The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Yesterday's Dream Lives On

Today is the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's most famous speech, the words of which are just as stirring today as they were when Dr. King first delivered them from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of 250,000 people gathered on the Washington Mall. Take a moment to read this most historic and inspiring speech.....

I Have a Dream

August 28, 1963. Washington, D.C.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. [Applause]

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Right To Vote

Eighty-eight years ago today US Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification of the nineteenth amendment to the US Constitution.

That amendment reads:

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

The women of 19th century America struggled for more than 70 years, beginning in 1848, for the right to vote. The women of 21st century America are the beneficiaries of their victory. Our right to vote is a gift from our great great grandmothers.

As November approaches remember their struggle. When election day arrives celebrate their victory. Vote! Anyone who knows me knows my political preference. I'm not saying here "Vote for my candidate". I'm simply saying "Vote". It is your right as an American woman.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Detour

Definition: An alternate path of travel used while a regular path of travel is temporarily closed.

I had planned on being in Scotland by now to start school on September 1st. The first year student orientation was this past weekend. But, as we all know, Life has a way of sometimes throwing us a curveball. I was banking on the fact that my dad's house would sell over the summer and we could have gotten his estate all wrapped up by the time I needed to leave. No such luck in this current crappy real estate market. So I got a deferment from the University of the Highlands and Islands until the fall of '09. As you can imagine, I'm very disappointed about not being able to get to Scotland this year but I'm a firm believer that things happen for a reason and, for some reason, I'm just not meant to go this year. That being said, the next question is "What the hell do I do with myself for the next year?" Well....

Option #1
After all I do have kids there. It would be nice to be close to Michael and Shauna for a while and since I'm originally from the Pacific Northwest it would feel very much like going home. But I feel like spending the next year in Seattle would be just marking time. And, to be truthful, that's why I hatched this hair-brained scheme of mine. Because I saw my life not really going anywhere. I was just marking time, plodding along from one day to the next, living somewhere because that's where Life and circumstances had dropped me. Not really living life but simply existing in life. I had reached my own point of critical mass. It was time to take control of my life and do what I wanted instead of just following the path of least resistance.
Just because things have not followed my predetermined timeline does not mean that I'm going to go back to killing time. So, as much as I would love to be near a couple of my kids, Seattle is not the place for me.

Option #2
It really is like paradise and Karen could sure put me to work there. It would also be fun to look back afterward and say, "Yeah, I did that. I spent a year living and working on a small Caribbean island." But, honestly, as much as I love to visit there, Vieques is not the place for me either. The ever present intense level of humidity would get to me and I think I'd go island crazy before too long.

Option # 3
It would, at least put me back in Europe, where I really want to be. I've lived there before and loved it and, again, I have a kid there. Nik and I talked about it a lot while I was visiting in June. The rules for getting a long term visa are not as strict in Germany as they are in the UK (in my case, virtually impossible until I'm a student). We brainstormed about how I could earn a living while I'm there. My German language skills are OK but not good enough to just jump into total immersion and function at a competent level. So it's not like I could just walk in and apply for a job somewhere. But there is a need for native English speakers. Germans learning English need an avenue by which to practice what they are learning in structured classes. It's called English for Conversation. Since Nikki is an English teacher she sees the need firsthand. She already has several potential clients for me once I get there.
It will also be a pretty good Life skill for do more listening and less talking! I watched Nikki with a couple of her students at an informal appt over lunch one day. She contributed just enough to the conversation to keep it going but encouraged her students to do most of the talking by asking them questions. In learning a new language understanding comes much quicker than production so learners need the opportunity to speak the new language in a practice situation much more than they need to hear it. What a fun way to make a living. Spend time with people from another culture and help them with their English skills! And it's not like the German culture is a foreign one to me. The six year period when I lived there the first time was a wonderful experience. Even though my ultimate goal is to live in Scotland I'm very excited about just getting back to Europe. There just isn't anywhere here in the States that calls to me and says, "Come here. You should live here." It really hit me one day when I was sitting at a cafe at the Castle above Heidelberg a couple of months ago. I was sitting there soaking in the view and thinking about how happy I was to be back in Europe and I suddenly realized just how ready I am to leave the States again on a long term basis. I knew that, even though I still had some really fun summer travels ahead of me, I would be counting the weeks or months til I could get on a plane again headed back across the Atlantic. That's why I'm going back to Germany for the next year. I'm not choosing Nikki over Shauna and Michael. I'm choosing Europe over the States. At least for the next 5 years. I'm sure I'll come back at some point to live here again but now is not the time. Now is the time for me to get my second European adventure started with a year in Germany and then to realize my ultimate dream of 4 years in Scotland.

I'll be in Pittsburgh until the end of September. Steve's birthday is on the 18th (he'll be 17!) and I want to get back to Virginia to see Paul one more time before I leave. After that....pull out the passport and pack the cat!

Happy Birthday To Me!

August 25th, 1957.
How many times in my life have a written that date? Who knows! I have to be careful when I have to write "today's date" on something on my birthday. I'll write August 25th and if I'm not thinking about what I'm doing, instead of writing the current year, I'll just continue with 1957 (I sure hope I'm not the only person who does such a dorky thing).

I played around and found out that, not only do I share a birthday with the incomparable Scottish actor Sean Connery, but also....

Tim Burton
Elvis Costello
Gene Simmons
Regis Philbin
Monty Hall
Leonard Bernstein
Ludwig II (the mad king of Bavaria!)
and, last but not least,....
Ivan the Terrible (first Tzar of Russia)

I wonder if any of them make (or made!) the same mistake when writing "today's date"?
Maybe I should call Sean and we could go for a drink and discuss it......

Today is also National Parks Day. In honor of my birthday (I'm sure that's the reason) you can visit any national park today without having to pay the normal entrance fee!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The End of Summer

It sure has been a great summer. I started my travels the middle of June in Virginia at Paul's with extended family. From there I went to visit Nikki and Bert in Germany where Nik and I made a little side trip to Paris. Two days after I landed back in Pittsburgh I was off to Paul's again for a couple of days before I flew to Seattle to see all my kids there. Then it was on another plane to Colorado to spend a week with Ruth and Bill. After a one night layover back in Seattle I flew back to D.C. for another weekend with Paul and a day out on the boat. That Monday I drove back to Pittsburgh for another 'one overnight' and left for Vieques the next morning. Two weeks on a small Caribbean island is definitely a very good way to end the summer.

So here I am, back in the Burgh with summer coming to a close. Some of you may be wondering when I'm leaving for Scotland. Well, there is a little detour in the coming year.....

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Hola de Veiques

I hope you have a few minutes 'cause this is a long one.....

So here I am, sitting on the beach in Vieques staring out over the Carribean Ocean. This island is so peaceful and a world away from, well, the rest of the world. Vieques has so far escaped the
over-developement that has engulfed most of the Carribean Islands. It's only about 20 miles long and 5 miles wide and most tourists get no closer to Vieques than the main island of Puerto Rico which is about 6 miles to the north of this sleepy little island. Those who do find their way here do so because they are looking for the peace and tranquility that can't be found on the more well known islands, such as St. Thomas, St. Crouix, Antiguia or Barbados.

Vieques has no nightclubs, no Starbucks, no McDonalds, no malls, no golf courses, no casinos, no resorts, and no highrise condominiums. Not even a movie theater. What it does have is 56 miles of gorgeous coastline that includes dozens of inlets, bays and breathtaking beaches. Because most of the rest of the world has yet to discover Vieques it is not unusual to find yourself the only person on whatever beach you have chosen for the day, especially during the week when the local residents are mostly working and the kids are in school.

The *hub* of the island is the town of Isabel Segunda which has everything one would expect to find in a small town: a bank, schools, a police station, a medical clinic, family owned restaurants, etc. There are a handful of grocery stores (not supermarkets) on the island as well as hardware stores, several small beauty salons, a couple of gas stations and whatever else the local population deems necessary for daily living.
On the other side of the island from Isabel II is the even smaller town of Esperanza with its open air restaurant/bars that face the water.

The tourists who do come and the people who live here have 2 choices of transportation to get to and from the Big Island: a small 8-10 passenger plane that makes 3 or 4 trips a day or the ferry which also runs several times a day (both times I've been here I've flown in on the little *puddle jumper* plane from San Juan).

Catering to the tourists are a couple of car rental places, locally owned and operated sightseeing/tour businesses, small hotels/guesthouses and a fair number of pretty pricey vacation rental houses. These houses are mostly located in the hills that make up the ridge that runs about center of the island from one end to the other.

My friend, Karen, is a transplant from Arizona who moved to Vieques almost 6 years ago. She has built herself quite a nice business here by *managing* 17 of these vacation homes for the absentee owners. She has a team of about 9 people who work for her and she sees to the the care and maintenence of the houses when they are empty as well as readying them for the arrival of the owners coming for vacation or renters who have contracted with the homeowners for the use of the house, usually for about a week at a time. Most of the houses that Karen manages are used as vacation rentals on a regular basis. She also does the meet and greet for the arriving guests and is their contact should they need information or assistance during their stay. After they leave she and her team clean and close up the house OR work like madmen to turn it around and ready it for the next group or family who sometimes arrive later that same day. She stays very busy to say the least! The owners of these beautiful houses range from nationally known politicians to people in the entertainment industry or big business to just plain people with big bucks.

As luck would have it, just as I was planning my visit to the island, Karen, on behalf of the owners, was arranging for some outside plastering to be done to one of the houses as well as the installation of some new windows. With all of the scaffolding up the owners were a little uncomfortable with the house being unoccupied while the work was being done. But they couldn't very well have scaffolding up and workmen around while they had paying guests. "Weeell," says Karen, "I have just the solution for that".
So......guess who gets to stay at this lovely big house with its beautiful hilltop ocean view? The work is going on at the back of the house and I'm gone most of the day anyway so I hardly even notice that anything is being done. I just wanted to come visit my friend in paradise and here she sets me up with a gorgeous house and even made an arrangement with one of her other clients for my use of their car while I'm here!

It's been really nice to see Karen again. We've stayed in touch since she left Tucson (she better than me) and she's a really good friend. I've been promising her that I would come back to visit ever since she moved here; about 5 months after the first time I came with her (my first time, not hers) to visit her cousin, Colleen, who has now lived on Veiques for about 20 years. I'm just wondering why it took me 6 years to get back here. But I'm here now and savoring every minute of my visit.

Life is good!

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

One Of Life's Little Nuggets

I left Colorado last Thursday. After a one night stopover back in Seattle I flew to D.C. on Friday. To fly to Seattle and back on my free ticket from Alaska Airlines I had to leave from Washington D.C. because Alaska doesn't fly out of Pittsburgh. That was OK with me. It just gave me a reason to spend a couple of days with Paul and company before I left and again after I got back. So I left my car with them in Haymarket and my cousin played airport taxi for me.

Paul picked me up from Reagan National Airport Friday night and we got back to his house around 10:30pm. Genelle had planned a suprise birthday luncheon for her mother, Wanda, on Saturday afternoon so her sister and two little nephews had flown in from Los Angeles for the the weekend. Julianne and the boys had the guest room upstairs so I slept on the futon in the *man cave*(Paul's recording studio in the basement). I guess nobody thought to tell Zach about the sleeping arrangements 'cause the next morning he said he spent most of the night sleeping on the couch in the living room until he somehow realized that I wasn't sleeping in his room like the last time they had a houseful of people (for his graduation party in June). That weekend Paul's parents were in the master bedroom, Paul and Genelle moved upstairs to the guest room, Paul's sister Shelley and her husband Steve were in the man cave and I got Zach's room. Not quite so much juggling to do this weekend but somehow poor Zach never got the room assignments!

As usual, after everyone else turned in, Paul and I ended staying up till the wee hours of the morning drinking beer, listening to music and hanging out in the man cave. It was a lot of fun but the next morning I was definately feeling it. By the time we left for Wanda's party I was pretty sure I could keep food down but I knew I wasn't drinking anything that day. Paul kept trying to get me to have a beer with lunch and after I said I just couldn't for about the 10th time he made me say out loud, "I'm a wienee". So after making me verbally humiliate myself, did he quit? Noooo........then he wanted me to do a shot of tequila with him in the bar. After about 6 No's I finally said OK. You should have seen how he twisted my arm! After a while Zach comes to find us. He has this accusing look on his face and says, "You left me alone......with all old people". I had to laugh. He did it with such a straight face.

That night Genelle, Julianne, Austin and I got into a very weird game of some kind of gin rummy while Paul snored on the couch. We didn't finish until after 1:30am so it was another late night for me.

Paul and his friend Scott (who I've met before and like very much) both own speed boats so the next day we had 8 adults, 3 teenagers and 4 littler kids out on the Potomac river on the 2 boats. Add one tube to pull behind one of the boats and you have the makings for a really fun day. Those who didn't want to ride the tube stayed on Scott's boat which was anchored in one place. Those who wanted to ride got on Paul's boat. The women all elected to stay stationary but this just looked like too much fun to me. Never one to turn down a new experience, I had to try it! The tube holds 2 people so the first time I rode Paul went with me and Scott drove the boat. The second time Scott went with me and Paul drove. Of course, both times, whichever one was driving, they each did their best to scare the crap out of me without actually dumping me into the river. I think it worked, too. It was all I could do to keep myself from screaming like a girl as the boat would make a tight circle and the tube would go flying out to the side in reaction to it. I'm not sure exactly how fast we were going but from where I sat it was plenty fast enough! And I would just like to say now that Paul and Scott both got thrown out while I managed to stay IN the tube both times I rode ( I think the only reason I didn't get thrown was because I had a death grip on the handles! But don't tell my cousin that) . What a blast!!

When we finally called it a day Genelle, her sister and kids and Austin went to Genelle's parents house for the evening and Paul and I went home to shower, eat pizza and watch the Redskins play the Colts in the Hall of Fame game. The Redskins won.

You never know what nuggets Life will hand to you when you least expect them. Who would have thought that, in losing my dad, I would meet my cousin for the first time at his memorial, that we would hit it off so completely that first day and that I would then end up so close to him on the East Coast? Or that over the last few months we would have gotten to know each other, not just as cousins, but as really good friends? I think Paul will be one of the people I miss the most when I leave for Europe. But the good part is that, no matter what, he will always be my cousin and we'll always be friends.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Higher And Higher

It's been over a week since I last visited my blog and I think it's time for a little catch up.

Let's see, where was I?... Oh yes, I was in Colorado with Ruth and Bill. It was a great visit, as usual. Ruth and I went to Glenwood Springs three different times. Driving through the Glenwood Canyon still just leaves me in awe. The first time I traveled through that amazing corridor it was a good thing that I wasn't driving. It was still just a narrow and winding 2 lane road that hugged the earth between the side of the canyon and the river. And there I was hanging out the car window with my camera, snapping pictures at every turn, trying to capture every nuance of the visual feast that Mother Nature had laid out before me. I still experience that same sense of wonder whenever I go through the canyon. The towering cliffs on either side are an amazing shade of red with just enough green trees to set off the hue of earth. These days, though, it's no longer a little 2 lane road but a continuation of Interstate 70 with 2 lanes in either direction, the westbound lanes sometimes elevated above the eastbound. And it is still a feast for the eyes.

I got to see some new places, too. One day Ruth took me up over Cottonwood Pass. I have heard the pass mentioned over the years and wanted to see it for myself. For the first 10 miles or so it's just a very pretty drive on a paved road up and up around the mountain just to the south of Glenwood Canyon. Nothing but cattle ranches and natural terrain for as far as the eye can see with the monstrous Mt. Sopris off in the distance. Very serene......until the *maintained* road runs out. By this time you're up pretty high and the dirt road starts getting really rough. It hugs the side of the mountain with a sheer drop on the other side. I can't imagine what one does if another car comes from the other direction. Fortunately I didn't have to find out. Once you reach the summit the road starts to gently descend the other side and eventually gets easier to travel again. More cattle ranches. And then you see the valley up behind Gypsum spreading before you. You pop out on Gypsum Creek Rd. just a couple of miles from the house. Pretty cool!

Ruth also took me up Brush Creek to Sylvan Lake, another area I have heard about but had never seen. It's a beautiful drive and once again I had my camera earning its keep!

We had lots of time to just hang around the house too. I got my political fix watching politcs on TV with Bill and discussing the election. During my week stay the 3 of us also managed to get to the antiques show at Beaver Creek over the weekend and drive up to the quaint little town of Redstone for lunch on another day.

Ruth and I had planned on doing a lot of hiking but 2 days after I arrived she broke her kneecap by falling when she tripped on a rock! Fortunately she won't need surgery but she will spend the next 4-6 weeks in a leg brace that goes from the top of her thigh down to the middle of her calf. So hiking was definately out but, as you can tell, we still found plenty to do! The hard part was and still is to convince Ruth to try to stay off her leg. There she is every day out back taking care of her yard and all her gardens. She can't get down on her knees and pull weeds so she brought out a long handled hoe. The one big thing that she has had to give up for the duration is her yoga, which she usually does every morning. It's a little hard to turn yourself into a pretzel when you can't bend one leg!

The kids and are all going back for Christmas this year, with Steve and Bert in tow. Winter wonderland, here we come!

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