Thursday, July 04, 2019

Oh, Say...

Do you know the words to America the Beautiful? Here they are:

                     http://evelynsrockpages.blogspot.com (for Renee Fleming's version)

O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties, Above the fruited plain!

America! America! God shed his grace on thee, 
And crowned thy good with brotherhood, 
From sea to shining sea!


O beautiful for pilgrim feet, Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness!

 
America! America! God shed his grace on thee, 
And crowned thy good with brotherhood, 
From sea to shining sea!

3
O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!

 
America! America! God shed his grace on thee, 
And crowned thy good with brotherhood, 
From sea to shining sea!

4
O beautiful for patriot dreams that see beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!


America! America! God shed his grace on thee, 
And crowned thy good with brotherhood, 
From sea to shining sea!

Katherine Lee Bates and
Samuel A. Ward 
songwriters




The Castle Lady

Monday, June 24, 2019

To Bee or not to Bee



     Every year before June rolls around our country holds statewide spelling contests with Semantics students in every participating city in the U.S. I found out that this was the 79th year of Colorado’s participation in the competition. A regional competition was held at D.U.s Sturm Hall back on March 16th. Only the best spellers of these state contests make it through the preliminaries to compete in Washington, D.C. each year so those who made it to the 94th annual National Spelling Bee (567 in all) are quite adept in perfect spelling. Four of ours were Maria Ciobanu, Bryson Browning, Cameron Keith from Boulder and Lauren Guo from Arvada. The last two are from suburban Denver and they made it to Washington, D.C. but were eliminated after passing the first round.  
     I’m sure many people think of spelling contests as a superfluous or even superficial intellectual competition and that their time could be better spent but I totally disagree with that opinion, however much it may prevail. Let’s just say that I happen to believe that anyone who understands the importance of great spelling will transfer that love of perfection and conscientious work to their lives in the future.

     To expound on this, great spelling could be eventually transferred to the quest to find a cure for all cancer, and comprehensive programs for gun control, eliminating world hunger and disease prevention. My vision is not grandiose but it is full of hope and possibilities- which are endless. So I feel that the Bee deserves our rapt attention and support.
     On the morning of Thursday, May 30th almost all of a total twenty rounds had came down to the remaining sixteen 12 to 14 year old kids. The Scripps-Howard Bee is a competition which employs extremely obscure or even foreign language words which have been adopted into the American English language. Some of our idiomatic spellings of English words trip up the average speller in the U.S. so the difficulties are often profound. Our National Spelling competition is open internationally so this year it started with 11 million applicants! Many of the top spellers come from families in which it is possible that English may not be their primary language but it appears that this is not an inhibiting factor to their scholarship. This was the case for last year’s sole winner of the Bee, Karthik Nemmani.

     Having been a Semantics student myself at a time when this course was taken for a period of two years (four semesters) at Junior High level (now Middle School and the Freshman year of High School). I have been a fan of watching these bees for the sheer enjoyment of it, believe it or not. When I was that age and studying the origins of words along with the rest of the Semantics students, we culled our subject directly from the current dictionaries published at the time. I was discouraged away from using the Funk and Wagnall’s and American Heritage Dictionary by my instructor but still prefer them to this day. However, we were encouraged to own as many different types of dictionaries as possible. Availability, especially foreign language dictionaries, was limited. Internet access has made many foreign languages much more easily available. My most recent purchase from the internet was a tiny guide on the Hawaiian language and is very good for showing how easy it is to learn! Promise!
      At any rate, I watched the 20th and last round of the finals this year and the coordinators of the session ran out of time and words! It was scheduled locally, for me, on ESPN and was only supposed to run for two hours and it recorded for another half hour but that was not the end of the competition. It certainly wasn’t time sufficient enough to cover the viewing clear up to the end! Because they also ran out of words that were planned we had a decision which included multiple winners of the Bee. Eight competitors wound up winning the bee, simultaneously, each garnering a trophy and $50,000! As far as I know, this was a first multiple win in its 94 year history!



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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Baskets, Playoffs and Siblings, O My !



    
The NBA Playoffs have started to seem like a series of marathons to me. The easiest job is sitting and watching them because they normally run so close. This year it has resembled a basketball version of the film Groundhog Day (for all those who have seen it!) with slightly different versions in successive games for those who are actually participating. My sympathy goes to the players who are starting to feel fatigue. Don’t get me wrong, though! I love basketball so it’s quite a wonderful interlude for me. Watching and playing, however, are two totally different things so you’ll have to figure out how to understand what I’m telling you if you are scratching your head and blurting, “Say, whaaa?” Try playing a serious game of basketball yourself some time, then you’ll know.
     The Warriors are dominating the scene again- without Bougie (Cousins) and Kevin Durant, since his injury during game 1 vs Portland Trailblazers- and I am still every bit as much in awe of their playing since the whole GSW phenomenon started a few years ago but I’m beginning to get the old star system fever again and have been noticing some stray talent here and there that is getting more than my attention.
     Before the end of last year and prior to the All Star games in Charlotte I happened to catch a GSW vs Trailblazers game and then again in February prior to the start of the Playoffs and happened to notice that Steph Curry’s brother Seth was in Trailblazers line-up. I noticed a bio on him several years ago in NBA stats on players and seeing the last name and the faint similarities of the facial features wondered if this was a close relative or even a twin. (Remember, fraternal twins can look no more alike than a sibling and are not identical.)                                   
     I wondered about it for quite some time until February 13th this year when I heard Seth’s name called in the line-up and they mentioned in passing that they were, in fact, brothers (two years apart in age) from the same set of parents. I got very excited because it was a chance to see someone in action that I had only wondered about and they were playing on opposite teams in this game.
     Since Seth seems to be a second stringer (which limits floor time in the NBA) I didn’t see enough criteria to compare between him and his brother but he did toss a couple of awesome three-pointers and after seeing that they appeared rather indifferent to each other I decided to do more research. I found out that their father,Wardell, was also an NBA player from 1986 to 2002 with a decade long career with the Charlotte Hornets and among those who championed the 3-pointer. He took his boys to work with him and the result is two outstanding players in the NBA- each for their own reasons and capabilities.
    
Little did I know back in February that I was actually going to see them playing against each other in the Playoffs in May. I couldn’t have predicted that if I’d had 3-D glasses on! Of course, the previous series against the L.A. Clippers this year was every bit as much a struggle and probably the hardest I’ve ever seen between two teams vying for the championship. What has been touted by many as a stellar performance in the last game of that series belied a bit of the true basketball talent of Danilo Gallinari who played for quite some time with the Denver Nuggets after the Knicks trade. It has been a subject of debate that something was holding him back here in Denver but I won’t say the name of the coach because I think those conjectures are way off base. All I will say is that his abilities are now being utilized to the max and saw a difference in him in the last game (6) which should get him more recognition. Maybe he hated Denver. LOL. Despite all efforts the Warriors marched right past them and all the way back to Coney.
     During other Playoff games I happened to notice James Hardin’s 40 points per game streak along with Russell Westbrook’s also which is reaching out to overtake Wilt Chamberlain’s record of 515 consecutive games of 40 points. Even though these two are not my favorite players for reasons other than their playing ability they are bringing up standards to the NBA which will be a tall order to beat. They deserve kudos for that alone. Zack Collins of the Trailblazers has the ability to reach or even perhaps overreach these stats but his attitude is going to have to improve. If anyone thinks basketball doesn’t require character improvement they should get out while they have a chance. Myers Leonard should get a newly invented Most Popular award. Commentators have noticed his indomitable spirit while playing- I noticed that he just happens to be the best-looking basketball player I have ever seen in my life. ; ) Don’t disgrace the face!
     Speaking of commentators, I have taken to turning off the sound occasionally when I’m watching the Playoffs because of the way they’re talking about the interrelationships between the teams and still promoting the star system mentality. Maybe that worked during Michael Jordan’s heyday but with GSW’s success in using a humble and fair system for all players it’s time that those who analyze the games realize that the game has changed and it started changing way before GSW made a success of it.
     Let me take you back to the night of March second in 2011. The game was between the Denver Nuggets and the Charlotte Bobcats. Carmelo Anthony had been traded to the New York Knicks along with Chauncey Billips so the ‘stars’ were gone. Wilson Chandler had taken on a lead role in a line up that included Nene, Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen, Ty Lawson and J.R. Smith. All amazing players with their own set of strengths and no weaknesses. The ever present Arron Affalo was there but was taken out in the first quarter when he twisted an ankle, tried to make a comeback but got hurt again in the third quarter when Gerald Henderson plowed into him driving to the basket and finally ended his contribution to the game.
     However, the Nuggets won that night without a single player even coming close to making 40 or even 30 points. They won the game with a 40 point lead with Chandler making 16 points and all the rest had a mere 14 points apiece with a final score of 120-80. You could say that the Nuggets trounced the Bobcats merely because each player was making points in double digits and they were able to take over where before they may have been considered irrelevant to the action of the game. It was the Nuggets highest score of the season starting with an 18 point lead by the second quarter. Chandler and Andersen made their first ten points in the first half. As a result they went into the fourth quarter with their lead into 91-67. This was a blockbuster victory and it just took ordinary players bringing extraordinary effort to the game.
     It is my opinion that this exemplary game be the kind a spectator should always see when they watch NBA games. They’re more exciting and it helps players improve over time. It may be true that it’s more fun to have a hero to save the day but it seems more fitting that each player is a hero in their own right and a better person for the effort.

Play on…

The Castle Lady

Monday, April 22, 2019

Earth Day is Forty-nine





     If you are a stamp collector- I’ve been an avid collector since the age of 12 !- you may believe that Earth Day began in 1999 because it was officially recognized by the U.S. postal service that year when Celebrate the Century pane commemoratives were issued specifically for collectors highlighting the most memorable dates and events of each decade of the 20th century beginning with the 1990s. That 33 cent Earth Day stamp wasn’t the first commemorative on the subject, however, because another one page set came out before that in 1995 in a series called Kids Care about the Environment. The 1995 stamp for Earth Day shows our big blue marble in space taking a bath and was very popular at that time.



     However, the first Earth Day officially celebrated in America was on April 22, 1970 as the so-called brainchild of Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson. 20,000,000 United States citizens participated in that first event and it was publicized that it was the biggest overall nationwide street demonstration since the end of World War II and has been celebrated, one way or another, since that original date. Those aren’t the only ecological U.S. stamps but they were the most popular.  
     While we’re on the subject, I wanted to make you aware that there are many ways to seriously get involved in earth-conscious efforts toward good ecology and I urge you to get out there and see what you can contribute. Most activities are also lots of fun so you can celebrate like a regular holiday while doing something kind to mother Earth. Set an example- get involved! Make up your own ways to improve our environment. You’ll be glad you did and the Earth will thank you, as well.  

Happy Earth Day !


The Castle Lady

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Light at the End of the World



     
 Near the end of 2018 I lost a good friend- a pen pal and e-mail correspondent- who had lived out her life in Nuremberg, Germany while I (for a large part of my life) have been nearly halfway across the world here in Denver, Colorado. It would probably seem to the world that the two of us had little in common on the surface, but in fact, we did in so many ways! We began our mail correspondence after we were introduced by an international pen pal organization, when we were teenagers. I was sixteen and she was seventeen when we began writing in the first half of 1975- her name was Eva Beran. (In German, both the names Eva and Evelyn are Hebraischer names which means that both are Jewish in origin and have similar meanings.)
      As we wrote to each other through the years even though I had language classes at school she taught me modern German and I learned many words I would’ve never known had it not been for her occasional lessons in her letter along with her news. She received technical school training years before me in secretarial work. I went to Beauty College after graduating from High School for manicuring training at the beginning of 1977. By April I had my diploma and license and was working already, to her amazement. Later, I noticed that she sent letters by typing them at work!
     We had so many common interests. We both were intrigued by and loved animals. I remember receiving a sticker from Germany in one letter which was emblazoned with Ein Herz fuer die Tiere and I knew that she noticed my interest. I collected everything and still do. We exchanged post-cards, stamps, photographs, photos of fashion and fashion models. Magazines were our mode of teaching each other our native tongue. She sent me paperback novels in German which were incredibly helpful for modern usage of German. This was after I told her about my love of writing short stories.
      March 25, 1977 marked a rite of passage for Eva that I was never to approach myself, however. Perhaps I felt a little left behind because she had gotten married and had never mentioned dating. We seemed to share on so many other levels that I accepted it as a matter of course and became pleasantly surprised that she had married at the age of nineteen to Hans-Jurgen. She sent a photograph of them with both sets of parents standing behind them on the church steps.
     When I moved out to California three and half years later, I found that writing to pen-pals had become almost a sideline to my new life of autonomy. However, we did write but she was amazed that I had left home and started a new life for myself in California. My letters, which were sent clear up to the time of my going back home to Denver, were filled with wonder about all my possibilities. As for herself, she worked for a bookshop chain at that time and I think she thoroughly enjoyed it. She also wanted to know all about my life in California. 
     After 1999 our communication switched over to e-mails and we stayed connected our new way quite frequently. I started to research castles on the internet by then so my interest in them increased and we started sending photos electronically, back and forth. Some of them were castles she had never seen because they were in Austria. From her I learned about the Romantic Road in Germany which stretches for many miles and is filled with lots of castles- the kind of which people think are a fantasy but are completely authentic!
     When I went on my grand tour of European castles at the very end of August in summer of 2001 I made plans to meet up with her and Hans-Jurgen in Rothenburg and I looked as forward to that meeting as I did in seeing the castles. This wasn’t my first meeting with a pen-pal in Europe but this was definitely profound because by that time I knew that Eva was struggling with a condition which was congenital. In Germany it is referred to medically as CVID and is an autoimmune blood disorder- a gamma globulin deficiency. Even though it can be genetically passed down it is very rare and can show up at any time, internally. I remember at one point the doctors wanted to remove her spleen.
     When we met on Sunday morning (September 9th, 2001) in the town hall square of Rothenburg, I actually met her husband and new puppy, Sina, first and then Eva. We walked and talked as we strolled through the amazing medieval streets of Rothenburg. This is a walled town of Germany which was preserved and never allowed to be modernized so when you walk through its streets it is literally like stepping back into history. We stopped to eat in a restaurant and talked some more about my tour. Hans Jurgen took a photo of us together. It was almost surreal and I sensed that even Eva and Hans-Jurgen felt that this was a rare moment in our lives. It was only two days later, when I and my tour group arrived in Salzburg, Austria in the early evening. We all turned on our T.V.s before we met at dinner in our hotel and saw the Twin Towers of New York obliterated in smoke and ash. We were all confused about what we’d seen and it was all we talked about at dinner. Our tour guide found a newspaper with a huge photo of the Twin Towers half down and another with Bin Laden’s face on the front page.
     
Eva and Hans-Jurgen reached out the next day by e-mail and later they also drove to Munich to my hotel to see me. My mother actually called them to find out if I was alright and they talked to her at length, I believe. My entire tour group were supposed to fly out, originally, from Munich on Sept 14th but all our flights were bumped and my flight out wasn’t until a week later when everybody had left by then. Because I was alone, Eva and Hans-Jurgen immediately offered for me to come to be with them in Nuremberg. I was excited at the prospect of getting to see the castle there which is the largest castle citadel in Germany so I, of course, accepted and did make a day trip to be with them there. We sat down to snacks in their home and I was able to sit and talk about 9/11 with them and learned more than I did with my tour group. The German papers were filled with information.
    
We toured the castle grounds high above the city, Albrecht Durer’s house and the Octoberfest was already underway in the center of the city and in front of the Cathedral. In this same plaza they have the longest running Christkindlesmarkt every year and it is the most world famous one of its kind. All of this definitely made up for missing Hohensalzburg Castle back on Wednesday the 12th but I had fun hanging around Mozart’s Geburtshaus that day while whistling his greatest hits. The Salzburgeans were quite amused.
     While I was alone in Munich I took a day trip out by light rail to Nymphenburg Palace on my own and had a blast spending the entire day exploring the vastness of this veritable palace and the Versailles-like grounds on my own. I discovered a building there which was made to look like a crumbling medieval church (Magdaleninklause) and it looked so authentic it fooled me until I looked it up on the internet. Munich’s subway is fantastic- it’s clean and really fast, not too expensive and easy to navigate. I never had to look at a map although they were everywhere. I had all the photos from my trip processed there and had an album full by the time I got home. My time in Munich and with my friends in Nuremberg is among my fondest travel memories.
     When I received the e-mail from Hans Jurgen about Eva’s passing on the 28th of October last year- the same day that an American tourist from Louisiana stopped a thief trying to steal the Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire, England- I was devastated. To me her life was a testament to God’s good will toward all of us. She had passed only two days before that day on the 26th which was a little over a month past her birthday. I thought of the birthday card I had sent her by regular mail and realized that it was possible that she never saw it.
    
Eva's gravesite
I’ve realized so many things since her passing. One is that we never know when or if we will see the people we care about ever again when we say bye. We really don’t know how long we have in this world. A second realization is that we need for people to know how we feel about them. Closure is not closing the door- it is appreciation for a person or persons being their genuine selves and loving, respecting and accepting it. A third realization is that no matter how long a time we think we have for all the aspects of our life it probably won’t be sufficient. That old saying, “Life is short,” is truer than we think or believe. There really isn’t enough time for everything so you’re going to have to prioritize and make sure that what you’re doing is what you want to do with your time. What are the things about life that are most important to you? What should you let go?
     If you ask yourself these things each day you’ll eventually see your answers start to change. Our mortal lives are finite but eternity will go on. There is really a light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel is our life and our friends and family who go before us are at the end of it- just waiting for us to arrive. They pray for us everyday and make petitions to God on our behalf because they invested themselves in us when they walked this world. These people are a part of the light at the end of the world. I am the light of the world…John 8:12

God save us all !

The Castle Lady

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Poetic to the Point of Being Psychic?

I have a bit of an odd tale about one of Seamus (pronounced, Shame-us) Heaney's poems, which is the first poem in his book titled Human Chain. My friend in Ireland sent me this book as a gift in November of 2013 and it arrived on November 26th- within the same month that an Aunt of mine-my favorite Aunt, no less!- passed away and a little more than a year after my Mum's passing. 
On the 25th of November, just the day before, I had a weird experience. I had walked into my mother's room at the same time that I suddenly heard what sounded like a waterfall against one of her windows and immediately thought that I was hearing a sudden violent rainstorm but as I looked out the other window I could see that the late afternoon was still sunny and no rain had hit that window. It was dry and clear. 

The sound was deafening for only a moment- like that of wind and rain- and it continued but I suddenly felt the urge to go out and investigate. 
As I came out the side door to my house I saw leaves violently hitting the bricks against the house and then they suddenly quit. I looked around and there were no leaves any where else. I neared the window to get a closer look and found that one leaf had lodged itself into a space between two bricks. I couldn't reconcile the sound I heard with what I saw but I was left to think about this for only a day.
When the book arrived from my friend the next day and I saw that it was poetry I opened it immediately and read the first poem. The following is the poem, titled, 'Had I not been awake'.

Had I not been awake I would have missed it,
A wind that rose and whirled until the roof
Pattered with quick leaves off the sycamore

And got me up, the whole of me a-patter,
Alive and ticking like an electric fence:
Had I not been awake I would have missed it,

It came and went so unexpectedly
And almost it seemed dangerously,
Returning like an animal to the house,
A courier blast that there and then
Lapsed ordinary. But not ever
After. And not now.

I've always told people that some of my poems are prophetic because my poems written as a teenager were actually outside my scope of experience, at times, and then I would experience what I'd written later. This episode with Seamus' poetry really grabbed my attention and I urge one and all to take a look at his poetry. He passed away in a Dublin hospital in August of that year himself at the age of 74 and is seriously missed as an international poet who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1995. Please give this man's poetry a look as we all need to listen to our prophets as much now as ever. 

Dihunamb,

The Castle Lady
 

Sunday, December 02, 2018

A Long Intermission



For all of you who have been patiently (or impatiently?!) waiting for me to finish South England’s castles since mid-March, when I covered Buckinghamshire’s castles in one take, I thought it would be a good idea to let you know what I have been up to all this time while you’ve been waiting for an entry on Berkshire’s castles. To be honest, I’m stuck on the vastness of Windsor Castle and I’ve been enjoying a brand new tome about it since mid-year when I checked it out from the library and perused that for forty-two days! I finally decided to get my very own copy for my birthday! Everyone forgot me this year but myself, so I decided since it came down to this I’d make the gift a veritable treat! 
 https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/W/bo27433235.html
     As it is, with all its fabulous diagrams, maps and photos (plus paintings) which I’ve been basking in like a kid in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, the information is absolutely superb. All castle lovers and Royalty Magazine subscribers should get a copy of this as soon as possible or at least by Christmas. For those who are fascinated with the history and evolution of castles, especially those which have been preserved and rebuilt authentically, this book is an essential textbook extraordinaire!
     As much as I’d like to impart all the information, (which would be impossible, by the way, without rewriting the book) I’m going to give you all a Christmas gift of an entry exclusively on Windsor by Christmastime, hopefully, which will give you a true desire to get up off your couch and go visit the castle no matter where you are at, presently, on earth. How does that sound?
    
Prince Harry’s mid-May wedding helped the work, thus far, tremendously because I taped the entire wedding on the day from beginning to end- all five and a half hours of it!- starting at 3 a.m. Watching those long shots of Windsor Castle from great heights gave me a clear idea of true scale for a visit. Maps in the book facilitated my curious notating of areas throughout the site, to view and venture exclusive of the well-known and toured areas, inside and outside the walls. I have vowed to myself that Windsor Castle will be on the top of my list when I begin my England go-sees and site inspections. Be sure that this is not necessarily because Windsor is the castle most associated with the Royal Family but more because it is a true prototype for many English castles, as diversified as they are quite often. None can match it in size or increase but nearly all of them follow its basic pattern and layout.
     I also spent a good part of the summer reading Queen Victoria’s diary from 1862 to 1882. It is a treasure trove of getting her personal notes on numerous castles of Scotland. Apparently, she and her prince consort Albert were enthusiasts of all things Scottish. This was written at a time that she had lost her husband and was carrying on without him. Her attitude throughout is solemn but not without great anecdotes and adventures. I knew of many castles she visited and/or stopped to view prior to reading the journal but there are quite a number I’d never heard of which are off the books! This will give me more impetus to dig in and start working on Scotland’s castles. Her own, Balmoral, was purchased by her in 1852 and still stands today in marvelous shape. It has been a Royal summer retreat ever since.
     My six-month long interim of studying, researching and reading off line in 2018 has given me an immensely new perspective to continue my England work with a refreshed interest. It’s times like these that I am very content and feel very lucky that I became interested in castles at such a young age. The internet put wings on my favorite subject but there’s nothing quite like trying every dish and flavor on the menu and ruminating on the splendors of each one. How else does one know what is truly a favorite? Still working on that? - you bet!

Blissfully,
The Castle Lady

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Sultry September




While the eastern states have been getting hit with incredibly bad weather all this year, Denver has been breaking or matching high heat records that make trees wilt. Old sol decided to give us a brief break at the beginning of this month- particularly around my birthday in the first full week- but it’s been back to 90 + days for about three weeks and only broke today with primarily 60 degrees. Our high today was 72. I’m looking forward to winter about now. Phew! I was ready for a break!
     Meanwhile, I’m dealing with an early grape harvest- the earliest I’ve ever known since Mom grafted a piece of Grandpa Walters vine from the old country in the yard. That comprises one large section of prize-winning grapes from Burgundy which stretches across 100 feet of fence line and I’ve already grabbed a sizeable enough batch of those for myself to make a gallon of juice! It is great tasting, full-bodied and sweet as can be without a single granule of added sugar! Concorde grapes like these are loaded with antioxidants and give you energy along with improving vision! The other 75 feet of vines are newer additions added more than a decade and a half past. If you happen to be lucky enough to live in the Athmar Park section of Denver you can mosey on over here and get some for yourself. Just make sure you call me first to let me know you’re coming. Bring a raccoon trap with you and I’ll give you a gallon of juice free. No kidding. Wascally wacoon!
 
     Top agenda for me this summer was finally getting my hair done and needed it badly when I had it done on my birthday. I don’t know how anyone else feels about it but getting my hair overhauled gives me a new lease on life. It’s right up there with teeth whitening, a new handbag, new car or a whole new wardrobe! For others it may be getting a full set of nails after having them off for a long period of time but for me, that’s business as usual, of course. It’s one of the constant perks of being the best nail tech on the planet, if I have to say so myself. It speaks volumes that I wouldn’t consider getting my nails done by anyone else unless I’m out of town or in another country. Pedicures are another matter. When you have to massage your own feet something gets lost in translation.
     At any rate, I’m up to my elbows in too much to do, once again. Sometimes that’s great but along with the heat I’ve lost momentum and back in the proverbial molasses trying to paddle my way out. Before this week’s up I’m going to have all the invasive, dead or out and out tree stumps removed from my yard to make way for some changes and brand new additions to the yards. I want to do a small kitchen garden next year and I need bare and fallow ground for that! I tore out weeds this year as tall as myself all over my property and I’m still bagging them! This is no joke. Last May all my free ground was bare except for soil and it is once again but I’m going to have to figure out a way to protect whatever I plant. Those flower bed carpets don’t work, by the way. Just a warning! 

      Survival of this summer has entailed trying to figure out how to get a bunch of reading done so that I can get on with my castle writing. I feel stalled when, as a matter of fact, I’m really just trying to fit too much into a day and that never works, you know. There are only so many hours in a day and reading used to be the bulk of it. Now I have to try to read and peruse books like Windsor Castle: A Thousand Years of a Royal Palace  (which is 526 pages of text, diagrams, photos and paintings the castle contains along with magnificent trifold page maps of the upper and lower wards) in a matter of days with one hour left per day to actually sit down with it. All I can say is that hour is golden and wouldn’t give it up for anything. Finally, a book that does justice to a Norman castle!    
      I think I’ll hire someone to pick those grapes. How does a dollar per pound picked sound? Like Peter Piper picked a peck of grapes? I thought so.

The Castle Lady

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Review of A Higher Loyalty

Truth, Lies and Leadership

by James Comey





Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.

 – Henry David Thoreau



     Very seldom do I pick up a book to read and not want to put it down until I’ve finished but A Higher Loyalty kept me riveted to the pages. Not one word is extraneous and it is written in such a way that you know from the start that an important conclusion is around every bend in the breakneck narrative. If you’re expecting political fodder you may as well stay away from it but occasional humor throughout kept me hooked on what felt like a journey into the unknown. There is an educational tone to every part of Comey’s indictment on what has been and is currently going on at the White House and how these most current events are affecting all the branches of United States Government. Surprisingly, most of it is more about character, professional deportment, moral values and being ethical and truthful. It became obvious to me within the first hour of reading that the information contained in its pages were written with the welfare of American citizens in mind- specifically, people on a personal level. Comey also has lots of answers for United States citizens and is much more straightforward, honest and explanatory than anything you’re currently going to get from the Trump administration.
    
Two key chapters in the book, 9 and 10, covers classified data and misplacement of it concerning Ed Snowden (who I now consider to be a criminal and traitor to our country) and Hillary Clinton’s e-mails which were found to be low level classified and sent to people who had government clearance for said data and therefore deemed not prosecutable after two separate and thorough investigations by FBI agents under Comey’s direction. I didn’t understand much about classified information prior to reading this book but applaud James Comey for taking the time to put it all down in black and white. Now I know for certain what I only supposed or wondered about for a long time. By the time Hillary was interviewed about the e-mails, which was after the first investigation, it was ascertained that she told the truth about her handling of the e-mails and cleared herself of any more investigations prior to the election. Even though a second investigation was carried out after the interview it revealed nothing different than what had already been reviewed.

     Besides getting James Comey’s life story thus far, his book gives us a true window into the world of the FBI without giving away a trace of classified information. We get to see the shaping of a life into an FBI director’s world which Mr.Comey keeps bereft of political bias out of expected protocol and proper deportment of his own. He explained in detail how that affects and sometimes complicates the work of all FBI personnel who he recounts with full respect and appreciation. Not once does James Comey make cheap shots at anyone in connection to his work with the FBI, or previously as Assistant U.S. Attorney (New York and VA), deputy attorney general during Bush’s administration and after eight years working in the private sector, appointed as Director of the FBI midway into Obama’s administration.  He doesn’t dignify anything that has come out of the mouth of Trump since taking the White House by repeating a single word of his, on or off the record, except where he had to clarify dialogue that occurred between the two of them on several occasions. This was despite his numerous and required attempts at avoidance. He reiterated himself several times about this issue, first to Trump and then members of Trump’s staff, of the necessity of keeping the FBI protocol when once and done should have settled the question. (Whatever else has been said of Trump I will say that his ignorance is sticking out like a sore thumb. The man only knows how to fire people. Abruptly.)  

     A Higher Loyalty encompasses revealing information about the years prior to and after 9/11 and the past two years, specifically, for all Americans who voted (once) and stood on the sidelines waiting to see the outcome. I stopped reading the book, for the space of about a month, to think about this last election and the behavior I’m seeing from the so-called chief. (I hesitate to call him a president.)

     When questioned about elections it is often discovered that American people make their political and voting decisions based on inconsequential things instead of educating themselves about the issues and the reputation of the people running for office. In order for your vote to have its true value you must do more than scratch the surface on current events and issues. In an environment of haste, which our country and the economy suffers from, now more than ever, it is a recipe for disaster not to get as informed as you can- not just about the issues but the candidates who propose to do something about them. Indeed, the candidates must know what the real issues are and specifically if they will have the power and/or ideas to be able to implement solutions which make sense and work for every citizen. Additionally, the true character of a candidate is every bit as important as the issues, along with his/her qualifications and expertise because, in the long run, only impeccable character will be able to carry anything through. Confucius taught that no government can be better than the character of its rulers and further, if our politics are not based on agreed upon moral truths they will not stand.
    
I’ve read and heard too much banter about our system of government being broken when, in fact, that could only be proven if the system was being utilized the way it was originally set up to run. My feeling is that too many people have taken potshots at our government and policing and have never actually tried to follow the system. This is particularly true with the way we handle illegal immigration. Perhaps our implementers and policing is broken. Picture a crippled man trying to ride a bike that is in running condition and you’re closer to the truth of what is happening. No one who comes to the United States should ever be treated like they don’t belong here unless that person is a convicted fugitive already.

     That being said, when I picked the book back up and finished it I suddenly realized that Comey practically sent me a message personally. It’s personal for all of us who love our country because of the form of government our forefathers set up. We don’t live here simply because we were born here. We’re here because we’re guaranteed privileges, rights and freedoms that no other country offers and we can also contribute to them as well. All of that comes with a responsibility toward our highest moral goals, however. If we are Americans- free and proud then we’re going to have to show that we have something to be proud of, don’t we?

     Do I recommend this book? It should be required reading for every person currently residing in the U.S. It will give you a good reason to become literate in English. Welcome to the land of the free and the home of the brave.



Monday, July 30, 2018

A Lesson in Art Appreciation






  More than a month ago GMA aired a video that not only shocked me but once I took in more details on the internet, absolutely outraged me. If you have just watched it above this entry I will explain briefly that a woman took her child into the art gallery portion of Overland Park Museum in Kansas then proceeded to sit down and let her child run all over the museum with some other woman’s kid until he ended up pulling down a sculpture worth $132,000 narrowly escaping getting crushed himself. She proceeded to saunter over where her child had moved away from what he’d done. When she finally made it over to where her child appeared to be in shock, but okay, he ran away from her!
     The gallery had it all on videotape, obviously, and she originally told them she would pay for the damages until she found out what it was worth! She sent GMA her own homemade video at a later time stating that she felt the museum was negligent in displaying a piece of art so expensive where children were allowed to visit! Then she said she was sure that her child could’ve been killed. I’ve looked at this from all sides, including what the artist must think of a woman who lets her child roam around in an art gallery, unsupervised and being quite capable of creating this kind of damage. (Parents, especially mothers, do know this about their children whether they’re willing to admit it or not.) Not once did she mention anything about the artist or the destruction of his work. In case someone may be rather misinformed (or perhaps uninitiated), I will say that when you go into an art gallery or salon you are looking at somebody’s hard work and also their property. If you have no respect for that, you shouldn’t be there. Most museums are not a child’s playground and I don’t consider this occasion a normal way for children to behave themselves anywhere, personally.
     My first reaction was this and I have not changed my mind yet: Why was she not directly supervising her child at close range? Are we all to believe that she didn’t know he was capable of doing this? These are the same questions that the art gallery officials must have asked because they charged her with negligence in supervising her child. She adamantly denies what is as plain as the video itself. By taking this stance she has inexcusably taught her child two things. One is showing no respect for other people’s property. Were they at home? Somebody’s house? The mall? (And would that make a difference?) The second thing she has taught him is not to take responsibility for one’s actions. That’s why he ran away from her!
     Since that time the museum settled this through their respective insurance companies so hopefully the artist has been compensated financially. There are two points I want to make in conclusion, however. First is the damaged art which can’t ever really be replaced. That art is the artist’s baby, Ms Negligence and it’s been destroyed. A price tag on it can’t replace it. Value of art is intrinsic and extrinsic and is not truly meant to be replicated. If the artist tries to recreate the piece of art it will be different. That may not mean anything to you but it will eventually to the artist. Second, if you can’t see value in the art destroyed as something reserved by the person who created it then I would suggest that you keep yourself and your child away from the places where fine art is displayed. Either that or start teaching your child how to act when you’re not at home. You’ll probably be spending more time in a doctor’s office, anyway, until and unless you start taking some responsibility for what he does. A child lives what he learns.