Sunday, July 15, 2018

Oh, if he only had a brain...

   Max Boot, a columnist for the Washington Post, recently put in a bid in his column to explain briefly why he has officially switched his party affiliation from republicanism to being a democrat with conservative leanings. He explained very succinctly his reasons in his article how Trump has disillusioned his far-back reaching political leanings to the time when Lincoln was in office! It doesn’t get more GOP than that, you know and I’m sure his forthcoming book, “The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right” explains in further detail about his background and why he is certain he has made the right decision.
     I have noted a few things Boot mentioned which I feel are more than potent reasons why Trump should not remain in the presidential office. These were: constant rampant conflicts of interest, the alienation of America’s allies (a big issue to me) and last but not least- the appeasement of dictators. He wrote more than a few words about the unconscionable decision to separate undocumented immigrants from their children upon arrest and deportation of the adults. I agreed with everything Boot wrote and would add something of great interest to the general public. (More about that at the conclusion…)
     The fact that Trump does not speak for the majority of Americans wishes is all too obvious. If marches are any indication he should be ashamed of his record of angering nearly every American in the U.S. This man cannot even agree and be civil with our long time and more recent allies. When Putin tells me they didn’t do it I’d believe him over Trump any day. This Russian president has been quite clear and direct about it but has not offered any help in finding the true perpetrators but that is probably because Trump’s bullishness and outrageous accusations put his back up and I can tell that Putin doesn’t like that- but does anybody like being treated that way? 
     As far as Jong Un is concerned- Yes, Jong Un is his first name and Kim is the last - I would challenge Trump to make a return visit to North Korea to see if any denuclearization is taking place. There are those who doubt it and even Trump’s returning words about the deal sounded dubious. They had no way of speaking directly to each other but when I watched them interact on T.V. the body and facial language told a story all its own. Talk about mutual lack of respect! Anyone who has lived under it though, would tell you that this is the general deportment of dictators- or would-be dictators, at any rate!
     In the same paper from last week I found a small item which will interest those who have been separated from their children or those who are concerned about this issue. In Hanover, New Hampshire a mother bear was captured a little over two weeks ago and relocated by Fish and Game Department officials after people apparently complained that she and her four cubs were raiding trash bins and bird feeders around the Dartmouth College area. Instead of transporting her cubs, as well, they decided to take them to a center that keeps orphaned animals!
     When they released the mother bear close to the Canadian border they had her tagged with a tracking collar and they have discovered that she is on the move and has traveled 70 miles, so far, and moving in the direction of her previous location- most likely trying to find the cubs she was separated from. Mr Timmons, the bear project leader for the area told the Valley News that he expected her to return and is now feeling a bit guilty for following the local, state and federal laws concerning bears!
     By now you’re seeing a straight correlation of what can go wrong when laws that don’t take everything into consideration suddenly has to deal with the consequences of taking action in accordance with those laws. I can tell you that a mother bear deprived of her cubs or facing down anything that would threaten them in anyway has a bear to deal with and that’s nothing to joke about or flout. Besides being inhumane I think that it is shameful that a law could do so much damage rather than help any living being. I’ll tell you this- I pity the fool who tries to keep that mother bear from getting her cubs back. Do the right thing and save yourself !  
      Let’s hope immigrants have the same type of instincts in finding their children. That’s a problem no law has any right to mess with- just ask mama bear!  

The Castle Lady

Friday, June 08, 2018

Summertime is Here !

  First off, I just want to say Congratulations to the Warriors for a spectacular performance and win of the championships tonight at Oracle and also to Kevin Durant for his second MVP Finals award. It is certainly deserving and I'm glad you received it this year, too ! I'm sure there are going to be many more in the future! Kudos also to all the Cavaliers who put up a valiant fight. You live up to your name for sure. I should know- I'm The Castle Lady ! What a great way to kick off summer in a big way ! !
     Every season, so far this year, has arrived early and it appears that summer is going to be no different. I’ve planted a brand new flower garden on the south side of my house this year so it’s going to be exciting to see what all comes up. Hopefully it will discourage all the weeds that have grown there in the past. Can one defeat weeds with seeds? Well, I’m certainly going to find out! I’ve zapped those weeds relentlessly for quite a number of years now and since I had some good bare ground for a change I decided on flowers rather than try to put in a lawn where no one will appreciate it. I even made a pretty path to go along with it of small flagstones (donated by my aunt Anne) and I may even put in a garden stool or small bench if there is enough space. For now, I’m watering, watering and watering and waiting. Some seedlings are coming up so it’s starting to take on some shape of an actual garden. It’s certainly making early June a little more interesting.
     You know it’s been many years since I actively have roller-skated anywhere because so many of Denver rinks have shut down over the years. My introduction to the sport was during one of my earliest summers where I just strapped some metal skates onto my shoes- with metal wheels, mind you!- which I got as a gift the previous Christmas. Talk about a take-off! I don’t remember a single fall with them on and they were my greatest toy for one summer. The ice cream man going by? Put the skates on quick! It was the only way to meet up with friends, find an empty parking lot or space somewhere and pretend we were at a skating rink. That was one summer.
     I never used them again. Many years later…after High School was over, after I’d gone to Opportunity School and was working as a professionally licensed nail tech I noticed that in California grown people were putting on professional-looking skates with new types of wheels made out of polyurethane. They were colorful and they dance skated in them so it really caught my attention. When I moved out to California I spent every weekend skating on the boardwalk at the beach in my own customized pair. I also went to roller rinks and roller disco parties in them. Roller-skating grew up for me in a very real way.
     When I moved back to Denver I kept skating at various different rinks and had gotten quite good at it. For a good twenty years I kept it as a very important and regular part of recreation in my spare time. The roller rinks began to shut down and even now there are almost none. When I heard that the rink which I had started roller-skating at as an adult was being revamped for its old purpose very recently I made a mental note. I haven’t actually gone through those doors yet because it’s been eighteen years since I last skated, I’ll bet! I’m going to challenge myself to go back to it because I’ll bet it’s like riding a bike. You know. You never forget, right?
     Well, I can’t think of anything better to get me away from everything- aside from going to see a movie which is also a rare thing for me to do.
Skating was the impetus of one summer many years ago, so I believe I’m going to let it be that one thing you just never want to give up doing. I could stick with the patterns I’ve let my life fall into or I can just go all the way back to one summer in the sixties and be myself once again. Summer time is HERE ! Here we go…

The Castle Lady

Friday, June 01, 2018

Barbie Does Basketball !

     We’ve reached the Finals of the NBA championships and watched last night’s Game 1 to see the usual struggle between LeBron’s vulnerable ego doing battle with the Warriors insistence on humbleness. The game alone is enough entertainment especially since Shaq and Barkley had their laugh about the Benny Hill antics that go on when chaos clashes with insistence on order. (Their take on the new basketball!) I don’t see why anyone would purposely miss these games because the entertainment value is high. If you’re not watching you’re really missing out- I just had to say that! However, I can’t stand it when someone really gets hurt. That’s what happened in the first quarter between Klay Thompson and J.R. Smith. Before anyone could stop it J.R. slipped (probably on someone’s pool of sweat), colliding with Klay who had just taken possession of the ball, tripping him and he twisted radically, slamming down sideways on his right hip. Thompson tried to get up and apparently was in such pain all he could do was slam his fists on the wood floor. AUGH!

     That mishap sent him out limping to the locker rooms for the remainder of the quarter but luckily returned by the second quarter to make a round of perfect shots in the basket for the remainder of the game. His resilience alone is commendable but it made me wonder just how much daily pain these athletes endure over the love of the game. Who says they don’t earn their money ?
     At any rate, I watched a real tug of war for hours with the scores reflecting the struggle quite well. The Cavaliers and Warriors were head to head throughout the entire game. Durant really shined in this game. I noticed that Dramond Green tried to give LeBron a facial when he was trying to do a slam dunk. One word of advice to Dramond: Try to stay as far away from LeBron as you can during the remainder of the finals.


When the game went into overtime a sudden burst of perfect shots put the Warriors way ahead of the Cavs and you could see shock registered on the faces of the Cavs. Meanwhile, the Warriors were clearly rejoicing. When two and half seconds were left on the extended clock LeBron and Steph Curry decided to have a chat which escalated into a fast fight between several of the Cavs and several of the Warriors. There was enough time for it, wasn’t there? This was all started because Tristan Thompson had just been ejected from the game for unnecessary roughness. The ref actually started the fight, in truth. How important was it to eject a player when by all rights and purposes the game was over, pal?
     I think the NBA needs to call all the refs down on the carpet and start laying down some rules for them. Often their calls are way off, especially on fouls. It’s so bad, in fact, that I’m beginning to wonder what constitutes a foul. Even commentators are bringing this issue up on a regular basis and it’s definitely high time they have a conference between the players, coaches and refs and get their wires uncrossed. Those rules are in place to protect players, basically, so they have every right to question bad calls. Often they are quite justified in doing so and they should be included in these talks. It’s time to have it out. Right?
Just my two cents worth !

The Castle Lady

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Wild May !

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
from Book One of The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

     May has been so up and down, sideways and inside-out that I’m beginning to wonder how we arrived at the 31st this quick. Personally, my month has been wilder than a box full of hungry kittens ! On the tenth of May I was able to finally conduct an interment of my dear mother’s remains and the date seemed as good as any, specifically before or after Mother’s Day. I have been trying to get my life back in order since that day and have lost precious writing time which I’ll never be able to recoup. It has reminded me of the words of Bilbo Baggins which Frodo remembers before he starts his own adventures outside of The Shire, in the very beginning of the first book of Lord of the Rings (i.e. The Fellowship of the Ring):

     “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

     During this most reflective of passages something deeply profound is conveyed which has stuck with me and reminds one that you can make a difference in your life and the lives around you no matter where you end up or land. It is simply that, in life, ‘there is only one road; that it is like a great river: its springs are at every doorstep and every path is its tributary.’ That paraphrase being said- the following account of my life from May 10, 2018 to May 23, 2018 shall be submitted with the idea in mind that you’ll get a glimpse into a period of my life which is devoid of any writing only because I couldn’t get my hands on something with which to write or when I did there was something infinitely more pressing that I had to do.

     Even though I was to preside over this informal interment of my mother’s urn (into the plot she spent more than a year paying for in installments in the 1970s) I was, in the words of the family service rep, ‘fashionably late’ but everything had been set up already when I arrived (canopy, seating, ground opened, etc.) and ready to roll, so to speak. Since I was in possession of Mom’s urn and sealed box everyone that attended had to wait about ten minutes for me to surrender the box and later while Ms. Seaton and her aides were able to position the vaulted box over the area where it was to be lowered. I read a poem, which is an entry on this blog, as a Mother’s Day tribute. (See, To My Mother, May 13th entry)

     I gave everyone who attended a chance to speak and it was quite uplifting, for the most part, to hear what family members had to say. The gathering was unbelievably small but I hadn’t invited many people. I decided on family primarily, from which only a few invitees attended. I did not want to turn it into something Mom would rather skip herself but we all seemed to agree on one premise. Mom had a way of making sure the people around her felt loved. It was her gift and her mission in life, I believe. She had the following phrase printed on the back of her business cards some years after she started her salon (eventually turning out to be her mission statement) because she backed it up with chats which always centered on her faith in Jesus Christ with each and every customer. The phrase is, “Introducing Jesus to you is the best way I know to say “thank you”. John 3:16”. In her day, it was well-received by almost everyone. Today I’m not sure how it would be perceived- given the times- but it garnered a clientele which encompassed most of the neighborhood and included men’s haircuts in the bargain. She wasn’t a barber so Mom styled and permed men’s hair at a time when it was fashionable.

     Before the lowering of the vault with my mother’s urn and box inside I was given three roses to put inside the vault and put them around the box. I thought Mom would like that- she loved roses and I still maintain her rosebushes in memory of her. No one stayed to see the grave being sodded over and even I stood well back. I felt good about knowing that she was loved enough by me to make sure that her wishes were honored. It was my attempt and intention to try to make our investments in each other equal. I hope I made her proud that day.

     Afterward, the drive home was in bumper-to-bumper traffic and the hottest May 10th in Denver since who-knows-when, I’m sure. At some point when I was less than a mile away from home I decided to briefly stop in a parking lot to get my bearings, take a break for something to drink and get a few dollar store items. When I restarted the car it kept cranking but the engine wouldn’t turn over! That’s never happened with my car that I can recollect. I’ve owned this car for 27 years and have only had regular maintenance and replacement parts put on it. I was stunned and was without cell phone service- I could see the time but couldn’t make any calls. Several people, for the next four hours, allowed me to use their cell phones to call AAA to get roadside assistance. First, a diagnostician came and went over everything that was within AAA scope of services. He said he couldn’t find anything wrong- other than the fact that it wouldn’t start. His solution was to have the car towed. By this time two hours had flown by and I was now exhausted. It took three more phone calls to get the tow people out and they also did a diagnosis on it just in case it decided to just start, I suppose. It sounded the same. Cranking but not turning over. The driver thought perhaps it was a fuel pump failure.
     Once we finally got going it should’ve only taken them another ten to fifteen minutes to get me and the car to my house. When we were half a mile from my house a garbage truck driver managed to knock off the driver’s side mirror off the tow truck with the garbage truck side mirror and it was completely shattered. It looked deliberate but who knows? Maybe the garbage truck driver was having a bad day or something. Did they exchange info and go on? No. The driver of the tow truck got upset and insisted on getting the police out to check it out. I agreed with him that it looked deliberate but stayed neutral. I just wanted to go home at this point. The AAA people came to give him support while we were waiting for police. After more than an hour the police finally ambled by and shook their heads ‘no’ and left. By this time I was just as desperate to get home as any homeless person ever was and I wanted to find out who I could get to work on the car. I sure didn’t plan on spending my entire afternoon in a parking lot or a tow truck!

     Five hours after I initially found out that my car wouldn’t start I was delivered home (1:30- 6:30 !) with my car deposited on my driveway and no prospects for being able to get anything more done that day. I needed to take a shower, eat something before my stomach gave up the ghost and try to figure out what I was going to do. Not exactly a happy camper was I. No one pays nearly $2,000 to be as unhappy as I was at that moment but in the ensuing days it got a little better and then much worse.

     By Sunday the 13th I managed to contact a nearby car rental place which I have used before. It was perhaps the nicest thing I’ve done for myself in awhile so I decided to have it for the weekend and get my car towed first thing on Monday to a tire service place that also works on cars in general. I hate being without a car to drive. I receive regular e-mails from this particular rental car business that offer weekend getaway deals so I felt confident that it would be a good idea. One objective to this is that I had planned on going back to the cemetery to make sure everything was as it should be.

     I received no calls from AAA on this dilemma. As a matter of fact I was stunned when I called them about trying to get more help on this issue to be told by a phone attendant that even though I’ve been a loyal member for 39 years it was only basic ($55 a year!) and they didn’t offer more than what I’d received. Further, I could only get roadside assistance 3 times on the same issue. (I had just paid my membership on March 31st so that’s the thanks I received after all these years!) No one at AAA has ever talked to me like that before so I chalked it up to today’s rampant apathy. Not happily, though! Preferential treatment to customer loyalty is almost a joke any more. Century Link is a prime example.

     After I got the brush off from AAA, I spent the next three days, before renting the car, combing through the Yellow Pages and trying to figure out what could possibly be wrong with my car which I tried to start several times while it sat in my driveway. On Sunday after I’d managed to get the rental car I got groceries initially because I also had happened to run out of almost everything by then. I took flowers from my own yard to my aunt Anne because I figured no one would visit her and I was right. I was the only person who showed up for Mother’s Day even though she’s not my parent. She has two grown, married children (with children) - my cousins- but she spent the day alone except for my visit.

     Once I finally found an auto repair that I thought would be able to handle the problem, I called AAA and set up my last free tow on Wednesday morning the 16th, to have the car taken to Firestone and followed the tow truck in the rental all the way out there. All this time I had been looking through the internet at sites like to find out what was available for parts on my 1990 car because its make and model were obsolete practically since the day that it showed up at the dealership where I bought it, (until 1997-unbeknownst to me!) Not for a minute did I think it was a simple matter of my battery being low because two people from AAA had supposedly done a thorough diagnosis on that issue back on the tenth.

     As soon as I got the car there they set up yet another diagnosis for the car even though I told them that AAA had already ran a battery of tests twice. Then I was told that they may not get to it that day. The next day at noon I received a call from a Firestone rep saying that the computer (?) needed to be replaced and that it happened to be the most expensive part on the car. Right at that moment something suddenly didn’t ‘smell’ right to me but since all the diagnosis on the car had come up with no clue as to the problem I had no real cause to doubt it at that point.

     Days went by and then a weekend while I went about the business of my life which is always filled with lots of physical work, necessary shopping I needed to accomplish and trying to get to my writing. I had wanted to get started ASAP on ordering a nice marker for Mom’s site and got a call from Kim at Fairmount on the 18th- a Friday but I didn’t have any decisions made for her because I was trying to wrap my head around the delay to everything and what it could possibly cost me. If you’ll recall, I just got myself out of debt by the end of last year and managed to garner something to get my Mom in her plot. This was something I could not have foreseen and would not have even guessed at, leave alone planned. I had to put it off since I hadn’t been able to get in touch with my Dad since the day I’d seen him at the interment.

     A weekend went by and then I started to get concerned and started calling Firestone early Monday morning. I was put off ‘til Tuesday and decided that whether I had a car or not- the rental needed to go back to the rental place and I told them I was bringing the rental back on Tuesday. I had never planned to have it longer than the weekend so I knew it was going to get to vacation bill proportions. I had just got off the phone with the rental agency and now Firestone was telling me I could pick up the car immediately. I had to take the rental back after running the last errands I needed to for the day, have them drive me back home and take a bus out to the Firestone.

     When I went to take the bus to Firestone it had to start raining, of course, but I was prepared. I was shocked at what the final bill from Firestone was (hundreds!) and could only put it on a credit card. ARGH ! This put the total fiasco tally past $1,000. Hadn’t I just defeated something similar? So much for a marker on Mom’s grave. I suppose that’ll take another five years depending on how long it takes me to get out of debt again. Groan.

     The ensuing hours on the 22nd were absolutely unbelievable! When I opened the car door to start it and go home I heard the weirdest noise I ever heard coming from the dash. I’d certainly never heard that before and when I turned the key to start the car it cranked for a long time before it finally started. The engine sounded the same as it did on the day of the 10th on the ride home and showed no performance difference. The only difference was the noise that wouldn’t go away. When I got it home I turned off the ignition and the noise started again as soon as I opened the car door and took the key out of the ignition. I decided, on a hunch, to put the key in the ignition and close the door without trying to turn it on and the noise suddenly stopped. As soon as I took the key out of the ignition the noise started up. Two more tries with the door closed or opened revealed that the door had nothing to do with the sound.

     I was floored at this noisy new feature but had to go inside to get some pressing things done and went back out within fifteen minutes. The noise was still going and I tried to start the car. It was completely dead. I couldn’t even hear a click leave alone the ignition sound and every time I took the key out of the ignition the new noise started. To say the least, I was livid. The original problem was now even worse and I’d just paid a pile of money for a car I couldn’t start at all now! At that instant I knew that the computer had nothing to do with the car starting or not starting but was quite surprised that they hadn’t really fixed the problem at all.

      I went inside and called Firestone and told them what had happened including the noise. The phone attendant told me that they would send a tow truck in the morning, free of charge, to take it back to them and find out what the problem was which helped alleviate some of the aggravation but being as how I’d been without my car now for 12 days it was getting to be a bit much. When the tow truck driver called the next morning I told him what had happened the previous day and the past 2 week’s history. He called Firestone and then called here again and said that he would be towing it there and I was to talk to Murray when I got there. I let the tow truck driver hear the noise coming from my dash when he showed up and he didn’t seem at all surprised. I rode with the tow truck to Firestone and noticed before we pulled out of my driveway that he had put some device on my battery.

     When we got there I talked to Murray and then I believe he personally worked on my car. After only a short period of time he came into the waiting lobby of the store and said it was fine, no noise and it started immediately. He tore up the repair order and said he didn’t do anything. He brought me to my car and he said for me to start it myself. I opened the door and there was no more noise. When I finally got myself adjusted in my car correctly and turned the key it started right up like it always does. No extra, mysterious noise of any sort. He said he didn’t have to do anything except reconnect my battery cables and he just put them back on. (I would’ve never been able to start my car or gotten home with battery cables unconnected the previous evening!) I told him that the tow truck driver had hooked something up to the battery just before he towed my car and that was probably why the battery cables were disconnected.

     While I was driving home, I put two and two together and realized that the last tow truck driver was the person who solved the problem. My battery was most likely in need of attention and that was probably all that was wrong on the 10th. Why that wasn’t detected by three diagnosticians is the real mystery. Meanwhile, I just spent $550 for a so-called computer I probably didn’t need to replace. I had asked Murray about why the attendant refused to let me take the parts taken off and he gave the same answer she did the previous night even though I was promised that I would be given back any parts taken off of my car. This was so it could be sent back to the factory they bought the new one from which they will rebuild (?) This is quite the deal for Firestone and a total and complete rip-off to the unsuspecting consumer. If that’s true why wouldn’t they offer a rebate to the car owner? Where’s my proof that they replaced anything or took anything off my car?

     Well, my car is starting like it always did but now I’m in debt when I shouldn’t be. Far be it for someone to admit they made a mistake and prevent the customer from paying dearly for it! What a contrast to the almost angelic people who let me use their cell phones to call for help! They didn’t have to help me but they did. It didn’t put a penny in their pockets to assure me and allow me to use their prized possessions. One grounds worker at the parking lot site even gave me a bottle of water because it was really hot that day. One of them assured me she would come back to see if AAA ever came! I’m so glad our paths intersected for even a few minutes or more. They helped keep me from having a day no one wants to endure after burying a loved one.

When you’re given a chance, lend a hand where you can !

The Castle Lady

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What Kind of Person do You Think I Am ?

With all the work I have put into my blogs over the years it has become an assumption of mine that my readers have deduced my character, demeanor and lifestyle through my writing. Perhaps that’s a bit of an error on my part. Most of my writing only requires me to step aside and lay down facts. My own agenda, opinions and preferences are put aside in most instances or kept to myself. That works for me because I can concentrate on what is essential to my subject without adding my own colors unnecessarily. Additionally, non-fiction writing allows you to work incognito and I’ve taken that road more often than not but it isn’t absolutely necessary. In all honesty, I’m a modest person but not necessarily shy so it’s become a habit for me to keep myself out of it, if possible. However, I’m going to try to break out of that rut. This entry is an attempt to introduce you to the person you’ve been reading so you can get a clearer image and better idea of who I am as a person.
     The fact that I’ve been mostly reticent about myself was entirely unintentional. In trying to be as professional as I can I’ve deprived you of knowledge about my aspirations. However, I do want you to know where I’m coming from in terms of my personal and work background, where I have lived and traveled and what I want and expect to achieve with my work on castles. I’ve never really thought much about my station in life because my priority has always been following my interests, desires and needs. God has been gracious to me and helped me (along with my parents) in achieving my goals and aspirations. No one could ever rightfully accuse me of being high maintenance. Economical in every sense of the word is not only my highest priority on a day to day basis, it has practically become my motto. It’s all too obvious what my excesses are from my writing so this will not be news to you. My main overindulgence is education, knowledge and, above all, truth and honesty in dealings and communication.
Someone once left a comment on my WordPress castles blog which said simply, “What’s with all the castles?”  After I stopped laughing- actually, I just laughed again- I started to seriously ponder the question. It’s obviously a favorite subject of mine to put it mildly but beyond the apparent reasons why I started to write about castles I’m sure that the mysteriousness and appearance of these magnificent edifices is what started me on the journey of exploring and then writing about them. I pored over books on castles from the time I was a teen. It didn’t occur to me at the time that I would eventually visit these places. Supposing that I couldn’t possibly ever visit even one made them more attractive and important. When I finally went on my grand tour of castles back in 2001 it was a dream come true and has been my best and most exciting travel excursion in my life- thus far. I’m more in love with castles now than I ever have been! I’m not sure if I have answered the question above but it’s the best way of explaining why I have spent the past 19 years researching them online. I have a small library on the subject of castles alone. Well, it’s small if you think 100 books is a small collection. There are many more I’d love to own and hundreds more I’d at least like to read or read again!
     If someone asked me, “What’s with all the writing?” I’d probably only laugh again. I’ve been writing longer than my so-called obsession with castles and has become such a part of me that- to think of myself as something other than a writer- I’d probably just say I’m a poet. I started my writing career with poetry as a child. Further I’d say that I’m a poet first, even if the number of my poems pale in comparison to all my other writing. When did I start singing? My mother told me that I sang back to her from the crib! People used to stop my mother in church and remark that they’d never heard a baby sing before. Eventually, Mom took me to a professional vocal coach who wanted me to try for a scholarship to C.U. for operatic training. Somehow I couldn’t visualize myself in that scenario and there are times that I regret not taking that more seriously. I felt that my voice talent belonged in the church because it was God-given. I never had to struggle with my vocal talent and have always enjoyed singing. Playing the flute was practically the same thing. I only wanted to play for the Lord. I may need an attitude adjustment for that someday but for now I’m happy with singing occasionally here and there, mostly at church and definitely to the Glory of God.
I enjoy life as it is, also. From 1977 up to 2007 I kept busy making a living working as a nail tech. I’m still a working technician but I’m not anywhere near as busy as I was during those first 30 years! I have traveled to nail shows and seminars all over the U.S. (mostly on the West Coast) and even lived and worked in San Diego for three years. Mostly what I learned in San Diego was autonomy. I moved there when I turned 22 and did all the California things that a young woman can do when they are in such an environment. Sometimes I wonder if I would’ve had certain opportunities in my life if I had continued living there. Moving back to Denver after all that wasn’t easy. I just readjusted and went back to working as a nail tech but I also enrolled in college and started taking music classes and advanced flute performance training. I didn’t come away from there with a degree because I wasn’t seeking a degree. I didn’t feel that I needed one and when I decided that I’d gotten everything out of musical training that I wanted, turned my sights on nail salon ownership.
     Being a business owner is quite a high ride even as a small business! It is very demanding of time but there is no better confidence builder. If one does not become a millionaire at the end of it then there is the prestige of such experience which is not generally overlooked by potential employers. The responsibility is enormous and will take every bit of your energy. Your work ethic becomes top priority because you don’t make it unless you rise to the occasion. From 1990 to 1997 my salon survived two locations and a growing retail business and eventually tanning. The latter was not an asset but I learned something about the business that I didn’t know before I added it. I’m convinced that my expertise in nails (which I had already acquired before I started the salon) made all the difference in my success. Interestingly, when I decided to close my salon and move operations to my mother’s full service home salon, it wasn’t that difficult to give it up. I’d learned what I needed to learn from that period of my life and wanted to move on.
     After that, I knew that whatever I decided to do from here on should be a dream maker because I am convinced that if I apply all the things I’ve learned through the years- the work ethic, following desires, being confident, using energy well- the effort of all that will impart more success. To me, success isn’t just about making a million (or more) dollars, it’s about making dreams a reality. It isn’t a game, it’s real life and a real possibility. Success isn’t a competition, it’s arriving at the destination you wanted. It’s finding out that what you wanted is worth your time, toil and care. Success, for me, is an intrinsic value and an extrinsic one as well. Whoever said, “Nothing succeeds like success,” was not being facetious- he knew what he was talking about. I know what it is to be a success, the kind which is worth its name.
     Finally, in conclusion, my hope is that you understand me a little better and know that I’m as down-to-earth as anyone else. My castles are real, not in the air! I know what it is to turn around after a big monetary windfall and put 90% of it back in for the next project or keeping the business afloat. I’ve put in seventeen years of dedicated work for a dream, which as of today, has not yet made one dime for me. However, I believe in the worth of the work- it couldn’t remain a fantasy that long and survive in my world! I believe it was Flaubert who said, “I beg you to believe that if it didn’t amuse me to paint, I wouldn’t do it.” There’s the love part. It’s the true key to success.


The Castle Lady

Sunday, May 13, 2018

To My Mother

This fabulous poem written by a mere child fits my sentiments towards my mother perfectly. I know you're happy in heaven Mom but you know you're thought about daily and I'm looking forward to the day when we will once again be reunited as mother and child. Love, Evelyn, the Castle Lady!

by Laurel L. Hoye, age 8

You are like an everlasting friendship.
You are like a secret almost
too wonderful to keep.
You are like the beginning, end and everything
in between.
You are like a spring shower.
You are like the sun shining on me and
keeping me warm.
You are like a wild flower in a meadow.
You are like a very knowledgeable volume
of encyclopedias.
You are like you and I love you.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Writing Life

Not many people understand what the life of a writer entails. When we are earnestly in pursuit of our profession we spend more hours on our work and/or craft (and more diligently) than most people do at any other job you can name. I’ve lost count of the times people have asked me in person or over the phone, “What are you doing? Where have you been?” Average work days for most people are eight hours a day but for the past 17 years it has not been unusual for me to work at writing for more than 12 hours in a day and no less than 8. Ah! Those were the days! I can tell you that we are not only dedicated, in most instances, but if we could work longer days- if it was physically possible, most of us probably would and certainly not complain about it. Mainly, I am speaking for myself in this case but I’m sure that my fellow bombastic-but-ardent scribes most likely do the same or more. Some of us sleep.

     Once writing becomes a serious part of your life- for whatever reason you
are writing- words take on an importance in the way a surgeon’s tools become integral to his skill as a physician and healer. We scour dictionaries, pore over thesauruses and read obscure sources for the best word in order to give our ideas and theories impetus. We are not just pouring out words, we also devour them like hundreds of pieces of rice and corn at a meal. We must feed on words in order to create them. Our behavior is not unusual given our profession. Our words and ideas must have meat with fat on them! New words flash like neon signs in our minds for hours if they are powerful enough and our ideas are formed by how we feel about certain words. We are full of word prejudice; Arbiters of words, you could say.

     Writers are accused of being daydreamers in early childhood and even into adulthood. Having never experienced this type of criticism from anyone, I have come to understand that it’s quite common. The sentences we write take about 50 to 100 times more forethought per sentence. (You can give and take those numbers and still basically be right about the math. It’s an individual thing for each person.) We certainly come across to people as very quiet so we stare much more than we talk and you can be sure we’ve observed everything in our path, the room, the concert hall or the shopping mall. Observations come with the territory and believe it or not, it’s exhausting. Sometimes it can be tiresome to pay that much attention to certain mundane aspects of life. There are a percentage of us who believe that is what our job actually is- observation and then to paper. Journalists at heart- believe it!
  Personally, I was a poet first before I ever wrote anything else. My first book of poetry, Seasons of the Heart, is primarily a collection of my first poems up to the brink of adulthood- before I moved out and away from my parent’s house. Poets are very special writers and any writer will agree with me on that premise. They may expound much further than I because I am a poet and a writer. There are two workers inside of me needing to take that precious time. My poet is hungry these days and needs more sleep and sitting quietly observing everything. But the poet has learned how to swoop down like a heron on a surfacing fish in the water. When those poems come, everything stops and the poet writes and soars through those castles in the air. Castles? I’ll throw one in if I must but for now… 

The best gift a writer can be given is extra time. Mundane life activities such as housework, cooking meals, general self-care, driving anywhere, shopping and exercise take away time from what we’d rather be doing. We might be the worst workaholics in the world but I once read a quote from a famous feminist writer to this effect: “Writing is the one thing that, when I’m doing it, I don’t feel like I need to be doing something else.” That sentence sums up why we do it. Compulsion comes into play here but with the effect of positivism that other compulsions don’t normally convey. When we go for a walk it’s usually to clear our minds for another eight hours of solitary confinement with a P.C., typewriter or perhaps a notebook if we are having a restless day. 
     When you see a writer friend absorbed in internet research, a nose stuck in a book, pounding away on a keyboard or hiding in a corner with a pad and pen, don’t shake your head and stomp your feet. We’re being who we are. Yes, we really love you but we must write. Take us to lunch once in a while and don’t pay any attention when our eyes glaze over. We’re saner than you realize and we just need a little space for that idea fermenting in the brain. 

     In conclusion, here’s a piece of advice to all those who are sadly watching the writer quietly go about his/her work. If you buy them anything, as a gift perhaps, buy them some extra time. “How does someone buy time?” you ask. Of course, you can’t literally buy time but there are many things you can do for them which frees up said time. Be sensitive to what is unnecessarily taking up their precious hours to the point of distraction and there’s the answer. For me, personally, if I could afford a cook and maid I’d hire them now. I like having a decent-looking yard but wish I could just stay at my computer rather than mow or rake the lawn or any of the other numerous outside tasks which seem to be endless. If I had a handyman to fix the 100,000 things that need doing- bliss!

Enough said !

The Castle Lady

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Friday Night at the Movies

Back on March 4th, the night of the Oscars I took the evening off to settle in and see what everyone was wearing for glorious attire, hair and makeup styles and of course, the winners of best awards. I was keen on seeing clips of The Post and Darkest Hour because the stars of these two films are two of my favorites- Meryl and Gary Oldman. To me they are not mere actors but true personas of their respective characters and in this case, of actual people and not so open to interpretation by the emulator. Even Oldman’s wife was purported, by him at the Golden Globes, to say that when she went to bed it seemed as if she was going to bed with Churchill but glad that she’d wake up to her husband! When you can fool a spouse, loved one or someone who knows you very well you’re a thespian of the highest order, as far as I’m concerned.

Meryl Streep never ceases to amaze me no matter who she depicts and she’s had some challenges which have increased her abilities even just within the scope of her work in the 21st century. Most recently she has shown an uncanny ability to become the heroine in question whether it’s Julia Childs, Margaret Thatcher or a previously obscure woman such as Florence Foster Jenkins. Portraying living people must be a challenge unique to its genre but portraying people no longer living would be more difficult because they are no longer available to consult or observe and inquire about events in their life and how they felt- if given the opportunity.
I read Katherine Graham’s book, Personal History, some years after it was originally published in 1997 (on loan from my Aunt Florence) during two flights and a week long visit to Washington, D.C. in August of 2002- only a year after my grand tour of castles which coincided with 9/11 ! I felt pressure to turn it into a fast read because there are well over six hundred pages of it but the wealth of information it packed boggled my mind and it was written quite in the manner that the title implies. When I was finished I felt that I truly knew Ms Graham as well as any of my family members. Her husband Eugene and children- particularly her daughter Lally- were very well drawn in the book and the struggles and personal pain well conveyed.
     Since The Post actually centers on her inherited role as the editor and publisher of the Washington Post a good part of what I read wasn’t a part of the movie. In fact, very much like the movie All the President’s Men it was meant to center on herself and Nixon era Washington, D.C. The plot of the film conveys how she handled the hottest potato that any newspaper ever dealt with in U.S. history- that of Watergate. Her book covers history that predates her in 1908 (when her parents met) clear up to the 1990s where it wraps up rather tersely but still packed with information.
     After the Oscars aired I became determined to see these two films in the context I think all films should still be viewed. At a theater near me, of course! So, on March 16th, for the first Friday in I-don’t-know-how-long I took off for the hills (literally) for a movie watching marathon. What would we do without the dollar movies, huh? I skipped dinner for this so it was in order to get something at concessions and get in the right theater to watch Darkest Hour which had already started at 6:45. I think I only missed the first five minutes but I had the sinking feeling that this movie started with some bang because other than knowing that Oldman was looking every bit like Churchill- had he been a little less corpulent in his life- I didn’t know at what point in WWII we were looking at and as it turns out, was irrelevant according to the viewpoint of this film. There was some humor which I noted went over the heads of Americans but because of my travel savvy caused me to be the first and sometimes the only person laughing like a hyena at the quips. This screenplay, written by Anthony McCarten, certainly gave me a perspective on Churchill I would’ve otherwise never understood on my own. Gary was, of course, absolutely brilliant and owned the part. I’ll bet that no one else will ever try to personify Churchill again except for a spot or two on Saturday Night Live- where nothing is sacred.

     I had to wait a little in the lobby before The Post started for the last show of the evening at 9:45 p.m. I’m sure I was bug-eyed by then but didn’t care about that at all. I was about to see the marvelous craft of Meryl. In fact, she once again shed Meryl and became Katherine Graham during a time in her life which put her at her most stressed and drawn besides the hospitalization and subsequent suicide of her husband, Phil. Meryl didn’t look physically drawn but I feel she did a tremendous job in making it emotionally apparent and I’m very interested to know how Ms Graham would’ve felt about the performance.   (video clip of The Post)
Unfortunately, Katherine (or Kay as she was known by those who knew her well) passed away in 2001. Only a year before I read her book she had a fatal fall on a visit to Sun Valley, Idaho with a blow to the head. Within three days she passed away and was interred at the historic Oak Hill Cemetery which is just across the street from a former home of hers in Georgetown. As abruptly and almost rudely as her end was, her life played out quite rich in experiences and associations with people. I was in awe at how much detail of her life she remembered well enough to write a book without wordiness or embellishment. The movie’s screenplay doesn’t really cover a large part of her life but the drama it centers on begins in the twenty-second chapter of Personal History and the events leading up to 1972- that unforgettable year for anyone who lived through it.

     Any film which brings to light the way that newspapers compete and interact with each other is a subject of real fascination for me. I believe in the printed word every bit as much as having additional media such as the internet. It’s my opinion but I have a lot of company whether the media people want to believe it or not. Having the printed word unassociated with government control of any kind is absolutely essential to a democracy. People do not seem to understand that the internet is not wildly free country. (If you watched Zuckerberg on T.V.- a billionaire, you understand- saying, “Sir, yes, sir” over and over again you have seen what kind of control the government plans on exerting on the American populace.)

     If you have not seen these films I urge you to, by whatever means. Awards aside, these were the blockbusters of the year as far as I’m concerned. Check them out !   (Meryl being interviewed about the part)