Monday, September 9, 2013

To Scotland and Beyond!

I can't tell you for certain when it happened, but I know my first foray into it was one evening at the local K-Mart where I was shopping for other, not associated in any way, things. What I do know is that when I saw it, I wanted it...and I needed it. Right Then.


That was over twenty years ago. But I remember it like it was yesterday...


Of course, in the UK, Outlander was sold under the title "Cross Stitch" but it was the verra...I mean very same book in which Claire Randall, a WWII English nurse, steps through a ring of standing stones and is transported smack dab into 1743 just prior to the Jacobite Rising in 1745. There, she meets a fine Scottish warrior and begins an adventure 200 years in the past.

While this novel has romance, it was also painstakingly researched by the author, Diana Gaboldon, and her words bring both the relationship between Claire and Jamie, and Jacobian Scotland, amazingly to life.

I have always tended to keep "bodice-rippers" at arm's length in lieu of historical novels, mysteries, and such, when I say that these books have everything (including a wee bit of ripping bodices) - I mean everything.

In the many reviews I have read, most of them state that this series is (there are seven more books to date, plus a companion book) extremely hard to place in a single genre - it is a story of love, a story of loyalty, a story of family, a story of history, and a story of adventure, and loss, and morality, and death, and struggle, and military maneuvers, and faith... need I go on?


Anyway, I tore through that first book way back in 1991, and when I was done I quickly purchased the next book, "Dragonfly in Amber." When that was done, it was onto the third book, "Voayager" in 1993, and then "Drums of Autumn" in 1996. However, my series reading was diverted for a long period during which a divorce happened, a new-life-found happened, and courting, and adventure, and college, and...well, you get the picture.


Still...I had fallen even more in love with Scotland than I already had been before, and my passion for history had been further fueled.


For several years, there had been, of course, "Fantasy Casting" whereby Gerard Butler (among others) was cast as the perfect James Fraser, and a number of beautiful actresses cast as Claire Randall. But it was only a throught-provoking (or heart-provoking) discourse of who's and when's and why-hasn't-it-been-made-into-a-movie-yet.


Until this year.


Cable channel STARZ picked up the rights to the screenplay, received a green-light for 16 episodes, brought in a team of four established writers, a well-known director, two seasoned producers, and a casting agency.


While the character of Claire Randall has yet to be cast (at the time of this post) the role of Jamie Fraser has been perfectly filled by Scotsman Sam Heughan.


Photo by Faye Thomas

Also added to the cast are Gary Lewis, Graham McTavish, Steven Walters, Annette Badland, as well as Englishman Tobias Menzies, who will portray the "villian" in the series.


Filming will begin within the next two weeks in Cumbernauld - if looking at a map of Scotland, it is northeast of Glasgow, somewhat south of Stirling, and somewhat west of Edinburgh (for those of you in the know, please correct my geography at will!)


In the meantime, I have become a wee bit addicted to Twitter, started a Tumblr account, and have added many new faces to my Facebook account.


Alas, I have been swept up into this again with about 20 million other people...


"Outlander" is now in ebook form, and I am back in the thrill of Jacobian Scottish history. I have a LOT of reading to do before March 2014! Would you care to join me?












Sunday, August 25, 2013

Keeping Busy

Ah, the days of summer are dwindling away into autumn. Soon, the yellows, oranges and reds will replace the emeralds, olives and forests of the foliage, and the air will hang cooler about my face when I step outside to walk the dog.



Seasons are inevitable and, for the most part, welcome. However, there are moments that we all would like to hold onto; a summer evening watching the sun set and the fire flies in their climactic dance, or the last ballet of springtime snowflakes, or the crisp sunrise of a winter morn, or the smell of fallen leaves and apples in the Fall.

Changes are also inescapable. Much like a rolling highway, the hills and valleys are oftentimes both the same and different at each crest and hollow. Both welcome and frightening, changes make our lives worth living, and make our hearts break.



In these past few months of summer, many changes have happened around me.


My father's short-term stay has turned into a long-term journey as his short-term memory is, for the most part, gone. His body has recovered since he took his fall in June, and he has started eating better and is getting much stronger. His wheel chair has been replaced by a walker which, when no one is looking, sits tucked under his high table in his room - much to the chagrin of his caretakers. His eyes brighten when company arrives, his sly wit and silly jokes slip out with a smile, yet he tires easily and is soon ready for a nap. When asked later who visited, or what he had eaten for his earlier meal, he is no longer able to remember. Yet his long-term memories can be drawn out like a golden thread from the confusion behind his eyes, and he smiles with recognition.



My mother is on her own for the first time in her life and is both terrified and hopeful by the chaos around her. She can no longer curl up with my father in the dark of the night, she must travel to his new "home" to steal a kiss, and the days and nights are long with the quiet. However, she has been able to do a few things for "her" without deferring to anyone, including the replacement of the living room furniture and the acquisition of a companion cat. Company is even more welcome to stay for a while.



There are still the ongoing issues with my grown son, living his own life. Enough said.


My hands have been keeping my mind busy, making dolls, and fairy gardens, and dreams come true.







Just as long as I keep my windows down to let the fresh breeze inside while I drive with my dog, and enjoy each moment, the seasons may last a little longer...



Friday, August 16, 2013

South Dakota Here We Come: The Circle Tour!


Part 2 of 2


In the last episode, I described the first leg of our South Dakota journey (see South Dakota Here We Come, Part 1 of 2, dated August 1) and ended with our visit to Bear Country, USA.


We pick up, then, the next morning when we stopped for fuel. I spotted this sign:


Yeah, I wanted one but my husband said, "No."
Our next stop was a visit to the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs where, to date, the bones and tusks of 61 mammoths have been uncovered.

On our way through the Black Hills, we detoured a bit to drive the Needles Highway (

It is an amazing trek on a very narrow two-lane road.



See that dark box in the center of the picture above the roadbed/guardrail? The road enters a tunnel at that point.

A very, narrow tunnel.



However, if you are a very, experienced bus driver, narrow tunnels do not frighten you.



A bit of backing up and going forward to position your bus to venture straight through should do it...



The traffic started moving again so we assumed the bus did not get stuck.



Why, yes, those do look like scrape marks on the ceiling....



And we are out!



The Bus taking a break spotted down the road a bit...

We checked into our hotel in Deadwood, a rootin' tootin' old Wild West town. Here, in 1837, the infamous Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back playing poker at Saloon No. 10. He was holding what looked like a winning hand; Aces and Eights. After the shooting, this poker hand became known as "The Deadman's Hand."


He was buried high above his beloved Deadwood on Mount Mariah.



His stalwart friend, Martha Jane Canary, i.e. "Calamity Jane," herself a renowned frontierswoman, asked to be buried next to Wild Bill, and her wish was granted when she passed away in 1903.

Back down the trecherous street to the bricked Main Street of Deadwood where we saw these outdoor bar stools. We opted NOT to stop. however tempting...


After a delicious dinner and a restful night of sleep, we packed up and headed home.

However, we had one more, out of the way destination on our agenda.


Situated in Northern Wyoming, Devil's Tower rises over 867 feet above the ground it sits on. The monolith has appeared in many films, the most famous one being Steven Speilberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Both a sacred site to the Native Americans and a climbing site to outdoorsmen, the National Monument draws thousands of people to its grandeur every year.


And then it was home again! Whew!










Thursday, August 1, 2013

South Dakota, Here we come! (Part 1 of 2)

In mid-July, my husband, my step-daughter and I ventured off up north to make a very quick scenic circle in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is a beautiful area where there are a surprisingly number of things to do and see besides the most apparent one - Mount Rushmore. 

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, for some highlights of our three-day tour!

(Part 1 of 2)

Breakfast - Northeast Wyoming - July 15, 2013

I apologize for the blurriness. While this was a "Hit and run" shot, no people were injured in the taking of this photograph. If you look closely you will notice that, not only is there a Jackalope ( on the wall, the deer next to it is smiling. (?)

Jewel Cave, South Dakota

Yes, I do understand that this is a photo of a restroom (loo) but there IS a reason I took this. Way back when I was but a pre-teen, my family visited the area and decided to visit beautiful Jewel Cave. After purchasing our tickets, we hunkered down to wait out the hour for the next tour of the cave. With ample time on our hands, my sister and I raced down to the restroom (this is not "The" restroom, but it IS the site where said restroom was situated) and, competitive as we were, I was first through the door. For some (extremely) odd reason, there were approximately six different locks on the inside of the door. Of course I had to lock each and every one of them against maruading sisters. When I went to unlock the door, I could not get the bolt-locks, key-locks, pin-locks, etc. open. Quiet desperation overtook me as I twisted, turned, pulled and flipped them every way I could and, failing that, I started to beat on the door. My sister, unfortunately, had gotten tired of waiting and returned to the bench up the hill and, after what seemed like hours, my mother urged her to find out where I was. She returned to find the sound of frantic staccato thuds emitting from the other side of the door and, panicked, she raced back up to tell my parents that I was stuck in the restoom. In what seemed like a great idea, they asked the Park Ranger for help and he was soon on the outside of the door instructing me, step by step, the correct order and appropriate push/pull finesse which was needed to open the door. To my surprise, and complete humiliation, the large crowd outside erupted into applause when I finally came out. 

Such warm memories...

The general destination on our three-day foray to South Dakota was Mount Rushmore. As we neared the massive faces on the granite cliffside, I carefully navigated the left-hand turn in front of traffic to take my place in line to enter the parking lot. At the same time, my husband and step-daughter were agreeing "Yep. There it it. We saw it. We don't have to go in." (GAH!!!) Since I was in the driver's seat and it would have taken a lot of maneuvering to exit the entrance line (had I even decided to) AND this was the big thing I drove over 400 miles to see, we went inside. Because I said so.

After almost NOT seeing this view, I was adament in taking many, many pictures. Which all look basically the same. Even though I had already seen it when I was ten years old but they hadn't. 

So there!

Thank goodness I remembered this little treat...Bear Country, USA where you get to drive through an "open" wildlife preserve. Among over 100 bear residents, there are large fenced areas where pronghorn, bobcats, mountain lions, reindeer, wolves, coyotes, bighorn sheep, buffalo, elk, and many other animals roam. 

Please note the white van to the left of the rock where two beautiful wolves were sunning themselves. Inside was a family which included three children whose arms we could see reaching out and pointing to all of the animals. One was even on his dad's lap while driving through the preserve as was apparent in his side mirror.

In case you were wondering, yes, we were all cautioned to keep our doors and windows closed. 

I am not being insensitive when I quote someone in our car (it wasn't me, btw) who muttered "A certain candidate for the Darwin Award."

What we actually mistook for a bear but was a interesting charred area at the bottom of a tree. 

Next, Part 2 of the Circle Tour! 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Holy Cow!


While June has been very hot and there has been a marked lack of precipitation, around my house I am living under the old adage, "When it rains, it pours."

Without going into a great deal of detail, suffice to say that the last month has been very stressful.

My sweet, elderly father's mild dementia has started taking its toll, and my sisters and I are scrambling to find ways and benefits to make sure he can come back home from the short-term rehabilitation center, where it is familiar and "his." Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, home-health care, 24-hour care, costs, Veterans Benefits, safety, and security, all have become email discussion topics amongst us in our frequent "reply-all" updates. We are finding, however, that these things move incredibly slow, and we are getting our lessons in patience. Everything seems to be on track - for now as we seem to be in the "hurry up and wait" mode...


Second, (and I would rather not get into any explanations) serious life-changing choices and the subsequent fall-out has been catching up with my grown son. Even though I love him with all of my heart, I also know it is his life to live, and learn from...

Add to that a collections subpoena for a shared insurance debt from 2009 of my husband and his ex-wife. A debt that my husband paid his share for (plus additional monies to her for) and a debt his ex-wife ... did not. The debt has been paid by my husband and a reimbursement agreement is pending...

On June 12, I also had to say good-bye to the German exchange student for whom I was the local coordinator for. It is still incredibly hard to believe that it has already been ten months since that shy, young girl stepped onto U.S. soil and became a part of my host family's home. What a wonderful, beautiful young woman left to fly back home. And what an amazing year it has been learning from her!

It is true, I am a born fretter.


Thank goodness for my "therapy" where I can keep my mind and my hands busy.





Come on July!