Monthly Archives: July 2013

But for the Kindness of Strangers . . . (Who Shall Remain Nameless)

 

Scotland landscape

Scotland was amazing! The landscape, the scenery, the castles, the people: all amazing! From the moment we landed in Glasgow to the moment we boarded the plane for the trip home, everywhere we turned we encountered open, honest, trusting people who made our dream trip perfect.

Well, except for the owner at the first B&B who, when we turned up early to ask for assistance in sending a message to our families to let them know that we had arrived, left us standing outside in the rain, gave us hurried and less than accurate directions to the library in Ft. William, the only place in town with wifi and computers, and a “come back later” before he shut the door in our faces. But he was the exception.

And the guy at the Shell Station in Aberdeen who was familiar with the Holiday Inn but couldn’t tell us how to get there. We bought a map from him and roamed the streets looking for signage that might point us in the right direction only to find that the road we needed was, coincidentally–or not, the road right beside the Shell Station where we had stopped for directions.

The Deep South Comes to Scotland

Okay, so that’s two people who were less than accommodating or kind. Everyone else we encountered couldn’t have been nicer or friendlier or more forthcoming with information and advice for three obviously American tourists. My daughters have very deep southern accents liberally sprinkled with “Yes, ma’ams” and “No, sirs,” so it was a delight to watch the looks of surprise on the faces of the people we encountered as they tried valiantly to translate the twang into a burr. My youngest daughter has a spectacularly funny story about asking a gentleman at the front desk at Airth Castle for a bucket of ice. (I’m sure you get the picture.) She came back red-faced and panting with laughter which ended in sheer hilarity with the delivery of the largest bucket of ice we’d ever seen.

As for the nameless part: no one in Scotland introduced themselves, asked our names, or offered their own. No one. In Glencoe on our second day, our waitress at The Holly Tree asked if we were staying close by. When I mentioned that we were looking for a place to camp, having decided against the deep dark forest of Glencoe Wood, she quickly offered us a free site on her father’s land “just up the road.”  We hesitated, thought it over during dinner, and then decided to at least check it out. The young woman seemed shocked when I asked her name and introduced myself and my daughters. With a blush and a smile, she said her name was Romie and quickly launched into detailed directions on how to find her father’s field. The site was brilliant, located on a strip of soft green grass that ran along a rocky beach. Despite it being populated by a herd of curious, excited sheep and bordered a cow pasture, we had a great first night camping. Romie was the only name we came home with despite having met people on trains and buses and waiting for planes.

Oh, and Liz, the wonderful hostess at the Fraser House in Inverness. Liz is from Australia and was kind and chatty and eager to please her guests. Actually, now that I think about it, she didn’t introduce herself at all. After explaining who we were, I asked her if she was Liz as I had hoped to meet the woman with whom I had been communicating by email. I was anxious to meet the person who took our reservation with no deposit or pre-payment required. “Come on over and I’ll save you a room,” she’d said.

Did I mention that the people in Scotland are open and honest and trusting? They are! And I felt quite blessed to be in their company and their country for ten glorious days. 

Just for Fun!

Ice Cream

One evening, on our way back to our B&B just outside Stirling, my daughter asked us to stop at Brewer’s Fayre so she could run in for “a small snack.” Expecting her to return with a candy bar or a bag of potato chips, we were shocked to see her come out carrying–with two hands–this huge  sundae containing several flavors of ice cream, chunks of chocolate eclair, nuts, marshmallows, candy, and chocolate sticks. When presented with the masterpiece, my daughter asked the waiter if he had a to-go container, to which he replied, “No, just bring the cup back when you come in for breakfast.” Between the three of us, we couldn’t finish the “small snack” but we washed out the cup and returned it the next morning–when we returned to the restaurant for breakfast.

We’ll Be Right Back After This Message

Today is a travel day. My posts at Cave Dweller might be a little spotty for the next couple of weeks as I tour the Highlands with my family but I’ll do my best to keep in touch. Unsocial tendencies aside, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know many of my readers over the past few weeks and I’m looking forward to a long, continuing friendship with all of you–from my cave to yours.

Have fun while I’m gone. Read a good book (you might find one you’ll like to the left), get some rest, leave me a comment about what’s going on in your world. To quote one of my favorite movies, “I’ll be back!”

Next stop: Glasgow!

The Art of Being Me

I’ve been spending waaaay too much time on Pinterest lately! Is that a good thing or a bad thing? My sense of what’s okay and what’s not okay seems to be a little skewed when it comes to cruising through the pins. I find myself flipping through the Photography board and the Geek board with joyful abandon, frittering away time that could be better spent writing or editing or (gulp!) cleaning. (But that’s another story!)

My boards are beautiful and relaxing. I find it calming and inspiring to scroll through Abundant Beauty, my collection of pins that range from beautiful flowers to glorious sunrises to majestic moons. Photography has never been my thing but there is a newfound sense of joy welling up in me and I find that I have a serious urge to run out and buy a good camera. Or at least skip on over to Amazon and do a little comparison shopping.

Photography might just be the one thing that would get me out of my cave on a regular basis. Then again, one can take only so many shots of the moon rising over the ocean or dawn breaking through the palms. I’m already feeling the pull of a road trip out west and having a camera in hand might nudge that fantasy into reality. Or I can pull up Pinterest and look at mountain ranges from around the world without ever having to leave my comfy cave.

As I move through the boards and pins, admiring some, laughing at others, I find little pieces of myself scattered here and there. I’ve been told that it’s a great marketing ploy to pin photos as representations of emotional moments in my books. “Look for things that evoke the emotions you want your readers to feel.” So, I have boards for Ripple and A Solitary Life and Martin Vane Says Hello and within those boards are the thoughts and emotions I felt as I wrote and edited and worked to pull my characters into being. Each board is a peek into my soul as well as a hint of what lies between the pages. Each pin is a choice that brings to light a sliver of me.

I’ve discovered that there is an art to being me just as there is an art to being you. Your likes and dislikes don’t define you as a whole being, but I believe there is true insight into what really matters in our lives. I don’t pin every pin that makes me cry but I’m beginning to see a pattern in my pins, a true collage of what it is that inspires me and keeps me whole. There is so much beauty in the world that I will never get to see. But I can see it through the eyes of a photographer, amateur or professional, who like me, yearns to capture the moments of life that define me, inspire me, and make me who I am. There is an art to being me and I’m refining it every day.

Just for Fun!

SONY DSC

I’ll be leaving for Scotland on Monday. As you may know, I’ve been planning this trip for two years as a surprise graduation present for my oldest daughter. The Big Reveal took place a couple of weeks ago to the accompaniment of bagpipes. I guess that’s another thing that can lure me from my cave: bagpipes! (Or maybe it’s the man in the kilt. )

Faith Restored

 

Wifi spoken here!

Wifi spoken here!

My faith in humanity was restored a little yesterday. I’m not a pessimist or especially paranoid about the future of the world, but I’ve had my share of human-related disappointments and OMG moments to wonder (more than once, I admit) if we are not indeed going to hell in a wifi enabled hand-basket.

On the rare occasions that I’m out and about in the world, I’m shocked to see so many people buried nose-deep in cell phones or plugged into some other device that effectively seals them in a (seemingly to them) private, protective bubble of solitude and estranges them from the organic interactions going on around them. Gone are the days of chatting with people in grocery store lines as they are, more often than not, chatting away with someone on a cell phone while the two year old in their buggy empties the contents of the candy rack onto the floor.

“My name is [blank] and I am a cellphoneaholic.”

My children and grandchildren–my adorable, beautiful, wonderfully talented children and grandchildren–have been hypnotized by their cell phones. They rarely look up.  Even the three year old is addicted. The first words out of his mouth on my last visit were, “Hey, Grandma,” hug and kiss, “can I hold your phone?” I was beginning to think that this is now the normal way to interact with people:  talk loudly, wave hands energetically while staring at the top of their head.

Enter my recently graduated-from-college granddaughter who arrived for a visit on her one day off from work. She’s gorgeous (seriously!), smart and very sweet. She drove two-and-a-half hours through bumper to bumper Disney-tourist traffic in Orlando, all the while keeping me updated on her progress (thank you, Siri!) for our first solo, post-grad, woman-to-woman visit. I was very excited to have her all to myself for the afternoon. And I did! I was thrilled.

We went out for lunch and talked–face to face, eye to eye. And I’m happy to say that I don’t know if the part in her hair was crooked or straight because I didn’t see the top of her head once. We talked and laughed about life and men and love, and lack, thereof; we discussed the importance of real communication in relationships both personal and at work; we discovered new things about each other that would never show up on a Google search and had a great time just being together.

Hope!

So, here’s my good news for the day: there is hope, I think, in the future of a constantly jacked-in world. It is possible to have a continuous conversation without the need to check out each and every ping or buzz of a cell phone notification. My granddaughter is living proof! She checked her phone discretely while I went to the kitchen for water. She put it away when I sat back down and engaged in meaningful conversation until she left seven hours later. I have to say, I am impressed, and happy, and content. Faith restored.

Just for Fun!

Without my Cell phone

Yikes!

Seven Dwarves Does a Week Make

 seven-dwarfs1

Just for Fun!

I know. I usually post  Just for Fun! at the end of my blog, but I’ve been working on a new children’s book (which should tell you where my head is at the moment) and this little bit of whimsy just jumped right out at me. I hope you’ll bear with me.

As I sat at my computer early yesterday morning, it hit me that there just isn’t a definite feel to Tuesday. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday all have a luster about them that generates a feeling, a tingly I-know-what-day-this-is feeling even if there is no special event planned.  Monday has an almost palpable edge to it. I can feel it just thinking about it. And Friday is giddiness wrapped up in a big bow of relief.

I wanted to write something witty about Tuesday, something definable about the second day of the work week and I came up empty handed. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. What word would I use to describe Tuesday? Blah came to mind and then one thing led to another and I found myself with pen in hand (!) scribbling down the names of Snow White’s seven dwarves. Hmmm.

Anyway, here goes:

Grumpy = Monday. Definitely Monday. If I had a word-of-the-day calendar of my own, Monday’s word would always be “Arrggghh.” When I was working in an office, Monday was “catch-up” day, eight hours of catching up on all the things that should have been done on Friday–or the Friday before that.

Doc = Tuesday, the day to make decisions. Doc was the smart one of the dwarves, the one to whom they turned for advice. Having recovered from Monday, Tuesday is the day to get a handle on the week, the day to make a plan.

Dopey = Wednesday. I can’t tell you how many times I heard co-workers say, “This is hump day! I still have two more days to get that [fill in the blank] done!” Yep, Dopey.

Bashful = Thursday. This is the day to stutter and hide, to shuffle papers, to look busy, and to whisper about what’s been done or should be done or might be done by Friday.

Happy = Friday! Happy Friday, Happy Friday, Happy Friday! “Did you get your work done this week?” “Nope, but I’m happy. It’s Friday!”

Sneezy = Saturday, the day to spend time fishing or hiking or hunting for butterflies or whatever in the great outdoors. Ah, the great outdoors. I’m not allergic to anything and I don’t suffer from hay fever, but having free time on a weekend is nothing to sneeze at . . . no, wait. Outdoors, Sneezy, Saturday. It has to fit because there’s only one more day of the week and that has to be . . .

Sleepy = Sunday. This is the best day of the week to sleep late or nap in a hammock in the afternoon shade. Sunday’s are sleepy days for me, days to curl up with a book, to relax and snooze, and to think about the week ahead. Which leads me back to . . . “Arrggghh.”

Footnote

After the fact, I decided to do a quick search for other blogs, posts, or articles connecting dwarves with the days of the week. I knew there had to be something out there and lest someone point the finger of plagiarism, I wanted to be prepared. I found one blog post from November of last year. Click to read the post “Seven Days, Seven Dwarves.”

I also found a table of information at Ask.com. The names of Snow White’s Seven Dwarves have changed over the years but I stuck with the ones I knew from childhood, the 1937 Disney movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Apparently, in a 2001 version of Snow White, the days of the weeks replaced the names of the dwarves. Close, but no cigar.  The 2012 movie Snow White & the Huntsman not only changed the names of the dwarves but added an eighth, as did the television series, Once Upon a Time. (I’ll bet the writers are Beatles fans, as in “Eight Days a Week.“)

I hope you’re having a pleasant and productive Dopey and that I’ll see you on Bashful.

Finding a Happy Medium

(And I don’t mean the kind with Taro cards or crystal balls.)

 OMG!

Have you ever been zipping along in your daily life, just going about your business thinking all is well and life is great, and then suddenly catch sight of yourself in a mirror or a window or a photograph and think, “What the hell happened?”  Freaky, isn’t it? That happened to me last week. All I can say, to quote yet another granddaughter, is OMG!

I have this image in my head of who I am and what I look like. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say that most of us carry around in our heads, if not our wallets, an image that we define as “me.” We see ourselves in the mirror every day but the person in the mirror is not necessarily the person that we see in our mind’s eye, the strong, vibrant self that looks back with confidence–until the blinders come off and voila, there we are, the real “me” that we present to the world.

I am a Cave Dweller, after all!

My days are most often spent within the comfort of my cave. I don’t greet neighbors on a daily basis; I don’t entertain friends or have weekend company. I see family occasionally. I go out to lunch once a week (okay, sometimes I go). I go to the grocery store (when I have to) but I don’t think about how I look beyond brushing my teeth and hair, putting on clean clothes and a dab of lip gloss. Clothes are not my thing. I’ve been wearing the same two pairs of jeans and the same brown t-shirts (I have six) for quite a while now. They fit, they’re comfortable, and although sometimes I notice the jeans feel a little tighter than usual (damn that dryer!), I don’t think about how I look. I guess I focus on function and utility in my apparel rather than aesthetic appeal.

I guess it’s time for a reality check. While I’ve been snuggled in my comfy cave, writing, working, focusing on the virtual rendition of me, I’ve allowed the physical me, the one that appears in photographs, to atrophy. I’ve allowed tunnel vision to set in, seeing myself as a productive person, functioning and vital from the neck up (well, including my hands), while ignoring the needs of the rest of me.

It’s all about the focus.

I need to find a happy medium so that I will, once again, be a happy medium rather than a not-so-happy large. It’s not a matter of size, really. It’s about how I feel having focused for so long on one aspect of me rather than on the entire package of me. I need to find a way to get the exercise I need while still feeling productive and connected to my work. When I’m away from my computer, I’m thinking about what I could be and should be writing. When I’m writing, I don’t feel guilty about not working out, not watching TV, not cavorting with friends.

So, how do I find a happy medium without changing my productive routine? It’s a challenge but one I’m up for. I think. I guess I’ll just have to tape that not-so-flattering photo of the real me on my monitor as a reminder that there is more to life than writing. And then I’ll have to go look for that other thing or those other things that will offer a happy medium of fun, fitness, and life.  It’s time to stop, take a breath, and figure out a way to integrate mind and body more fully. Happy mind, happy body. Happy medium.

 Just for Fun!

 Stop

 

 

 

 

 

In Search of Patience

“Patience and fortitude conquer all things.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I think about writing and life and growing older, my mind turns to patience: the idea of patience, of what it means to be patient, to the virtues of patience. Really? Is patience a virtue? Or is that what we tell ourselves while we (actively) wait for something great to happen, for our lives to bloom, for success to finally find us in our most withering moments?

 “He that can have Patience can have what he will.” Benjamin Franklin

Patience 01

As a small child, I had a cat named Patience. I named her myself. I don’t know that I even understood the concept of patience at three or four years old but I understood Patience as she sat by the fire-pit in the backyard waiting for rats to skulk in from the field; waited for me to join her each evening, finding my place beside her as I sat down to wait for my father to come home from work. We sat there together by the ring of ashes as the sun went down, my face and hands, more often than not, dirty with the play of the day, and her face and paws torn and scarred from battles new and old. Patience was my one, true childhood friend. From Patience, I learned patience.

 “Patience is the art of hoping.” Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues (died at 31, famous for his aphorisms and his friendship with Voltaire)

and “Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.” (George Iles)

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

I can see that. I have my own on-again-off-again relationship with time as it slithers away fast as a snake or drags on while I wait and hope for good things to come. Patience can only be a by-product of waiting, of finally coming to realize that pacing and fretting and stressing does absolutely no good at all, that finding a balance of calm and acceptance is the only sane answer to the twists and turns of life.

My new favorite quote from Pinterest.

My new favorite quote from Pinterest.

We can only be patient with what happens for us– and I mean for us rather than to us. I believe the Universe acts for us and it is our response to getting what we ask for that puts us in victim mode, thinking that life happens to us. (That’s just my humble opinion.)

“Patience is passion tamed.” Lyman Abbott

. . . with a whip and a chair.

“Patience, n. A minor form of dispair (sic), disquised as a virtue.” Ambrose Bierce

I think this is my favorite. It sometimes feels like it all comes down to this, despair disguised as patience. We have our moments, all of us, when having tamed our passion we slip into despair of ever having what it is we want most in life. But rather than wallow in it, we let the frustration turn to something good and deep, belief in ourselves, in our dreams, in the value of our lives, and find from the wells of hope and fortitude within us the one thing that will help us overcome: patience.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” St. Augustine.

And wisdom is, I hope, what we get as the result of a lifetime of sucking it up and  making lemonade.

Just for Fun!

Tree on tracks

So, you’re chugging along on an old weathered but familiar track when suddenly nature happens. Beauty or impediment? Now what?