Our 2003 Christmas Homes Tour

Many years ago, Dave and I opened our partially renovated home for public viewing.  Ours was among the home featured on our neighborhood’s annual Christmas Homes Tour.  We were included as a “work in progress.”

And we’re still in progress!  Although we did a major overhaul, we still have details to complete.

In any case, I thought you might like to see our home the last time it was decorated for Christmas, way back in 2003.

The Art of Traveling (with a Cat in Every Lap)

In anticipation of retirement, our friend John Baird has decided to learn the art of traveling.  He’s starting small.

On Wednesday he called to say he’d be making the trip to our home in Portsmouth.  It’s a 5.5-hour drive from Blacksburg (my hometown and the place he lives) to our home in the Tidewater region of Virginia.  Dave, the cats, and I were all thrilled we’d get to see him!

John is Dave’s former boss and a groomsman in our 2001 wedding.  We were very happy to hear he was on the way, because we haven’t yet found time to make a trip to Blacksburg.

In anticipation of his arrival, I pulled out our wedding album.  While John was here we took a stroll down memory lane.

Our 2001 wedding ceremony at Hampton University Memorial Church with (left to right) Annie Nichols, Esther Sterchi, Katie Sullivan Booth, Heather Massie, Shannon Chance, Fr. Slovik, my mom Rev. Dr. Cynthia Massie,  Mara, Dave Chance, Jay Gallagher, Michael, Chance, John Baird, and Rob Nichols.

Our 2001 wedding ceremony at Hampton University Memorial Church with (left to right) Annie Nichols, Esther Sterchi, Katie Sullivan Booth, Heather Massie, Shannon Massie Chance, Fr. Slovik, my mom Dr. Rev. Cynthia Massie Mara, Dave Chance, Jay Gallagher, Michael, Chance, John Baird, and Rob Nichols.

Memorial Church at Hampton University (Photo copyright Shannon Chance, 2001).

Memorial Church at Hampton University (Photo copyright Shannon Chance, 2001).

Dave and I haven’t viewed it for a decade.  When I received the proof prints the week after the weeding, I was disappointed with the quality of composition.

My mom, dad, and husband have all been professional photographers at some point in life.  I myself served as photography editor for my high school yearbook.  And so I resented the missing feet in our photos — and the fact that the photographer had chosen distracting backgrounds.

But what can you do at that point?  So I doled out photos from one set of proofs (to Mom, Annie, etc.) and placed the second set on a shelf.

From this experience, I garnered some helpful advice for people who are booking wedding photographers:  avoid bait-and-switch disappointment.  Be sure to specify in your contract which person you expect to show up at with a camera on the wedding day.  (Lucy/Matt and Dave/I each had the experience where we met with the owner of the photo business prior to our big day and liked her and her work.  BUT on the day of our weddings, an untrained photographer’s-husband showed up on each scene with not much clue about how to use a camera.  In both cases, the owner of our selected companies had booked multiple gigs. In reviewing our photos last night, Dave and I agreed we’d made out far better than Matt and Lucy.  Our husband-photographer wasn’t great, but also wasn’t anywhere near as bad as theirs.  Perhaps a little editing can alleviate my wedding-album angst.)

In any case, perusing the wedding photos was fun.  I enjoyed seeing much we/things have changed and how much we/they have stayed the same.  I’ve included a photo I took myself of the church where we married, on the campus of Hampton University.

As for our bridal party:  since November, I’ve gotten to see all but one of them!

It’s always a joy to see John.  We wish his wife Wendy would have made the trip, too, but she’s tied up right now, doing the agriculture research she so dearly loves.

John was Dave’s supervisor when they both worked as photographers for Virginia Tech.  For a few months before Dave moved here to Hampton Roads to be with me, Dave lived with John, Wendy, and their kids in Blacksburg.  The group of 5 Bairds took him in and treated him as a member of the family.

I’ve always admired the kids — Caitlin, Gillian, and Logan — for treating Dave like a brother.

Whenever we’ve visited Blacksburg since, we’ve stayed with John and Wendy in the beautiful home John designed and built on the side of a mountain near Ellet Valley.  Today the kids are spread out across the USA.  They live in NYC, Seattle, and DC.  Nevertheless, we’re sometimes lucky enough to be on the mountain when they are there, too.

And that, my friends, is a unique pleasure.  It has a certain feeling that I’ve found no where else and can’t really describe. Except perhaps to say:  it’s like getting to see inside a family that just loves being together.  Being there is something like watching the Waltons. Except in this case, we’re not watching on a TV screen.  We’re members of the clan, accepted almost as if we were Mary Ellen and Jim Bob.

During John’s overnight to the flatlands of Virginia, we went out for sushi and visited Dave’s studio and a company where Dave used to work (Superior Marble and Stone).  Then John hopped into his Honda for the trek home.

Fabulous Four

I’ve adored baby David since the moment I heard he was on the way.

Now that he’s four years old, young David is one of the kindest people I know.  He’s a genuinely sweet kid who loves being a big brother.  He tries to help out around the house and be a good example to the two younger kids in the family.

He enjoys learning new things and receiving interesting gifts from afar, like foreign currency and the skeleton keys Uncle Dave and I brought him from France last summer.

Christmas Presence

We’re never in a hurry to open gifts when we’re at Mom’s for Christmas.  Gifts just aren’t the focus of our gathering.  This year, we waited until today, December 27, to make our exchanges.

We had a lot of fun, nonetheless.  The pictures look much like the past five years (the same five characters, the same house).  This year, we’re just a bit older and, hopefully, wiser.  You’ll see from my photos that the gifts we give tend to be practical, educational, or cultural….

Merry Christmas, World!

Thanks for tuning in!  It gives me reason to share stories of Ireland and home….

Map of Views 2012-12-26 at 5.08.24 PM

Remembering Lillian

Last Christmas with Ma.

Last Christmas with Ma.

My grandmother, Lillian Forsythe Massie (aka, Ma) always loved Christmas and made sure that it was a special day for everyone in her family.  She’d plan all year.

This is our first Christmas without her (we lost her on January 26, 2012).

This is the last photo Dave took of Ma.  May she rest in peace.

Another Norman Rockwell Christmas at Kitty Lee and Glen’s

Introducing my Massie grandparents — Layton (Pa) and Lillian (Ma) Massie.  They are my Dad’s parents, and they used to live in Staunton, Virginia.

Although Ma and Pa are no longer with us, most of their kids and grandkids (as well as their great grand kids and their great great grandkid) gather at my aunt Kitty Lee’s home each year to celebrate Christmas.

I enjoy this outing and the chance to catch up with Kitty Lee and Glen (who live in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley), as well as my Dad and the rest of the Massie tribe.

This is the way we’ve celebrated Massie Christmas since the mid-90s.  Before that, we’d all gather at my grandparents’ cozy bungalow at 414 High Street in downtown Staunton, Virginia.

The pictures below were taken December 22-24, 2012.

Chili with Duane and Kitty Kat

Chili with Dave and Duane last Sunday.

Chili with Dave and Duane last Sunday.

Duane Wilson has been feeding Dave and me for the past 13+ years.  Duane was president of the Port Norfolk Civic League when we move to the neighborhood.  There weren’t many others willing to take office at that time; he clearly needed some help.

I was immediately drafted to serve as recording secretary and corresponding secretary (little did I know, these were two distinct and labor-intensive jobs). Duane was thrilled to have help and he has thanked us hundredfold over the years.

He lives just three blocks from our home and he phones us at least once a week with an invitation to head to his house for dinner.  Dave and I have learned to anticipate a call on Sunday night, when Duane is prone to be “cleaning out” his refrigerator.  He didn’t call this week, so we rang him and asked if he had any leftovers on… and by golly, he did!

He’s such a generous person that, in addition to feeding us, he has also:

  • Installed (with Dave and sometimes me) all four copper roofs on our house.
  • Let Dave paint the porch flooring in his garage.
  • Hosted our wedding shower at his house.
  • Taken us along to his daughter’s wedding (as his date — hee, hee!)
  • Thrown my 40th birthday party at his house.
  • Introduced us to dozens of his friends over the years.

Duane and I have learned yoga and opera-appreciation together. Our attendance at the opera is due to his girlfriend Julie; we all enjoy our time with the opera crowd.

It’s wonderful to have Duane, Julie, his Kitty Kat — and others from his group like Ann, Clara and Jimmy, Ken and Sally, Eric and Ann — to count among our friends.

Sadly, the Sun also Sets

The sun also sets (at 4:30 pm).

The sun also sets (at 4:30 pm).

Here’s a view from my window at 4:30 pm.

Throughout history, there have always been big solstice parties in Ireland.  I mean always.  And I mean big.

Seems pretty clear why that is!

I will miss the celebrations here, which is sad, but thankfully I will be home celebrating the light of my life!

Third Spaces of Smithfield

Browse the bookshelf.

A good “third space” helps fill the gap left between your home (your first space) and your workplace (your second space).  It should be a place where everyone feels welcome and equal–regardless of income or social status.

I learned about third spaces from one of my thesis advisees at Hampton University, Ryan Kendall, who asserted that we lack adequate third spaces in the USA.  He proposed to transform our beautiful (but increasingly vacant) Post Office buildings into vibrant spaces. He wanted them to be used for socializing, learning, developing physically, and yes, mailing things (in old- and new-fashioned ways). Prior to his thesis year, Ryan worked at NASA Langley. That happened the summer after he completed the Comprehensive Design Studio that I taught alongside Robert Easter. Ryan was a smashing success with NASA.  And the NASA folks have kept coming back, asking for more and more HU interns and for our department’s help on various design projects.

Ryan Kendall in his job at NASA Langley.

Ryan’s main point?

In the States we often neglect our third spaces… or fail to create them all together.

I’ve found that fostering “third space” is a core tradition in Ireland.  The pub has long served this purpose.

When Dave and I visited Ireland in 2003, we saw entire families spend their evenings engrossed in meaningful conversations with neighbors and friends at the various pubs we visited.  Kids ran in and out and people of all ages mingled happily and comfortably.  Although pub culture is not as strong today (the smoking ban took a tool on the pubs), it’s something you can still find in many places.

I’m fortunate to have several great third spaces very close to my apartment here in Dublin’s Smithfield neighborhood, a district also known by its postal code, “Dublin 7.”

My favorite third space is the Cobblestone pub.  Another–where I’m starting to spend more and more time–is aptly called Third Space.

Third Space: changing the city around the table.

Bring some friends. Enjoy the art.

A webpage for the Third Space restaurant explains:

Our story starts in the changes Dublin saw in the “noughties”. Lots of new apartment blocks, lots of new offices and retail units – no gathering places. Living space and working space but no “third space”.

Third spaces are neighbourhood places where people can gather regularly, easily, informally and inexpensively.

Re-introducing such places into areas that lacked them became a passion for a small group of people. And so was born Third Space. It is a social business venture to open and run eating and meeting places in the areas of Dublin that lack community hubs. With a simple and great menu and an informal friendly environment, they will have a creative buzz that connects into the varied life of a modern Dublin neighborhood.

Third Space 1 opened in Smithfield on February 14th 2012.

I had an interesting encounter at both of my “third spaces” this week.  I’ll post them,  so you can see what I mean. Stay tuned! (Click here to read the sequel.)

Grab a lunch. Everyone’s welcome and they’ll make you feel at home… even a barrister (i.e., lawyer, shown to the left) can find a quite place to reflect on the day, away form the busy halls of the Four Courts.