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Interviewing Tips with Guest, Mike Stevens

Interviewing Tips with Guest, Mike Stevens

 
 
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Put Your Phone Down and Listen to this Podcast

How to Interview Someone

Mike Steven describes interviewing as “Shooting the Breeze” and rightly so because if you’re a journalist, travel writer, or author, simply asking questions is not always likely to get you the answers you want or need. In fact, a meaningful conversation goes much farther than a list of obligatory sounding questions. The “Interviewing Tips with Guest, Mike Stevens,” podcast episode takes you through some of the most important techniques and suggestions you’ll need to turn an interview into a fabulous conversation.

In spite of our goal to collect information for the purpose of creating a story, we need to focus our efforts on creating a relaxed environment. Journalists often approach an interview solely as a means to get answers from the respondent but they fail to realize that one-word or one-sentence answers when transcribed to a page, will do little to engage their readers. Strive for a conversation-starter and take it from there.

As for Mike Stevens, if you don’t know him, it’s time you listen to his entrancing voice and often hilarious stories of the people he met as host of “On the Pennsylvania Road.” After handing the reigns to his colleague, Jon Meyer, Mike wasn’t ready to fully retire after more than 35 years as host.

He took up blogging under the title, “Stevens Says” and started a podcast known as “The Slow Lane.” Moreover, Mike is an author, guest speaker, and a contributor to the Saturday morning “Home and Backyard Show,” and in his spare time (I use the word spare loosely), he’s often looking to discover an uncharted town along a Pennsylvania road. Of all the places he has visited, he’s reluctant to name one as his favorite and I suspect the reason is he takes the time to meet and interview the locals. I’m sure he also finds an ice cream shop.

On that note, it’s time to put your phone down and listen intently to the podcast.

Thank you, Mike, for taking the time to join me in the Keystone College recording studio.

And many thanks to Ryan Evans, station manager, for recording and editing this show.

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Take Me Home to Ireland

Carden Family descendants

Tóg Mé Bhaile go Éirinn (Translation)

Paul Kostiak, a native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, is a retired Regulatory Compliance Analyst who now spends his time traveling and writing. As an approved United Nations international expert/lecturer, Paul has extensive experience visiting other countries and experiencing their cultures. He’s co-owner of the Ireland-based “Take Me Home Ireland” tours, a company that provides individualized Ireland tours.

Paul Kostiak takes in the surroundings at Moyne Abbey, County Mayo, a national monument and what’s considered to be one of the most impressive ecclesiastical ruins in Mayo. Photo by Lee Shaffer.

By: Paul Kostiak

The first time I traveled to Ireland I was only mildly excited.

After all, I had flown over a million miles during my professional career, much of it internationally. This was a pleasure trip. A chance to explore the Emerald Isle from which three of my four maternal great grandparents had emigrated.

I had been somewhat of an amateur genealogist for a number of years and this was possibly my first chance to make some interesting discoveries in situ. Little did I know this flight from Newark to Dublin was the first step toward what would become an obsession, with multiple return trips every year. As a genealogist, I would find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and as a person, I would come to fall in love with a country and its people.

Oddly, this would not be my first glimpse of Ireland. I had seen it before from 35,000 feet in the air on a flight from Newark to Amsterdam. Our flight path took us directly over and as I glanced out of the window on a rare clear day, I saw green – nothing but green.

“That has to be Ireland,’ I muttered to myself. A few years later I would be wheels-down on that green.”

Some who know me casually had questioned my interest in Ireland. My Ukrainian surname belies all the Irish blood within me. Tis on me mam’s side. Three of my mother’s grandparents had been born there before emigrating to Northeastern Pennsylvania. Through my cursory genealogical research, I had been able to identify their names and in some cases, their parent’s names as well as their approximate dates of birth.

Carden Family descendants
Carden descendants at the site of Sarah Carden’s birth, Ballyderg, County Mayo
Front – Paul Kostiak Second row – Julie Shaffer Klotz, Ann Kostiak Shaffer Third row – Lee Shaffer, John Boone
Photo by Vicki Kostiak

Some of it was easy. My grandmother, Katie Allen Boone, passed away when my mother was only 10 months old and because of this, she was raised by her Irish grandmother, Mary Mullarkey Allen, and her mother’s sister, Mary. Her other Irish grandmother Sarah Carden Boone lived next door. There is no doubt the Irish raised her. This gave me three Irish lines to explore – Mullarkey, Allen, and Carden.

Discovering great-great grandparent’s David and Margaret Carden grave, Tuam, County Galway
From left, Lee Shaffer and Paul Kostiak. Photo by Tony Traglia

Armed with this limited information, I had a glimmer of hope that I might be fortunate enough to find just a wee bit more about them, but that was a secondary purpose. My primary purpose was even more personal. As a gift to my mother, I was taking her along for the ride to the homeland of those incredibly strong Irish women who had formed her into the strong woman she is. At 85-years-old, she, who had never ventured farther from Avoca, Pennsylvania than the Jersey shore, would board her first airplane and soar across the pond. My sister, Ann, accompanied and her son, Lee, who had been there several times before and would act as our guide. We were taking Grandma on one helluva road trip.

Gloria Kostiak’s first plane trip. Front to back – Ann Kostiak Shaffer, Gloria Kostiak, and Lee Shaffer

We touched down in Dublin early in the morning after flying all night on the red-eye. After collecting our bags and navigating my newly minted world traveler mother through immigration and customs, we waited outside for the car hire shuttle. As she stood in the early morning sunrise, she looked up and saw the tri-color green, white and orange flag gently waving in the breeze.

I heard her repeating, more to herself than anyone, “I can’t believe I’m here.”

If you’ve ever been to Ireland you’ll know what an adventure just maneuvering can be. Driving on the left side of the road from the right side of the car (and automatic transmissions are virtually unheard of), negotiating your way through the seemingly endless roundabouts, all while deciphering road signs written in both English and Irish Gaelic, can be somewhat intimidating. Best leave the driving to Nephew Lee who’s had experience, as my own was limited to riding left-sided shotgun in Japan.

Our plan was to experience the entire island, which is about the size of Indiana, in seven days. We would travel from Dublin, down the east coast across the south, up the west coast to the north, and then back to Dublin for the flight home. A tad ambitious, especially while traveling with an octogenarian, but certainly doable.

Avoca Mill Ireland Paul Kostiak Ireland travel story
Avoca Mill, County Wicklow
Avoca Mills produces the bulk of Irish wool and is the oldest continually operating business in Ireland.

We spent the first day exploring Dublin, Ireland’s capital, and largest city. While there is a lot of Irish culture, it is a large city and filled with the typical tourist destinations, Trinity College and St. James Gate where Guinness is brewed. We spent the night at the four-star Croke Park Hotel, rose the next morning for a “full Irish” breakfast and we were on our way south to see the real Ireland. Our first stop on the list was a small village in County Wicklow called Avoca. I was raised in a similar small town in Avoca, Pennsylvania, and Mom, Ann, and Lee still live there. For a true Avocan, no trip to Ireland is complete without a visit to Avoca, County Wicklow, and the world-famous Avoca Mills where the iconic Irish wool is woven into the plaids and tweeds that we all know. Avoca Mills produces the bulk of these fabrics and is the oldest continually operating business in Ireland. Of course, a pop into Fitzgerald’s Pub, the only pub in town, for Mom’s first pint o’ the Black Stuff (Guinness) was mandatory as well.

Next on the itinerary was County Cork, and Cork Town, the second-largest city in Ireland. Of the Irish who emigrated to Northeastern Pennsylvania, beginning during the Great Hunger (mistakenly called the Potato Famine by unknowing Americans), County Cork was home to the second-largest contingent.  Although it’s a rather large city, Cork Town is much more quaint than Dublin with its pristine parks, traditional pubs, and the beautiful River Lee.

We spent the night at the four-star River Lee Hotel and of course, my nephew just had to take a dip in his namesake frigid river before we left. We decided against the obligatory stop at the Blarney Stone in County Cork. The prospect of standing in a long line (queue) of bus riding tourists only to climb rickety wooden stairs, lie on our backs over the edge, and kiss the stone that millions of others have done before seemed rather unappealing. Rumor has it, the local lads relieve themselves on (the stone) after the tourists leave.

From Cork, we set out for Mizen Head, the southernmost point in Ireland, and often the last glimpse of Europe passengers aboard transatlantic ships from England would see on their way to America. A “head” in Ireland is what we would call a peninsula. If you were to look at a map of Ireland you’d see a group of these heads jutting out from the southern coast like fingers. The tip of Mizen Head is the southernmost point of all of them. It’s also one of the windiest places I’ve ever been to.

The weather in Ireland is enigmatic. Although it lies farther north than Newfoundland, Canada, the island has a somewhat temperate climate.

“Be prepared to see palm trees, yes, palm trees.”

Ireland has a similar reputation to England, namely rain every day. It may be cloudy most of the time but my experience over multiple trips has been that rain showers are frequent but short-lived and snow is a rare occurrence. It’s not unusual to see umbrella vending machines along the streets. We were there in September so the weather was relatively mild. But nothing could have prepared us for what Mizen Head had to offer.

 I have been in windy conditions before. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Chicago. I lived in Center City Philadelphia in the winter and am thoroughly familiar with the streets of New York during a storm. I’ve walked snow-covered Gero Mountains in Japan in June and I’ve sailed the open waters of the Rio Plata between Argentina and Uruguay. I’ve lived through countless hurricanes. I’ve never experienced clear weather winds the likes of which we found at Mizen.

The car park at the very tip of Mizen Head is a few hundred yards from the actual tip. To get there entails a long walk on a ground-level wooden boardwalk over the rocky shore. The scenery is breathtaking. The ground can only be described as moonlike and in the distance, the roaring waves of the North Atlantic continually pound the shore. Have I mentioned that the wind was unbearable? The four of us made our way along the boardwalk struggling with each step, being slammed in the face with the North Atlantic wind all the way.

Being the good son that I am, I lagged back with Mom while Ann and Lee paced ahead. Finally, about halfway to the end, Mom had had enough. She turned to me and asked if she could go back to the car. I was never so relieved to grant her a wish as I was then. We retreated to the warmth of the car and waited for the other two to tell us how “awesome” it was.

And so it was time to start heading north toward Galway for our next overnight stay. Along the way, we passed through County Clare, home to the famous Cliffs of Moher. But first, we had to traverse the narrowest country roads that exist on Earth. Bushes along either side of the roads were literally brushing against the side view mirrors. Occasionally we would drive over a knoll only to be confronted by an oncoming farmer’s tractor or a herd of sheep.

“They’re not walking on our road. We’re driving through their field.”

An Unspoken Irish Rule

After roughly fifty miles of this, we finally reached a paved road and eventually the motorway.

Our intention was to visit the Cliffs of Moher but the fog was rolling in from the west coast by the time we got to County Clare and visibility was most assuredly minimal. The wind had abated somewhat but after our experience at Mizen Head, we decided to forgo that stop. As it turns out the Cliffs are an extremely popular tourist destination. Long queues of tourists once again. Much better and less “touristy” cliffs lie ahead, Lee assured us.

Like many counties of Ireland, the largest city is often named the same – County Galway and Galway Town. Along the west coast, the cities are actually a cross between a city and the countless small villages you’ll pass through. We settled in for the night at the Imperial Hotel in the middle of Galway Town. It was somewhat older than other hotels where we had been staying but quite comfortable nonetheless. It was here that I finally had some time to myself to relax and also where I enjoyed one of the most Irish experiences of my short time there and since.

After the long day of travel, the others were beginning to succumb to jet lag. Because I spent the majority of my career traveling I am somewhat immune to it. And so, when in Ireland do as the Irish do. I hit the hotel pub.

It was late afternoon, around half five as they say, and so I was the only customer there. The barmaid was a lovely lass appropriately named Colleen who was thankfully blessed with the Irish gift of gab. We discussed my family ties to Ireland, which tourist sites to avoid, Gaelic sports (that’s a story for another time), all while she continued to politely ask if I fancied another pint o’ the Black. Sure, it was quite the craic. (The craic – pronounced crack – is the Irish way of saying fun or a good time).

Eventually, her shift relief walked behind the bar. He was a young man. Very young. He looked to be 12-years-old. I knew the legal drinking age in Ireland is 18 but this barman seemed to be more of a barboy. His name is Danny King. I only mention this because one of my favorite bartenders here at home is a fine Irish-American lad named Danny King.  As it turned out this was young Danny’s first night behind the bar and it fell to the lovely Colleen to train him.

Kostiak and his family found Danny King learning to bar tend.
Barman, Danny King, first night behind the bar, and Ann Shaffer, Galway

Pouring a proper Guinness is both a science and an art and must be done correctly to avoid the wrath of the customers. First, it must absolutely be served in a genuine Guinness pint glass. They take this seriously. These glasses have a CE mark on them which indicates that they have been certified for use within the European Union and that they hold exactly 16 ounces. In America, a “pint” glass is actually 14 ounces. Contrary to popular belief the Irish do NOT drink their beer warm. That’s the British. Cold temperature is monitored as closely as the volume of the glasses. Also. there is a distinct difference in taste between the Guinness we get in America and what you’ll find in Ireland even though it’s all brewed in Dublin. It doesn’t “travel well” I’m told. The proper pouring technique is to tip the glass to a 45-degree angle and pour until the glass is precisely three-quarters filled. Then it’s set down to rest for a few minutes. Guinness is not carbonated as most beers are, nitrogen is used to create the head and create its distinct creamy texture – think chocolate milk. Because of this, foam accumulates but eventually settles down. Once it has settled the glass is filled and served. Not before. To do so is a mortal sin I would imagine punishable by the ire of the whole of Ireland.

Back to young Danny. Yer man (boy?) was struggling to acquire the skill of a proper Irish barman. With each pour, the overseeing eye of Colleen gently critiqued him and promptly passed his mistakes onto me, the only soul at the bar – on the house. Quite the craic indeed. Eventually, young Danny triumphed and was able to pour the perfect Guinness and alas my stint as Guinness Quality Control inspector came to an end.

Belleek Castle, Ballina County Mayo
Belleek Castle, Ballina County Mayo

The next morning we left on the final leg of our tour. We were headed to County Mayo and the lovely town of Ballina. I mentioned earlier that Cork was the home of the second-largest contingent of Irish immigrants in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The Province of Connacht is by far the largest contributor, 85 percent by some estimates.

The Republic of Ireland is composed of four provinces, Connacht, Munster, Leinster, and Ulster. The three southern provinces include 25 of the 26 counties of the Republic while Ulster consists of the 26th Republican county (County Donegal) as well as the six counties of Northern Ireland. Provinces were originally small kingdoms and today they don’t really have any significance other than a geographic description, much like we might say of New England and its six states. The Province of Connacht includes the counties Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, and Roscommon and is located in the northwest corner of the Republic. Our visit took us to Mayo, where Lee had made friends during his previous trips.

The largest city in County Mayo is Ballina, whose population is slightly more than 10,000. Interestingly, Ballina is Sister Cities with Scranton, Pennsylvania, a testament to the large number of Irish-Americans in Northeastern Pennsylvania who can trace their roots to County Mayo. We would spend three days there to give us time to meet and socialize with Lee’s friends and explore the county, in my opinion, the most beautiful in Ireland.

Scranton Tree is found in Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland, a Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. sister-city.
The Scranton Tree, County Mayo, Ireland, symbolizes the large number of Northeastern Pennsylvania Irish-Americans who can trace their roots to County Mayo.

For our stay, we selected the Great National Hotel, another very comfortable and clean accommodation.

Ballina is the sort of town that instantly makes you feel comfortable, much more than any of the other towns we visited. Even before I had met any friends there was something about it that made me feel at home. Lee told me that he felt the same the first time he visited. We would later find out the reason why.

The beautiful River Moy winds its way through the center of Ballina northward to Killala Bay on the Atlantic. It is known as the Salmon Capital of Ireland, and on any given day fly fishermen and women can be seen plying their skills in hopes of landing the evening’s dinner. Visitors can try their hand at it or enjoy it in one of the many fine restaurants in town. Just one of many reasons to visit.

Like any respectable Irish town, Ballina is not without its share of pubs. Each one is as welcoming as the others. On any given night the craic is bursting the walls in each one, complete with live traditional Irish music and plenty of adult beverages flowing from the taps. It’s a given that one of the locals will strike up a conversation with you, especially when they hear our accent. You’ll be engaged in hours of long conversation.

“There are no strangers in Ireland, only friends you haven’t met.”

An Irish Adage

At the risk of slighting all of the other pubs, I’ll have to pick one as my personal favorite.

 “An Aulde Shebeen is one of a kind. The name means The Old Shebeen.”

A shebeen (she-BEAN) is what we might call a speakeasy. Under British rule, there was a set of laws called the Penal Laws which restricted the rights of Catholics. Among other things, Catholics were forbidden to gather together or to drink alcohol and have the craic. As a result, they came up with their own version of still made grain moonshine called poitín (po-CHEEN). They would secretly come together in an inconspicuous place, usually, someone’s home, to drink. Such places were called shebeens.  In today’s pubs the restrictions obviously no longer apply, but The Shebeen carries on the spirit of the day.

Scranton Tree in County Mayo Ireland honors its sister city - Scranton Pennsylvania.
The tree marker in County Mayo, Ireland, bears the names of former Scranton mayors, Jimmy Connors and Chris Doherty. The Scranton Tree represents a kinship between the two cities.

Ballina is also home to the Cathedral of St. Muredach (MOOR-a-dock), the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Killala. I mention this only because of its historical significance. Muredach was a follower of St. Patrick himself in the early sixth century and Patrick instructed him to establish a church in nearby Killala, with Muredach as its first bishop. Remains of the old cathedral can still be seen adjacent to the present cathedral. A well still exists in Killala where it is said that St. Patrick himself baptized his converts of the area.

Continuing on the religious theme, a short 30-minute car ride from Ballina is the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock. Catholic tradition holds that in 1879 several peasant farmers and their families witnessed the appearance of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist on the site of the shrine. Today the Shrine of our Lady of Knock takes its place among the shortlist of apparition sites which includes Lourdes, Fatima, and Guadalupe. The site has been visited by five popes as well as St. Mother Teresa and is visited by hundreds of thousands of faithful pilgrims each year. Of course, we had to get Mom there to attend Mass, purchase rosaries, and have them blessed with holy water from the shrine. This holy place is memorialized in the beautiful Irish song Lady of Knock.

Within a short five minute drive, you’ll find the beautiful Belleek Forest as well as Belleek Castle. The castle is an early 19th-century replacement for a 13th-century one built on the banks of the River Moy. Although we haven’t stayed overnight there (yet!!) the castle functions as an operating hotel. Its Library Restaurant was where we enjoyed a fine dining meal to mark our last evening in Mayo before heading home.

“Mom’s review? “I feel like a queen!”

Another nearby attraction we had a difficult time tearing Mom away from is the Foxford Woolen Mills – a shopper’s dream. They offer the beautiful Irish woolen goods such as flat caps, scarves, and the iconic woolen Aran sweaters. Fortunately for Mom, they offer to ship her purchases back home so she didn’t have to haul her entire Christmas gift cache on the plane with her.

Mayo is also the location of many fascinating geologic and archeologic sites which were must-dos on our list. In less than an hour, you can be at Downpatrick Head. This amazing place is a geological wonder with its rolling green hills, amazing cliffs. Yes, much more awe-inspiring than the Cliffs of Moher as Lee had promised. The indescribable Dún Briste sea stack ( dun=fort, briste=broken, think our Dun-more), is a 150-foot high piece of the cliffs that broke away from the mainland 350 million years ago. St. Patrick also established a church here and some of the remains can still be seen.

Dun Briste in Ireland
The Dún Briste sea stack and the cliffs were formed in the Lower Carboniferous period, a geological term that refers to a time 350 million years ago when the sea temperatures in and around Ireland were much higher than today.

Next on our list was another magical place. Ten minutes from Downpatrick Head we found Céide Fields (KY-duh meaning “flat-topped hill”). This Neolithic site is the oldest known agricultural field system in the world, dating back to 3500 BC, older than the pyramids of Egypt. The museum and the walking tour were followed up by afternoon tea in the café which certainly put a smile on Mom’s face.

 As you might have guessed Mayo is steeped in religious history. Centuries-old ruins of religious abbeys litter the landscape and it is one of these, in particular, that lead me to make a significant genealogical discovery and the spark which united my urge to return again and again. While exploring the ruins of nearby Moyne Abbey, I noticed an old stone plaque on the wall. The abbey was constructed in 1460, almost 40 years before Columbus sailed from Spain to the New World. On this plaque, I was barely able to make out the name “Carden.” If you recall my great grandmother’s maiden name was Sarah Carden. I immediately wondered if there were a connection and became determined to find out.

I really didn’t have an idea where my recent ancestors came from in Ireland. I knew that most likely they came from Connacht as this is where the majority of the NEPA Irish had come from. But I had no information to support it. That would soon change immensely.

“I wondered if that was the reason I felt so at home in that particular corner of the beautiful island of Erin. Is there something in my DNA that draws me back?”

As our time in Mayo drew to a close during the drive to Dublin for our flight home, I was already planning my return. I’ve since learned that’s not an uncommon phenomenon. Our mission this time had been completed, we had given Mom the opportunity to walk on the auld sod where her grandmothers and grandfathers did. She prayed on her Knock rosaries on the flight home and I couldn’t help but wonder if she wasn’t saying a prayer for them.

That initial visit with Mom was just the beginning of what became a passionate obsession.

“I became more determined than ever to put faces and places to our family story. I began what still would today remain several true friendships.”

One in particular, is my dear friend Brendan Farrell. Lee met Brendan on his first trip a few years before and he introduced me to him. Brendan, born in Killala and now living with his lovely family in Ballina, became my tour guide, historian, folklorist, a supporter of my geneaology (he’s a wealth of local knowledge) and friend. A singer/songwriter of original Irish music, he also introduced me to Gaelic sports! We eventually became business partners in a custom-designed small tour company, Take Me Home Ireland tours, so named because we both share the same idea that no matter where we are born, we are born with Ireland in our hearts.

Take me home to Ireland also mentioned Scranton PA, a County Mayo sister-city known for its annual St. Patrick's Day parade
Take Me Home to Ireland offers plenty of stories but Paul Kostiak and Brendon Farrell also celebrated Irish culture in Scranton, PA, U.S.A. at the city’s celebrated annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

When Brendan wrote his original stage show of storytelling and his rich Irish music “Take Me Home Colleen,” (sensing a theme here?) he trusted me to produce his American premiere at The Theater at North in Scranton. The story of a 19th-century Irish man who left his beloved Colleen back in Ireland while he traveled to NEPA to seek his future. One of his original songs in the show is “Scranton Railroad Lines,” a nod to his friends back here. Most importantly he is the first one to give us a hug and say, “Welcome home,” whenever we return. Such is the value of friendships. There are no strangers in Ireland, only friends you haven’t met.

Kostiak and Lee Paul and Lee discuss the next trip while taking in the beauty. Phot credit - Ann Shaffer
Paul Kostiak and Lee Shaffer plan their next Ireland trip while taking in Ireland’s lush greenery. Photo by Ann Shaffer

That first trip turned into many, on average twice a year. On subsequent trips, we have been able to establish that indeed we hail from Mayo. It must be in the DNA after all. With the help of the North Mayo Family Heritage Centre’s resident professional genealogist, we have greatly expanded our Irish family tree to more generations. On one such trip, I was able to find the remains of the simple stone cottage where Sarah Carden was born and the well in the middle of the field where her father, my great-great-grandfather worked as a shepherd, in which Sarah was likely baptized. We also found the remains of the church where my great-great-grandparents were married, and the grave in County Galway where they rest today. This past September I was able to take Ann, Lee, Ann’s daughter Julie and another great-great-grandson, my cousin John Boone, to these sacred sites.

Unfortunately, Mom was unable to make that trip due to some temporary health issues. I was heartbroken that she wasn’t able to make it. I wanted her to be able to walk in the very footsteps they did and to say a prayer over the grave of those who had the courage to put their eldest daughter on a ship to the new world in 1872. A daughter who would come to raise my Mom.

As a postscript, Mom’s health steadily improved we made a plan to take her in her 89th year to those sacred sites in May 2020. But Nature has a way of changing things. With the help of God, we’ll all get through this pandemic that affects the whole world, including our beloved County Mayo. Until then we can only hope that one day soon we’ll again be on a plane across the pond saying, Tóg Mé Bhaile go Éirinn – Take Me Home to Ireland.

You can reach out to Paul on Facebook at Take Me Home – Irish VIP Tours or via email.

Do you love stories about travel and culture? Did you enjoy Take Me Home to Ireland? Start a discussion or join in with one on my Facebook page.

Read a companion story about Neil Patel’s idea of the perfect getaway.

The Everything, Everywhere, Travel Guest Series is a gift to the world community as we struggle to find “normal” and “familiar” in our lives. Our travel stories allow my guest travel writers and readers to stay focused on the future and remember the past moments that made us smile. As we shelter-in-place and wait for the green light to resume our lives, these stories will prey on your optimism. Contact me if you’d like to share your story.

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The truth is my years as a print journalist were some of the best days of my life and winning five newspaper association press awards was the icing on the cake.

But I owe my success in travel writing to the mentors and coaches who guided me along.

That’s why I created the Everything, Everywhere, Travel Writer “Learn Travel Writing” private group. You’ll find the answers to your questions, guided support, weekly challenges, writing prompts, and so much more for $49 per month.

Give me a month and I’ll get you started in your travel writing journey.

Everything, Everywhere, Travel Writer Learn Travel Writing courses and coaching

You can grow into an Everything, Everywhere, Travel Writer and cover exciting assignments around the world. Join my private group today and soar to new heights.

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freelance writer and entrepreneur tips home business skills Lifestyle Work from home

How to Stay Sane

How to stay sane when you work from home tips and techniques for writers and other entrepreneurs

When You Work From Home

Proven Tips and Techniques from a Stay-At-Home Entrepreneur

How can you stay sane when you work from home?

Friends and colleagues ask me time and time again, “How do you stay disciplined?” Their initial query is often followed by one or more bold statements like, “I could never do that,” or “You’re so lucky you can do that,” or “I’m not focused enough.”

Nonetheless, they all remind me of how fortunate I am to have the luxury to plan my day from the comfort of my dining room or wherever I choose to be. No commute continues to be one of the perks I enjoy most. In theory, when I travel on assignments and spend long hours on the road, I am commuting. However, I don’t travel every day and taking off on an assignment for a few days is also a freelancer’s benefit. Travel is a diversion and not a distraction.

Is Your Life A Pendulum?

What happens when you experience the seesaw days when your energy level and moods are up and down?

More than likely, you need to balance the time you spend at work and in front of your computer with exercise and mindfulness. When you take a daily walk or find a YouTube exercise video you can follow at home, you are giving yourself a much-needed break. Enroll in a class or learn a new hobby to find the optimal balance in your life.

TIP 1: When I’m home for weeks at a time, I sign up for a ballet class and I fly fish in the spring, summer, and fall. Planning my day is what I love most about being my own boss.

Get in the Groove

TIP 2: The truth is I’ve had 26 years, to be exact, to establish a schedule that allows me to devote time to my family and businesses. To be well-rounded, develop strategies that will allow you to stay connected to the world around you.

Scroll down to the guidelines I’ve mapped out for you.

Benefits of A Home Office

Focus!

Regardless of where you work, you will have disruptions and ultimately, it’s your job to work around those situations before they throw you off-track. You won’t have the same type of distractions working from home as you would if your cubicle or office were surrounded by co-worker drama, endless cell phone conversations, chatter, and gossip. That spells mayhem for many employees. But make no mistake, it’s your choice whether you get back on task or flounder the rest of your day.

How Does Diligence Play a Role in Your Success?

Consider your current work ethic and habits. Take a moment to read the following questions and jot your answers in a notebook or leave a comment on my Facebook travel page.

The mere fact that you have a business plan on paper is a step in the right direction. If you don’t, it’s time to get your plan together, even if you’re already working from home.

Forge Your Own Path

  1. Do you have a clear business vision and a plan?
  2. Do you know your strengths and weaknesses?
  3. Why do you want to work from home?
  4. What skills do you have that will propel you and your business?
  5. What are your expectations?
  6. Does your product, service, or skill stand the test of time?

TIP: Produce content, write articles, and interact on social media media every day. Not sure which social media platforms you should use? Get started with the Big Five: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. You’ll soon discover how different they are and which one will work best for your business. Contact me with your questions.

9 Tips to Stay on Track From the Get-Go

Strategies for the Entrepreneur

Once you leave your job, or after you’ve already transitioned,

  1. Stay in touch with friends in your former workplace.
  2. Establish a network of friends who work from home. Set up frequent masterminds. Don’t have time for a weekend getaway? Meet for coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner to discuss your successes and failures.
  3. Make it your business to stay in touch with key people in your community — virtually and locally. We tend to focus only on the bigger picture but remember there’s always something happening in your town.
  4. Take frequent breaks during your workday that might include a walk or lunch with a friend.
  5. Get outdoors. Fresh air IS INVIGORATING. Nature rules!
  6. Focus 80 percent of your efforts on marketing and 20 percent on content creation. Selling yourself is more important to your business than creating content.
  7. Take an online course often to refresh your approach and find out if you’re on the right track.
  8. Hire a virtual or marketing assistant to banish overwhelm and shed new light on your work. Working with someone who knows more than you about content creation, social media, website management, and digital marketing can be the best way to test the waters and your ideas.
  9. Resolve to give equal attention to the can-do ideas and the more challenging issues.

Summary:

Create a goal today to stay motivated, happy, peaceful, and engaged with the world around you. To do that, surround yourself with the people and comforts that relax and motivate you.

What are your thoughts about a work-from-home life? Send your questions and comments to joanimead@gmail.com.

Learn more about my travel writing courses and membership group here.

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Book Review books about positive thinking in pursuit of slow

in pursuit of slow

  • By
  • February 6, 2018
in pursuit of slow

in pursuit of slow

Stress less. Be happier. Accomplish more.

These are the benefits of slowing down, according to “in pursuit of slow” author Jackie Jarvis.

Jarvis is a business owner and coach who has experienced the stressed, overwhelmed life that comes from owning a business. Whatever your role is in life, the demands placed on us or those we take on can be exhausting.

If slowing down long enough to experience the pleasures that come from your work, passions, and relationships is a challenge for you, or if you feel life is slipping away, you’ll want to read Jarvis’ book and get back on track or develop a new mindset that will transport you to a more peaceful life. “The Voice of Slow” is my favorite chapter because it sets the stage for the remainder of her book. Here’s why…

“Our Voice of Slow wants us to listen, to take heed. It wants us to stop running too fast and doing too much. It wants the best for us.”

Visit inpursuitofslow.com or buy on Amazon.com.


DISCLOSURE:

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase but at no additional cost to you. I have experience with all of these companies and products and by linking to their product or a party that sells their products, I recommend the product based on their helpful and useful nature, and definitely not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something.

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fashion eyewear fashion sunglasses fishing gear Lifestyle Product Review stylish UV protection Sunglasses for fly fishing Sunglasses for travel Travel Product Links Workout gear

Eye Protection to Suit Your Every Mood

  • By
  • September 20, 2017

Sunglasses for your adventurous spirit

Sunglass Warehouse

This post is sponsored by Sunglass Warehouse.

Has anyone seen my SUNGLASSES?

Maybe they’re in my car or in my handbag.

The last pair of expensive designer sunglasses I purchased did not come home with me after playing a few sets of tennis. I left them on a bench near the tennis court and I experienced buyer’s regret for at least a few weeks after losing them.

Forget the expensive designer eyewear if you’re prone to breaking or losing your sunglasses.

Sunglass Warehouse review by Joan Mead-Matsui
Sunglass Warehouse has a fantastic selection of sunglasses to suit your every mood and activity. You can buy your next pair of Retro Sunglasses for less than $20

Sunglass Warehouse offers a variety of styles and frames that can be worn for all of your activities from hiking and cycling to fly fishing. Your options are to buy sunglasses at affordable prices with no worries if you happen to lose or break them, or obsess about your designer frames when you should focus on your activity and have fun.

What if your sunglasses fall off your head into the water while you’re fly fishing or on a canoe or kayak trip? Will you dive into the water to retrieve your glasses? I hope not.

Sunglasses are not only accessories. They also protect our eyes from UV damage and Polarized lenses improve visibility for activities like fly fishing. Each of the five pairs I’ve sampled has withstood the test of time, after countless hours on the water.

Sunglass Warehouse has hundreds of styles of sunglasses that are priced at $20 or less. If you prefer round, square, oblong, Aviator, textured, black, blue or brown, you’ll find what you’re looking for at www.sunglasswarehouse.com. Click to shop sunglass warehouse BEST SELLERS. 

The site is easy to navigate and filters allow you to find your ideal pair from among Sunglass Warehouse (SW) Exclusives, Festival Shades, Brow Bars, Flat Lenses, Matte Metals, Retro Classics, Bold Shades, Colored Lenses, Cut-Out Shades, and Rose Gold.


DISCLOSURE:

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase but at no additional cost to you. I have experience with all of these companies and by linking to their product or a party that sells their products, I recommend the product based on their helpful and useful nature, and definitely not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something.

 

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all-inclusive resorts Catskill lodging Catskill resorts Fly Fishing in New York State Lifestyle New York State resorts and lodging skiing in the Catskills timeshare in the Catskills

“Hail Caesar” at Villa Roma

  • By
  • September 19, 2017
Villa Roma by Joan Matsui Travel Writer

 Old-World European Charm 

 

Villa Roma Resort and Conference Center

 

Villa Roma by Joan Mead-Matsui
Villa Roma Resort, 356 Villa Roma Road, Callicoon, NY is a hot spot for Catskill entertainment and lodging. Photos by Joan Mead-Matsui, travel writer, photographer, and videographer

Getaway from city life and EXPLORE 

 

Have you arrived at a destination knowing from the get-go you’ll have an extraordinary stay?

My first impression of Villa Roma Resort & Conference Center was “lively.” That’s a characteristic I look for when I first step foot on a resort property.

Upon my arrival, vehicles were lined up, as guests loaded and unloaded their luggage. Even in late winter, a time of the year many resorts refer to as the “slow season,” the lobby was bustling with activity.

Caesar Night – a sight to behold and cherish

 

Villa Roma by Joan Mead-Matsui
A group of senior citizens found plenty of time to catch up at “Caesar Night,” an evening dedicated to fine Italian cuisine and culture.

After spending an afternoon reminiscing in the lobby, the seniors reconvened for Caesar Night that evening. As I entered the main dining room, the maitre d’ was leading the crowd in a celebration of Italian cuisine and ancient culture. They chanted, “Hail Caesar,” as I discovered a most of the crowd was decked out in garb straight out of the Roman Empire.

Caesar Night is a Thursday night ritual at Villa Roma, marked by a seven-course feast prepared by Chef Peter Selthafner. An appetizer, choices of soup or pasta, salad, selections of entrée and a variety of scrumptious desserts are extremely popular among guests who want to take the time to relax and truly savor each course. When is the last time you devoted 90 minutes to casual dining and conversation?

The Regal Dining Room (located on the third floor of the resort’s new main building) is a perfect setting for Caesar Night and unhurried meals. You’ll find the decor – shades of rich blue and gold, decorative hand painted wall murals and large ceiling fixtures are the ideal backdrop for an Italian-themed meal.

Breakfast IS a BIG DEAL 

 

Begin your day with breakfast prepared YOUR way. A bowl of fresh fruit arrived at my table, along with a cup of decaf coffee, shortly after I was seated at a table by the window. Service was consistently top-notch during my 24-hour visit to Villa Roma.

Villa Roma by Joan Mead-Matsui
Fresh fruit was a sweet beginning to my breakfast.

Villa Roma is ideally situated in New York State’s Catskills’ region. The mountains and countless acres of greenery that surround the resort are a draw for the thousands of guests who visit the Catskills each year in pursuit of hiking, fishing, and skiing opportunities. Abundant activities and a friendly atmosphere keep guests coming back year after year for nearly six decades.

Dining options:

The Main Dining Room, The Beechwoods Restaurant, Beechwoods Grill, Roman Garden Cafe, Dolce’s Ice Cream Parlor, Coffee Bar (new) and Pool Grill

Villa Roma by Joan Matsui Travel Writer
The decor is vibrant, with plenty of space in the common areas for guests to meet.

History 

 

In the fall of 1969, Martin Passante became the sole owner and by 1973, construction of the lobby and “Future” wing was underway. Prior to 1977, the resort was largely still a seasonal escape for guests but by the 1970s, the focus had shifted to year-round activities. Guests could still count on personalized service and made-to-order food but golf and planned activities were an added draw.

You can get your hands on a copy of the entertainment schedule, brochures highlighting upcoming events and special deals when you check in at the registration desk. Additional information is available when you download the “Good Times Newsletter.”

Always plenty to do

 

The Villa Roma guests see today has grown from an old-fashioned guest hotel with 46 rooms, 10 cottages, a pool, and two bocce courts to 24 timeshare buildings and 139 hotel rooms. Yet, the attention to details and outstanding customer service have not been sacrificed to accommodate more than 200,000 guests each year.

Recreational opportunities are plentiful. Golf enthusiasts can play a round at the resort’s 18-Hole PGA Championship golf course or get their tennis fix on the indoor and outdoor tennis courts. You’ll also find racquetball, volleyball, bocce, shuffleboard, basketball, indoor and outdoor heated pools, a fun park, fishing pond, Go-Carts, bumper boats, an arcade room, bowling alley, and fitness center. Villa Roma also offers nightly entertainment and three year-round dining outlets.

Regardless of the season or temperature, fishing and fly fishing are year-round sports enjoyed throughout the Catskills, but if fishing isn’t for you, follow this link to find a complete list of activities to pursue near Villa Roma.

Fishing news and the best locations to fish can be found here at dec.ny.gov/docs/fish_marine_pdf/pfrnbcalicon.pdf

Accommodations

 

The two-bedroom efficiency can accommodate up to six guests, with plenty of room to move around.

In addition to two large bedrooms, one with a king bed and the second with one queen bed, the living area also offers a pull-out double sofa bed, which is a definite plus for night owls who want to channel surf the flat screen television.

Villa Roma by Joan Mead-Matsui
Villa Roma Two-Bedroom guest suites offer a kitchen for guests who choose to dine in their rooms. This suite is ideal for family travel.

A kitchen with a full-size refrigerator, stovetop and oven, microwave, and a dishwasher is located adjacent to the living room. The bathroom in this unit is equipped with a separate bathtub and a shower stall, so guests can enjoy a long soak or shower.

Villa Roma also offers a one-bedroom efficiency, one-bedroom suite, deluxe rooms with a private balcony that’s perfect for stargazing or daydreaming; traditional rooms, and lodge rooms located only a short distance from the main building.

Nightlife – Dinner and a show

 

When you’ve finished dinner, where will you find nightlife in the Catskills?

Marty’s Lounge is one of the Villa Roma venues where you can enjoy a late night cocktail, sporting event or a movie on a large screen TV.

Villa Roma by Joan Mead-Matsui
Hand-clapping or toe-tapping entertainment at Villa Roma Resort and Conference Center
Villa Roma by Joan Mead-Matsui
Dance the night away with your sweetheart at Villa Roma.
Villa Roma by Joan Mead-matsui
Musician and entertainer Tommy Walker’s evening show at Villa Roma is the icing on the cake. His repertoire includes famous Sinatra and Elvis tunes. Be prepared to sing along with Tommy. 
Villa Roma by Joan Mead-Matsui
Musician and entertainer Tommy Walker is a favorite for guests of all ages.

Upcoming Events You Won’t Want to Miss

 

You can count on being busy when you book your getaway at Villa Roma. Take a look at the following themed weekends planned for September, October, and November.

 

Murder Mystery Weekend

Fri., Sept. 29 to Sun., Oct. 1, 2017

October 27,28, 29, 2017

November 3-5, 2017

Bethel Woods Special

Book your accommodations at Villa Roma and slip away to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts for a concert.

 

For more information, visit Villa Roma’s website or call 1-800-533-6767. 


My stay was comped but my opinions are my own.

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BPA and Phthalate free water bottles fishing gear Holistic Lifestyle Insulated water bottles Lifestyle new products Product Review products tested in Canada Stainless Steel Water Bottles travel gear Travel Product Links

Hydrate in Style

  • By
  • September 18, 2017
Product Review Joan Matsui Travel Writer

Green’s Your Colour Inc.

Triple Insulated Bottle

Designed and Tested in Canada
Product Review Joan Matsui Travel Writer
Green’s Your Colour Inc.

With countless water bottles on the market that promise to keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot, how do you narrow down the selections?

Green’s Your Colour Inc. is “tastefully” number one on my list. Whatever beverage you choose to fill this outstanding vessel comes out at the perfect temperature with absolutely no aftertaste.

I have two bottles I carry along with me while fly fishing. One dedicated to hot liquids and the alternate is filled with chilled water or tea. The 17-oz./500 ML “Jammin’ Jade” insulated bottle is my all-time favorite. In fact, after I purchase a second bottle, I’ll ditch my old orange one and drink exclusively from a “Green’s Your Colour Inc.” bottles.

Jammin’ Jade keeps cold for 36 hours and hot for eight hours, although I’ve had mine beside me indoors and outdoors and my coffee was hot for at least 10 to 12 hours. The bottle is 18/8 stainless steel, BPA and Phthalate free, leak and sweat proof, with no plastic inner liner and non-leaching.

But best of all (in my opinion), the tea and ice strainers that are included with each bottle, are IDEAL for transporting your favorite herbal drink or ice cold water. One strainer is designed to keep the drinking spout free of ice or fruit and the second is used as a tea infuser to strain your tea leaves, herbal blends, and tea bags.

Green’s Your Colour Inc. can be used for coffee, tea, water, juice, pop, soup, and yes, alcohol. (Maybe a Margarita or Egg Nog, depending on your preference.)

Looking for herbal beverage suggestions? Try Tazo Herbal Tea  or Bigelow Herbal Teas.

Be sure to check out deals and order information at greensyourcolour.com.

 

 

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Anxiety Authors Book Review books about positive thinking Control Fear Family Travel Food and Travel Good Reads Lifestyle Organized Traveler Product Review Safety while traveling Travel Book Travel Book Review Travel Safety Travel Tips World Travel

Airplane Travel With Children?

  • By
  • September 9, 2017

Soar with your children

 

Rise Above Your Fear

 

Are you overwhelmed by the thought of traveling by plane with your children?

 

More than likely, there’ll come a time when you’ll contemplate a trip abroad or a visit with family. If traveling by plane with your kids evokes fear and anxiety and doubts about whether you have the parenting skills to pull off family travel, you’ll want to read Super Flyers: A Parent Guidebook for Airplane Travel With Children” by Dr. Lori Baudino, PsyD, BC-DMT, a licensed clinical psychologist and board-certified dance/movement therapist.

If you’re like Dr. Baudino and you love to travel, why shy away from what could be a memorable journey with your children and a valuable learning experience for children and adults?

Super Flyers is a parent’s manual that’s jam-packed with strategies you can utilize when you need support to handle those trying and awkward moments.

Dr. Baudino shares her tips to handle those fleeting moments of upset and chaos that can occur during travel when children are overtired, overstimulated or restless. She outlines skills parents can employ that will set the stage for a more joyous time.

“If you are a parent then you will eventually come across traveling with your children,” says Dr. Baudino.

Whether your child is an infant, toddler, pre-teen, or teenager, or you’ll have more than one of your brood traveling with you, Dr. Baudino’s suggestions will get you on your way. In 127 pages, she offers tips and delightful progress updates from her children, Aiden and Lyla.

Why should you buy a copy of her book?

Dr. Baudino explains, “With all that we know about parenting and helping our children succeed – I can empower parents to use these skills and take children to new heights exploring cultures, change and travel in the sky.The analogies of flying and parenting are vast- it’s a journey so we might as well share and model enjoyment for and with our children.”

Buy your copy at Amazon.com.

You can learn more about Dr. Baudino and Super Flyers at drloribaudino.com.


DISCLOSURE:

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase but at no additional cost to you. I have experience with all of these companies and by linking to their product or a party that sells their products, I recommend the product based on their helpful and useful nature, and definitely not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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all natural bug repellents baby safe bug repellents gardens healthy Lifestyle new products Product Review summer accessories Travel Product Links

Say “Hello” to Babytime Mighty Shield Bug Repellent

  • By
  • August 20, 2017
Joan Mead-Matsui Travel Product Review

Say “Goodbye” to bugs

 

Protect your family from annoying pests

Joan Mead-Matsui Travel Product Review

 

Babytime Mighty Shield by Episencial is a natural, mostly organic and plant-based bug repellent that’s enriched with Brazilian Propolis and Flax and Aloe. The pleasant smell of the active ingredients Castor, Linseed, Cedar, Lemongrass, and Rosemary oils make this product a welcome addition to my summertime arsenal.

Nothing takes the fun out of the outdoors like a pinch or sting and itch of an insect bite and the inflammation that can linger for days. On several of this summer’s hottest, most humid days and nights, I applied the lotion to my arms and legs before heading out to fly fish or walk with my family. Mighty Shield kept the bugs away, even after several hours of activities.

Babytime Mighty Shield Bug Repellent Review
Protect your delicate skin with Babytime Mighty Shield Bug Repellent, a product I’ve recently sampled.

While some of the widely used over-the-counter repellents can irritate sensitive skin, Babytime is perfect for anyone who, like me, has delicate skin. Mighty Shield has a pleasant scent and is formulated to keep skin bug free. The plant-based ingredients did NOT leave an oily residue and they deliver all-natural anti-antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to soothe irritated skin from previous bug bites.

Buy Babytime Mighty Shield Bug Repellent.

Be sure to visit www.episencial.com to learn more about Mighty Shield and Episencial’s full line of baby-safe, animal-friendly, and GREEN products.

DISCLOSURE:

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase but at no additional cost to you. I have experience with all of these companies and by linking to their product or a party that sells their products, I recommend the product based on their helpful and useful nature, and definitely not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something.

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