The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

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 gone...my 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
NPR
This American Life (best radio show ever)
Roadtrips
Ice cold Mountain Dew
My feet
The music of the ice cream truck coming up my street
Tender lovemaking
Frantic lovemaking
My national anthem
Walking
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
Cauliflower
Warm sunshine
Naps
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
Pizza
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....

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
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

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

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:
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

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

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

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

Virginia:
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

Georgia:
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 stairs...so 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
 informative.
 _______________________

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
 debate.

 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
 help.

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

 Your adoring fan,

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


 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

This Day In (my own) History

Sometimes I like to look back through my blog to see what I posted on this day last year. I don't have to look today. I know exactly what I posted on May 1st last year. I wrote about being grateful for the previous year. It was two years ago today that I had my surgery. I had so much to look forward to but everything hung in the balance waiting for that oh so important pathology report that would determine the course of my future. Funny how it's been two years since that day but those simultaneous feelings of fear and disbelief are still so clear in my mind.

I woke up this morning with my mind whirling around the paper that I have to finish today for one of my classes. I'd like to go out and play but it's getting near the end of the semester so it's crunch time. Even though I'm feeling pretty stressed because of it, I have no complaints.  I could list all the things in my life that I'm grateful for but mostly I'm just grateful for my life...

Friday, April 30, 2010

WARNING! This blog post is ridiculously long!

 ...and probably boring to anyone other than myself and (maybe) a few others. But, in truth, I write for myself and not to please anyone else.


It's been almost 5 months since I've posted anything! I really didn't mean to let it go on this long but I guess it's kind of like a downward spiral. I keep thinking I'm going to get around to it but something always seems to come up that makes me postpone the effort yet again....and again....and (sigh!) again.  I just read Nik's blog. She also has not been very bloggy since the first of the year (better than me though, at least she's put up a few quick blurbs and some videos!) but she just posted a wonderful long entry. She is such an amazing writer. Her entries are always so entertaining and just so full of her personality! So, feeling very guilty of the inexcusable crime of blog abuse, I decided to just pop in and console my little friend with a few quick words. But, hey, now that I'm here!

OK, so I guess a little (cough, cough) catch-up is called for....

December
I survived my first semester of college quite nicely. Four classes and four B's. Two of those were just one percentage point shy of an A. The day after I finished my last final exam in Dec. I jumped on a plane to Germany to spend Christmas with Nikki and Shauna at Nik's place. It was just starting to snow here as I was leaving and I remember thinking, "Dang, it's snowing and I'm gonna miss it. It'll probably all be gone by the time I get home!" HA! Little did I know! But more on that later.

One would think that it would be just a quick jaunt to get from Scotland to Germany. Given the size of the planet we live on, they are relatively close to one another. But such is not the case. I can actually fly to the East Coast in the time it takes to get to my daughter's place across just across the English Channel (or 'the Anglo-French Pond' as the EU wants to rename it!).  My choices were to fly from Inverness to Birmingham (with a long layover) and then on to Frankfurt or take the train from here to Edinburgh and then fly from there to Frankfurt. Given the lightening snail speed of the British rail system that works out to six of one or half a dozen of the other. With flight delays and the layover, It took me eight hours to get to from Inverness to Frankfurt! From there I took the train to Mannheim and then a quick taxi ride across the bridge to Ludwigshafen. Waiting for me in a warm, snuggly, Christmassy decorated apt on Brunksta├če were Nikki, Bert, Shauna and Steve! S&S had arrived that day from Zuerich, where Shauna had been working for the last couple of weeks. They greeted me with hugs all around, a nice hot mug of Gluewein, and lots of chatter that took the girls and me well into the night. The next morning Steve set off for his grandparents house in Karlsruhe and Bert for his mom's place down south near the Bodensee. The girls and I spent several lovely days doing nothing. Well, they would have been lovelier if I hadn't come down with a massive cold! But my girls tucked me in on the couch, made me chicken soup and generally pampered me to no end. We watched movies, made more Gluewein, listened to Christmas music and admired Nikki's cutely decorated little potted tree.

Fortunately, I felt much better by the time we packed our overnight bags to make the trip to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Sara, Jared and the boys in Berglengenfeld. We ended up being delayed in Stuttgart but instead of grumbling about it we took the opportunity to spend a few leisurely hours meandering through the gynormous Stuttgart Christmas market. I haven't been there in years and it was just as festive and wondrous as I remembered. It was late by the time we got to Sara's but, true to form we ended staying up until the wee hours of the morning chattering away. The girls and I camped out in Sara's living room and the next morning poor Sara did her best to keep Julius and Augie entertained and occupied in the kitchen so we could sleep a little longer. May I say here that Sara has the cutest little boys ever! They are bright, rambunctious, entertaining and just plain adorable! It was fun to spend Christmas morning with little ones again. Everything they did was just that much cuter and funnier than their last antic. I like Jared very much and it was wonderful to spend a few days with Sara again. I remember when the girls were all in high school and college together. And the Christmas Day, just before she left to join the Army, that Sara spent snuggled on my couch because she was sick. She's always been special to us and it was wonderful to see her and Jared and the boys again. We returned to Ludwigshafen all fuzzy inside and looking forward to spending another few days together before, once more, having to say good-bye.
 It's always hard to say good-bye to my little chickens. Life has led us to far flung destinations with me in Scotland, Nikki in Germany and Shauna and Michael in Seattle and none of us would change the course of our lives but I miss having them all close. When they could just pop over to my house for a Sunday afternoon or when my phone would ring and the happy voice on the other end would say, "Hi Mom. Are you off work yet? We're having some friends over for dinner. Wanna come?" I miss those days but now I get to enjoy watching their individual lives unfold and see what they each do with their many talents. All in all, though, we don't spend too much time apart before we all feel the need to reconnect again in the same location.

January
I came home to Inverness to a winter wonderland! More snow than anyone had seen around here in 25 years! Did you see the NASA photo taken from space? It was titled 'Frozen Britain' and frozen we were. At first I loved it but the snow just hung on and hung on and hung on. Now, if you live somewhere where you expect a snowy winter then you're probably prepared for it but such is not the case in Inverness. The Council (kind of like the county authorities) didn't have enough snowplows to keep the roads clear or enough sand to put down or the resources to clear the sidewalks. So major roadways were closed for days at a time, driving was hazardous at best and it was impossible to even walk on the sidewalks (except in the middle of town) because they were covered in snow and ice. I rely on the bus and it's arrival became very sporadic and unpredictable. One day I waited for almost an hour and finally gave up and called a taxi. Liz, the dispatcher, told me it would be 2 hours before she would have a car free! I would have just walked (it's about a mile and a half from my house to the town center) but since the sidewalks were unusable I would have had to walk in the street. Not a good idea!

I was so busy during the semester that I really didn't have the time to get out and explore much. There are so many places I want to go and so much I want to see. So I was really looking forward to the Christmas break when I would have to the time to go exploring. Well, that didn't pan out at all. It was just too damn cold and snow covered to play tourist! So I spent most of my time tucked up at home with the occasional (well, a little more than occasional, if I'm being honest!) trip to the pub with friends.

I was home for New Year or 'Hogmanay' as it's called here. The celebration spills over from New Year's Eve into the next day and businesses are all closed for several days. On New Year's Eve the band (Schiehallion) was playing at MacNabb's so that's where we all headed for our night of celebration. It was loads of fun and we all stumbled home full of drink and good cheer. One thing I really like about this culture is that drinking and driving is VERY frowned upon. You just don't do it! So the taxi companies do a very brisk business when the pubs all close. They also jack up their prices during the holiday! On New Years Day we (about 10-12 of us) had a full day of celebrating planned which included several different locations. The individual taxi fares would have been ridiculous so we pooled our money and rented a passenger van for the day. Dougie volunteered to forgo the drinking and play taxi driver. He started making the rounds about 11:30am and eventually had us all delivered to Donny and Margaret's house for an afternoon party to get the day going. How Donny and Margaret managed to put it all together after the previous night, I have no idea, but we had a really fun time. Lots of food and, of course, plenty of drink! We danced in the living room and sang along (very loudly) with the music. Laura decided to take the stage and was side-splittingly funny singing into a candlestick while reeling off one-liners at all of us. About 3:30 Dougie started his first of two runs to get us all to the Glen where the band plays every New Year's Day at 4pm. The place was jammed and you would've thought it was 10 at night instead of 4 in the afternoon. A continuation of the night before! They played until 7pm at which time Dougie ferried everyone to yet another party, this time at Cath and Gringo's (yes, a Scotsman whose nickname is Gringo!).  More food, more music, dancing and, of course, more alcohol! By about 10:30 some people were ready to call it a night but Hazel and I decided to continue our celebration at the Gellions, and once again, Dougie shuttled everyone to their preferred destinations. The Gellions was hopping that night and Hazel and I had a great time. We don't live far from one another so we shared a taxi home. The next day Dougie said, "You took a taxi? Why didn't you call me? I still had the van." I said, "Because I wasn't going to get you out of bed to come get us at 1 in the morning!" "Well, that's what we got the van for" says he. Needless to say, I had a very good first Hogmanay in Scotland!

January 25th is the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, 'Scotland's National Bard' and every year Burns enthusiasts celebrate with what is known as a Burns Supper. There are Burns Suppers all over the world (yes, even in the States) but nowhere are they as prevalent or as authentic, for that matter, as they are right here in Scotland. I attended my first Supper this year with Dougie and Sheena and about 60-70 other people. The entertainment, before and after dinner, was all traditional, as you would expect. Singers (both in English and in Gaelic) and pipers and Highland dancers. The traditional meal at a Burns Supper is haggis, neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes). Just before the food is served the haggis is 'piped in'. It's a great fanfare; the piper playing as he enters the room and makes his way to the front followed by someone carrying in the honored haggis. The haggis is presented to the Master of Ceremony, at the head table, who then reads Burns' poem Address To A Haggis. The representative haggis is then whisked back to the kitchen and the plates of yummy Scottish goodness are brought out and served. Now I know that haggis doesn't 'sound' very appetizing when you describe it but don't make a judgment until you've tried it. It really is very good. As with any food I've had haggis that was just so so and I've had haggis that was really good. The haggis that night was the best I've ever had! Along with the neeps and tatties it was wonderful. The perfect meal for a cold winter night. I could have eaten a whole 'nother serving of everything!

February
Classes started back up on the 5th of Feb. We were still in the midst of our deep freeze but it was time to come out of hibernation and get back into the swing of things. I have 4 classes again this semester. Scottish History 1603-20th century (a continuation of last semester's 1066-1603 class), Intro to Skills for History (kind of a beginning research class), Politics of the British Isles (I figured if I'm going to live here then I should know something about the political system), and an awful class called Research Methods I. I, along with several other people, thought it would be another class about doing research for *history*. Wrong! It's a psychology class (!), all about social psychology research. I am absolutely  not interested. I've taken psychology classes before that were very interesting but this is not a general psych class. It's about dissecting the research. Ugh! I'm just gritting my teeth to get through it.

On a happier note, Nikki came for a visit during Feb! She arrived on a Thurs evening and stayed until Monday morning. We had such a good time! I took her to class with me on Friday morning. It was fun to introduce her around and have her sit in on one of my classes. That happened to be the day that I was scheduled to give a presentation on the Glencoe Massacre. Nothing like having your child watch you give a presentation! After class we went shopping in town, then decided to go for my favorite walk, along the river and over to the islands. Two small heavily wooded islands in the middle of the River Ness that are linked to each other and the bank on either side by narrow pedestrian bridges. I really didn't want to haul our bags along on the walk so as we were passing the Glen I suggested we pop in and just leave them with Marion behind the bar. Nikki wasn't to sure about that but I insisted and, of course, Marion was more than happy to stow them in the back for us. We picked them up on our way back by and then stopped at the Gellions for a cup of coffee and some chit chat with whoever happened to be in before walking the rest of the way home from town. We had every intention of going out later that night but never quite got around to it. We ended up lolling around on the bed reading (Nik read and I listened) Elizabeth Gilbert's new book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, which Nikki had bought that afternoon while we were in town. If you have read Eat, Pray, Love then I can tell you that this one is just as funny and insightful. If you haven't read Eat, Pray, Love then get your ass down to the nearest bookstore ASAP! So we never made it to the pub that night but it was so nice to just be together reading and laughing (and eating).  On Saturday we slept late and then headed into town at 4pm to meet 'the girls' at MacCallum's. We met my friend Rossie on the bus and he regaled us with the story of his long ago adventures in Germany following friends of his who were in a band and on tour there. He has such a great sense of humor that he could make reading the dictionary entertaining. At the pub I introduced Nik and we ordered our pints. Joe Foy sings at MacCallum's from 3-6 on Saturday afternoons (mostly mainstream pop music that is familiar to everyone). One of his standards is Mustang Sally so when he called out my name over the mic and said that he needed his "bitches" I grabbed Nikki and headed over, explaining to her that usually Laura and I are the "bitches" but that since Laura was in the hospital that week she (Nikki) was being drafted. By that time we were standing, one on either side of Joe, and my lovely daughter who is always game for fun throws her fists in the air and whoops, "Woo-Hoo! Bitches!". So we danced next to Joe and leaned in to sing "Riiide, Sallyyy, Ride" at the appropriate times.  At 6 when Joe was finished, as is our custom, we all trooped over to the Gellions to stomp and sing along with the best traditional music in town. Schiehallion has added Sean, the drummer, since Nikki was here last so I introduced her to him as well as reintroducing her to Kenny, Stuart and Craig. Poor girl, she had so many names and faces swimming in her head by the end of the evening I'm surprised she remembered who *she* was! It was funny to hear several people say, "Oh, I met you when you was here in December". They were remembering Shauna and, well...they do look an awful lot alike! A bunch of us bounced back to MacCallum's at 8 to hear Andy and then back to the Gellions once more about 9:30 to hear some really good classic stuff from the 60's and 70's.  Nik and I fell into a taxi about 1am for the road home.  Sunday was a repeat walk, fish and chips for dinner and back to the Gellions to hear the guys again at 5:30. We eventually bounced over to the Glen for a pint, back to the Gellions to hear Andy and then on to Johnny Fox's for the late night fun. Nik was one tired puppy by the time her taxi showed up at my door the next morning to take her to the train station.
So now both of the girls have been here and have gotten a pretty good dose of the pub life in Inverness, which I'm *pretty* sure they both enjoyed! Maybe next time we'll branch out a little and do something a little healthier like hiking!

March
...came and went.


April (whew!)
The 16th of April was the 264th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden. If you are not familiar with the battle I posted a blog entry about it a couple of years ago on the anniversary and then reposted the same entry last year. This year instead of just blogging about it from far away I was privileged to attend the 'Lament for Culloden' presented by A Circle of Gentlemen. The name comes from a poem by Robert Burns and is a ceremony held each year to commemorate the battle, the Jacobite cause it represented, and the far reaching repercussions of the loss of the battle. I went with Kenny and another friend of mine, Marie. Kenny graciously donates his time and talent to the Lament each year. The Lament begins with a very solemn commemorative ceremony at the memorial on the battlefield, which includes speeches, piping and the laying of wreaths. Many of those involved dress accordingly in kilt and plaid of the period and carry replicas of the flags that were carried into battle that day by the Jacobite troops. Following the battlefield ceremony there is a luncheon at Culloden House, which was used by Bonnie Prince Charlie as his headquarters before the battle. Before the luncheon Kenny provides the musical entertainment in one of the smaller more intimate lounges in the hotel (although in a more appropriately subdued manner than is his usual). In the dining room, there were speeches and presentations, before and after the meal along with more music including a haunting song titled
The Ghosts of Culloden  Another woman sang a beautiful song in Gaelic, which I don't understand but could still appreciate and, of course,  Kenny sang King Fareweel The video is from last year's Lament. The battle of Culloden was a watershed in Scottish history and being the history geek that I am, it was a very moving experience for me to attend my first Lament for Culloden.

This has definitely morphed into a mammoth post! I think I wrote in a previous post that I was going to try to blog more often so my posts weren't so long. Well...we've just seen how *that's* worked out for me! But at least I'm up to date now. If you've read this entire entry...Wow! I hope I haven't just killed you with the minutia of my life but as I said before I really write for myself and if anyone else is interested they are always welcome to drop in and have a 'wee keek'!