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Patience. Some say it’s a “virtue”, others say it is “a companion of wisdom”. I say, when exercised correctly, patience is an act of love. We practice patience with our children, particularly when they are young, with our spouses when they make us crazy, and sometimes…if we remember…with our parents…especially as they are aging.

My sister-in-law, Rosaleen, is a person with infinite patience. As her mum’s health slowly declined, Rosaleen’s patience exponentially increased. Everyone in our family watched in awe (and with gratitude) as she courageously stepped into the role of caregiving daughter and lived in that space for many years without complaint.

When Mama wanted to go to bed, Rosaleen was there to assist. When Mama asked the same question for the twentieth time, Rosaleen answered with kindness. When many of us thought Mama should enter a nursing home, Rosaleen resolutely disagreed. Taking Mama out of her beloved home was not an option to consider. Instead, Rosaleen got outside help to come to her and together everyone practiced patience in helping my magnificent mother-in-law leave this world.

By the grace of God, Rosaleen was near to Mama when she took her last breath…but she nearly missed the moment. The doctor, having been called to the house, examined my mother-in-law, and asked to see Rosaleen in the hall. For a few tense minutes they whispered about the inevitable and reentered the bedroom where Mama was resting. Not a second later, Rosaleen saw her mum turn to look at the sepia coloured wedding photograph of herself and Dada hanging on the wall. Mama then took one more breath and that was it. She was gone. Someone not practicing patience might have missed it, but not Rosaleen. She was there.

She was there in that moment and she was there for everything that happened in the whirlwind of a week thereafter. She made the arrangements for a celebration of life to honour Mama. She arranged the wake at home, the removal, and the sit-down lunch at the hotel after the burial. She cooked and baked and fed our large family and the many visitors that called in. She made endless cups of tea and opened more bottles of wine than any of us want to remember. Ah, sure, she’d tell us it was nothing with a wave of her hand or she’d say “many hands make light work” or give the credit to someone else. But we know…it was her. And now she quietly and patiently goes through a home filled with a lifetime of memories and cherished objects, passing things on to the next generation or recycling and giving away what she can whenever possible.

So today, on this the Month’s Mind of Mama’s passing, we not only remember the woman we called Mother, Granny, Great-grandma, admired Mother-in-law…we stop to thank the person who practiced the most loving patience we ever witnessed. Dear Rosaleen, we are so very grateful. Thank you.

Additional Reading & Listening:

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/doconone/2011/0715/646810-radio-documentary-house-strictly-private-irish-wake/

http://farmette.ie/2010/03/03/the-irish-country-wake/

http://blog.funeralone.com/grow-your-business/unique-services/irish-funerals-can-teach-us-celebrating-life/

http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/Ancient-Irish-funeral-and-wake-customs-recalled-this-Halloween-season.html

https://www.funeralwise.com/customs/irishwake/

http://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/others/it-may-be-a-stereotype-but-the-irish-do-great-funerals-138564194-238119711.html

Mary Rose

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 3.15.08 PMIt is with great sorrow that I share with you the tremendous loss happening in our Irish home. After several months of illness, my wonderful mother-in-law, Mary Rose, passed away peacefully on the evening of 8 April 2015 surrounded by her loving family.

Mary Rose was our matriarch. Her beloved husband, Dan, passed away some time ago. She was in her ninety first year when she left this world and she is remembered with love by her twelve children, their husbands and wives, her twenty-eight grandchildren and her eight great-grandchildren.

Mama (the name her family called her by) was a woman of strong Catholic faith. She passed the tradition she felt so passionately to her children and their families. She attended mass daily until she was no longer able and for many years she participated in the Perpetual Adoration of her local church. She prayed the Rosary every day.

As those of you who have followed this blog for a long time will know, I was blessed to learn much from Mama. She gently encouraged and showed me how to cook, bake, garden, knit and sew. She was before her time in thinking about eating organically and maintaining good health ~ a passion we shared. In her quiet way, Mama also showed me how to be a good mother. Once, when I asked her how she managed to hold back her tears as she said goodbye to her children when they left Ireland, she told me a mother should never burden her children with such sorrow.

We will miss Mary Rose greatly. I leave you today with a poem that was read at her funeral mass:

Miss Me – But Let Me Go

by Edgar A. Guest

When I come to the end of the road

And the sun has set for me

I want no rites in a gloom-filled room.

Why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little but not too long

And not with your head bowed low.

Remember the love that we once shared,

Miss me but let me go.

For this is a journey we all must take

And each must go alone.

It’s all a part of the Master’s plan,

A step on the road to home.

When you are lonely and sick of heart

Go to the friends we know

And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.

Miss me but let me go.

Irish Love

The Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Frederic William Burton

The Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Frederic William Burton

One of my favourite paintings in The National Gallery of Ireland is Hellelil and Hildebrand, The Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Frederic William Burton.

This richly coloured watercolour painting depicts the ill-fated lovers Hellelil and Hildebrand, meeting on the stone stairway of a medieval tower. The princess and her bodyguard had fallen in love but her father regarded the young soldier as an unsuitable match for his daughter and ordered his sons to kill him.

The painting captures the couple’s poignant final embrace. Burton’s inspiration for the painting was the story of the ill-fated lovers as told in an old Danish ballad.

It seems I am not the only one smitten by this exquisite painting. Back in 2012, RTE ran a competition to find the country’s favourite piece of artwork and The Meeting on the Turret Stairs was the winner.

In 1864, Burton sold the painting to a dealer, Edward Fox White. Interestingly, in the contract they signed, Burton retained the copyright. The painting changed hands a number of times over the following 30 years but in 1898 it was bought by Miss Margaret McNair Stokes (sister of Whitley Stokes).

An article by Jeanette Stokes in the Irish Arts Review, (Vol.26, no.3, 2009) refers to the fact that there are tantalising hints in some of Margaret Stokes’s letters to her family that her interest in Burton was something more than friendship. Margaret Stokes was writing a biography of Burton when she died in 1900, in her will she bequeathed the painting, along with a number of other works by Burton, to the National Gallery of Ireland.

Sadly, the painting is only available to view at limited times each week, due to its medium and sensitivity to light. The National Gallery’s website states: “The Meeting on the Turret Stairs will be back on limited display from 2 March 2015. Viewing Times from 2nd March: Mondays and Wednesdays: 11.30am to 12.30pm. Admission is free, but a timed-ticketing system will be in operation. No advance booking. Tickets are limited and available on the day, from the Information Desk in the Millennium Wing, on a first-come, first-served basis.”

If you’re in Dublin, stop by The National Gallery of Ireland…and, if you’re lucky, you too will catch a glimpse of this exceptional Irish love painting.

 

 

Additional Reading:

http://www.nationalgallery.ie/Home/Collection/Irelands_Favourite_Painting/Burton

http://www.historyireland.com/medieval-history-pre-1500/irelands-favourite-paintingthe-meeting-on-the-turret-stairs/

http://www.thejournal.ie/irelands-favourite-painting-is-announced-and-its-a-romantic-one-462651-May2012/

http://thewildgeese.com/profiles/blogs/burton-s-helellil-and-hildebrand-the-meeting-on-the-turret-stairs

http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/irelands-favourite-painting-reveals-that-were-a-country-of-old-romantics-at-heart-26857335.html

 

 

Sundance 2015The Sundance 2015 Film Festival ends this weekend and it has been another strong year for Irish filmmakers and Irish co-productions. Brooklyn, The Hallow, and Glasslands, in particular, have been very well received in Park City, Utah.

The period drama Brooklyn has received the highest praise: not surprising given the power houses (both Irish and not) involved. Based on the novel written by Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn was adapted for the screen by novelist-turned-script writer Nick Hornby. John Crowley, whose earlier work included Intermission, Boy A, Is Anybody There? and Closed Circuit, was the director. Irish actress, Saoirse Ronan, plays the lead character beautifully and is supported superbly by Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Julie Waters and Jim Broadbent…to name but a few.

Set between Ireland and New York in the early 1950’s, the story line follows a young Irish woman’s coming of age while being pulled between the home she loves and the life she leads. Brooklyn received a standing ovation at the Eccles Theatre at Sundance when it premiered. Twenty-four hours later it started a distribution bidding war, which Fox Searchlight won, shortly thereafter.

As someone who’s left home (America) and started anew someplace else (Ireland), I felt the heartbreak and joy of Saoirse Ronan’s character deeply…so too, it seems, did my fellow audience members. Together we laughed, cried, gasped and enjoyed the film. Here’s what the press had to say about Brooklyn at Sundance:

“Brooklyn premiered at the Sundance Film Festival without much advance buzz. But when the lights at the Eccles Theatre in Park City came up two hours later to a rapturous standing ovation, it was clear that Sundance had just screened one of the best films of the year. Within 24 hours, Fox Searchlight defeated its rivals (including the Weinstein Co. and Focus Features) in a heated bidding war and landed “Brooklyn” for $9 million. That deal, the biggest at this year’s festival, also kicked off the Oscars 2016 race.” – Entertainment Weekly

“A robust romantic drama, rich in history and full of emotion, “Brooklyn” fills a niche in which the studios once specialized, using a well-read and respected novel as the grounds for a tenderly observed tear-jerker. With a classical, literate script from Nick Hornby unfussily interpreted by Crowley, the film satisfies the reason audiences of a certain age go to the movies in the first place: namely, to feel something”. – Variety 

“…this movie is magical…In an increasingly cynical age of cinema—especially at a Sundance where it feels like every film is about people dying—it’s remarkable to see that romance can still connect with an audience. On the shuttle after the standing O at the screening, I’ve never heard so many people proclaim a movie their favorite of the fest.” – RoberEbert.com

“Classily and classically crafted in the best sense by director John Crowley and screenwriter Nick Hornby, this superbly acted romantic drama is set in the early 1950s and provides the feeling of being lifted into a different world altogether, so transporting is the film’s sense of time and place and social mores…this British-Canadian-Irish co production is splendidly decked out in every department, notably including Yves Belanger’s cinematography, Francois Seguin’s spot-on period production design, Odil Dicks-Mireaux’s lively costume design and Michael Brook’s evocative scoring”.The Hollywood Reporter

“Brooklyn captures that bittersweet mix of excitement and longing really well, Crowley directing with patience and understatement. He’s helped immensely by his lead, Saoirse Ronan, who does wonderful work here—her Eilis isn’t always likable, she’s sometimes prickly and aloof, but she’s fully human, intelligent and determined and decent…the movie belongs wholly to Ronan, who at just 20 years old is such a remarkably poised and confident performer.”Vanity Fair

There were many video interviews with the cast and crew of Brooklyn this past week. These are amongst the most interesting:

 

And, finally Anya Jaremko-Greenwold of Indiewire did a short but interesting interview with John Crowley. You can read it here.

 

Notes:

The photos at the top of this blog post are courtesy of Sundance.org. In the collage: the photo from The Hallow was taken by Martin Maguire, the photo from Brooklyn was taken by Kerry Brown, and the photo from Glassland was taken by Pat Redmond. The photo single photo from Brooklyn was also taken by Kerry Brown.

 

 

 

 

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Today a friend of mine posted a letter on Facebook that was written by a mom to her fourteen-year-old daughter. It stuck such a cord with me, and is such a perfect follow up to the post I did last week entitled “Teen Angst“, that I had to interrupt my Sundance blogging to share it with you.

As my friend Niamh wrote on FB…” (it’s) relevant to anyone navigating the world with teens or preteens.” AMEN to that sister.

Rearing kids isn’t easy. Rearing a teen/preteen is bloody hard work. And, I would do it all again…in a heartbeat…because I love my children.

Thanks Niamh for sending this my way. Amy Foster…you stole the words right out of my mouth.

A Letter to a 14 Year-Old Daughter

By Amy Foster

Dear Daughter,

Right now you are upstairs in your room thinking that life is completely and totally unfair.

The whole world is against you because there is not a single person in it that understands you. You would say that you love your friends, but the truth is that  you love them more on Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram than you do in real life. In real life, you can only handle spending so much time with them before they start to annoy you because, as I mentioned before, no one really understands who you are.

Your room is a pigsty. The clothes that you beg for me to buy you are crumpled in a heap in the corner. When asked to clean – when asked to do anything, really – you roll your eyes (not to my face, because you are smart enough at this point to know that will set me off) because you have a thousand more important things to do like watch Teen Wolf or check your phone.

You are both obsessed with and terrified by boys.

Some days you think you are pretty. Some days you are certain you are the ugliest person on earth. You are sure you are being left out.. of something. Some party, some conversation, some sleepover is happening and you were deliberately excluded because no one cares how you feel. You have every right in the world to be moody because life is hard. Grade 8 is pointless. There isn’t a person alive who hasn’t been able to get into the college they wanted to because they got crappy grades in Grade 8. Mostly though, life is just hard and complicated and difficult and confusing. Despite this, you are never given the credit you deserve for always knowing what’s what. You know what is best for you and there is nothing more irritating than someone else (like me) presuming that they know.

I realize that when I broach these topics with you, you will not hear me. Despite all appearances, you are not a small adult. You cannot reason like an adult and so it is impossible for you to understand that I am trying to help you and guide you and not, ruin your life. This privilege I exert does not necessarily come from biology, it comes from the fact that I have been exactly where you are and I have been navigating this life for a lot longer than you. It is true that everyone has a story, and everyone’s story is unique, but loss, pain, anger, confusion and sadness are universal. These feelings don’t separate you from the world, but rather they bind you closer to it. Someone out there is feeling the exact same way you do right now, including me, my dearest girl, and I am only a few feet away. There will never be and can never be another you, but you are part of a magnificent community of humans. Humanity at times can be brutal and petty and mean-spirited, but that’s never an excuse for you to be that way. You are so much more and so much better than a bad day.

I am not your friend. I don’t care what you think about me. I am not aiming for popularity in our house. Most importantly, we are not equals. Think about it: how can we be equals if you depend on me for everything? If you’re going to take the iPhone, then you have to take my rules. Some people call it parenting. Mercenary me, I call it leverage. When you don’t need me for things, only advice and council, then we can explore a friendship.

When I ask you to do something right now, I am trying to teach you something about success. Procrastination is a dream killer. No one ever became a grand success by doing it later. You’re right, your room is yours. I am less concerned with the state of it than I am of your mind. Ever see a happy person on Hoarders? It sounds ridiculous to you, but a clean space makes it easier to be creative and productive. When you let your room slide, you are likely to let everything else slide too, like homework.

I am not a Tiger Mom. I am not interested in you getting straight As (though, of course, that would be great), I am interested in you doing your absolute best. Sometimes you do your best and you fail, and you need to learn to be okay with that, too. You must learn to be good AT school, so it will be easier for you to be good AT college and AT work. Yes, of course, it’s pandering to a system, but everyone, regardless of status has to work within a system, unless you’re becoming a hermit which let’s face it, is never going to happen. When you become overly concerned with pleasing your friends and making them happy it takes away from your focus, your job, which right now is school. The balance you learn to strike right now will carry you through your entire life where friendships can be vital. But, you cannot rely on a great friendship to buy you a house.

I don’t tell you often enough how beautiful you are. Even though you are stunning, I do guess I do this on purpose. Being beautiful should never be the most interesting thing about you. A girl who relies on her looks is setting herself up to be a woman lost as sea as she gets older. We live in a world where beauty can and will open many doors, but how you choose to open them and what you do inside becomes about character. Character, moral aptitude, empathy, grace- these are the traits that will carry on your beauty far after your looks are gone. You aren’t anywhere near understanding this right now, even though I am trying to lead this charge by example. When you look at me all you see is old, and mom.

Unbelievably though, I was young (and not so long ago, I might add) once, and nothing you can say will shock me. In point of fact, if I was to over share and talk about some of the things I’ve done, or still do actually, on a pretty regular basis with your step dad, it is you that would be shocked. Don’t worry, I would never, because like I said, we are not friends. I promise you this, though: as long as you tell me the truth, you will never get into trouble, though I can’t promise I won’t be disappointed.

Until you have children of your own, you won’t realize the depth in which I love you. I would do anything for you and it is the great irony of life that the person I love most, I get treated the worst by. I am your greatest cheerleader and your biggest fan. Sometimes you scream “Why do you hate me!” when I am doing my job as a mother. You don’t understand that if I indeed hated you, or felt a far more heinous thing, indifference, I simply wouldn’t bother. I would let you get on with it and shrug my shoulders and not say a word. When I stand my ground and open myself up to your vitriol and disregard and general railroading, that, my dear, is love.

The most important thing for you to understand is though you may be convinced otherwise, whatever happens in this crazy, upside down life, you will never, ever be alone. So maybe, just once in a while, will you keep this in mind and be a little kinder to me.

Your ever loving,

Mom

 

It’s that time of year again. Yes, the Sundance Film Festival ~ the largest independent film celebration ~ is in full swing in Park City, Utah and I am here with nearly 50,000 other attendees. The air is crisp, the days are bright and we could care less. One doesn’t come to Sundance for a holiday: you’re either here because you support independent films or you’re in the business surrounding them.

For more than 30 years, Robert Redford has introduced some of cinema’s best filmmakers to the world, including Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs), Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), Steven Soderbergh (Sex, Lies, and Videotape), the Coen brothers (Blood Simple), Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project), to name but a few.

Superb Irish films or Irish-backed films have been here too! In the last few years, award-winning Irish/Irish-backed films have included: The Summit, Calvary, Irish Folk Furniture, Frank, and The Last Days of Peter Bergmann.

For the past two years, I have tried to see all the Irish films and report back the news. This year, I am in Park City to do it again. There are five films to see. They include:

Brooklyn – Set on opposite sides of the Atlantic, Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, she departs Ireland for the shores of New York. Her initial bouts of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. Soon, though, her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and Eilis must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within. Directed by John Crowley. Starring Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) and Domhnall Gleeson (Frank). The official trailer has not yet been released. This film will screen in the Premieres section at Sundance. It was produced by Wildgaze Films, Finola Dwyer Productions, Parallel Films and Item 7, was filmed in Wexford, Dublin and Wicklow, and was co-financed by the Irish Film Board.

Glassland – Young Dublin cabdriver, John barely makes ends meet. He shares social housing with his mother, Jean, an alcoholic who is systematically drinking herself to death. Desperate to save his mother, John takes a shady job from the ambiguous criminal element he’s loosely connected to and is forced to make a life changing moral decision. Directed by Gerard Barrett. Starring Toni Collette (Sixth SenseLittle Miss Sunshine), Jack Reynor (What Richard Did and Transformers: Age of Extinction), Will Poulter (Son of RambowWe’re the Millers), and Michael Smiley (A Field in EnglandKill List). This film will screen in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition section at Sundance, which only selects 12 films from thousands of entries. It was produced by Element Pictures, was filmed in Dublin, and was produced with support from the Irish Film Board.

 

Strangerland – New to the remote Australian desert town of Nathgari, Catherine and Matthew Parker’s lives are pushed to the brink when their two teenage children, Tommy and Lily, disappear just before a massive dust storm hits the town. With temperatures rising, and the chances of survival plummeting with each passing day, Catherine and Matthew find themselves pushed to the brink as they struggle to survive the uncertainty of their children’s fate. Directed by Kim Farrant. Starring Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes. The official trailer has not yet been released. This film will also screen in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition section at Sundance, which only selects 12 films from thousands of entries. It was produced by Fastnet films and Dragonfly Pictures and was funded by the Irish Film Board, Worldview Entertainment, Screen Australia and Screen NSW.

The Hallow – Deep within the darkness of a secluded forest in rural Ireland dwells an ancient evil. When a conservationist from London moves in with his wife and infant child in order to survey the land for future construction, his actions unwittingly disturb the horde of demonic forces. Alone in a remote wilderness, he must now ensure his family’s survival from their relentless attacks. Directed by Corin Hardy. Starring Joseph Mawle (The Awakening, Game of Thrones) and Bojana Novakovic (Devil, Burning Man). The official trailer has not been released yet, but you can see the unofficial version here (unfortunately, you are forced to watch an advertisement first). This film will screen as part of the Park City at Midnight section at Sundance. It was produced by Occupant Entertainment and Fantastic Films, was filmed on location in Galway, and was funded by Prescience, Altus Media, Hyperion and the Irish Film Board.

The Visit – Imagine an event that has never taken place: mankind’s first encounter with an intelligent life from outer space. Through tantalizing interviews with experts from NASA, United Nations, and the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, among many others, this film constructs a chillingly believable scenario of first contact on Earth, beginning with the simplest of questions: Why are you here? How do you think? What do you see in humans that we don’t see in ourselves? Directed by Michael Madsen (Into Eternity). This will screen in the World Documentary Competition section at Sundance. It is co-produced by Venom Films, with support from the Irish Film Board.

 

 

 

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