grab a whiskey at McDaids Pub  (https://mcdaidspub.com/) to warm up!

Kildare Town is home to so many sites worth visiting (The National Stud and Japanese Garden; St Bridgid’s Well), but they’ve also got the most amazing high end shopping experience (but it’s an OUTLET, so no MSRP!!). It’s like a shopping “village” in the middle of a gorgeous Irish countryside. Seriously, that’s what it is. Kildare Village(https://www.kildarevillage.com/en/home/) is clean, relaxing and makes you want to stay. Amazing. My personal favorite is All Saints, but other than designer clothing stores, you can shop for kitchen accessories to designer baby clothes. There are a couple restaurants, but lunch would be better spent at Hartes uptown. The Village also has an outdoor kids area.

And one other thing. When you’re there, enjoy the smell of turf burning in air, the selection boxes, and most importantly, the people.

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The Meeting (part 3)

It was easy to follow R to Portland. He got a job with a really great company, and moved in October, 2001, not long after 9/11. He was so scared to fly that he took a train across the country. I was still in school in Ohio, but I flew out to visit a couple times a year. He was really homesick at first. I know it got easier for him as the months passed and he made some new friends. It’s hard for anyone.

I moved out a year later, after some major relationship challenges. R was really great at being the person everyone wanted to be around and making everyone laugh. He was also really great at making me feel safe when I was with him. But this isn’t a story about how my life worked out with R, because it didn’t. As much as I thought I knew what I wanted for the rest of my life, I was wrong.

I walked into a bar right on Burnside (The The Marathon Taverna) on a rainy Saturday night, met with friends and was introduced to an Irish guy.

“H, this is N, he’s engaged to M,” she said.

“N, this is H, she’s engaged to R.”

And I looked up.

And I remember seeing his face for a second.

And then I saw stars. Actual stars. Like I got smacked in the face really, really hard (I have had that feeling before, but it was when I got hit in the face with a softball on the third baseline because I wasn’t paying attention…it hurt).

And then I smiled at him (he was the most gorgeous man I had ever met).

At first he didn’t smile or anything, he just looked at me, straight faced.

So I said, “Hi. Nice to meet you.” And stuck out my hand.

He smiled (finally) and shook my hand. And then we started talking. We talked about where we grew up, went to school, where we worked. It was really nice. And everyone wanted to leave and go somewhere else, so I got my things together (engagement ring in my clutch after all) and walked to the door with him. And then, walking to the next bar, he didn’t leave my side. We kept talking, and walking. And at the next bar we sat next to each other and kept talking. It was like we had known each other for years (yes, I know that sounds cliché). And as the night went on, I didn’t even remember that we were out with other people. I mean, I did, but I didn’t really feel like I was there with anyone but him.

And that’s when I started to get worried. N was looking at me smiling, telling me about his recent safari, and I awkwardly wished I had this in a real relationship, so I excused myself. I gathered my thoughts in the ladies (like ladies do) and came out level headed and composed again (kind of).

The night flew by.

It was wonderful.  That night, N texted me and asked if I wanted to go out with some friends again the next day. Um, yes.

The Meeting (part 2)

You may be wondering how I got here- walking around Portland, Oregon, with my family and friends across the country in Pittsburgh, PA. It’s not an uncommon story.

In high school, I saw a boy walking down the hall. He had light blue eyes, eyelashes for days,  a handsome face and an athletic build. He was always smiling and laughing, except when he looked at me in the hall that day. He stopped laughing and just stared at me walk by. I was new, having come from catholic grade school, and super intimidated, so I just stared back and walked by.

A year later, in mid-fall, he asked me if I wanted to go to a party with him.

“Sure,” I said.

I decided to bring a friend. He showed up alone.

We went to the party, spent some time together, and really had fun with other people who were there. After that night, he called me to hang out a lot. So I would go, because he was so much fun, and hang out with him and his friends, sometimes both of our friends, sometimes just us. We went to the park, we went to the mall, we drove around, he attempted to take me four-wheeling (I got out of the car and refused, as he laughed), we went to lunch. We had a lot of fun just going places together and hanging out with each other. It was really fun. This went on for months, until summer rolled around and he kissed me. I didn’t know what was going to happen after that, and I was really nervous. But, everything just kind of stayed the same, but became more romantic. We were a couple. And we started doing things as a couple, not just as friends. I introduced him to my family (as my boyfriend now), I met his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. We went to family functions with each other. My siblings and cousins grew up with him there as part of the family. Our first official Valentine’s Day together, I had to work, and he filled my car full of pink balloons and left a bouquet of pink roses on the drivers seat with a note that said, “Can’t wait to see you later.” And when I did finally see him, he had a HUGE box wrapped for me. And he just stood there grinning and said, “Open it!” Inside were a million little things he knew I liked, like make-up, cd’s and clothes. He loved to spoil me. And I really enjoyed it. We spent more and more time together. I was now in college, so it was easy to forget about friends when he was around. And we got really serious.

But the following Valentine’s Day, he did something different. He had wrapped ten, individual boxes for me. He told me to open them in order, so I did.

The first box held a single rose, three pieces of red ribbon, and a page with three holes punched down the left hand side. It read, “R and H” in magazine cut out letters. I was confused. I laughed, and so did he, then he handed me another box. In the second was another rose, and another page, but this time, it said, “Our First Date” and he had written the story of our first date (which he claims is the day I showed up with a friend because I didn’t want to be alone with him). It was written from his perspective, how nervous he was, and how he would never forget it. I was shocked. It too had three  holes punched down the left hand side. Then he handed me another box, which held another rose, and the story of our first kiss. Each box held a page of our relationship together. And after the last box was opened and the final page placed behind the others, he tied them all together with the three pieces of ribbon. He had made me a book.