Words to inspire the belief that we have all we need to be the change we wish to see.

Month: March 2016

The Republic of Ireland

On my recent trip to Ireland, the country was celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916.  This was when a handful of regular Irish folks — poets, writers and teachers — decided to fight for Ireland to escape British rule.

The people of Ireland didn’t initially support the rebels. In fact, many of them had joined the British Army in World War I.  But after the rebels were executed at Kilmainham Jail, the Irish saw the value in what they had done.  And the rebels are now hailed as brave leaders and trailblazers for Ireland.

Padraig (Patrick) Pearse, one of the seven rebels who signed the Proclamation calling the Irish to fight for freedom, was a teacher and orator who championed the Irish language and set up a special school to promote it.  Gaelic had declined as British law forbid the teaching of the Irish language for years, and many of the original Irish speakers lived in poor areas which were hit hard by the Great Famine.  So the language almost disappeared. But it was brought back into the Irish school system in 1922 after the Rising took place. Pearse once said, “A country without a language is a country without a soul.”

Although it was just a small group of people who rose up initially in Ireland, the New York Times covered the story on its front page for eight days in a row.  And the Proclamation was the only one of its time to speak to men and women as equals.  The first line said, “Irishmen and Irish women, in the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.”

Initially the British were taken off guard by the rebels as it was a holiday weekend but once reinforcements arrived, there were almost 20,000 British soldiers against less than 2,000 Irish.  Sixty-four Irish rebels perished and 132 British soldiers died.  But about 250 Irish civilians died as well and more than 2,000 were injured.  It was the deaths and injuries to the civilians that led Padraig Pearse to surrender.

The story of the Easter Rising really touched me.  The idea that a small group of people believed in something enough to die for it.  They changed the course of history and put in motion a chain of events that led to Ireland becoming its own country.  A place rich in culture, language and music that I was immersed in as a child of Irish immigrants.  A history that I try to share with my own children today.

It made me think of what the great Irish writer William Butler Yeats once said, “But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams beneath your feet; tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

They dreamt of something different and they gave their lives to see those dreams come true.  May we all have the courage to stand up for what we believe in and realize, as Steve Jobs once said, “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

“Travel is still the most intense mode of learning.” Kevin Kelly

I remember the pattern of the carpet on my first plane ride to Ireland at age two.  I don’t remember a lot about that visit, but I know it was the foundation that tied me to my Irish roots.

My parents brought me to see my grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles in Ireland every other summer from when I was two until I was sixteen.  I will never forget the effort that took in a time when they were working hard to pay the bills.  But those magical trips gave me lifelong connections with my family overseas.  I feel like I know them so well.  As a teen I went on some high school trips to Italy and Greece and I have travelled in the United States to Florida, New York, California, and Rhode Island.

But I recently took the trip of a lifetime with my two sons.  My 13-year-old had qualified for the World Irish Dance Championships in Glasgow.  So we decided to attend and stop in Ireland first.

A sign in the Dublin Airport read, “Prepare to have your cobwebs blown away.”  Nothing better to clear the mind.

The architecture in Ireland and Scotland brings you back to times when people walked the streets years ago.  The milk is creamier.  The butter more golden.  The tea always in a pot. You can’t help but see things differently.

We learned about the Irish rebels, who weren’t soldiers but were teachers, orators and poets, who fought to create the Republic of Ireland and were executed at Kilmainham Jail. We saw stories about Irish writers like Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw and Bram Stoker. We found out that Arthur Guinness leased a down-and-out brewery in the middle of Dublin in 1759, decided only to brew one beer, signed a 900-year-lease, and the rest is history. We saw how the written word has always been important in Ireland, highlighted by the Book of Kells at Trinity College.  In the West of Ireland in County Mayo our cousins showed us Ashford Castle where Ronald Reagan, John Lennon and Oscar Wilde have stayed the night, Croagh Patrick mountain where legend says the country’s St. Patrick fasted at the summit for 40 days and 40 nights, and picturesque Clew Bay in Westport.

In Scotland, we stood in the room in Edinburgh Castle where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son James who later became the King of England.  We entered the oldest building in the country, St. Margaret’s Chapel, built 900 years ago by Margaret’s son when she died of a broken heart after her husband was killed in battle.  We climbed the tallest monument ever built for a writer, the Scott Monument, built for Sir Walter Scott who wrote Ivanhoe.  Two hundred and eighty seven Alice-in-Wonderland-esque steps to a breathtaking view in more ways than one.  We climbed the largest marble steps in Europe, the three storey set in the Glasgow City Parliament Building.  We visited one of Europe’s best museums, The Museum of Transport, which shared the history of transportation and social life in Glasgow.  We also saw paintings by Van Gogh and Matisse at the Kelingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  And all the museums in Glasgow were free to visit.

We ate at two renowned Glaswegian restaurants.  Cafe Gandolfi, owned and operated by Seumas MacInnes, who came back to meet us even though he had left for the evening.  The fresh Scottish seafood was delectable.  And Rogano, a favourite stop for Rod Stewart, that is very reasonably priced at the downstairs cafe during the day.  The 1930s art deco decor hasn’t changed since it was put in place during the building of the Queen Mary ship.  One of the oldest restaurants in Glasgow.

The food, the sights and the people have forever changed us.  Inspired us.  Made us want to seek new adventures.  Travel truly is an education.

As Saint Augustine once said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” And George A. Moore once said, “A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.”

May we all have the chance to see new places and then realize the treasures we already have at home.

Tina Fey

Tina Fey was born in 1970 in a suburb of Pennsylvania.  At the age of five, a stranger came up to her while she was playing in her yard and slashed her face with a knife.  She still has the scar, but she never let that incident define her.

After earning a degree in drama from the University of Virginia, she moved to Chicago and joined Second City to work on her comedy chops.

Soon she was hired at Saturday Night Live as a writer and after working there for a few years she became the first female head writer on the show.

Although talented behind the scenes, some critics said she didn’t have the looks to be in front of the camera. However, she didn’t listen to the naysayers.  She ended up co-anchoring and writing Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update to great reviews.  But it was her portrayal of Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin that got the world to take notice.

Her hysterical autobiography Bossypants was on the New York Times Best Sellers list.  She wrote the scripts for Mean Girls and 30 Rock.  She’s starred in multiple movies and shows, won eight Emmys, two Golden Globes and five Screen Actors Guild Awards.  She hosted the Golden Globes with her friend Amy Poehler and got incredible ratings.  Rolling Stone ranked her as the third most important Saturday Night Live cast member behind John Belushi and Eddie Murphy.

Pretty good for a small town girl who was told she would never have the looks to be a comedic actor.

Tina has said, “Confidence is 10 per cent hard work and 90 per cent delusion.”  She said, “I would not trade any of these features for anybody else’s.  I wouldn’t trade the small thin-lipped mouth that makes me resemble my nephew.  I wouldn’t even trade the acne scar on my right cheek, because that recurring zit spent more time with me in college than any boy ever did.”  And she said, “When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: ‘Is this person in between me and what I want to do?’ If the answer is no, ignore it and move on.  Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way.”

Tina Fey is a comedic genius.  But she didn’t wake up one morning where she is today.  She was told no.  She was told she wasn’t right for the part.  But she never gave up.

She knew she liked comedy.  She said, “Somewhere around the fifth or seventh grade, I figured out that I could ingratiate myself to people by making them laugh.  Essentially, I was just trying to make them like me.  But after a while it became part of my identity.” The difference is she didn’t just keep it as a hobby. She went after it.  She pursued it.  She got up when she was knocked down.  She brought her gift to life.  And because of that, we get to be entertained by one of the funniest, wittiest women in the world through her movies, books and television shows.

Do we know what our gift is?  And do we have the courage to take a step every day to transform our day dreams into dreams come true?  I think we do.

P.S. I’m off on an adventure and will continue posting my weekly blogs shortly.

13. ‘Confidence is 10 per cent hard work and 90 per cent delusion.’
Read more at http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/blogs/546427/12-inspiring-tina-fey-quotes.html#kGL8RM7Qq60F4cDT.99
3. ‘Confidence is 10 per cent hard work and 90 per cent delusion.’
Read more at http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/blogs/546427/12-inspiring-tina-fey-quotes.html#kGL8RM7Qq60F4cDT

Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan, the former first lady and wife to U.S. President Ronald Reagan, died on March 6th, 2016, of congestive heart failure, at the age of 94.

Her birth father abandoned her and her mother shortly after her birth.  Years later, her mother, an actor, married a neurosurgeon, who adopted her.  This gave her the stability and love she was craving in her life.

As an actor in Hollywood, she met fellow actor Ronald Reagan.  They married a few years later on March 4th, 1952.  Ronald went on to run for office.

Some wonder how an actor became the President of the United States.  One of the reasons might have been the unending support of his life partner Nancy.  She was his advisor, she watched out for his health, she kept on top of his itinerary.  All the while Ronald was helping end the Cold War, increasing jobs through tax cuts and revitalizing the Republican Party.

When he was shot, she nursed him back to health. When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she never left his side during that long goodbye.

It might seem simplistic, but there is true power in knowing someone is always in your court. Always standing beside you.

Whether you agree with their policies or not, they followed their dreams and made them happen. They heard many people tell them that an actor couldn’t become the most powerful man in the world. But together, they made their mission come true.

Nancy once said, “You learn something out of everything, and you come to realize more than ever that we’re all here for a certain space of time, and then it’s going to be over. And you better make this count.”

She passed away two days after what would have been her 64th wedding anniversary to Ronnie. They are finally together again.  Ronald once said, “What do you say about someone who’s always there with support and understanding, someone who makes sacrifices so that your life will be easier and more successful? Well, what you say is that you love that person and treasure her.”

Who in our lives can we support in their quest to reach their dreams?  And who can do that for us?

Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell would have celebrated his 169th birthday this week.  Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, he was always interested in finding solutions to problems.  As a young boy, he noticed how hard it was to take the husks off of wheat.  So he went home and created a device that could remove the husks easily.

His mother was hearing impaired, so he was always looking for ways to communicate with her and he also used a system his father had created to help teach deaf students to speak. Helen Keller’s parents even contacted him and he connected her with a teacher, too.

After many false trials, his biggest invention was the telephone.  The beginning of global communication.  Can any of us imagine our lives without the telephone?

And can we fathom how Bell came up with the idea in the first place?  How does an inventor decide that a certain solution is possible and worth trying to figure out?  I’m sure there are hundreds and even thousands of failures before getting it right.  Are we willing to fail that many times to make our own dreams come true?

Bell said, “When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”

It’s so important to get up when we fall and to see that not getting what we want might be the best thing that ever happened to us.

He also said, “Concentrate all your thoughts on the work at hand.  The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

What you focus on gets bigger.  So should we focus on the background noise or should we focus on what makes our heart sing?  Alexander Graham Bell decided he wanted to do something and he didn’t give up until he got it done.

As Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”  Are you on the road to finding out your why?  And if not, what’s stopping you?

Bernie Sanders

As a Canadian mom who loves politics, I can’t help but watch the U.S. election process with interest. And one candidate stuck out for me this year.  Bernie Sanders.

As my southern neighbours voted on Super Tuesday to try and figure out the Republican and Democratic candidates for President, I wondered how Bernie would fare.

Some may have counted him out long ago.  But he has rallied contagious support over the last few months.

Bernie was born in Brooklyn in 1941.  His parents, both Jewish, had Polish roots.  Some of his dad’s relatives were killed in the Holocaust.

As a student at the University of Chicago in 1962, Bernie and a number of other students camped outside the school President’s office protesting the fact that black and white students could not live together on campus.  This was the first civil rights sit-in in the history of Chicago.  Sanders also attended the March on Washington in 1963 where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech.  And he was fined for resisting arrest in a demonstration that year protesting segregation in public schools.

In 1980, he ran for the role of Mayor of Burlington, Vermont as an underdog against a popular incumbent and won by 10 votes.

He was re-elected three times.  In 1990, he became the first Independent to be elected into the House of Representative in decades and stayed in that role until he became a Senator in 2007.

He decided to run for President of the United States in the summer of 2015 and by the end of that year, he had raised $73 million from 2.5 million donations, with the average donation being $27. Talk about representing the people.

He believes in raising the minimum wage, universal healthcare, reducing student debt, making university tuition-free, decreasing the number of people in prison, reversing global warming, taxing the rich and strengthening the middle class.

He also considers himself a feminist.

Bernie said, “When we stand together, we will always win.  When men and women stand together for justice, we win.  When black, white and Hispanic people stand together for justice, we win.”

He said, “You’ve got the top 400 Americans owning more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans.  Most folks do not think that is right.”

And he said, “Do the elected officials in Washington stand with ordinary Americans — working families, children, the elderly, the poor — or will the extraordinary power of billionaire campaign contributors and Big Money prevail? The American people, by the millions, must send Congress the answer to that question.”

As the votes are cast and tallied, I hope that the winners fight the good fight and bring the people together, rather than tear them apart.  And whether Bernie is in the mix or on the sidelines, I hope some of the things he was championing find their way to the forefront of American policy.

© 2024 Siobhan Kelleher Kukolic

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