Oct 25 2014

Making choices …. taking chances ….

Posted by     26 Comments    Posted under: College life at NUIG, Kitchen

You gotta love the innocence of kids … always number one in her eyes even if I had failed my exams.

Seven years ago, this week, the Chef and I, with two toddlers by our side, packed our bags, left our friends and (restaurant) life and family in Cincinnati, Ohio, behind us for greener pastures in Europe.

We spent a year living and working in Zurich, Switzerland.  We lived a block from my brother and the beautiful lake and less than an hour from my sister in the Alsace wine country, France. This was the plan. This was the life. It was going to be fabulous. We would all raise our kids within close proximity of each other … at the time there was only 6 of them and that number has since risen to 12 (eleven in Europe and another one in Canada).

But as luck, or even fate, would have it, we did not love Switzerland and Switzerland did not love us. We were grieving for our friends back in the US and both began to worry that we had made a huge mistake. The eldest, RoriBelle, was nearing school-going age and we began to feel ‘homeless’. We had to face the facts; We had made a bad decision. Was it time to ‘go back home’ to the US?

My Mum finally managed to convince me to move back ‘home’ to Ireland – even if it was just for a few weeks visit. She knew we were heartbroken that things had not gone according to plan. She knew we needed time to heal. She also wanted those grandchildren within her grasp – because at the time (2008) she had no grandchildren living in Ireland and she’s needy like that. Since then, a lot of her prayers have been answered because she now has eight grandchildren living within a ten minute drive of her house. Careful what you wish for Granny .. your kitchen floor will never be clean with this bunch of beautiful brats we have all been blessed with.

Somehow, and under the threat of my Mum’s wooden spoon no doubt, I ended up in college. I never wanted to go. I was certain college was not for me. I have always had a creative mind. Exams, test taking, etc. whilst I did grand in secondary school, was not something I ‘loved’.

But an evening poetry workshop with (Belfast native) local poet Fred Johnston led to me finding a ‘dream course‘ at my local university, NUI Galway, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I remember, when still in Switzerland, talking to my boss, a lovely tall German lady, and she asked me what my ‘new’ plan was and I told her I was lost. I had no ‘plan B’ and I was just stuck. It’s true.

She said “Móna, self-made people like you always land on your feet”.

She did not mean any harm by that statement, but she, the rocket scientist who was highly educated, reminded me that I wasan employee without a college education. I did not know it then, but it was probably that punch in the gut she delivered, with grace, which propelled me into the university and made me buckle down .. I had to prove to myself and to my family, that I could do this.


FB 1st class

The outpour of love and support from friends on Facebook has overwhelmed me. Feeling very loved indeed.


Since then, I have achieved lots … the list is not long, but it is interesting and includes writing and publishing a book, winning multiple blog awards (which I have you readers to thank for) a lovely long contract with the Sunday Times, and just yesterday finishing up my Masters in Journalism with first class honours.

For the Americans reading this ….. I know you are thinking 72% seems low … that is because our grading system here is different to yours in the US. So really, a grade higher than 70% is damn near impossible to achieve. Throw in two kids, then add two more (foster) kids into the mix and a job on top of it all .. well, you get the picture.


Grading UNI

Grading at Irish Universities


College is not for everyone. Continuing eduction for a mature student, a parent, is impossibly hard.

It is a life I would not encourage you covet. Not unless you have 100% support from your spouse and your extended family and friends. You will need all of them. At exam time you will need a friends (quiet) spare room to hide in; during visiting lecture series time you will need your so-not-a-morning-person mother to drag her weary butt out of bed to take your kids to school because you have to get in two hours early to just get parking. You will need your partner to cook, do laundry, and entertain the kids by themselves for years and it will almost kill your relationship if you let it …. but it can be done.



There is no place like home … there is no place, like home.


The support is there. From your friends, from your family, from your lecturers.

All you have to do is ask for help.

So there you go … what is life if we don’t take risks? There is no guarantees that any of my decisions and risk-taking will pay off. I know this and the chef knows this. But allowing oneself to pursue things that make us happy in life is hugely rewarding – and that in itself makes this journey so much fun.

No sense in putting things on hold guys n’ dolls. …. there will never be a good time to ‘have a baby’, ‘go to college’, ‘look for a new job’, ’emigrate’, ‘move home’.

The time is now.

Now …. about that ‘look for a new job’ bit … any ideas?


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26 Comments + Add Comment

  • Big CONGRATS on a BIG achievement. Such impressive results !! So much encouragement in the above for anyone who feels that they missed out in their earlier years. Well Done Mona ,you are an inspiration .

    • Thanks Sarah … it has been a long auld haul but certainly one of the most rewarding experiences to date.
      Thanks for being there reading along through it all. . . .

  • Bravo; you are an inspiration.

    • Thanks Susan … hard work but well worth it x

  • Couldn’t have put it better myself!! And it’s what I’ve been saying to the new matures for four years: ‘You will surprise yourself.’
    And we did – as the Beatles sang – ‘with a little help from our friends’. (And families.)
    Long may we continue to do so!
    Now, Móna…
    Next !!

    • Yes Karen … onwards we march, right?
      Best of luck with the new course. This will keep you out of trouble for a whole year almost, giving you no
      time at all to think about the next steps you are no doubt already working on!
      Looking forward to our next cuppa x

  • Good for you, it is all worth it.

    • Hi there!
      Thanks so much. I sure hope it is worth it!

  • Wow. And wow again. Seriously impressive Mona, congrats.

    • Thanks Roy … I tell you, when I think back over the last five years, I don’t know how my Mum or hubby
      did not throw me out! Thanks for dropping in for a read.

  • Wow! Not only did you graduate with a Masters Degree but you did so with First Class Honours! Very admirable and very impressive. You deserve all the admiration and respect that comes your way Mona and whatever you choose to do going forward, we all know you will do it exceedingly well with your heart and soul poured into it.
    Congratulations lovely lady!

    P.S. I do hope your lady friend in Germany is able to read this.

    • Thanks Paula…heart and soul indeed…it’s the best way methinks …otherwise it would have only been half hearted really xx yes, I’d like to think my old boss in Germany might read this too!

  • Mona you are a true inspiration and a wonderful person. Congratulations on your achievements. You will be snapped up.

    • Thanks Linda…you know yourself that there is just no sense in throwing in the towel..best to keep at it until we get where we want to be. You are quite the inspiration yourself and is delighted you are seeing success and your business is growing x must have coffee and a catch up soon x

  • So well said Mona, you are an inspiration to us all!

    • Ah thanks Tricia….glad to be offering inspiration …. Humbled really.
      Hard work but a fabulous journey x

  • I think it’s near impossible to do something like this without support from all your family. The only reason we survive through it when we’re younger is because we’ve so many friends in exactly the same boat…Having less on your plate to manage makes it easier to get through also. Glad to hear you made it in one piece, and i widget yiu continued successes 🙂

    • Thanks Conor….moving is very hard but I think, now we are settled nearly six and a half yrs later, it is easier. Finding ones way can get complicated and I am certainly fortunate to have chosen my mate well and that my Mum has not disowned me by now!

  • Well penned Wise one. A great achievement so hats off to you and your family. We are very lucky your Mom lured you back to The west!

    • Michelle,
      I am the poster girl for ‘there is no place like home’ these days.
      It is lovely to feel like the hard work is starting to pay off.
      Looking forward to wrapping up out project this week and moving on to the next one! xx

  • Wow, well done Mona, many many congrats, great achievement. Know you had lots of help with the kids but it’s still tough studying with kids around and needing you.
    Hope the lecturing is going well x

    • Almost finished lecturing – only 3 weeks left Lorna .. the academic year goes by very fast!
      It is hard going and I think now that I have a bit of time away from the books I realise how much actual time ‘studying’ takes ..
      they are in two minds about it mind … half the time they LOVE having me around to help them with stuff and other times they are begging me to ‘do a bit of studying’ and keep out of their hair!
      Hope all is well with the kiddos … and you are gearing up for a quiet winter x

  • Well done Mona, congrats on great achievement.

    • Thanks Emma!

      • WiseMona, Congrats on you best ever achievements. Hope you will continue same like this.

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About Móna
I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
You can find me here
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