The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Monday, November 5, 2012

I Will Remember

Today would have been his birthday. He was born November 5, 1950. He died last December just before Christmas and even though I ended our eight year relationship in 2003, I have thought about him every year on this day since then and silently wished him the happiness and peace that so eluded him. Glenn had a dark and tragic secret from his childhood that scarred him emotionally and haunted him his whole life. It effected his personal relationships, how he dealt with challenge and how he viewed life in general. He never spoke of it to anyone in life except me...not even to his parents. I suppose that's why I hung on for so long trying to make the relationship work and to help him deal with the demons that so often sent him into bouts of deep depression or terrible panic attacks. I understood why it was happening. He was a very intelligent man and when he was feeling good he was wickedly funny, kind and giving to his friends, and so much fun to be with. He was a professional musician and a talented bass player. Everybody loved that Glenn. But when he was overwhelmed he would withdraw from the world, let the darkness overtake him and couldn't see his own potential. That was the curmudgeonly Glenn who so many people couldn't understand why I stayed with for so long. I tried for years to get him to see a doctor about an antidepressant, to seek counseling, and to deal openly with his pain and anger. But he just wouldn't. His emotional pain manifested itself physically and he became addicted to vicodin and morphine. Although he absolutely needed the pain killers to control the physical pain that he lived with every day, he took more and more of them trying to ease the emotional and psychological pain that hung over his life like a dark ever-present shadow. In his pain he grew to depend on me, both physically and emotionally in ways that were not healthy for either of us. But it is impossible to help someone who won't help themselves and, in the end, I finally realized that I had to let go for my own well-being. I also knew that by ending our relationship I was leaving Glenn alone in this world. I felt like I was setting him adrift in the sea without a paddle or a sail. Taking away the one thing he held onto in He had no one else. That's not an easy thing to do to someone you love and someone who loves you so much in return. But I knew it was the only option I had for my own sake. It was a painful breakup for both of us. I kept track of Glenn, through mutual friends, in the years that followed. His health got worse, he suffered a couple of heart attacks, he he had trouble finding steady work (music was all he knew) and eventually became homeless for a while. My heart ached for him whenever I got word of how he was doing. He just seemed to be spiraling ever downward. But I had known that would happen. Glenn died alone in the days just before Christmas last year. He was found in the house by his landlord. His death was ruled natural causes (another heart attack) but an exact day of death could not be determined. When I heard a few weeks later that he had died I was filled with such mixed emotions. I was so sad for a life that had gone so wrong, so sad that he had died alone. I revisited my decision to leave him all those years ago and the difference in the directions that each of our lives had taken since then. I can't regret, for my own sake, that I did what was best for myself at the time. I don't think it was wrong to be unwilling to sacrifice my own happiness in an attempt to help someone who wouldn't help himself. But his death brought back all the memories of the years we spent together and the man I had known so well...his love for his dogs, my cats, and any animal that was hurt or helpless (I lost count of how many times he nursed an injured wild bird back to health)...the time he babysat three very young children because a dear friend needed him to (he was so out of his element!)...his dedication to his music (I saw him go to work some nights when he was in so much pain that he could barely lift the guitar). But most of all I remembered how much he had loved me. Through all of our years together Glenn was unfailingly faithful and even wore a wedding ring, though we were never married, to show the world that his heart was taken. At his mother's memorial service he had one arm around his high school sweetheart and one arm around me. He said, "My first girlfriend and my last." He made me feel more loved than any man before or since. Although his death filled me with immense sadness - sadness for his inability to cope with what life had thrown at him, sadness for how our years together had ended and sadness that he had never found that inner peace he so badly needed - there was a part of me that was glad for him...glad that his pain was finally over. As I said before, each year on his birthday, I have thought of him and wished good things for his life. Today, on the first birthday since his death, he is especially on my mind. I don't regret my decision to end our relationship but neither do I regret the years that we spent together. There are many good memories intertwined with the bad and I can separate them out and be thankful for the good ones. No one knew Glenn or loved him like I did and when the whole world has forgotten, I will remember him. I will keep his memory tucked safely into a corner of my heart where I can protect it the way I couldn't protect him in life.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Scottish Independance

Yesterday was a good day. A landslide win for the Scottish National Party. For my American friends who (understandably) don't know the political workings over here, let me give you a wee primer...

Scotland was once a free and independent nation. In 1603 when the Scottish king, James VI, "inherited" the throne of England he also became James I of England and he moved his court to London. James VI/I ruled both countries from there, although each country retained its own parliament. History has shown that, from then on, in decisions made from London, Scotland usually got the short end of the stick. 104 years later, in 1707, the Scottish parliament was abolished (the reasons for this are complicated but many Scots still believe that Scotland was "bought and sold for English gold"). With the abolition of the Scottish parliament the parliament at Westminster in London made all decisions for the newly created 'United Kingdom". It was in 1707 that Scotland ceased to be an independent nation and became part of the UK, to the satisfaction of many modern day Scots but also to the very strong dissatisfaction of many others.

Calls for the re-establishment of the Scottish parliament (within the UK) began 'in earnest' in the 1970's by the Scottish National Party (SNP, founded in 1934) and in 1999 their efforts bore victorious fruit. The Scottish Parliament was re-convened after 292 years. Scotland remains a part of the UK but many of its laws are now decided upon by the parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh. Many others, however, are still made in London. This is called devolution. The Scottish parliament at Holyrood has limited 'devolved' powers. Again, some Scots are happy with this, some are not. Those who are not will be happy with nothing less than full independence and a return of Scotland's historic position as a free and sovereign nation. This is the ultimate goal of the SNP. (end of primer)

This past Thursday (May 5th) Scotland held a routine election of members to the Scottish parliament. As in any election, each party hopes to take control of the governing body. There are 3 other 'major' parties in Scotland. Before yesterday, although the SNP had control of the parliament they didn't have a clear majority (unlike U.S. politics the first does not necessarily equal the second). Yesterday that changed. The SNP took 69 of the available 129 seats up for grabs. Their closest opposition took 37 seats. In fact the minister for our area got more votes than all of his opponents combined. Needless to say I know a lot of people who are on a really big high right now (It reminds me of the euphoria felt by so many of us when Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008). The reality of independence feels so close they can almost taste it. A majority in the Scottish parliament gives the SNP much more leverage to advance their goal of independence and gain additional support from the public. Currently a referendum is scheduled to be put to the Scottish voters in 2014.

This is where I make my disclaimer. I do not presume to know more about the desires of the Sottish people or the realities of their politics than they do themselves. This is simply my own perspective of the situation as someone who has lived here for a while and is keenly interested in the topic. Most who know me also know that I support Scottish independence 100%. The UK is not a homogeneous society, despite 304 years of amalgamation. Over the last three centuries and against all odds, Scotland has retained its culture, its national pride and its identity on the world stage. The people of Scotland deserve control of their own country, not just partial control as devolution provides, but complete. That being said, there is still a lot of work to do and a long road ahead before independence becomes a reality (and I believe it will).

Rather than re-writing what I've already written, here is a paper I wrote for my politics class last year on devolution and Scottish independence...

In the 1990’s John Major claimed that devolution would lead to
“ the break-up of the United Kingdom”. On the other hand, George Robinson believed it would “kill nationalism stone dead”. Eleven years after the re-convening of the Scottish Parliament neither extreme has yet happened. The United Kingdom remains intact, yet Scottish nationalism is alive and well. However, the future of devolution is still a much-debated issue in UK politics. The debate centers not on whether it should be continued; devolution is definitely here to stay. “The Scottish Parliament… has embedded itself in both the consciousness of the people of Scotland and the constitution of the United Kingdom.” Rather, the debate centers on how far devolution should be extended. Some would argue that the current balance between powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament and those reserved to Westminster is sufficient, at least for now. The Calman Commission has recommended that devolution be extended to give the Scottish Parliament more control over issues that directly affect the Scottish people. Yet the SNP led Scottish Government is calling for even further reaching changes toward full devolution and fiscal autonomy within the United Kingdom, which they see as an acceptable, albeit temporary, alternative to their ultimate goal of independence. To further complicate matters, in the midst of this debate sits the West Lothian Question: Should Scottish ministers in Westminster have the right to vote on matters that affect only England when like issues affecting only Scotland are now decided upon solely within the Scottish Parliament? Devolution may be ‘the will of the Scottish people’ but it is far from being ‘settled’.
In June 2009, the Commission on Scottish Devolution (or the ‘Calman Commission’ as it became known) published its review of Scottish devolution in a report that had been commissioned by the Parliament at Holyrood and supported by Westminster. The purpose of the Calman Commission was to explore ways of:

•“enabling the Scottish Parliament to serve the people of Scotland better;
•improving the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament; and
•continuing to secure the position of Scotland within the United Kingdom.”

Among the issues considered by the commission in Part Three of the final report was a focus on “Strengthening accountability in finance”. The main recommendations in this area were:

“The Scottish Variable Rate of income tax should be
replaced by a new Scottish rate of income tax, collected by
HMRC, which should apply to the basic and higher rates of
income tax.
To make this possible, the basic and higher rates of
income tax levied by the UK Government in Scotland should be
reduced by 10 pence in the pound…

Income tax on savings and distributions should not be
devolved to the Scottish Parliament, but half of the yield should be
assigned to the Scottish Parliament’s Budget…”

“Stamp Duty Land Tax, Aggregates Levy, Landfill Tax and Air
Passenger Duty should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament…”

It was recommended that all of these changes should be reflected in a corresponding reduction in the block grant made from the UK Parliament, which should continue to make up the remainder of the Scottish Parliament’s Budget but it should be justified by need. The commission also recommended that:

“The structure of the income tax system…should remain entirely the responsibility of the UK Parliament.”

“The Scottish Parliament should be given a power to
legislate with the agreement of the UK Parliament to introduce specified new taxes that apply across Scotland.”

“Until such times as a proper assessment of relative spending need across the UK is carried out, the Barnett formula, should continue to be used as the basis for calculating the proportionately
reduced block grant.”

All of the commission’s recommendations were made with consideration of Scotland’s position within the United Kingdom, the constitutionality of such changes and the goal of bringing financial responsibility to the level of government closest to the people of Scotland.

In November 2009 Scotland’s SNP government published its own recommendations in what it called a ‘National Conversation’, a consultation process based on their previously published white paper titled ‘Choosing Scotland’s Future’ and aimed at addressing Scotland’s constitutional options. These options included:

•“continuing with the current constitutional settlement with no or minimal change;
•extending devolved power in Scotland in areas identified during the National Conversation; or
•taking the steps to allow Scotland to become a fully independent country.”

The Scottish Government, through the National Conversation, addressed the recommendations of the Calman Commission point by point agreeing with the commission’s list of additional powers that can and should be devolved. The National Conversation, however, took the process further by expanding that list to incorporate other powers it believes should be devolved or, in a few cases, shared with the UK Parliament, leading to full devolution within the United Kingdom. The preference of the current Scottish Government is first and foremost independence, with full devolution being seen as an acceptable stepping-stone to that end.
In considering full devolution the National Conversation addressed many issues including full fiscal autonomy for the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government rather than the piecemeal proposals of the Calman Commission. They should be responsible for “raising, collecting and administering all (or the vast majority of) revenues in Scotland. "A remittance or subvention from Scotland to the United Kingdom would be required to cover common United Kingdom public goods and services, such as defence and foreign affairs.” A fully devolved benefits system is also recommended, citing devolved child support, social security and pensions in Northern Ireland. This would be dependent on “appropriate levels of fiscal autonomy in Scotland”. Further devolution on Transport is proposed, including Fuel duty and vehicle excise duty. This is in contrast to the Calman Commission’s single recommendation of a devolved Air Passenger Duty. The Calman Commission gave no recommendations for the further devolution of Scotland’s very limited responsibilities in the area of Energy. The National Conversation calls for extensive devolution in this area including the oil and gas industry and the Fossil Fuel Levy Fund to encourage renewable energy.
While the Calman Commission took no consideration of an independent Scotland, The National Conversation put it forth as the ideal alternative in every area: “Under independence Scotland would assume the rights and responsibilities of a normal sovereign state. This would include all decisions on economic and fiscal affairs, currency, the constitution, foreign affairs, security and defence. Scotland would be recognized as a state by the international community and be a part of the European Union as a full member state.”
Though the status quo of Scottish devolution was used, in both reports, as a reference point in relation to the proposed changes, it was never suggested as an option. There is, however, a minority population decidedly in favor of the status quo. In response to the recommendations of the Calman Commission Dr. Norman Bonney, of the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, believes the argument that ‘further powers of taxation would make the Scottish Parliament more fiscally responsible’ is an argument that is often asserted yet “rarely justified”. Bonney argues that the Scottish Parliament should be required to show that they have “effectively managed the spending responsibilities they have before there should be consideration of additional taxation and spending powers”. He asserts that, until it can be shown that the money spent on healthcare per person in Scotland has “led to greater gains in health…compared to the period 1990-1999 in Scotland prior to devolution” as well as that local government expenditures have been more effective since devolution, “it is difficult to demonstrate that additional powers will result in improved outcomes for the Scottish people”.
Further devolution is likely to give rise to further discussion of the West Lothian Question. According to one constitutional expert, Bernard Crick, who addressed the WLQ in advance of devolution in 1995, the only “rational answer is a federal constitution with an English Parliament as well as a United Kingdom one”. That proving very unpopular with the English people, other options have been put forth, such as the Conservative proposal to restrict Scottish MP’s voting privileges on legislation that would affect only England. The counter argument to this proposal is that Scottish MP’s are full members of the UK Parliament and have every right to vote on all matters brought before the House of Commons. To exclude them from any stage of the legislative process “would create a two-tier Parliament, with Scottish MP’s turned into second-class members of the Commons”.
Devolution is a process, not a one-off constitutional settlement, perpetually set in stone. It remains to be seen, though, just how far that process will go. It is only natural that, over time, as the Scottish Parliament finds its footing it will believe itself entitled to more control over the issues and legislation that affect the Scottish people. But there is a limit to what powers can realistically and, more importantly, constitutionally be devolved while Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom, the position currently favored by most Scots. The Scottish National Party, however, will undoubtedly continue to push the boundaries of devolution in its efforts toward independence and it remains to be seen whether John Major’s prophesy of doom for the United Kingdom will eventually be proven correct. Either way, devolution is, most assuredly, ‘unfinished business’ and will remain so for some time to come.


Commission on Scottish Devolution, Serving Scotland Better: Scotland and the United Kingdom in the 21st Century, [15 June 2009].

Bonney, N., ‘Looming Issues for Scotland and the Union’ Political Quarterly, vol. 79 no. 4 [2008].

Chidwick, R., “Conservatives deny they plan West Lothian veto”, [15 April 2010].$1371420.htm

Crick, B., ‘Ambushes and Advances: The Scottish Act 1998’ Political Quarterly, vol. 66 no. 4 [1995].

Devine, T., “Old Scotland took the high road. New Scotland is upwardly mobile” The Independent on Sunday [online]. [11 May 2008].

Jeffery, C., ‘An Outbreak of Consensus: Scottish Politics after Devolution’. Political Insight Magazine, [online] [April 2010].

Kirkup, J., “David Cameron to ban Scottish MPs from voting on English laws”, [30 June 2008].

McSmith, A., “The Big Question: What is the West Lothian question, and can it be resolved satisfactorily?”, The Independent [online]. [4 July 2006]. westlothian-question-and-can-it-be-resolved-satisfactorily-406571.html

This was an academic paper so I had to be very careful to avoid my own bias when I wrote it but I can tell you that for every point made in the Calman Commission's Report concerning certain powers that they felt should be retained by Westminster, the SNP responded with solid and responsible reasons why they should be devolved. Of course the commission did not consider independence as an option at all but the SNP, in their response, put it forth as the best option in every situation.

Here's the problem though. The Scottish people themselves are divided on the issue of independence. There is a minority who actually believe that there is no need for a Scottish parliament at all and that the UK parliament at Westminster should make all laws pertaining to the entire United Kingdom. There are others who think devolution is a good thing but that no further changes are necessary. Still others believe that more powers should be devolved to the Scottish parliament but they don't support full independence. Even those who desire independence are divided. The Scots who have been on a high since Thursday want independence and they want it NOW. Others would 'ideally' like to see Scotland gain its independence from the rest of the UK (which includes England, Wales and Northern Ireland) but they don't believe Scotland could survive and grow economically on its own so they prefer to remain part of the larger union. It's these people that the SNP needs to target! They need to be convinced that it is possible; that Scotland DOES have the capability to be politically and economically independent.

There are other small European nations who have flourished economically after independence. Certain tax breaks and incentives could be extended to draw international business and foreign investment to Scotland but under the current conditions Scotland does not have the power to make those changes. Those are some of the powers 'reserved' to Westminster. Many people site the oil industry as Scotland's cash cow. Unfortunately the oil industry is a diminishing resource and can't be relied on in the long term. But Scotland has other industries that, if it had full control over, could help to secure its independent economy.

As I said before, I love the Nationalist headiness that I have seen over the last couple of days but I believe the patriotic duty of every Scottish citizen who dreams of independence is to educate themselves so they can effectively lobby their fellow citizens when the subject of independence comes up!

The Calman Commission's Report can be found at

The SNP response to it can be found at

So that's my 2 cents. I applaud anyone who has gotten through my entire rant!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My Mother's Letter

My mother died when I was 7 years old. I was adopted and raised by my grandmother. One of the pictures in our house was a framed 8x10 of my mother when she was about 19. One day when I was 15, I decided to take the frame apart so I could clean the inside of the glass. A letter fell out and I recognized my mother's handwriting. My grandmother knew instantly what it was. She said,"I forgot all about it. I put it there after she died for safe-keeping." This is the letter my mother wrote for my brother and me when she knew she was dieing...

My Children

Who is eloquent enough to set on paper what a mother's children mean to her? Not even the pens of poets, and composers and scholars; for there are no words which convey enough depth to relate that love which I feel for my precious son and daughter.
...and though I write volumes tonight, tomorrow they would be obsolete for my devotion is multiplied each day.
They are the whole of my every dream. They are priceless. There is no amount of money that I would trade for one freckle on my daughter's funny little nose or one flash of my son's impish dimple.
How can I say what I feel when they smile? When they wrap both soft arms around my neck and say, "I love you, Mommy."? When they insist that I take a bite of their candy? When my son says, "Lean all your weight on me, Mom. I'm strong enough." When my daughter brushes my cheek and says, "I'd do anything to make you well, Mommy."
There just are no words

This letter is my most precious possession and is kept in a scapbook dedicated to my two mothers. The scrapbook was in one of the boxes that suffered during our water leak this past week. I am so thankful that it was not ruined and lost forever.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

We Never Met But I Loved You Anyway

Would we have been close?
Would I have thought you were a pest?
Would you have adored me?
Would I have trusted you with my car?
Would you have come to me for advice?
We never met but I loved you anyway.

The fates that conspired against us.
The adults who made all the decisions.
The course of life that was set for us.
The years that were lost.
The memories that were made apart.
We never met but I loved you anyway.

So excited when I found you.
So nervous making that first phone call.
So curious about your life.
So glad to hear that you had grown up with love.
So sure that someday we would meet.
We never met but I loved you anyway.

We would go to a baseball game.
We would have dinner.
We would laugh together.
We would exchange silly stories.
We would hug.
We never met but I loved you anyway.

We sent pictures.
We made phone calls.
We exchanged emails.
We wrote Christmas cards.
We wished happy birthdays.
We never met but I loved you anyway.

There will be no happy meeting.
There was a phone call.
There was a heart condition.
There was no warning.
There will be a funeral.
We never met but I loved you anyway.

I will think of you.
I will remember you.
I will dream of you.
I will cry for you.
I will treasure you.
We never met, little brother, but I loved you anyway.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wild Weekend In London!

The boys were invited to play at Hootananny in London this past weekend in honor of Burns' Day (today Jan. 25th). So a few of us decided to go along for the fun. Rory and Kelly offered to drive down so they could haul the band equipment and Sandra, Gordy, Ursula and I flew with the guys. Round trip flight was less than £50 and the hostel above the pub was only £14 a night. What a deal!

Dougie played taxi with a 9 passenger van and came round to pick each of us up on Friday morning and shuttle us out to the Inverness airport. Flight was, of course, delayed but only about 30 minutes, so not too bad. Unfortunately, sitting at the Inverness airport was the last time poor Sean ever saw his iPhone! Never figured out exactly how he lost it but nevertheless it was no where to found the next time he reached for it.

After landing at Luton airport just outside of London we took the airport shuttle bus to the train station, and from there the train into London's Victoria Station. Hootananny is located in Brixton just a few stops on the underground from there. Gordy and Ursula left us at Victoria as they had accommodations elsewhere. We arrived at the pub late in the afternoon and after getting settled in we took off to explore the city after dark. The guys ended up at the Duke of Argyll pub in Soho (of course!) and Sandra and I went to Trafalger Square and Tower Bridge. It was after 11pm when we got back so we didn't stay up much later as she and I planned to get up early to see the sights. I've been to London before but that was a few years ago. Sandra has also been to London several times but always for work and never really had time to play tourist. Although we were in bed just after midnight there was a band on downstairs and the music didn't stop until 3am! Not exactly a good night's sleep since we had our alarms set for 7.

We meant to be on our way the next morning by 9:30am but waited for the guys to get their butts in gear. After an hour we decided to leave without them. We walked to the underground, boarded the train and waited...and waited some more. Finally the announcement came informing us that the station was being completely closed. So everybody streamed off the trains and outside to find bus transportation. We emerged from the underground to find that the whole street had been blocked off with police lights flashing at either end of couple of blocks each side of the station! Never did find out just what had happened. As we were deciding which bus to take Kenny called to say that he and Stuart were on their way to catch up with us. So we waited...again. With all the delays it was 12:30 before Sandra and I got to Westminster Abbey (Kenny and Stuart headed for the Duke of Argyll again)! The Abbey and the Tower of London were the two places I really wanted to revisit on this trip. After the Abbey we headed for the Tower of London...which unfortunately was closing 35 minutes after we arrived so we decided to do the 30 minute river cruise down the Thames instead. We hadn't taken time to eat all day so by the time we got back to Hootananny we both really hungry. They have 'not too bad' Mexican food there (I had the chimichanga the night before) so we decided on burritos and Copperberg cider for dinner and then it was upstairs to get ready for the evening. Schiehallion was the headliner so there were two bands on before them. We didn't hear the first band but the second one was called Stax Dempsey...kind of Indy Rock. I really really liked their music (was talking to Stax, the singer, at the end of the night and he said I can find their music online). After Stax Dempsey we were treated to a, shall we say, burlesque dancer. She was pretty good and needless to say the guys paid VERY close attention!

The crowd was well warmed up when our boys took the stage and they received a resounding welcome. A bit of trouble with the sound equipment on the first couple of songs but once that was worked out they set the place on fire! Of course, everyone went wild for the piper! Callum said he felt like a rock star. You would have thought they were by the way the crowd reacted during and after every song! LOL...although there was one girl behind my on the floor who didn't look too pleased when the guys launched into '1320' (a very patriotic Scottish song that is not too flattering to the English) but everyone else just ate it up. Schiehallion always has been able to fire up a crowd but there was something magical about this night. The small town boys go to London and rock the house! It's wonderful to see your friends up on the stage in a strange town and getting such an electrifying reaction from a really big audience. The smiles on Kenny, Stuart, Callum and Sean's faces said it all. We were all on quite a high by the end of the night.

Of course, the night didn't end with the end of the music. After the gig Sandra and the boys and I all collected in the common room of the hostel upstairs to continue the party with 'refreshments'. There were already some other hostelers in the lounge enjoying their own 'refreshments' when we got there and we had quite the
after-party. At about 5am Lex, the manager of the hostel, came in to tell us all that we really had to keep the noise down. LOL! She ended up just joining the party! Evidently a hostel above a pub is used to a bit of noise! Sandra and I finally went to bed at 7am (Kenny had disappeared some time earlier) but Callum, Sean and Stuart stayed up for another hour with Tess (a cute young girl from New Zeland).

We were determined to see at least some of the sights so Sandra and I were up at 10am. One of the other girls in our room came into the bathroom while I was getting ready and said to me, "Connie, there's a guy in a kilt asleep on one of the couches in the lounge." "That's Callum" I said, "our piper." She nodded and said, "Yeah, I thought he probably belonged to you." I went in to check on Callum to be sure that he hadn't compromised his dignity but his kilt was modestly in place so I left him to sleep. Sandra and I were finally out the door at about a quarter past 11. We didn't make it to the Tower of London until 1pm because of all the maintenance work that is done on the weekends on the different Tube lines. We had to go "all the way around Robin Hood's barn" as my grandmother used to say, just to get to where we were going. After a tour of the fortress by one of the resident Yeomen Warders and some wandering on our own for pictures we left to catch the 'Jack the Ripper' walking tour (I love local walking tours!). When the walking tour was over we decided to go join the guys, who, of course, had found their way to the Duke of Argyll in Soho again! Rory, Kelly, Gordy and Ursula had also arrived and by the time we all left everybody was well buzzed (some more than others)! A quick stop for food and then back to Hootananny for an 8:45pm start. Schiehallion was the only band playing that night. A much smaller crowd because it was Sunday but I think we were all OK with that.

It was a nice night for things to be not quite so crazy too because I was looking forward to seeing a friend who happened to be in London at the same time and was coming to the pub that night. As some my friends will remember, I spent a month in Berlin a couple of years ago on a teacher training program (in fact, I just checked back through my blog and I was there exactly two years ago. I posted about Burns' Day from Berlin). Although everyone on the course got along very well, there were a few with whom I really bonded. Chad, my fellow American from Tennessee, and Charlie, Daniel and Tom...three young English lads. When the program was over and I returned to Mannheim, where I was living that year, I really missed these guys a lot. We've stayed in touch (hooray for FB!) over the last couple of years and I was very excited to learn that Tom is currently in London while he waits for his new teaching job in Vietnam to begin in March. That will put all of my Berlin boys in the same part of the world. Chad is in China, Charlie is in Thailand and Daniel is in Japan. But this weekend Tom was in London! So we planned to meet at Hootananny on Sunday night. There are some people who come into your life for only a brief time but you just know that you will always be friends. That's how I feel about these guys and I can't express how wonderful it was to see Tom again!

After the gig Sandra and the guys and I ended up back upstairs in the lounge again. Except somehow we never seemed to get around to going to bed at all that night! We needed to be packed and out the door by 7am to get to the airport the next morning so, at around 4am, we just decided to stay up. The disadvantage of that decision was that no one had the chance to sleep off the drink! Sandra and I were tired but sober as we all headed for the tube station but our guys were a little worse for wear. LOL! It was a very entertaining trip to the airport, to say the least! It wasn't until we got to the airport and all got some breakfast that everybody really sobered up. Good thing, too. I was afraid that Kenny and Callum might be denied boarding!

We were caught off guard by how long the line was to go through security. After a mad dash from there to our gate we were a bit frazzled but relieved when we were finally all on board. A few minutes later a family just sorted of strolled onto the plane. They didn't run(?) Then the pilot made an announcement to inform us that they were holding the flight because there was a long line at security and they wanted to give folks time to get to the plane! We killed ourselves running through the airport for nothing. And not exactly in our best form either! Ah well...

Dougie was waiting for us with the van when we landed in Inverness. As tired as we all were Kenny talked (almost) everyone into going to the Gellions for a few before going home! After a couple of hours I came home and finally fell into bed about 6:30. Slept until 10 this morning! There was a fair bit of sleep to catch up on considering I got a total of only 7 hours on Friday and Saturday nights combined and then, well, nothing on Sunday night. But what a weekend! We all had such a good time.

Some memorable quotes from the weekend that I'm sure no one who wasn't there will understand or think funny...

Kenny:"Sean, it's good that you've come out of the closet this weekend."

Kenny: "Look at my face." Everyone else: "Priceless!"

Callum and Sean: "POTATO!"

Callum to me: "We've had way too much physical contact this weekend not to have bonded."

Kenny to Sandra and me: "Did you enjoy the weekend?" Sandra and me: "Yeah, it was great!" Kenny: "It was (throws up jazz hands) fabulous!!"

Kenny: "The ankle is quicker than the elbow."

Me to Sean: "Sean, baby!"
Sean to me: "Connie, baby!"

Sandra: "There has been a lot of 'inappropriate' going on this weekend."

And remember everyone...You can lead a horse to a trough but you can't make toast in a washing machine!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

America's Wakeup Call

As my friends well know I lived in Tucson, Arizona for 15 years before moving to Scotland. I lived in Gabrielle Giffords congressional district and and my vote was one of the many that elected her to her first term as a United States Congresswoman in 2006. And so, the tragedy of last weekend hits very close to home for me.

I have been following the events online for the last couple of days and even posted a video on Facebook of Keith Olbermann's comments concerning the vitriolic political rhetoric that many are blaming for Saturday's shooting of Representative Giffords and 19 other people, six of whom were killed. While I agree with everything Olbermann said in his "Special Comment" segment I don't think he went far enough. Like most on the left he laid the blame squarely at the feet of people like Sarah Palin and others on the right who have used violent imagery to further their political causes. He only gave cursory attention to the same actions of those on the left...including President Obama who, in a 2008 speech said, "If they bring a knife to the fight, we'll bring a gun". And what does it say about me, as an American voter, that upon hearing that speech from the politician whom I admire more than any other, I didn't even bat an eye?

No one seriously believes that Sarah Palin actually intended for her followers to shoot sitting congressional members in order take back those democratic held districts when she used cross hairs to highlight them on a map on her website or that she meant it literally when she said in a campaign slogan, "Don't retreat. Reload!" Just like nobody actually believed that President Obama was advocating Democrats to "bring a gun" to the fight. But the fact remains that political rhetoric on both sides has escalated and become more and more violent and that we as American voters have become so used to it that it doesn't shock us when we hear it. Only when something horrific like the Tucson shooting happens do we sit up and take notice. Even then, everyone jumps on their own bandwagon and points the finger of guilt at the other side. Democrats saying that it's all the fault of Republicans because they encourage and incite this kind of action with their constant political references to guns and violence and Republicans saying that there is no proof that the shooter had any political leanings to the right and accusing Dems of using this to further their own political agenda of making all Republicans the personification of evil.

The fact is that there is enough blame to go around. If you read both liberal and conservative editorial and opinion articles, as well as blogs and other articles you'll find a plethora of examples citing inflammatory and violent rhetoric by both parties. Enough is enough! When will it end? Instead of stomping, screaming and pointing fingers like little kids, all of us, politicians and citizens alike, should simply make a promise to ourselves and our nation that we will no longer participate in hateful rhetoric.

I don't believe Sarah Palin is evil (incompetent to hold office and more than a bit of a whack-job...yes, but not evil). I believe she is as shocked and repulsed as the rest of us by the actions of a clearly mentally unstable young man. I also believe that it is unfair to single her out in this situation when there are so many others who are just as guilty as she is (in both parties) for pandering to this ugly dimension of the American psyche.

Why does this kind of political rhetoric work so well in America? There are those in other countries whose only exposure to American life is what they see on television or in the movies churned out by Hollywood. I think their answer to my question would be "Because America is a violent culture" but that's too simplistic. My life, nor the lives of anyone I know, is not even remotely mirrored by what Hollywood produces. If you judge America by what you see on television and in the movie theater then as far as I'm concerned you don't even belong in this conversation. I have lived in Scotland for a year and a half now and have spent that time studying the history of this country, including its culture, its wars and its politics, and not for one second would I ever presume to tell a Scot what is wrong with their country or what they should change. Every society has crime and bad people and negative aspects to its culture. America is no more guilty of these things than Britain or France or Germany or Russia or Italy! But it's crime and violence that sells movie tickets...not just in America but in other countries too... so that's what Hollywood puts out.

I lived, for most of my 53 years, in the country of my birth. Our culture and our people are as flawed and as perfect as that of any country. There are good and bad people. There are criminals and law abiding citizens. There are those who will steal and those who will give. There are those who would take a life and those who would give their own life in defense of another. The ordinary American is no different than someone from any other country. The people I know are kind to their neighbors, will go out of their way to help a friend, care about the welfare of others and would stop to help a stranger in need. We want security in our lives and a safe future for our children. So why does the vitriol of recent politics work so well on a nation of basically decent human beings? I don't even have an answer to my own question. It would take someone much better trained in the field of human psychology than me to answer it with any authority. I just know that something has to change in our political system!

I also believe that last weekends event highlights the need for stricter gun control laws in the U.S. This is an issue that polarizes us as a nation. There are people who will immediately cite the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." At the time that the Constitution was written we were a nation that had just fought for its freedom...much of that fighting having been done not just by the regular army but by militias; an army of ordinary citizens rather than professional soldiers. It is my belief that the founding fathers also meant that people should have a means of protecting not just their new nation but also their families and property. However, times have changed. We don't live in the times of the Revolutionary War or the Wild West anymore. I have never owned a gun nor have I ever felt unsafe in my own home without one tucked away in the top drawer of my bedroom dresser.

That being said, the right to "keep and bear arms" IS in the Constitution and will likely remain so (making changes to the Constitution is not impossible but it is a difficult and complicated procedure). Nor would I necessarily like to see the Second Amendment changed. But I do believe with every fiber of my being that gun ownership should be much more strictly regulated! There are many law abiding citizens in the U.S. who are avid hunters. Hunting is definitely not my cup of tea but that's not the point. So I can see the need for rifles. A rifle can also be used in defense of one's home or family if the need should arise. What I can't see is the need for handguns. Handguns have only one purpose and that is to kill people. The same goes for automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Their purpose is solely to kill people. Sure, there may be a percentage of crimes that are committed with shotguns but their numbers are way fewer than those committed with hand guns. I see no good reason for hand guns, automatic or semi-automatic weapons to be legal.

Even if handguns are never completely outlawed the laws governing gun ownership should be very strict. NO ONE should be able to just waltz into a store and buy a gun! A 3 day waiting period is a joke. If someone has murder on their mind 3 days isn't going to deter them. Anyone wanting to buy a gun should be thoroughly scrutinized. The gun owners I know are all decent people and have nothing to hide. I'm sure they don't want crazies or criminals to get a hold of a gun any more than I do. Most of the massacres like that which took place in Tucson a few days ago have been shown to have been committed by mentally unstable people. If the U.S. had stricter gun laws then these people would, in all probability, have been prevented from obtaining a weapon in the first place. I also think that there should be laws governing how guns are stored in the home. Arizona has laws that say you must have a 6 ft. fence with a child-proof latch on the gate to prevent a child from getting to your pool. What about laws protecting them from their parents guns?

I think Saturday's tragedy highlights two very important issues that need change in our country. Even if the shooter was not in the least motivated by the current political rhetoric his actions have brought it to the forefront of the collective American conscience. It is a subject of public awareness now and I'll bet you dimes to dollars that, in the future, our politicians will be more careful about the messages they put least I hope so. Gun control is another matter. We are a country divided on that one and I see no solution in the near future. I just hope that one of my loved ones, or yours, is not the next victim of a gun crime.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hyperbole and a Half

I have recently discovered a hilarious blog (thanks to Shauna). Every time I think it can't get any funnier I read another past post and find myself writhing with laughter and struggling to breathe. Enjoy...

Hyperbole and a Half: This is Why I'll Never be an Adult

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas 2010 Part One - The Adventure of Getting There

Every year we hear about someone's nightmare adventure trying to get from point A to point B or people stranded for days at some airport or another. I've always been fairly lucky with winter traveling. Always seemed to avoid the mayhem and get where I was going with very little fanfare...until this year.

My travels plans were to take a bus from Inverness to Edinburgh, fly from there to Heathrow airport in London and then on to Frankfurt. From Frankfurt it's a 30 minute train ride to Mannheim and then a short Taxi ride across the river to Nikki's place in Ludwigshafen.

What should have been a 13 hour door-to-door trip turned into a 3 day odyssey! When I checked my flight status online before leaving home I got conflicting info about the flight from Edinburgh to London but I knew I had no chance of getting anywhere by just sitting at home so I figured I'd at least get to Edinburgh and then hope for the best.

The Edinburgh airport was a madhouse. Almost nothing was flying. Everyone was trying to get rebooked and the lines at the service counters were soooo long! I really didn't think I was going to get out of Edinburgh that night but a few of us got wind of a flight going to London City airport. Nothing flying into Heathrow or Gatwick but the smaller airport was operating? Hmm...

Landed in London about 9pm. Nikki had found me a hotel room near the airport. I shared it with a young girl whom I had met at the Edinburgh airport who had also decided to take the same flight. She studies at Edinburgh University and was trying to get home to her parents' house in Ohio for Christmas. She has flown, of course, but had never experienced the confusion of severe weather and canceled flights so she was a little overwhelmed and not quite sure how to navigate the madness. So we kind of 'buddied up' for as long as we could. We ended up saying good-bye at Heathrow the next morning - different airlines, different terminals. I was happy to get a text from her later on saying she had managed to get on a flight to Chicago that was leaving within the hour.

I was not so lucky. British Airways was doing nothing for their customers at the airport. If you didn't have a confirmed flight that was leaving within the next 3 hours you were asked over the loud speaker to leave the airport(!) and contact BA over the phone or on their website for a refund or a rebooking. Fat lot of good that was going to do anyone! People trying to get through on the phone were finally giving up after more than 2 hours on hold and the BA website alternately crashed or said to see someone at the airport for rebooking!

I realized that if I was going to get out of Britain before Christmas it was not going to be by plane so...time for "Plan B". Plan B was hopefully to get a train from London to Paris, then from Paris to Mannheim. Hmm....evidently the first part of my Plan B was also the first part of everyone else's Plan B. The trains from London to Paris were completely booked until after Christmas. Okaaay....Plan C! Rush to the Victoria Coach Station in hopes of getting a bus to Paris. Stood in line for quite a while (but I was used to that by now) and held my breath as I finally reached the counter and asked the nice lady for a ticket to Paris on the next available bus (crossed fingers, crossed, toes and by that time I'm pretty sure crossed eyes, too, although that part had less to do with superstition and more to do with traveler's mania I think). Before she could answer me her pushy colleague approached her from behind (holding a ticket) saying that her brother wanted to rebook his trip to Paris for Wednesday. Nice lady #1 looks up from her screen and says, "Perfect! Then I'll just give his seat on tonight's bus to this lady." Huzzah! Thanks, pushy colleague! Nice lady #1 had been just about ready to tell me that there were no seats available until the next day. Nice lady #1 and Pushy Colleague coordinated very carefully the cancellation of "Brother's" ticket and the issuance of mine so it wouldn't slip away from us in the computer. When Nice lady #1 handed me my ticket I felt like I had just won the lottery! The last seat on the last bus to Paris leaving at 10:30 that night. Of course, being sure that everyone behind me in line was also trying to get to Paris and had overheard our conversation I was careful to clutch my precious document close to my bosom and not to make eye contact as I scurried past them to the door.

The next trick was to figure out what to do with myself for the next 6 or 7 hours. Too cold and slushy to wander the streets of London, especially dragging my suitcase which was extra heavy because I had carefully bubble-wrapped and boxed 6 pint bottles of selected Scottish beers for Bert, which had necessitated bringing the largest of my suitcases to accommodate said gift box and all my own bulky clothing for 10 days in the snow. I had expected to check my bag at the Edinburgh airport and be done with it...not drag the damn thing all over London and Paris! I kept thinking throughout the whole adventure, "Man, Bert better like these beers!" LOL! Steve said if it was him, he would have just drunk the beers!

In search of coffee and a warm place to sit and catch my breath for a few minutes I ended up at Victoria Place, a nice little shopping mall connected to Victoria Station, which should not be confused with Victoria Coach Station. I had earlier realized this after circling Victoria Station a couple of times, inside and outside (through the slush), looking for the bus ticket counter (all the while dragging the beast behind me). After finally giving up and asking at a 'local tour tickets' office I was informed by a nice man that it was a common mistake and that the Victoria Coach Station was out those doors and about 3 blocks down.

So, having found the Victoria Coach Station and managing to obtain the scarce and coveted transport ticket out of Britain and being in great need of something hot to drink I settled at Costa Coffee with an obscenely over-sized cuppa. From there I called my friend, Larry, who lives in London. Larry and I grew up together in Salem and have remained good friends through the years. I was hoping that he would have a free evening and we might be able to get together. They say there is a silver lining to every cloud and getting to have dinner and spend a few hours catching up with a dear friend was certainly an unexpected treat for me that day. Larry and I share the same social and political ideology so the conversation was enjoyable and interesting. I felt rejuvenated and ready to tackle the next part of my adventure.

When I arrived back at Victoria Coach Station the place was packed. More long lines and anxious travelers. Checked in by 10:00pm and, of course, the buses to Paris were late arriving from the great beyond. As the first two buses arrived a wave of people flowed toward them in hopes of getting a 'good seat'. It was then that we realized that we had each been assigned to a specific bus. Folks began scrambling to retrieve their luggage from the wrong bus and find the right one. "This is 'O' bus" "What bus are you on?" "I'm on 'P'." "Where is 'B'?" Is that 'O'?" "'O' is over there? Where is 'W'?" "What bus are you on?" My seat was on the "W" bus. The "P" bus loaded its passengers and luggage as did the "O" bus. As they pulled away the rest of us stood in the cold like anxious puppies waiting for the "B" and "W" buses. By 11:00 the lucky "B" bus passengers were on their way but the mysterious "W" had yet to appear. We waited and waited...and waited. A bus would pull in and we would all crane our necks to see the destination. "Manchester" or "Edinburgh" would elicit an audible sigh and after a while more than one groan. Eventually we just started laughing. Finally the "W" appeared and we actually cheered.

After loading 'the beast' into the luggage compartment I managed to get a window seat on the bus and waited for the rest of my fellow travelers to settle in. I was immensely relieved when at last we pulled out of the parking lot. The guy who sat down next to me turned out to be a young U.S. Air Force officer who had only just arrived in Europe about a month ago and was stationed at Geilenkirchen Air Base in Germany. He and his friend were traveling for the holidays. You could see his surprise when he found out that this middle aged woman sitting next to him was ex-Air Force. We talked for about an hour and then both decided to try to get some sleep. About 90 minutes into the trip the driver pulled into the "Euro-Tunnel Center", something like a really big rest stop. It was 1am and we had to wait there until it was our turn to be loaded on the train going through the tunnel. I remember when the tunnel was being built so I was kind of excited about finally getting to experience it. Unfortunately, we were told that we would have to wait for about 5 hours before our turn to cross! Most people just stayed on the bus and tried to sleep but some of us got off and went inside for coffee or in search of electrical outlets to charge various electronic gadgets.

When it was finally our turn to cross, it was...well, creepy. The driver drove the bus into something that I can only describe as a boxcar. No windows and only about 3 feet wider than the bus itself! So the ride through the 'Chunnel' was on a bus, in a box, on a train, in a tunnel, under the water. I don't have many phobias but I do have to admit to a certain amount of claustrophobia so this was more than a wee bit unnerving. The crossing took about 35 minutes and then - Voilá - we emerged in France and eventually arrived in Paris. What should have been an 8 hour bus ride turned into 13 hours. However,I was slowly but surely getting closer to my destination!

From the bus station in Paris I made my way on the subway to the Gare de l'est train station (dragging the beast of course) where I bought a one way ticket to Mannheim, Germany. There were seats available on the train that was leaving in less than an hour but only in 1st class. The difference in price between 1st and 2nd class easily convinced me to wait for the 5:17pm train. No matter, though. I had gotten very good at waiting. So I found one of the many sandwich stands in the train station, bought a sandwich and a coke and found a place to sit, eat my sandwich and people-watch. I love the baguette sandwiches in France. Somehow the bread just tastes different. "Jambone et Fromage, si vous plait." As 5pm approached I began watching the board to see which track my train would leave from. As I continued to track number, no track number, no track number aaaannnnd.....train delayed. Then train delayed again...and again! Waaaaa!!!! I'm so close!! Finally the train arrived and just before 6pm we pulled out of the station. It was a smooth and uneventful ride to Mannheim. I really wanted to try to sleep but I was afraid I would oversleep my stop. I think it says something about travel fatigue that it didn't occur to me to just set the alarm on my phone! So I read instead. I had started a new book on my kindle as I left Inverness on Sunday morning and finished it just before arriving in Mannheim Tues night! As the train pulled in about 9:30pm I put away my kindle and wrestled 'the beast' off the train, through the train station and out to the taxi rank. "Now let's see. Where did I put those German language brain synapses? Oh yes, there they are!" I had a nice conversation with a very friendly taxi driver who delivered me to my final destination where I was met outside by a happy daughter who had been following her mother's odyssey via text messaging for the past 3 days. We lugged the beast up to her apartment where there were more hugs from Bert and Steve. After about 30 minutes of excited chattering between us all (and a shot of tequila for me!) the ever thoughtful Bert told me that it was time for me to relax and pushed me toward the bathroom. His arrival gift to me...a hot bath had been drawn and the bathroom was glowing softly in candle light. Oh the bliss! I carried in another shot of tequila with me and Nikki sat on the floor chatting while I soaked away the all the travel miles. When I emerged from the bathroom all clean and relaxed and in my 'comfy' clothes Bert got another big hug. That was so thoughtful of him!
Just a few minutes later Shauna arrived from Zürich. Steve was working in Munich so he had arrived earlier in the day. More hugs and kisses and chatter and laughter. It was well after midnight when we finally all fell into bed.

I had made it to Ludwigshafen just in time. Our train reservations were for 6am the next morning! Steve and Bert took Bert's little car filled with everybody's luggage and all the stuff we would need for the next 10 days. The girls and I took the train to Leipzig to pick up Michael who was landing there at noon. He flew from the west coast of the U.S. and HIS travel all came off without a hitch! Then the 4 of us continued on the train to meet up with the boys at the house we had rented for the holidays in the very small village of Cranzahl, a stone's throw from the Czech border in Saxony. Bert grew up in the town of Sehma next to Cranzahl and was excited to show all of us where he came from. Nikki has been there many times but this was the first time Bert had brought home the 'whole passel' of Ami's. It was beautiful. So, at last, we were finally all together and our Christmas celebrations could begin...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Frozen Britain

Why does this weather seem to bring Britain to a grinding halt when other countries such as Russia and the Scandinavian countries simply carry on? Last year the gov't promised to learn by their mistakes but seem to be taking the same knocks this year! I can understand if flights are grounded because of weather conditions but not because the airport ran out of de-icer! I can understand why the Forth Bridge was closed most of yesterday. A semi jackknifed and it took time to clear the pile up of snow that accumulated during the fiasco. But the road closures all over the country are ridiculous!

It's not just a matter of personal convenience. It's a matter of economic and public health. Work hours are lost. Delivery trucks can't get to their destinations. Drs. can't get to hospitals...never mind the people in need of medical care. How about the people who depend on public transportation? I am reminded of life in the Rocky Mountains. It's a rare occasion when I-70 is actually closed and they certainly get more severe weather than what we are experiencing! The local bus system in Vail, Colorado, high up in the Rockies, runs with very little interruption all through the winter season.

I don't buy the excuse that this is the worst November snow fall on record. Were they suddenly going to be prepared when the calender flipped over to December but the fact that the snow came a week early is the problem? Well, the calender has flipped and the country is still a mess. People being stuck on a stranded train for eight hours is inexcusable in an industrial country! Like I said, I understand when flights are canceled because of weather conditions but there is no excuse for not being prepared with the necessary resources to keep the buses and trains running.Get it together Britain!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Post-Thanksgiving Update

Well, another Thanksgiving has come and second in Inverness. I had the regular crew over for dinner again this year. It pleases me that they have all so enthusiastically embraced my holiday. The only thing that bothers me is that I just don't have the room to be able to invite everyone I'd like to. But I have managed to feed several more people after the fact. I delivered three meals yesterday and three more today. The constraints of a small house! But I have a plan. I need to confirm it still but I may have someplace larger as well as very convenient to hold next year's feast. I'm very excited about the prospect of a really big Thanksgiving gathering next year! It will be even more special since Nikki and Shauna will be here along with both of their sweeties!! I think I'll get others involved in the cooking, too, so it will definitely be a group effort next year.

We woke up to a winter wonderland this morning. The snow has been teasing us over the last few days but started coming down in earnest last night. There are several inches on the ground already and snow is in the forecast for at least the next week. I hope the council is better prepared for it this year than they were last year. More grit and plows are definitely needed!

We made some improvements to the kitty condo. I decided that it needed a roof to help keep everything dry. Dougie rounded up a piece of plywood for me and took it over to Stuart, who cut it to the size I needed. We covered it in plastic and put it on top of the box with weight to hold it down. It's large enough that it extends out over the edges of the cabinet that the box sits on. That way when it rains (or snows!) the water will run off to the ground rather than to the top of the cabinet and around the bottom of the box. I also re-did the box a bit. We had originally just wrapped it in plastic to keep it dry but I decided that it needed to be warmer so I took it out of the plastic and wrapped a towel around the box before re-wrapping it in several more layers of plastic. The towel falls down over the front hole so our little kitty girl can still find her way in but there will be a bit of protection over the entrance once she's in. We also added a small mat to the towel inside to make it a wee bit warmer. One of the housemates laughed and asked when I was going to add central heating. I would if I could!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Kitty Condo

We have a really sweet neighborhood kitty that hangs around the back of our house. She's black and white and looks a lot like my Lucy did in her younger days. Whenever any of us steps outside she hears our voices and comes to say Hi and get pets. Technically she belongs to a guy who lives in the flats behind us. I know he feeds her cause she looks really healthy but he never lets her inside. With winter coming on the temperatures have dropped significantly around here. Add to that the winds that have kicked up lately and you can imagine the chilly days and really cold nights. Nighttime temps hover just above freezing.

And then there is this poor sweet kitty who is outside at all hours of the day and night, no matter what the weather. So Sandy (one of my housemates) and I decided to give her some kind of shelter. I cut a hole in a cardboard box yesterday, then covered the box with plastic to keep it dry and put a fluffy towel inside. Since kitties prefer to be up high, we put the box on top of a metal cabinet that sits outside our back door where the side fence meets the corner of the house. We've actually seen our little kitty friend sitting up there before so we were hoping she would find the box there. We had no idea if she would actually use it but it was worth a try.

When I came home from class this afternoon Sandy said, "Guess who's using the box?" He said she was in it when he stepped out there about 7 this morning. She poked her head out and meowed at him as if to say hello but wouldn't leave the box. I was so excited that she had found it and was actually using it. I went out to look and sure enough, there she was...all snuggled in her box! I reached in and petted her and she talked back to me but showed absolutely no inclination of wanting to come out.

We'll come up with something a little sturdier and more permanent when we can but, at least for now, we know she's warmer than she was before with no shelter at all.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Summer Walkers

Besides this being the name of one of my favorite traditional songs, it also describes my latest adventure in this beautiful country. Nikki, Shauna, Amy and I just completed one of Scotland's amazing long distance walks called the West Highland Way. To an American the word 'walk' implies a leisurely stroll. Hiking is not a term that is used over here but that certainly is what this was. The 95 mile trail took us from just outside of Glasgow, north to the town of Fort William, through glens (valleys) and forests, alongside beautiful Loch Lomond, up and over small mountains, and through the incredibly stunning and desolate Rannoch Moor. We took 8 days to do it, averaging 12-14 miles a day. And, NO, we didn't camp! I think the hike itself is enough of an accomplishment without carrying everything on my back and sleeping on the hard ground. We ended each day in whatever small town was nearby and slept in a B&B each night. On a couple of occasions there was no town, just an inn that catered to walkers...walkers from all over the world. We met people along the Way from Germany, England, the Czech Republic, Australia, America, India, and of course, Scotland, to name a few. Some people camped. Some stayed in hostels and some, like us, used B%Bs. I was definitely grateful for a hot shower and a comfy bed at the end of each day!

I'm still amazed at how lucky we were with the weather. We carried jackets and rain gear every day but never needed them. Not a drop of rain in 8 days! (Scotland?) Perfect hiking temps. Maybe mid 50s in the morning and rarely getting above 70 in the afternoon. We couldn't have chosen a better week if we'd used a soothsayer!

The scenery was incredible. A couple of times we were sure we had made it to Mordor(!) and, more than once, we felt as if we were walking through a fairy forest. We stopped to eat our packed dinner one evening on a peaceful beach alongside Loch Lomond. On another day lunch was eaten atop a mountain with wide open views that boggled the mind and still another lunch break found us sitting peacefully next to a small stone bridge that crossed one of the innumerable little streams along the way. Every day offered new bounties for our visual feast and reminded me how incredibly lucky I am to live in such a beautiful country.

To spend so much simple and uninterrupted time with my girls and share this experience with them was a gift beyond measure. We are already talking about doing another hike next Spring called the Great Glen Way. It's 75 miles starting where we left off in Fort William and ending practically at my doorstep in Inverness. I hiked about a quarter of it with my friend Marie earlier this summer.

When the girls and I returned to Inverness from Fort William, the day after we finished, we went to the Gellions for what we dubbed our 'victory celebration'. It was a Sunday afternoon and of course Schiehallion was gearing up to play and a bunch of my friends were there (it's our normal practice on a Sunday). As we walked in, the pub erupted in a round of applause for us. What a very sweet and unexpected surprise that was! Everyone was very congratulatory and the drinks started flowing! Kenny lived up to his promise and sang Summer Walkers for me. It's one that he rarely sings live (not really a 'pub song') but my favorite of everything I've ever heard him sing. He sang it for me last year on my birthday and promised to sing it again this year but he was out of town that night. The title was especially appropriate upon our return from the West Highland Way. It's a beautiful song about treasuring the history and geography of northern Scotland. Kenny sings it acappella with just the beat of his hand on his acoustic guitar during the chorus. It is such a special treat for me to hear him sing that song. I'm pretty sure he knows by now that I will ask for it every year on my birthday!

My precious girls left Inverness yesterday morning and I started my second year of classes in the afternoon. So summer is officially over and I shall, once again, have my nose buried in the books for the next several months, soaking up all I can about my favorite subject... Scottish History! I love my life!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Things I Like

Taking a cue from Nikki's last blog post I decided to make my own list....

Uncontrollable laughter
Cuddling down under the covers in a chilly room
This American Life (best radio show ever)
Ice cold Mountain Dew
My feet
The music of the ice cream truck coming up my street
Tender lovemaking
Frantic lovemaking
My national anthem
Flying. It usually means I'm going to see someone I love.
Walking through town and realizing that this is my home now
A meal that I didn't have to prepare
The sounds of children playing
A crackling fire
Warm sunshine
Movies that make me cry
Old people who still hold hands
John Denver
Pictures of my children growing up
New love
A flower growing where it shouldn't
Seeing the bus come around the corner when I'm waiting
Live music
The way the house smells when something is cooking
Fluffy socks
Craig Ferguson
Fresh pineapple
Girls with pink hair
Being able to say, "No, I'm not a tourist. I live here."
Floating in a pool on a hot day
Knowing that my friends forgive my faults
Fresh bed linen
Feather pillows
Pumpkin pie
Laughing with someone about the night before
Stand up comedy
Scottish History :)
Realizing when my wounded heart has healed
To Kill A Mockingbird
Strangers who strike up a conversation on the street corner
A good book that calls you back..again and again
American football
Happy dogs
The chiming of a clock
Church bells
When the sun comes out after a rain shower

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Still The Greatest Country On Earth

Being an "expat" is a very interesting personal situation. I live in Scotland, not by accident of circumstance or because I fell in love with someone from here or for any of the many other reasons that one may find themselves making a new life in a country other than that of their birth. I chose to live in Scotland because I fell in love with this country; its culture, its people, its history and its future.

That being said, though, I am still an American to my very core and always will be. I have heard some Americans admit that when they travel they let others mistakenly think that they are Canadian to avoid the controversy and ill feelings that may arise because of our sometimes dismal reputation throughout the rest of the world. I have never done that nor would I ever consider it. No offense to our nice neighbors to the north but I am appalled at the very thought. I wear my nationality with great pride. There is no country on earth that is perfect or does not have something in its history to be ashamed of. Ours is no different. From our deplorable treatment of the original native Americans to our history of slavery to our shameful foreign policy under the last administration, we have our share of wrongs for which we must bear responsibility.

However, I still believe that America is the greatest country on earth. It is the only country to be founded on an idea and not by accident of birth. To be a "red blooded American" does not necessarily mean that you can trace your family roots back to 12th century America. Americans trace their ancestry from all over the world. Throughout the past 234 years our ancestors have been the adventurers of the old world who left their native lands in search of new and better lives. We are made up of nearly every nationality from every corner of the globe. It doesn't matter if your forefathers sailed on the Mayflower or if they were already here when the Mayflower arrived or if your great-grandparents arrived at Ellis Island in 1897. Together we are all Americans...all 300 million of us. Ours is a country founded on the principles of freedom and individual rights.

The National Archives in Washington D.C. hold original copies of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. I had the honor of seeing these documents a couple of years ago and was surprised at what an emotional experience it was. They are the cornerstones upon which our country was built. We learn about them in school and they are an intrinsic part of our collective psyche. But to look upon those precious documents and the values that they set forth, values for which countless Americans have given their lives so that we can take them for granted, was a truly humbling experience.

In honor of our nation's birthday and of the men and women who believed so completely in its creation as to be labeled traitors to the King and to all of us who have so proudly called ourselves Americans for the past 234 years....

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

I went hiking today with friends. It was a beautiful day and we hiked for about 5 miles around Rogie Falls. As I savored the scenery I was once again reminded of how happy I am to be here. And, today being Father's Day, I was reminded of my dad. Without him, I wouldn't be here.

I remember when I first met my dad in 1995. I spent 4 days with him at his home in California. We talked about everything under the sun, trying to make up for 34 lost years. He had not seen me since I was 4 years old. It was sometime during those 4 days that he told me I was and always had been a beneficiary in his will. I asked him why he would do that, knowing what I had been raised to believe about him. His answer was simple, "You're my daughter." We talked about why he made the decision to sign the adoption papers after my mother died and how difficult that was for him, knowing that it meant he would probably never see my brother and me again. At one point I was telling him about my childhood and how loved I had been. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and asked "So I made the right decision?" Almost 30 years after the fact he needed me to tell him that it was OK. "Yeah, Dad, you made the right decision."

My dad and I had 12 years together. I remember the adventure of buying a Father's Day card for the first time. Most of them didn't apply.'Thanks for teaching me how to ride a bike, even though you were so busy','Thanks for all the things you did for me growing up, even though I was an ungrateful brat most of the time', 'Thanks for not killing me when I crashed the car at 16'. We just didn't have that kind of history together. What we did have was the knowledge of how lucky we were to have reconnected after so many years apart.

As the years went by and it got more and more difficult for Dad to take of himself and the house I tried to convince him to sell the house and come to Arizona. I knew he would never be happy living in someone else's house but my backyard was huge and we could build a small guesthouse where he would be just a few steps away but still have his own space. He would always say it was a good idea but eventually I came to realize that he would never do it. He was stubbornly independent. Even after his stroke, some 20 years earlier, he was determined to regain his independence. The doctors told him he would not be able to return to his own home. The house had too many stairs. He spent the next 2 years in a rehab center, then at his brother's house and finally at his girlfriend's house, all the while learning to walk again. The day he finally got rid of the walker he called a taxi to take him home. The doctors were right, he couldn't walk up and down the for the first year he crawled up and down them. He learned to take care of himself again and had another 20 years in the house that he had built with his own two hands. That was my dad and as I came to know him I realized that I had to accept his decision to stay in his own home, no matter how difficult it became for him. He was a grown man and had been making his own decisions since long before I came along.

Dad got sick and ended up in the hospital in July of 2007. The doctors and Adult Social Services finally convinced him that he would not be able to continue living on his own. It was time to sell the house and make other arrangements. It was time to let go of his independence and I think that's when he decided that he was done with this life. My dad died on August 11 of that year. Life on his own terms all the way to the end.

I miss my dad every day and I will be forever grateful to him for making it possible for me to have this new life in this magnificent country. More than that, though, I am grateful for the 12 years we had together. I wish we could have had more.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

No Particular Destination

I just had the nicest day. My friend Kevin is a musician from Glasgow who comes up to play at different venues throughout the Highlands on a fairly regular basis. Whenever he's in Inverness, if he stays overnight rather than making the 3 hour drive back to Glasgow, he stays at our house. This weekend he had 2 gigs in Inverness, Friday night at the Glen and Saturday night at Dow's. He dropped his stuff at the house last night and stayed for a cup of tea before heading off to the Glen, then tiptoed back in after he was finished with the gig. I like to go hear Kevin play when he's in town but since I have final exams coming up on Tuesday and Wednesday I have not been out much lately. Today was a beautiful day and this afternoon Kevin suggested I take a break from studying and hop in the car for a wee roadtrip. I looked out the kitchen window at the puffy white clouds in the sky and the bright sunshine and, well, it didn't take much arm-twisting.

We weren't even really sure where we were headed when we left the house. We just knew it was a day to be outside. So we drove toward Loch Ness and stopped in Drumnadrochit (a small town on the banks of the loch) for ice cream at an outdoor cafe. As we left town we made a snap decision to turn left, then right and ended up on a single track road. Single track roads are very common in the Highlands. They are paved but really only wide enough for one car so there are lots of small widened areas to pull over and let oncoming cars get past. After a while neither one of us knew exactly where we were anymore. But that was OK. We were just enjoying the drive. When I saw a sign that said Corrimony Cairn I got excited and suggested we go see it. Corrimony Cairn is a Neolithic burial site that I've heard about and wanted to see for some time now. So we turned off to go find it. After we parked the car we had to walk down a lovely little country road for a bit where we couldn't resist stopping by the fence to try to coax the baby lambs over to us. They were so cute but, alas, totally uninterested. When we reached the cairn I gave Kevin a bit of a running lesson in archaeology. I had studied chambered burial cairns in one of my classes last semester, which is how I knew about this one. I even got to look like a real smartypants by explaining that this particular building technique was called corbelling. The cairn is round and each course of flat stones is positioned just a little closer inward than the last so that eventually they almost meet and the top can be covered with a 'capstone'. The entire thing is then covered with turf. Ancient burial sites dot the entire British Isles and there are undoubtedly many as yet undiscovered because they simply look like little hills. The capstone at Corrimony had been removed during the excavation and if you climbed the mound you could see down into the chamber. You can also get down on your hands and knees and crawl through the entrance chamber to the inside but neither one of us were too keen on emerging with muddy hands and knees! So we climbed around and studied cairn from the top looking down in and checked out the dozen or so standing stones that surrounded it. To think that something that people built  4 thousand years ago is still here for us to see and marvel at! Who were they and who was the woman whose remains were found inside when the site was excavated in the 1950's? We spent about half an hour there and then headed back to the car to see what else we could discover on our mini-roadtrip. 

We eventually ended up in Glen Affric. In Scotland a lake is a loch and a valley is a glen so Glen Affric is a very long very wide forested valley with a couple of lochs that happen to be connected at one very narrow point. As we were driving beside the first loch (we had no idea what the name was) we saw a sign that read 'Dogg Falls'. That looked interesting so we turned in and parked the car once more. It was kind of a little picnic area beside the water with trails and a bridge over the water to the other side. We climbed out onto some big rocks to sit beside the loch for a while and just bask in the sunshine. It was such a peaceful place and very pretty.

Our next stop was very similar to Dogg Falls but the sign read 'Loch Beinn a' Mheadhoin'. Well, at least now we knew the name of the loch, even if we couldn't pronounce it (it's obviously Gaelic so it would have been fruitless to even try!). We walked down one of the trails to the water's pebbly edge and contemplated how cold the water must be. That's when Kevin suggested I take off my shoes and socks, pull up my pantlegs and wade in so he could take a picture. Oh my god! I don't think I've ever been in water that f@*#king cold! I was laughing telling him to hurry up as he was deliberately futzing around with the camera just to make me stand in the water longer!

Our last stop was at Loch Affric. We decided to take a hike this time and wound our way along a trail down toward the loch and then back up and away from it. The ground was kind of boggy here and there and there was tons of thick heather which will be gorgeous when it blooms (in August, I think). We weren't in any hurry so we stopped to investigate a few of the little burrows that we saw along the trail and any interesting plants that caught our collective eye. We even checked out the deer poop and could see the deer tracks in the boggy ground! When we were up high we could see a ways up and down the glen and both wondered what the name of that peak was way off in the distance. We could have continued on further but we decided it was time to make our way back to Inverness if Kevin was going to have time for something to eat and a shower before work.

After we got home we walked over to the chip shop for a couple of orders of fish and chips which we brought back to the house and promptly devoured. The temperature was just starting to cool off a bit so we decided to catch the last of the day's warmth sitting in the back yard yakking for a bit before Kevin had to jump in the shower.

There have been so many nice days lately that I've had to shut my eyes to because I needed to finish a paper or work on a project or study for my upcoming final exams. It was such a nice break to just set it all aside and take off for the day with one of my favorite people. Kevin and I never run out of things to talk about and he's very easy to be around. He's intelligent, very well traveled and just a really nice guy. We all look forward to seeing him when he's in town and he knows he's always welcome to crash on our futon whenever he wants to. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Bible

On her radio show, Dr. Laura Schlesinger (a popular conservative radio
 talk show host in the USA) said that homosexuality is an abomination
 according to the Bible Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under
 any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr.
 Laura, penned by James M. Kauffman, Ed. D.
It's funny, as well as

Dear Dr. Laura:

 Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I
 have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that
 knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend
 the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that
 Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination... end of

 I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other
 elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and
 female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A
 friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not
 Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

 2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in
 Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair
 price for her?

 3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in
 her period of menstrual unseemliness - Lev. 15: 19-24. The problem   
 is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

 4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates
 a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev. 1:9. The problem is my neighbours.
 They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus
 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally
obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

 6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an
 abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than
 homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there
'degrees' of abomination?

 7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I
 have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading
 glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some
 wiggle-room here?

 8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the
 hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by  Lev.19:27. How should they die?

 9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig
 makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two
 different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing
 garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester
 blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really
 necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town
 together to stone them? Lev. 24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to
 death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep
 with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

 I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy
 considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can

 Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and

 Your adoring fan,

 James M. Kauffman, Ed. D.
 Professor Emeritus Dept. of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education
 University of Virginia