Summer: Where did it go? by John E. Stack

After a pretty rough school year, I was looking forward to getting some things done around the house. During the school year, I had to learn a new subject area, Social Studies. As much as history does not change, I really do not remember something I studied 20/45+ years ago (college second time and high school). Anyway, most of my normal free-time during the school year did not exist. I even had very difficult time feeding my reading addiction.
Last summer, I was able to undertake a bedroom/bathroom renovation (still haven’t found the right bathroom light fixture). But, I didn’t get the bedroom furniture refinished or the shower door replaced. Those were on my list for this summer. I also wanted to build a couple of new cabinets for the bathroom.
After taking a few weeks for relaxation/vacation, I planned to get things done. We spent a week up in the mountains of North Carolina, visited Chattanooga, Tennessee and a quick day trip to Helen, Georgia.
While in Chattanooga, we visited this beautiful place called Ruby Falls. After waiting in line or a couple of hours, we took a elevator one hundred and twenty-some feet down into the earth. We walked for about forty-five minutes through a maze of tunnels to discover an underground waterfall. It was highlighted by various colored lights but was absolutely beautiful. It was well worth the time and trouble.
On the day before we were to leave to come home, we visited a small mountain town of Helen, Georgia, where we decided to go tubing. The water level was a little low, but we went anyway. About half way through, we got stuck on a rock. Before we could get dislodged we were hit by a large group of adults. Allie was shot out of her tube in into the river. I went in after her but luckily another set of tubers grabbed her and held on to her until I got there. She was okay, just a little shaken.  Walking back down the river to where my wife anchored our tubes, a rock rolled under my foot and down I went. Now, if I were a much smaller guy, I would probably have been okay. Needless to say, I’m not and my foot jammed into the river bed. Ended up with a broken little toe, a broken big toe and a boot. I’m just glad it was the last day of vacation and not the first.
That pretty much destroyed my work schedule. Since then, along with a few weeks of healing, I have been able to refinish all the bedroom furniture and replace the shower door. I may even get to complete one of the cabinets before school starts back in a couple of days.  May be I’ll post some pics when I get it done.

Oh yeah.  In regards to my habitual reading, I’ve completed at least three eBooks and  6 hardbacks.  Even though my foot is not fully healed, life is good.

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure and Cody’s Almost Rescue Adventure at the Zoo.

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Great Day Versus…

When I wake up and start my day and everything just follows along in a neutral way and nothing out of the ordinary happens, it just becomes another day, for which I’m grateful. If something doesn’t go well for enough of the day, I might classify it as a bad day. Or, if a lot of things do go well, it’s a good day. Do you judge your days like that? Do you even think about it?

The reason I ask is yesterday was a great day for me, and as I expressed it out loud to some friends, I was surprised, and I wanted to know why. I guess I don’t take time to analyze each day, one way or another, I just live it and go on. Does that make sense?

But for some reason, I felt it was important to tell my friends I was having a great day. I felt that I should let them know that great days happen. Maybe they had only had ordinary days or not so good days lately. Or perhaps they might have had a couple bad days even. They hadn’t said so, but I wanted to plant a “great day seed.” I have the feeling you may be convinced I’m bonkers. So now, I guess I need to explain what makes up a good or great day versus one not so good or bad, at least for me.

As I thought about it, I decided that generally my days are good days, not bad or great. I get a lot of satisfaction out of finishing projects and setting goals for myself, and I enjoy trying to do something or say something nice or inspiring to/for someone each day. I guess that gives me a sense of purpose and self-worth.

Lately, I’ve been battling with a seller over a merchandise return and refund that started in May. All I wanted to do was return the items and get a refund. Things were complicated by the fact that I was dealing with a foreign company and shipping dealt with customs and taxes. I had paid for the items through a mediator, who was trying to help me, but it was all online and somewhat confusing. I guess that issue weighed me down more than I realized. So when I was dealing with another company with online back orders and discontinued items, I thought more complications and disappointment were on their way.

Yesterday, the day started with an email stating all was settled with the foreign company,  items were returned and I was getting my refund. Another email informed me that the items I thought were back ordered and discontinued might not be and had shipped. I was a bit confused by that email, but the mailman arrived moments later and all items I’d ordered were in the package. I could hardly believe it. Oh, joy!

To top it off, a package arrived from a friend I hadn’t seen or spoken with for some time. He had called two nights ago saying it was on its way, but wouldn’t tell me what it was. It was a porcelain bell with delicate painted flowers and my name on it. He’d seen it and was reminded of me and decided to send it to me. I was so touched when I saw it.

Then to top it off, I was preparing to go to my monthly luncheon with three friends and when I offered to drive, one of the gals said she’d already planned to drive and would pick me up. We all spent a couple of hours relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. What’s not great about that?! So I shared my “great day” news with my friends and decided to share it with you, too, dear readers. A great day doesn’t have to be a spectacular or phenomenal or supernatural occasion, at least not for me. Just a day in which things go right and friends are strong. How’s your day?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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YOU WERE BORN TO RIDE! By Maribeth Shanley

This past week, I made a hard, terrible, but necessary mistake. I sold my Harley Davidson motorcycle. For the first time in thirty three years, I am now without a bike.

After three decades of owning and riding a motorcycle, I decided it was time to quit riding my own. The decision wasn’t an easy one; however, at the time, I felt it was my only alternative.

I began riding a motorcycle in 1985. My husband, Bob, arranged with our local Harley dealer to deliver the bike to our garage while I was out of town on business. I vividly remember that day.

I arrived home earlier than expected and noticed that Bob was not at home. I parked my car in the driveway, pulled my keys out of the ignition and got out. We had a side door to the garage which I unlocked and walked through. My eyes were immediately drawn to bright light at the back of the garage. The light, hanging from one of the garage door ceiling rails illuminated a shiny royal blue motorcycle. The next thing I noticed was the logo on the side of the tank. In scroll, it read Harley Davidson. I gasped as my heart skipped several beats.

Bob and I had talked many times about me riding my own motorcycle. The idea of doing that was inspired by a small framed dark-haired woman on her rootbeer brown motorcycle several bikes in front of us as we participated in a dealership Sunday ride.

While sitting on the back of Bob’s bike, I noticed her. She looked like poetry in motion with her hair tied in a ponytail and wrapped with a long, white silk scarf, both of which were dancing in the wind. As I watched, I leaned forward and pointed her out to Bob. He acknowledged her as I whispered, “I want to do that.”

When we stopped for lunch, we talked to her, and she encouraged me to buy a motorcycle. Bob and I began discussing that option immediately upon arriving at home. On Sundays, when we weren’t riding with a group, I’d ride on the back of Bob’s bike down to the Opryland parking lot in Nashville where we lived. There, I would practice riding Bob’s bike. Once I began to feel comfortable on his bike, Bob and I talked in earnest about what I would purchase. We decided that I should buy a less expensive Japanese motorcycle so I could determine that I did indeed want to ride on the front. If I did, I could then move up to a Harley Davidson.

When I walked through that garage door and saw the name, Harley Davidson, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I stood in that doorway for several minutes when I realized that, if I stayed, I would ruin the surprise for Bob. So, I immediately turned around, locked the door and got back in my car. I drove around for about an hour before pulling back into the driveway. I kept my secret for several years.

That first motorcycle was a Sportster 883 which I kept for one year. At the time, Harley had a trade-in deal on 883’s, and that deal was specifically targeting women riders. If an owner of an 883 traded in her bike after one year, she could recoup her original price paid as long as she traded it for a larger bike. After that first year, I was ready for a larger motorcycle, so I took advantage of that deal and purchased a Super Glide.

That year was the same year Harley introduced the beautiful Heritage model. The original Heritage paint scheme was royal blue with a cream white insert on both sides of the tank where the brand name appeared. The Heritage was considerably more expensive, so, instead, I immediately had my Super Glide repainted to match the Heritage.  Since my second bike, I have owned eight motorcycles, including two choppers, one which was a hard-tail, i.e., no suspension. I rode that chopper all the way from Nashville, TN along the winding road of the Blue Ridge Parkway to Myrtle Beach, SC for Spring Bike Week. When we returned home after riding through the mountains of Georgia, our friend Rick told me that I made him a bunch of money. He had wagered a bet with several other male riders. Rick believed I would ride the entire way and never complain. The other males bet I would complain about the rough ride, especially over bumps in the road. I never did complain. I also never asked to stop before everyone else was ready to stop.

As you read this, you’re probably asking yourself; it sounds like Maribeth loves to ride. So, why on earth did she sell her motorcycle? It’s called allowing my brain to play with my head.

About ten years ago, while in Myrtle Beach, I had a bad accident on my first chopper. Bob, Rick and his fiancé, Cindy, and I were returning to Myrtle Beach after a day trip to Charleston, SC. That morning, we stopped for breakfast as it began to rain. Once we were ready to climb back on our bikes, Bob came over to me and asked, “Can we skip this ride today and do it another day this week?” He had a bad feeling in the pit of his belly about the ride. I didn’t want to wait, so Bob ignored the premonition, and we rode the two hours to Charleston. On the way back to Myrtle Beach that late afternoon, Bob’s intuition played itself out.

On all our rides, Bob was the Road Captain (leader). I would always ride just behind him but in the traditional and safer staggered position. Rick with Cindy on the back of his bike rode behind me also in a staggered position. I was riding along the side of the highway and close to the shoulder when we reached the crest of a small rise in the road and began to descend to the back side of that crest. I saw a dog off to the side and ready to run out into the highway, right in front of me. I checked both of my mirrors, used my signal and began to drift over into the left lane to avoid the dog. I over-reacted as I found myself riding on the small traction of the median shoulder. I definitely wanted to avoid riding in the grassy area of the median which I knew would provide no traction. Again, I assessed my situation and began to slow down. I looked ahead and knew where I would get back on the road. However, I suddenly realized I was about to ride through a deep semi-truck tire track trench in the median. That Spring had been an unusually wet Spring in the Southeast. The truck, I imagined, had left the tire depression after leaving the road, coming to a halt at the bottom of the dip in the median.

As I spotted the depression, in my head I spoke a few expletives and held my breath. Once I was on the other side, I thought, I’ll be fine now. So I returned to concentrating on the road ahead when, suddenly, my handlebars began to vibrate violently. What the hell is happening, I asked. Then, This shouldn’t be happening, my mind screamed.

Next, I felt my bike veering to the left deeper into the median. I knew I was about to crash. The next thing I recall was staring down at the pavement and realizing I was lying, face down on the road, the same road upon which trucks loaded down with pine trees and headed to the paper mill in Georgetown traveled.

I jumped up off the road and quickly walked over to my beautiful bike lying in two pieces in the middle of the median. My handlebars were lying inches away from the bike. I realized that vibrating was my handlebars separating from the bike frame. My god! I was riding my bike while my handlebars were no longer attached to the bike. I was holding them in mid-air!

Soon I was surrounded by Bob, Rick, and Cindy. I said to Bob, “My handlebars came apart.” From that moment, everything began happening quickly.

A wildlife warden traveling on the other side of the highway stopped to help as did a truck with two males and one woman which stopped on our side of the highway. I was pretty banged up.

After several minutes, the warden offered to drive me to the Georgetown hospital about twenty minutes north. Bob agreed and asked Cindy to go with me. I wasn’t given a choice. However, because I didn’t know the man who was going to drive Cindy and me to the hospital, as he opened the passenger door of his truck, I looked him in the eyes and said, “You better not touch either of us. If you do, you will be sorry you did.” He responded, “No ma’am, I would never do that. I just want to get you to the hospital in case you have a bad injury.” It turned out that he was a very nice man who did exactly what he said he intended to do.

As we began to drive off, we heard a gunshot. Later we found out that the dog was a stray. It did in fact cross over the road to the median. The two men and one woman were going to take it home with them. They explained to Bob and Rick that area was an area where people frequently dropped off their unwanted dogs. As the three tried to corral the dog, he ran back out onto the highway only to be hit by a car. The gunshot was a mercy shot. The dog was so badly mangled but still alive when one of the truck males, took out his rifle and put down the dog. When I heard the story later, I felt horrible. I felt my over-reaction had caused this poor dog his life.

Fast forward to this year, 2018.

When Bob and I decided to cash in two 401-K plans to buy a house we could retire to, we finally settled on returning to Myrtle Beach. We had spent 29 previous springs riding to Myrtle Beach for Spring Bike Week and a few additional rides in the fall to attend the Fall Bike Week. It seemed like a natural place for us to retire. We both love the beach which gave us the feeling that we were on a never-ending vacation. Plus, Myrtle Beach isn’t that far from the mountains which we also love. So, Myrtle Beach is where we purchased our last house and now live.

So, what does moving to Myrtle Beach have to do with my selling my motorcycle, especially given that this is where two bike rallies take place each year? Being bike owners, Myrtle Beach seemed the perfect place to retire.

Two years ago, however, I made several trips down to Charleston. It was the year my dog, Pooker, was dying of diabetes. Bob was still employed but working from an office in our home. A specialist practiced in Charleston. She was trying to keep Pooker alive while giving him a comfortable existence. Pooker and I rode down to Charleston at least once each week for three months. The first time we made the trip, I tried to recognize the spot on the highway where I had crashed. I don’t know if it were the sadness of Pooker’s condition, coupled with reliving the crash each time I would drive by that spot where that poor dog died that began playing with my mind. However, I began to think that it might be time to stop riding solo. Too, when there are no rallies in progress, the tourists who travel to Myrtle Beach are dangerous drivers. Add to that mixture that Myrtle Beach is a prime retirement destination. I may be seventy years old, but, I’m a young seventy-year-old woman. I don’t look or act like I am seventy. Neither does Bob look or act like he is seventy-four. However, the bulk of the other retired people in the area look and, worse, act like old people. Worse still, they drive like old people. I began thinking; I don’t want to die on my bike.

Add to that entire stew that I’m in the middle of putting together an anthology of short stories as my next publication. For that anthology, I wrote a ghost story about a young female rider who dies while riding her motorcycle. She is hit by an older woman who turned left, hitting the young woman who she failed to see.

Over the years, I have had premonitions and, if I ignored them, they would happen. Thus, all these ghosts began stirring in my mind causing me to experience an exaggerated fear of riding my motorcycle.

So, last week, I called the local Harley Dealer and talked to the general manager about buying my bike. He asked me what I would take for it. I gave him a figure $1,000 more than I thought I would get. I knew the bike; a Harley Davidson Cross Bones was a sought after bike because, for one, it had an old school look to it, and two, it was only made for two years. I not only broke even, but I made an additional $500.

The morning I took it for my last ride, my mind kept telling me, This is a big mistake. For the first time since my mind began playing tricks on me, I thoroughly enjoyed riding my bike. The morning was a pleasant one. When I arrived at the dealer, the Manager came out to greet me. I told him about my second thoughts. He said, “You can change your mind.” He then began to tell me that the next year’s model will be out in a few weeks making my bike a year older than it was at present. He also began to show me the newer, 2018 models and all the dramatic improvements made over the ten years I owned the Cross Bones
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The moral of this story is that I have come to recognize that although a premonition, it was not a fateful forewarning. I am not ready to quit riding. I’ve been sad since I sold my bike, but, I’m now also hopeful. Too, my wonderful husband, Bob told me, “Look, I’ve watched you work wonders with the budget. You should make a plan to save up half the cost of the bike, buy it and then pay it off as quickly as possible.” That’s exactly what I am going to do.

By next Spring, I will be on a 2018 Black Fat Boy Harley Davidson. I will take a short respite from riding on the front. I will have to learn to ride on the back where I will not be in control. Yikes! But, I also tell myself, You can do this. Besides, it’s only a few short months, and several of them will be winter months. Go for it, Maribeth.

You were born to ride!

Note:  As I wrote this, I found a photo of my first non-Harley motorcycle.  I owned three American Iron Horse bikes.  The first, this beauty, was called the Outlaw.  My second and third AI were the two choppers.  Of all my motorcycles, this one is by far the most beautiful.  It was also the most radical!
Outlaw

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It’s Midnight in Minnesota but it’s Daybreak in Denmark – by Sherrie Hansen

Daybreak – Chapter 1

Anders Westerlund flipped over a packet of cucumber seeds and read out loud, “Plant after all danger of frost has passed.”

Even in April, daybreak in Danemark was a chilly affair. Jensen kept insisting that the Copenhagen winter they’d just experienced was mild compared to what she was used to in Minnesota, but there was still a good chance that the tender new shoots poking up from the ground could freeze before spring actually arrived.

Anders wished he had more time, but the brutal fact was, he did not. If he could just coax some summer flowers into blooming and get the garden greened up before he had to go, he would feel better about leaving Jensen. He wanted to do as much as he could to make her transition easy.

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Another gust of cold air swirled around his neck, then wormed its way under his collar to chill his shoulder blades. According to the Danish Meteorological Institute, the average date of the last frost was the 18th of April. To be absolutely sure, they recommended waiting until May 7th. But it had been a warmer than usual spring, and Anders was feeling lucky.

Why he felt so optimistic was beyond him. Everything in his life was uncertain, and at least one of the drastic changes about to unfold was not welcome. The only thing he knew for sure was that he was not going to be around when it was time to reap his harvest.

He planted one hill of cucumbers, one of eggplant, and another with one of Jensen’s favorites – zucchini squash, each at the base of their own trellis. He liked his vegetables planted amidst his flowers. There was no room in his tiny yard for a separate vegetable garden with long, well-spaced rows like Jensen’s sister-in-law had in America. Here in Danemark, every inch of land was precious and put to good use.

He moved to the south side of the house and dug in a row of corn just far enough out from the foundation so it would catch the rain. He tucked a few delicate, curly leafed basil that he’d seeded in the house into a window box with some geraniums and planted his fledgling tomato starts in a basket with multiple openings that was designed to hang over the fence.

Daffodils.jpg

He’d put in the lettuce, potatoes, beets, carrots, kale, red cabbage, dill, broccoli and radishes almost two weeks ago, the day after the Christiansens had come. He hoped he had not seemed rude when he had ignored Jensen’s parents so soon after they had arrived, but the growing season was short in Danemark. If you did not work the ground as soon as the frost was out, your garden would not amount to much. Besides, when houseguests stayed for almost a month, you could not put your entire life on hold for the duration of their visit.

With Jensen expecting, and everything else that was going on, he was glad his onions, peas and spinach had been planted on schedule. He had not expected Jensen to help. With a belly so big she could hardly tie her own shoelaces, her only form of exercise was waddling around the neighborhood on their nightly walks. He loved pampering her, and doing for her so she could rest as much as possible. If he had not had so many things to get done at work before the baby came, he would gladly have driven her and her parents to Als.

The important thing was that Jensen would be here to water and weed the garden once he was gone. At least, he hoped so. It brought him joy to imagine Jensen picking the peas, digging out the potatoes, and enjoying a good spinach salad when the time came, especially since he would not be around to do it.

He swallowed his frustrations, straightened his back and thrust his shovel into the ground between two clusters of late-blooming tulips. The crab-apples were in full bloom and each time the wind blew, a smattering of petals wafted down around him.

Flower - Crab Apple

 

Springtime. New life. Daybreak. His favorite time of day and his most cherished time of the year – although he had to admit that being snuggled up with Jensen over the course of this year’s long, icy winter had done much to improve his opinion of cold weather.

Even with spring well underway, the nights were cool enough to cuddle under Jensen’s quilts. But the days were warm enough to ride bicycle and work in his garden. Life was good – had been good, during their honeymoon period. Now, changes were in the wind.

Jensen and he were going to be parents together. He was so excited for the baby to arrive he could hardly bear it.

Everything would be perfect if he didn’t have to leave.

Daybreak in Denmark (3)

His cell phone jingled in his pocket. Probably Jensen. She knew his schedule, knew he wouldn’t have left for work yet. He flipped the top open and found Bjorn on the line.

They exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes before Bjorn asked the question that was on both of their minds.

“Have you made a decision yet?”

“Decision?” Anders made a clucking noise with his tongue and moved out of the way of a honey bee that was honing in on his tulips. “The only decision they gave me was Greenland or the Faroe Islands. I was given no choice about moving.”

“You could find another job. You could take early retirement. You could move to America.”

“None of these things are options, Bjorn. At least, not at this time. You’ve read the newspapers.”

“An occasional news bite on Facebook or Twitter.”

“The Euro is nearly worthless. The world’s economy is in shambles. My retirement funds have suffered greatly. I am blessed to have a job that pays me well. With a new baby on the way…”

“I get it,” Bjorn said.

Anders held his breath. He knew that Bjorn had mixed feelings about being displaced as his only child. He did not want to argue with Bjorn when he was halfway across the world. A good fight was not nearly as satisfying when you could not hug each other at the end of the fray.

“Have you told Jensen yet?”

Anders truly believed that Bjorn loved Jensen. Still, adjusting to having a new step-mother and all the changes that came along with her had been difficult for his son. He knew that. So when Anders heard a tinge of gloating in his son’s voice, he understood. Bjorn was still disappointed that he and Jensen had not settled in Minnesota, and somehow, the knowledge that he would soon be one of two offspring rankled on him.

Anders stabbed his shovel into the ground. “I will tell Jensen soon. And I will soften the blows by giving her a choice – she can stay here in Danemark, watch over the house and tend the garden while I am gone, or return to America to be with her family.”

“Good luck with that one,” Bjorn said.

“The situation is far from ideal. She will have to adapt.”

“So when are you going to tell her?”

“Tonight when she returns from Als. It has to be soon. My boss wanted me to leave next week, but I have told him I will not go until the baby is born.”

“Jensen’s not going to be happy.”

“Believe me, I am well aware of that fact. I did not want to cast a pall of sadness over her parent’s entire visit, but I am sure that telling her now, when her parents are still here to comfort her, is a good thing to do.”

“I hope you’re right. If it was me, and someone was going to hit me with some bad news, I wouldn’t want anybody around to watch the fireworks.”

“Jensen has very much respect for her parents. Perhaps they will even agree to delay their flight home and stay longer so they can help Jensen with the baby when she comes. She is very close to them. Having them here to help her consider her choices will make her feel much better. I am sure of it.”

Except that he was not. These days, he was not sure about anything.

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Daybreak is available as a paperback now. The Kindle version should be available any day.

If you want to read Night and Day to hear how the story begins, click here.

Night and Day (1)

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West to Inverness, then Off to Ullapool by Sherrie Hansen

It was like 2007 all over again. Not wanting to deal with “big city” traffic, congestion and parking hassles, we drove through Inverness as quickly as possible and retreated to the Scottish countryside, this time, on a farm high in the hills overlooking the Moray Firth. After learning how much there is to see and do in any given area on our previous trips, we tried our best to stay at least two nights in the same place. It’s far more relaxing not to have to pack up and move every single day.

Scot - sunset 2

Our countryside view was amazing. The next day, we headed away from Inverness toward the small town of Beauly. There were several wonderful shops in Beauly, a bank where we were able to exchange more dollars for pounds, a nice restaurant where we enjoyed a high tea, and a great fish and chips place.

Scot - Chanonry Point

From Beauly, we went on two nice drives – the first took us to the narrow end of the Moray First, across a bridge and up the other side. We had a lovely hike along the coast at Chanonry Point, where we missed seeing seals but found a lighthouse and wild roses and Queen Anne’s lace blooming along the rocky beaches.

Scot - lighthouse

A few miles further down the road, we found a small National Trust property that had a delightful garden and a thatched roof house that was the home of Scottish local hero, Hugh Miller.

Scot - hugh's house

His story was fascinating and we related to it on several levels. He believed in Creation and had an extensive collection of fossils.

Scot - Hugh

From there, we headed south through a shady mountain pass to Loch Ness. Once again, Urquhart Castle was closed by the time we got there, so we took a few photos from a distance, watched for signs of Nessie rippling in the blue waters and drove home along the shore.

Scot - Loch Ness

Our B&B for those two nights just west of Inverness was on the first floor of a new house, with a private entry and a very comfortable bed. The sunsets both nights were beautiful, but the midges were starting to bite and came out at sunset. I did a dance as I walked through the grass, snapping and moving and snapping and moving, hopefully fast enough to avoid having a midge land on me.

Scot - Beualy B&B

The next day, we set out to see my Scottish friend, Ang, in Balintore, a seaside village north of Inverness. The fog seems to settle in each night, and it hadn’t yet lifted as we walked along the shoreline, talking. Two years ago, Ang used the word “atmospheric” to describe the misty air hugging the sea, and I will forever think of the word when I encounter foggy landscapes. We exchanged treasures and good conversation – a definite highlight of the trip!

Scot - Ang beach

After lunch, we left the east coast of Scotland and were off  to Ullapool, on the west, when we decided to detour down to another Historic Trust property. As Trust members, we love seeing these properties “for free”.

Scot - inver rhodies

I’ve heard from many people that they’re always amazed at how much we managed to see in one short day. What they may not realize is that everything is so close – the most we drove in a day was 100 miles. It’s also daylight from 4:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m, so if you get up at a decent hour, you can do a lot before dark.

Scot - Invereray

This is one of those days that we stretched things a little too far. Everything would have been fine except that we reached Inverewe Garden about 5:30 p.m. Last entrance was 6 p.m., but the gates to the garden were open until 8 p.m., so we had plenty of time to explore. The sky was blue, but there wasn’t a breeze to be found, and the midges surrounded me in swarms.

Scot - Inver wisteria

Dense forests were crisscrossed with mazes of paths and steps that wound through rhododendrons, bamboo and perennial gardens and eventually, out to the sea. Before long, I was swatting and itching and breaking out in blistering welts. But it was so beautiful, and we got in for free, and…

Scot - inver flowers

The only solution was to walk faster and faster. If I was capable of running up and down rickety, stone stairways that didn’t have handrails, I would have. What can I say? I’m glad we saw the gardens – they were lovely, but I’m not sure the itching and oozing I went through for the next week was worth it.

 

Scot - Ullapool

The sun started to set on our way to Ullapool, and we arrived just in time to see sunbeams shining over the harbor. We found our room at the top of an extremely steep hill overlooking Morefield Brae.  What a beautiful setting! But alas, as we climbed out of the car, our host warned up to enter quickly and close the doors behind us because the midges were really biting.

Scot - Ullapool B&B

Great. While we settled in, our hosts at the Fair Morn B&B found a restaurant with openings for 8:45 p.m. We were seated in a conservatory facing out to the garden and left to choose from a wonderful menu. All was well until we started to notice we were itching even more than we had been earlier. Then we noticed a small window open at the top of the wall. Suddenly, we were caught in a swarm of midges. But the time we caught the eye of our waiter and asked to be reseated in another room, the damage was done.

Scot - skye castle

In the morning, we headed north along the brae and into the mountains where we were treated to castle ruins, sheep grazing, red deer running along the hilltops, and altogether amazing scenery.

Scot - Lochinver house

We stumbled on a craft fair and a pie place at Lochinver and then took a narrow winding road to Achmelvich Beach with its white sands and aquamarine waters. When I heard about the beaches in Scotland, I assumed it would be like California in January, with crisp temperatures and cold winds even though it would have the appearance of being summery. But the day was perfect for beach-going, in the mid 80s, and we had a picnic with the meat and fruit pies we’d nabbed at the pie place in Lochinver.

Scot - Uig beach

By that time, however, I felt like I had a beacon on my back that said “Bug Bait.” There were bugs in the sand, and bugs in the rocks – but unlike midges, these were big, and could be seen, and felt, and they seemed to be going for my eyes, and anywhere my midge bites were oozing and itching. Yikes! I don’t mean to sound negative, but it was not exactly a relaxing day at the beach.

Scot -ullapool house

We ended the day back in Ullapool, where we ate at an upscale fresh seafood shack and found a handmade woolen treasure at a local craft shop. I walked as fast as I could everywhere we went to fend off the midges who were waiting to land. They seemed to get sneakier as time went by, burrowing under my clothes and biting my back and thighs, under my hair and hat. Nothing dissuaded them.

Scot - Ullapool harbor 

I had a hard time sleeping that night because I was so hot and itchy, but there’s always a bright side… We had a delicious Scottish breakfast to look forward to and a forecast of calm seas for our three hour ferry ride to the Isle of Lewis and Harris. And someone told me that there were no midges on Lewis or Harris because there was always a good breeze blowing. Music to my ears…

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Oh Really!! Revisited by John E. Stack

Hi again, last month I wrote about some issues within the foster care system.  This month, I still find my self irritated, and I wanted to make a clarification.  I will start with the clarification first.  I made a statement that it costs the state around $1500 per month per child that is in foster care.  That is a true statement.

What might be misleading is people believing that the foster parents get this money.  We do not.  We do get a monthly stipend to help provide for the children that we have.  For newborn babies up to toddlers around 4 (it maybe older), foster parents receive less than $500 per month to buy clothing, diapers, wipes, and formula if they use over what WIC provides. Most months we are in the red.   We do not get paid to get up three or four times a night when the baby wakes up crying, we don’t get paid for colic, or taking time off work for doctor appointments.

I am thankful for social programs like WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and it may have different names in different states.  We normally have children who need special formulas.  WIC usually allows 8 – 10 cans per month.  One of our recent children needed a formula and the cost is $39 per can or around $390 per month.   Our daughter was on a formula that cost $49.95 per can and she went through a can every two days.  Thank you WIC because who can pay over $700 a month for formula.

What does it cost birth parents? (Remember, they are usually the reason their child is in foster care).  They get supervised visitation from 1 to 4 times a week at government expense.  They do not have to help provide for their child, not even diapers.  Some have to get counseling, take classes, get a diploma, get their license, get a job.  They do not have to get drug counseling, or parenting classes.

Why do we do foster parenting when there are so many problems with the system?  We look at this as a ministry.  We believe that this is a job that God wanted us to do and has provided us with the means to do so.  Most of the time it is hard work, but the blessings we receive make it worthwhile.

Sorry for the rant, but sometime you just have to get stuff out of your system. My wife had a mom ask how much we got paid to take care of the kids that were placed in foster care.  When my wife told her what we were paid, she could hardly believe it.  She had been told that we got several thousand a month.  Only in a perfect world…maybe there would be no need for foster parents.  What a concept.

Okay, off my rant.  Who knows what next month might hold in store.  May you be blessed in all you do.

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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Neighbors – These Days

I live in a deed restricted community of about 200 houses about 35 miles north of Tampa, FL, in the $100,000 to $200,000 range, built around 1990. The yearly fee we homeowners pay is partly used for a landscaping company’s grooming around several ponds and for maintenance of our two electrical entrance signage areas. Our fees are also supposed to go for any legal action needed to collect any tardy or non-paid yearly dues. A couple years ago our homeowners’ board and members voted to resurface a portion of road that had gotten too badly potholed, added a beautiful fountain in one of the larger ponds, planted crepe myrtle trees in some common areas, etc. We used to receive a newsletter each month letting us all know what the board had been up to since the last one and I always volunteered to deliver that newsletter on my street.

Unfortunately, our most active board member moved away and for some reason the board lost its oomph and kind of fell apart. Now we get a newsletter once a year along with a yearly member’s meeting. Enforcement of the bylaws that kept our neighborhood looking nice, like lawns mowed and edged, trees and bushes trimmed, houses painted and roofs cleaned of algae, etc., have gotten lax and rentals have been allowed.

What’s happened is big companies or small groups of people like the “flippers” you see on TV are buying up houses and renting them to people who have no direct interest in this community. There is a county law that disallows cars to park on the street or on the lawns, for instance. The renters don’t care, so they do it anyway. And many renters are not taking care of the properties they live in. Those of us who have purchased homes here risk becoming “bad” neighbors if we say something. Many of us old timers are concerned about lower property values. Our homes are already almost thirty years old and many of us have remodeled insides and re-sodded outsides in order to maintain healthy values.

Directly next door to me is a group of unrelated people living in a single family dwelling in what they term a “blended family.” The problem is, I don’t see the same people all the time coming or going and there are multiple cars parked in the street at night, which is not allowed. When these people first arrived, I went over and introduced myself and I got first names of some of them, but no full names. They were very vague. I told them if they needed anything or needed help in any way, I’d be glad to do what I could. Most neighbors on my street know one-another, so this secretive behavior from them confused me.

This “family’s” house is on a corner, so the front and one side are very visible. The property was immaculate when they moved in and since then it has gone very quickly downhill. They don’t mow the lawn, edge it, take any care of the lawn, trees, bushes, and have left bright white sandbags left over from hurricane Irma outside along my side of their house along with a kayak (strictly a no-no according to our by-laws). I tried to tell them nicely, but they don’t care and they ignore all the rules.

Finally at the request of some of my other neighbors, I resorted to reporting them to the homeowners’ association board so a letter of encouragement could be sent to them. I had given them a copy of the by-laws when they moved in since they told me they had not seen them. The president of the board told me to just call our county code enforcement office. What used to be handled by the board is now expected to be handled by the citizenry of the neighborhood. I was concerned about retribution problems, but I waited until I saw mold appearing on the outside of their sunroom and the grass was two feet high and I saw a rat. It was time I did something.

Luckily the county was swift in acting and the people mowed today and a truck came and cut up all the dead tree branches and cleaned up the flower beds these neighbors let die from lack of water and care. So it took almost a year for these people to realize that they had some rules they had to follow or else fines would have to be paid. I’m just praying it doesn’t take that long for them to mow and clean up again.

I spent $3,000 on new sod just two years ago and I have a monthly service that keeps it healthy. I also have a regular man who mows my lawn, and edges and blows the grass off the street. I really don’t want these neighbor’s weeds to spread into my yard. Other homeowners feel the same way. I can’t understand why people don’t want to live in a neighborhood that looks nice. The whole neighborhood used to be really friendly, too. Now many of the long time neighbors are not happy with the renters and that causes tensions.

Anyone have a suggestion or solution? I’d really like to hear!!! The most logical is to forbid rentals, but I don’t think that’s possible.

 

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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My Heart’s In the Highlands by Sherrie Hansen

We headed to the Highlands on the next jaunt of our Scottish journey. In some ways, driving into the Highlands reminds me of when I lived in Colorado Springs and occasionally ventured up to Breckenridge or Estes Park. The higher the altitude, the more pine trees and mountain peaks, the more athletic pursuits and other activities geared toward tourists, and the more cute mountain resort towns with large hotels. But as usual, we skipped all that and sought out a quiet, countryside location away from the crowds.

Scot - Aberfeldy cottage

We spent three nights in a cottage near Aberfeldy, Perthshire – one of our favorite places on earth. We could see J.K. Rowling’s summer house across the glen from where we were staying, which tells you there is something magical about the spot. The views were incredible, and we loved watching the sunset while walking down the lane with the owner’s English cocker spaniels in tow. There were plenty of flowers to smell and benches to sit on while scratching the dogs’ ears and rubbing their tummies. I felt right at home and loved hearing sheep baaing and a rushing stream while we laid in bed each night.

Scot - Aberfeldy sunset

Our cottage had its own little kitchen, and most of the eating establishments we had hoped to visit were closed for the holiday weekend, so we visited the grocery and stocked up on some goodies for breakfasts and picnic suppers. Mark makes great omelets which were wonderful with rashers and bangers (bacon and sausages).

Scot - bluebells

I was delighted to find the woods around Strathtay still abloom with bluebells.  Mark played a couple of holes of golf while I walked in the bluebell wood. Then, our excitement turned to disappointment when we wandered into town and found that the art gallery on the main square where I bought a painting of Menzies Castle by Artist Audrey Slowrance was now a real estate office.

Scot - Audrey Slorance

After looking wistfully at the listings and feeling more than a little tempted to invest in a piece of Scotland, we finally tracked Audrey down in her new studio in a garage and bought a couple of her lovely prints. It made my day to get to talk to her about painting and what inspires her. How I wished I’d had my paints and a couple of canvases tucked in my suitcase!

Scot - kilts

We also attended the Highland Games and Fair at Blair Atholl Castle, where once again, we had the thrill of seeing the Atholl Highlanders march to the tune of bagpipes and drums. Be still my heart! A walk through Diana’s Forest, which has some of the tallest trees in Great Britain, was restful and quiet after the boisterous sounds of the crowds cheering on the brawny competitors, graceful Highland dancers and talented bagpipers at the Highland Games.

Scot - Phone booth

Our last day in the Aberfeldy area, we followed a narrow, winding, mountainside road to Glenlyon, where there’s a tiny post office in the middle of nowhere that’s famous for its desserts. The waitress’ young daughter, who invited us to sit with her, entertained us while we had a bowl of leek and potato soup, crusty, homemade bread with butter, and pudding… well worth the slightly hair-raising drive along a single track road with too few passing places.

Scot - Kenmore Church

On the way home, we took a new road to Kenmore, a village along Loch Tay that we’d seen featured in several of Audrey’s paintings, and happened upon a delightful spot. We were looking for a loo when we overheard a desk clerk at the local hotel mentioning that Rick Steves’ tour bus would be arriving any minute. Being fans of his TV show, we waited around for a glimpse, took a photo, and gloated because we have such a keen knack for sniffing out desirable locations.

Scot - kenmore

The next day, it was time to head north to our next destination, Ben View House at Lentran Farm, in the countryside near Inverness, where we had two nights booked. On the way, we had two significant experiences. The living Highland Folk Museum had miles of wonderful examples of how the Highlanders lived and built their homes. We learned that several scenes from Outlander had been filmed in the blackhouse village, and I have to admit it was a thrill to walk where Jamie, Claire and Dugall had. The smell of a peat fire wafting in the air, hand woven linens and many authentic touches made history come to life.

Scot - highland folk village

After another bit of driving, we had a bit of trouble locating the Kilted Fudge Company in Aviemore, but our minor detours were rewarded with an enthusiastic greeting and our own personal tasting of over a dozen of their creamy, buttery fudge flavors. After stocking up on oodles of my favorite (Clootie Dumpling fudge, which is not too sweet, and packed with gingerbread spices and raisins), and a few new varieties like Rhubarb Cream, Salted Caramel and Millionaire’s Shortbread, we headed on through the mountains.

Scot - sunset

As we were coming into Aviemore, I spotted a sign that pointed to a Mountain Railway, which of course, made me think of my dad, whose favorite song was Life is Like a Mountain Railway. But then, these days, everything makes me think of him. Last year, when we left for Ireland and Wales, he was in the hospital with pneumonia, and we weren’t sure what would happen while we were gone, so we called him every night about midnight to tell him about our day. This year, over and over again, I found myself thinking, Dad would love this. I’ll have to tell him about it when we call him tonight. How I wish I could, but for that, I’d need a Railway to Heaven.

Scot - Daffodil

I’ll end on that note. Vacations are a wonderful way to relax and forget your troubles, but being free from a hectic routine also gives you more time to remember… and think…

Stay tuned for our trek northward and westward, ho…

Scot - Flag

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February Dream to Life in Fife by Sherrie Hansen

When I shared the itinerary for our third trip to Scotland a few moths ago, I was snowed in by a February blizzard and dreaming of warmer days.

BBInn - heavy snow smaller

It was probably fitting that last month, when we arrived in Scotland, we found ourselves in the middle of a heat wave. The wonderful side of the warm, sunny days was that we saw the sights under blue skies and never needed our umbrellas. The bad side was that the early heat brought out the dreaded midges, a tiny insect with a stinging bite that causes blisters on sensitive skin like mine. And several nights, we found ourselves sweating in sweltering hot guestrooms that came loaded with extra blankets and cozy warm duvets designed for the normally cool, highland weather conditions. Scots typically don’t need air conditioning or even fans, but this year, even the mountains were wrapped in stuffy, sultry air – and we didn’t dare open the windows unless we wanted a room full of midges. It was so hot that one of our destinations almost burned down a week before we arrived when the intense heat and dry conditions fueled wildfires in Wester Ross.

I guess that’s what I get for cursing February’s cold and trying to wish away winter!

Locals were delighted with the warm temperatures after enduring their own long winter, and repeatedly thanked us for bring the good weather with us. As it turned out, the whole time we were in Scotland, our cell phones kept buzzing with notifications of tornado, flood, high wind, and excessive heat index warnings – the weather in Iowa was horrible while we were away.

But enough about the weather. I’d like to try to share more than an itinerary in this blog, instead focusing on my reactions to the amazing sights we saw.

Scot - Kellie flowers

Our first three nights were spent at a B&B in the East Neuk of Fife countryside between Edinburgh and St. Andrews. We arrived exhausted from a long flight and a missed night of sleep as we traveled forward in time. We couldn’t have found a more restorative place to stay.

After strolling through the castle gardens at Falkland Palace, at the foot of the Lomond Hills, we wound our way to Colinsburg to check in to our first B&B.

Scot - Jane's House

The house was long and narrow, a renovated stable that was artistic and creatively decorated but comfortable and homey, with walls and walls of bookshelves and a million doors, each one different. There was a fireplace in our room and each morning, we could hear the birds singing through the chimney. Our host gave us herbal potions to ease our jet lag and boost our immune systems, and built us a fire in the library each night. (Those first few days were chilly.) We felt gloriously pampered.

Scot - Leven

The family we stayed with were descendants of the same Lorimer family who rescued and restored nearby Kellie Castle, where we enjoyed a wonderful tour and an afternoon tea in the castle gardens discussing art and architecture of Robert Lorimer. The legends surrounding the castle were fascinating and I had the most interesting conversation with a curator for the National Trust of Scotland.

When I shared with her that I have four houses filled with treasures and that I fear that soon-approaching time when I have to part with the wonders I have collected over the years, she recommended a succinct way to approach the task. The method she uses is to give each item a number between 1 and 4 based on its true worth after rating the objects according to their historical value, personal or emotional significance, monetary worth, and family importance. Those items that rank high in all categories should be saved for posterity, and those things that fall short in one or more categories should be released.

Baldners Dad

It reminded me of a conversation I had with my Dad before he died when he was saddened by the fact that no one would probably want much of the beautiful wood he collected and never used for one of his many projects.

I started thinking about the fact that I don’t have any children, and that my nieces and nephews don’t share my tastes and wondering what would become of my beautiful artwork and pottery and china. As I listened to my dad talk, I thought about how much I paid for each of my paintings and asked myself if I had gotten my money’s worth out of the item based on how much enjoyment I’d gotten from each piece over the years. The answer in each case was yes. So, one day, if they get sold at a garage sale for $10 or carted away by a great niece for free or even thrown on somebody’s bonfire, it’s okay, because I’ve enjoyed them so thoroughly, and in the end, that’s all that matters.

Rose - houses

I think I was meant to have those conversations, one on the double recliner at the farm in Minnesota with my dad, and one in a castle in Fife with a stranger.

Scot - Kellie Castle

Kellie Castle was also a rare find in that the castle garden was adjacent to the castle. You can see the castle from every corner of the garden, and photograph its towers and gables and spires with flowers in the foreground. You don’t have to walk to the back forty to enjoy the garden’s beauty. The castle and the garden are one entity. It’s exactly how I pictured Lachlan, Rod’s family’s castle, in Golden Rod. I found myself wanting Kellie Castle to be on the cover of Golden Rod, and will put it there one day. Kellie is lesser known, and a better choice for an imaginary, fictional place known only to my novel, than is Craigievar, which is so easily recognized my anyone familiar with Aberdeenshire. Perhaps then, I can forgive myself for taking artistic license with the history of Lochcarron.

Scot - Culross house 2

The rest of our time in Fife was spent exploring the Neuk fishing villages of Fife, briefly visiting St. Andrews, and exploring the Firth of Forth, the waterway that cuts deep into Scotland from the East, separating Edinburg from the areas to the north. We took the time to explore a little village called Crail because we know Crails in St. Ansgar whose family come from there. Crail is an enchanting little seaside town, and I fell in love with Crail Pottery. We teased about the fact that we couldn’t imagine why the Crail family ever left. It made me wonder about those of us from America who love Europe, and feel strong ties to the area. Would the lure of the promise that America held have been so enticing that I would have left my home and country behind to seek my fortune in the new world? And is it some sort of homing instinct deep inside my soul that makes me want to go back, after almost a century and a half and five generations?

Scot - Colross

We visited the medieval village of Culross where parts of Outlander were filmed and climbed a million steps to look down over the rooftops rimming the sea. When we got lost looking for the city center, I was so exhausted after all those steps that I thought perhaps I might have to be buried right there under the wandering cobblestones.

Scot - Culross square

And as usual, when it was all said and done, we gained less enjoyment from the famous Culross, billed as one of the most picturesque and oldest medieval villages in Scotland, than we did watching the sunset from an old church, and then, a deserted windmill by the sea. No surprise there – time and time again, we are drawn to unpopular, out-of-the-way places.

Scot - Windmill

Cambo Gardens was a disappointment and a relief. The gardens I loved so much 11 years had been dug up and redesigned. The flowers might be as pretty as they once were in another decade or so – more proof that you can’t go back. I must be a true optimist, because I always expect things to keep improving with time, to be better than I remember, not worse. I was pacified by the fact that the barely navigable, half washed out path to the sea I hiked 11 years ago had also been redesigned, and was quite pleasant. The woods were filled with fragrant wild garlic blossoms, bluebells and tiny fairy flowers. The midges were organizing, fluttering their tiny wings in sunny spots in the glen, but not yet biting.

Scot - Peat Inn

But the absolute best experience we had in the Kingdom of Fife and by far the favorite meal of our vacation was lunch at the Peat Inn, in the tiny town of Peat Inn. Indescribable. Every morsel more wonderful than the last. The kind of food artistry and flavorful food I aspire to. Impeccable presentation and heartfelt service. I loved every bite, every second.

Scot - Culross house

Our three days in Fife flew by, and now, it seems like a dream. No wonder, as I was so tired and jet lagged for those first three days. It always takes me a few days to remember what it means to be a relaxed person, free from responsibility, ready to enjoy being served by others instead of serving. I couldn’t have had a better place to put the trip in perspective and set the scene for the days ahead.  NEXT:  From the Lowlands to the Highlands…

S - Drum Castle Wisteria

Twenty-seven years ago, Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn.  Sherrie grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and has lived in Wheaton, IL, Bar Harbor, Maine, Lawton, OK, Augsburg, Germany, and Colorado Springs, CO. After 12 years of writing romance novels, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker. Mark and Sherrie divide their time between a cottage in St. Ansgar, and the parsonage of Zion Lutheran Church, rural Hudson, Iowa, where Mark serves as pastor. Their two houses are 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. In her “free time”, Sherrie quilts, makes music on the piano, plays with her camera, renovates old houses, travels to the far off corners of the world, and goes on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephew.

DAYBREAK is Sherrie’s twelfth book to be published by Indigo Sea Press. Sherrie’s books have been called “the thinking woman’s romance”. Her latest books also contain elements of suspense. While many of Sherrie’s books contain issues of faith and family, some also include a few “steamy” scenes that may not be appropriate for younger or sensitive readers. Most are “second chance at romance” stories with primary characters in their 30’s and 40’s. Many of Sherrie’s books contains at least one special quilt.

Sherrie attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL, and University of Maryland, European Division, Augsburg, Germany, majoring in Creative Writing and English Lit. 

Links:

http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor
https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/
http://www.BlueBelleInn.com or http://www.BlueBelleBooks.com
https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2870454.Sherrie_Hansen

https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

Books Titles: Wildflowers of Scotland novels – Thistle Down (a prequel novella), Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet, Sweet William and Golden Rod. Night and Day and Daybreak (July 2018), Love Notes, and the Maple Valley Trilogy – Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round.  

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The Legalization of Marijuana – History Repeats Itself by: Maribeth Shanley

marijuan

I am in favor of legalizing marijuana. I now own stocks in this very complex industry and am looking forward to seeing how they do, especially when this October, Canada completes its goal of legalizing Marijuana recreationally, making it the first G7 nation to do so.  Uruguay was the first to nationally legalize recreational Marijuana.  Marijuana has been legal medically in all of Canada since 2001.

The legalization of marijuana both medicinally and recreationally will one day become a United States national mandate via an amendment to the Constitution. It will follow in the footsteps of alcohol, the sale of which was prohibited under the law via the Eighteenth Amendment and then repealed by the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933. In the immediate future, however, we are watching marijuana being legalized State by State for either medicinal usage or, both medicinal and recreational use.

Marijuana gets its name from the Cannabis plant. According to historical records, Cannabis is the oldest crop known to humans. It’s been around for at least 5,000 years as physical evidence of its usage had been uncovered by archeologists as far back as the first millennium in India, Africa, China and the Assyrian Empire founded in 2500 BC.  Cannabis has a colorful and interesting history.

Hemp, a form of Cannabis was produced during the 17th century and widely used to produce clothing, rope and, most interesting, the sails of ships. Our first President George Washington was interested in farming hemp. He was also curious about its medicinal qualities and wrote about its usage in his journals in 1765. In fact, the earliest uses of the Cannabis plant was for medicinal purposes.

Medical Marijuana

Recently, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a practicing Neurosurgeon, and the Chief Medical Correspondent to CNN produced a documentary called “Weed,” which explored the medicinal qualities of Cannabis. Gupta explains that, in the beginning, he opposed the use of Cannabis. In fact, he wrote a TIME magazine article in 2009 titled, “Why I Would Vote No on Pot.” When he completed his “Weed” project, he opened the documentary with the words: “Well, I am here to apologize.”

He continued, “I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.”

Today Dr. Gupta is a strong proponent of legalizing marijuana, especially for medicinal applications. In a written appeal to the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Gupta points out that, “Not only can cannabis work for a variety of conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and pain, sometimes, it is the only thing that works. I changed my mind, and I am certain you can, as well. It is time for safe and regulated medical marijuana to be made available nationally.” In fact, Gupta stresses that marijuana could, in fact, save many people who are addicted to opioids.

Here in the U.S., in 1840, Marijuana was widely accepted as an ingredient in mainstream over-the-counter products. By 1850, the U.S. Pharmacopeia added marijuana to its prescription list as a treatment for opioid withdrawal, pain, an appetite stimulant and relief for nausea and vomiting. In 1862, VANITY AFFAIR advertised Hashish candy in its issue as a pleasant and harmless cure for melancholy and nervousness.

Between the years 1900 and 1930, marijuana became a medicinal ingredient in a variety of medicines. It was used to quell physical pain, muscle spasms and was also taken as a sedative. During that same period, our current imagined nemesis struck.

Mexican immigrants introduced marijuana as a recreation. History claims that, because marijuana became associated with Mexicans, people began to fear the drug.
Mexicans are the closest neighbors on our southern border. We should love and respect and welcome Mexicans as we do our northern neighbors, Canadians. However, as religion uses Satan to enforce a god-centric faith-based practice on its people, our government uses Mexico and its people as a means of enforcing conservative values on U.S. citizens.

Campaigns became popular across the U.S. referring to the recreational use of Cannabis as the “Mexican Menace.” Those campaigns led to the total ban of Cannabis by twenty-six states during 1914-1925. Enter the Great Depression of the 1930’s during which Cannabis was associated with the evil Mexicans as U.S. citizens lost their jobs and feared a continuance of joblessness attributed to jobs going to Mexicans. The more fear that Cannabis and its by-product Marijuana generated, the more the media played up the fears.

Reports began to pop up claiming that scientific research could tie the use of Marijuana to crime. One thing led to another as the Federal Bureau of Narcotics used the fake research and public fear to begin a process of criminalizing Marijuana. The Bureau went as far as claiming that Marijuana caused insanity. As a result of the entire anti-Marijuana campaign success, in 1936, all states passed a variety of laws criminalizing the use of Marijuana.

Even Hollywood got into the act as, in 1936, it released the film Reefer Madness, claiming that Marijuana led to violence, rape, suicide, and psychosis.

The anti-Marijuana campaign kept gaining fuel when, in 1942, the U.S. Pharmacopeia and doctors began to discredit all the medicinal uses as failures declaring Marijuana as useless against any medical condition. This campaign led to the 1944 report published by the New York Academy of Medicine claiming Marijuana was nothing more than a mild intoxicant. The Bureau of Narcotics subsequently released a report that appeared in the American Journal of Psychiatry that attacked and discredited all previous positive claims associated with Cannabis and Marijuana in particular. In 1952, the Boggs Act passed. The act created strict regulations which, if broken, would lead to mandatory punishments up to and including incarceration for violating the regulations.

The tide began to once again change in 1962, when, during the Vietnam War, the counter-culture began using Marijuana for what it termed, a harmless high. Marijuana began to gain popularity again via college students, free-spirited Beats or Beatniks, anti-Vietnam war activists, hippies and other youth. Subsequently, both Presidents John F. Kennedy and Johnson commissioned reports that found that Marijuana did not induce violence or lead to the use of other more dangerous (some addictive) drugs.

Nonetheless, between 1965 and 1970, arrests at a State level dramatically increased as authorities cracked down on the use and distribution of Marijuana. The result was the 1970 Controlled Substance Act, as the Federal Government dropped Marijuana into the same Schedule I drug category the hallucinogen, LSD, and the highly addictive drug, heroin.

The Act claimed that Marijuana had absolutely zero medicinal benefits but led instead to a high level of abuse. The Act further created harsh penalties for the use or distribution of Marijuana causing otherwise, knowing doctors and scientists from prescribing or even studying the use of the plant and Marijuana in particular. However, three states ignored the Act as Oregon, Maine and Alaska decriminalized Marijuana. That led to the Shafer Committee recommendation that Marijuana should be decriminalized nationally for personal use. The recommendation was completely ignored by then President Nixon who was absorbed in an evolving criminal investigation of his own.

The following years of the 1970’s began a myriad of efforts to curtail all usage of Marijuana as it remained lumped in with all Schedule I drugs. For example, a parent’s against drugs movement began and picked up steam when TV ads sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse flooded the airwaves. By 1980-1990, Marijuana gained back its reputation as being the gateway to more dangerous drugs such as heroin and cocaine. First Lady, Nancy Reagan also got into the act with her “Just Say No” campaign.

The end of the twentieth century, and, in particular, the Clinton Administration gave us the last heavy-hitting campaign against the use of Marijuana when Clinton poured $25 million into TV ads strategically placed during primetime TV shows warning of the consequences of drug use, in particular Marijuana.

Enter the twenty-first century, and the tides of change began to repeat history once again.

Although Marijuana remains illegal in most states, as of April 2018, Medical Marijuana is legal in 29 states, and it is legal for recreational use in nine states. On April 20th of this year, an unofficial yet national light-up holiday, also known as 420, was declared and celebrated. In 2017, Gallup reported that 64% of all Americans support legalization; and, for the first time, the majority of Republicans support legalization as well.

With recreational legalization in effect in some states and the District of Columbia as well, conundrums are taking place on a daily basis across the country.  For example, In Virginia, a person can be charged, fined and incarcerated, just across the line separating Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Hmm, I wonder what would happen if a person stood with one leg on Virginia soil and the other on D.C. soil while holding and puffing on a joint with his or her hand and mouth pointed toward the D.C. side of his or her person?

With legalization and, more importantly to the future of legalization, public approval of the Cannabis product Marijuana, medical usage, and confirmation of the benefits proven on a daily basis will march forward.  Here are a handful of benefits of medical use of Marijuana.

1. Control of and reduction of epileptic seizures. In fact, Marijuana is purported to be far more effective than conventional anticonvulsants.

2. Helps people suffering from PTSD. Marijuana cannabinoids manage the body’s system that causes fear and anxiety, helping patients forget painful events and form new memories. This one is good news from troops returning from combat duty in Afghanistan for instance!

3. Marijuana protects the brain after it suffers a stroke. Some research shows that it may reduce the size of the area affected by the stroke and lessen the bruising of the brain after a traumatic injury.

4. Marijuana lessens the pain caused by Multiple Sclerosis. A Canadian study found that pot’s active ingredient, THC, reduces pain by binding to nerve receptors.

5. Marijuana reduces pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Published in 2006 in a Rheumatology journal study, scientists compared Marijuana to placebos. The Marijuana produced statistically significant improvements of pain at rest and quality of sleep.

6. Cannabis alleviates the side-effects of Chemotherapy as it reduces pain, suppresses nausea, and stimulates appetite. All of these side-effects stem from the harsh chemicals used to treat cancer.

7. Marijuana may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. A study conducted in 2006 showed that THC blocked the enzyme that produces the amyloid plaques responsible for killing brain cells in Alzheimer patients.

Having been a child of the hippie and anti-Vietnam War generation, once I moved away from my parents’ home, I began smoking Marijuana. I smoked through college and beyond. However, when the Fortune 500 Spice Company, McCormick purchased the company I was working for at the time and brought over its sales force which I was a part of, I abruptly stopped. I fell victim to the times when fear of losing my career was a reality. I was asked to take a drug test.

Fortunately, the request came between Thanksgiving and Christmas of that year. I was able to postpone the test as I abstained for several weeks then paid for a test to make sure I could pass the “official” test. I did. That event, however, put the fear of losing my career in me so, for me, inhaling became history.

After researching for this blog, I wonder if I could have found relief from the pain I confronted when my mother died, and I crashed into the agony of my past. After all, my father who molested me as a child was still alive and in control of the family narrative and all my sibling’s reactions to my getting help to deal with the pain of those memories. Although my father never denied what he did, he denied the severity and blamed me for the breakup of “the family.” To this day, I have a relationship with only one sibling. The remaining five continue to hold me in contempt.

Canada and Marijuana

Personally, I am looking forward to watching the legalization of Marijuana in the huge country of Canada. I hope I make some significant money from the stocks I now own as a result of joining an investment group and investing in several of these stocks. I also look forward to using the gains to buy more stocks associated with the Marijuana industry as well as other medical advancements to supplement my husband’s, and my retirement income. Furthermore, I hope the eventual federal legalization in the U.S. ends the cycle of repeating history for this one plant and all its by-products and benefits which are currently known, and scientists will discover in the future!  Lastly, I look forward to discoveries of medical marijuana to help cure cancer.  I have a dear friend I would give my right arm for to have the words, “I’m cured,” to fall from her lips.  I was the person who introduced her and encouraged her to look into the use of marijuana.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that she was ready and already looking for anything to help her fight the enemy , “Big C.”

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Filed under history, Maribeth Shanley, writing