Saturday, November 28, 2009

Do we need an Airline Passengers Bill of Rights ? ?

I don't know how many of my readers have been watching the TV news lately but a recent item that came up just before Thanksgiving made me so mad that I vowed I would write something about it even though I'm neck deep in projects. Last Monday I watched a brief news story on the late afternoon CBS telecast that described an unbelievable act of barbarism in the form of a wheelchair-bound woman being taken off of a plane and left in a baggage area at the DIA airport. Apparently, while she was waiting for help she died of a stroke and was found abandoned where she should never have been left.
A couple of days later this woman's daughter was on the news. She lives in Latvia and expected to see her mother come home on a plane. She sure didn't expect to get a call from the authorities that her mother had been wheeled to a baggage area and left there to die. I will not disclose the name of the airline but I cannot believe that a human being could be treated this way for any reason or under any circumstances. The daughter said she just wanted an explanation of why her mother was taken off of the plane. This newscast ended with the anchor relaying that the airline had been contacted by them and no explanation was given. They called the hospital where the woman had been taken and they gave no explanation to them as well.
We see items in the paper everyday about our relationships with other countries but what must they think of the United States when these intolerable acts happen and our authorities shrug? Why would the rest of the world not hate us under these circumstances?
Just the day before, I had read a Washington Post article about a bill being passed for passenger rights. It expounded on a few other problems that have existed for quite some time. It went on and on about code-sharing which I've known about since I was a teenager. One expert that had been consulted by the author Christopher Elliott was consumer advocate Edward Hasbrouck who felt that truth in advertising, problems with federal pre-emption and failure to enforce existing consumer laws were greater issues but how can that be seriously heeded when a bigger issue is staring us in the face like this?
I can pick up a paper or turn a news telecast on any day of the week and I'll hear about gay rights, animal rights, and Miranda rights but I am wondering about basic human rights. Whatever happened to treating your common everyday citizen with compassion, respect and care? The same consumer rights advocate I cited above was quoted as saying, "Airlines routinely engage in practices that would constitute fraud if engaged in by any other business." I'll go a step further in saying that they also routinely engage in the practice of treating people worse than cattle. Apparently, people that work in airline terminals need to be given classes in human compassion and responsibility toward your fellow human being along with CPR and basic medical care. I doubt if it will bring that woman's mother back, though.

Blowing off steam !

The Castle Lady

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Cheap! Cheap!

     One of my favorite quotes is from William McKinley, our twenty-fourth president:
"I do not prize the word cheap. It is not a badge of honor... it is a symbol of despair.
Cheap prices make for cheap goods; Cheap goods make for cheap men;
and cheap men make for a cheap country."
     My strongest feeling about today's economy is that it is nearly nonexistent. It exists electronically or if you're lucky, on paper. Our virtual economy is even more precarious than the failing economy. A lot of people bank only online but I watch my mother, who wouldn't touch a computer (out of plain old fear and probably mistrust) snubbing ATMs in favor of real live tellers. I must admit that if I did not have a building in which I take my deposits, periodically, I would feel as if I had lost touch of something tangible. We have all lost something tangible, truly.
     While everybody goes on and on about a global economy, I sit and ponder what happened to businesses in my immediate community which are simply gone and had been thriving up until the day I saw the closed signs go up, recently. About twenty years ago an initiative for Colorado in which they had set up shops all around the state called simply, "Made in Colorado" received a little publicity. All the products were made in Colorado, of course, but the most amazing thing is that they were making it easy for Colorado to continue to have a true local economy without having to resort to expensive and annoying advertising. Today there are no such stores. Nobody supported them apparently. Tourists and residents walked away shrugging. I don't know if any such organization was attempted elsewhere in the country.
     Buyers and consumers think because their finances move at a fast pace with lowered prices or faster ways of shopping that they are contributing toward the recovery of our economy. I would look askance at the products they find acceptable. Products and services are more shoddy than ever. How often do you look to see where the product was made as you shop? Do you read labels? People have been complaining about the junk sold in stores and how you can't get good service for as long as I've been alive and probably longer than that- truth be told. Today I would concur with those who have been saying so and with the emphasis on the quote I cited above. This whole economy is being hampered by the dominoes theory.
     When you buy cheaper made products you are supporting a business that does not care what they sell you as long as you buy their product. A cheaper price is not good enough for me if it will not last or perform as it should. This problem is nearly across the board now. The quality has gone down on everything from acrylic fabricated containers to tissues to zinc oxide sunscreens. The less you pay, the more likely the product will break, fizzle out or show some lack in workmanship or quality. By buying these products you are also supporting the level of quality.   
     Do I have a solution to this problem? The answer is yes and the solution is much easier than you would think. Let me count the ways:
     1. Start buying locally and pay with cash when you can. Find out about these products by contacting the local manufacturer. When a company knows that its customers care about the quality of the product, in all likelihood, they will rise to the occasion and make sure they inform and please their client base. If you support local farmers you will probably get the best produce you can buy and it's the strongest way of building up our country's economy on a large scale. It's a win/win situation.
     2. Barter services and goods where you can. Garage sales are now bartering as well as selling. It's the oldest form of an economy and it works. If you trade Nellie's apple pies for the quince jelly you make every year, you both know where to go if something went wrong. Instant feedback wins the day.
     3. Start conserving your stock of goods. Recycle the old fashioned way. Reuse something. (This year I am making quite a few Christmas presents from containers and presents I received in the past.) Don't regift- remake! Families appreciate hand-made gifts many times over anything you can buy at a store and the reason is obvious. You will be saving space in landfills and conserving on rampant consumerism as well.
     4. Before you buy a major purchase do your homework and find out what the best components to the product are and educate yourself about its use. If you are considering a service, don't just check prices. Get educated on the service through expert opinion and find out how to get the best for your money. Money spent blindly is nearly always money wasted. This is especially true of service related expenses.
     5. Try to think of ways of saving money for your individual needs that don't compromise the quality you receive. 
     By following this basic plan you can make the economy a reality and you will save money in the long run. Thinking globally is wonderful when we are thriving but a good part of the reason why our economy is in such sad shape is because we are almost devoid of factories, many jobs are being outsourced outside of our country and we stopped supporting local businesses in favor of business franchises who don't think locally or support their communities. If you must do business with large chain stores and shops, engage them in your neighborhood through charity outreaches and encourage them to buy locally manufactured products instead of those produced overseas. The economy you save might be your own !
 The Castle Lady says charity begins at home !

Monday, September 21, 2009

honor virtutis praemium

Honor is Virtue's Reward

At the beginning of the last presidential campaign I made keen note of all the issues and tried to decide early on who I would watch closely and to see who had the most integrity to carry out the ambitious promises I expected each candidate to make. Most of my attention focused on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama since they were the only candidates which were tackling the issues I felt were the most important. Barack's were all about change which were a little vague at first and Hillary's were very cut and dried. I did not agree totally with everything on Hillary's agenda but most of it was very acceptable and I felt she was the most qualified since she had actually spent two terms in the White House in an advisory capacity.

Nobody seems to talk about being humble anymore but I think it's a wonderful virtue for anybody taking the Presidential seat especially with the current caustic political climate. When was the last time we had a humble President in the White House? It seems to me that Jimmy Carter tried to fulfill that quest and he did very well at that but he also made some grave errors. I think we all are aware of what those are, or at least those of us who have been keeping themselves reasonably informed when it comes to politics.

Humbleness comes in handy when people attack your character, decisions or even your moral compass. Without it you are left to defend what you may miserably fail at defending. I watched Bush try to defend our invasion of Iraq first with a deceptive motive, which was that they harbored weapons of mass destruction and then when that failed to hold water he told us we were morally obligated to these people while he went after his sworn enemy- Saddam Hussein. If he had told us the truth of his agenda from the beginning I certainly would have appreciated the honesty and conceded that something needed to be done with terrorists in a leadership role such as Saddam held. We did not receive the truth from him, however, and in my eyes he fell from grace at the moment he showed that he did not even want to admit that he lied.
Personally, I would like to see humbleness come back into vogue in every political office held in this country. I believe our foreign policies would start to line up with all the virtues that our founding fathers obviously cherished. It showed in their Bill of Rights, it showed in the Constitution and the Amendments. It showed, most importantly, in their lives which were far from perfect. I believe what showed the most, in certain cases, was a willingness to humble themselves when they most wanted to receive laudits. Abraham Lincoln, I understand, despised only one thing. That single most disgrace on his list comprised one word: grandstanding. He didn't do it and neither should our leaders. Self-esteem is really honor made manifest but honoring yourself is rarely worthwhile. Receiving honor after a job well-done is always better. I guarantee it.

I'll reward you with a guarantee

of my finest kisses !

The Castle Lady

Friday, July 24, 2009

What I Did for Twenty Years ! ! Conclusion

Why did I close my shop? The main factor was an unlikely occurrence on May 5, 1997. On that Sunday my mother decided to get overly busy and she broke her right ankle running down her downstairs staircase. As a matter of fact she broke both of her ankles in two separate incidences on that same day. My part was in taking her to Kaiser with the first one and getting her back home through the Cinco de Mayo traffic- which was horrendous in that decade in Denver!

After the shock of the second break and two ambulances later it became imperative for me to be close at hand in order to be of any help at all to her. She wound up in a nursing home for a short period of time but the house had to be made wheelchair accessible and it forced me to take time away from my shop. The only other instance in which I took that much time away from my shop happened when I was called in for Jury Duty during a Christmas season. It clearly was a hardship in both instances but in one I had no choice. When it came to my mother I wouldn't have chosen any different.

As a result, I closed my shop permanently, moved my business into hers ( home Beauty Salon) and stayed on because I felt it was necessary- even after she got back on her feet and went back to working in her salon. The down side to this was that I watched my business dwindle down slowly over the years. I had never found anyone who could take over my salon in my absence. This was the only negative factor of salon ownership during those seven years. Finding good, steady employees was always elusive and very frustrating. I don't feel I ever found a co-worker or employee that came even close to my standards. Most of the technicians I hired didn't have enough knowledge (a rather common occurrence because of the high burnout rate for this profession.) My goal was always to service a client according to their needs and objectives.

Apparently the different (and geriatric) atmosphere at my mother's salon was not conducive to my business which thrived at a storefront. Quite possibly, I had made an error in closing the prime location shop but I wouldn't have chosen any different given the circumstances. My family was first and there was no discussion. I hope I receive the same consideration someday when my time comes. Time will tell.

In 1999 I had two more life changes. One was positive and other was a learning experience that I'll not soon forget. That summer I sat down and wrote an inspirational book which practically wrote itself. If I have ever had an automatic writing experience I believe this was it, however, I was fully conscious of what I was writing. The result is a book about praise and worship titled, "In Spirit and In Truth". Once it was written I immediately started to try to find a publisher or agent. I met up with almost total silence and even in some cases hostility toward the ideas I presented even though every word of this book is scriptural and I supported it only with scripture. The response from publisher and agents was surprising and disappointing to say the least. Many did not bother to read it. Good reactions to the book came from ordinary church people. My only aim was to reach church-going Christians and so I view this book as a success. I still desire to get it published.

That same year, shortly after my birthday, I saw that my dwindling clientele was creating a financial hardship for myself and I decided to take a job in a bank as a teller. What started out as pleasant, menial work turned into a nightmare when I saw that the workload was being shunted my way too much. Within a year I quit because I started to develop stomach ulcers. I learned something about working in a corporate environment that I'll never forget and I don't believe I want to repeat the mistake because I believe that many of my clientele were put off by my irregular hours. I worked only evenings and Saturdays in my mother's salon at that time. This episode was debilitating to my spirit and created another hardship that I've never known. Taking in only half the pay I normally made in the past along with incredible amounts of stress was demoralizing.

When an opportunity to take a trip to see castles came along in 2001 I realized I was being given a chance to to make a long time dream come true. I have been interested in castles since I was a teenager- even before I took any trips overseas- my first in 1977 when I went to London for the first time. The Tower of London was my very first castle, which was a good place to start.

I seized the ring and set out for Paris- our starting point for the 2 week tour- on August 31st. To see castles in photos, diagrams and lithos in a book are great but it can't compare to being present to view them personally, walk their floors and study the individual architecture. I wouldn't trade the experience for any other trip I've ever taken. We took in seventeen castles in five countries in that span of time! In addition, it sparked a passion for architecture of which I had not been fully aware until I was there to see the castles for myself. I want to share this passion and I can truly say that my books will be those which I would want to use myself.

I hope you have enjoyed getting some details of my life which heretofore have been unknown to the internet reading public. If you still believe me to be a bit of a mystery all I can say is that each person must keep a certain amount of their lives in a strictly personal state. I share my feelings and hopes and dreams with those who don't mind getting close and sharing those details. This is why we have friends.

A friendly kiss and hug from

The Castle Lady !

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What I Did for Twenty Years ! ! ! Part Two

Four years prior to that I had been working full-time and had almost full-time college course work in musical flute performance on my schedule plate, too. During the years between 1984 and 1987 I had played as third flute on what was then the Denver Symphony Orchestra stage (now the Colorado Symphony) on numerous occasions, sang and played for weddings and funerals and formed a flute/guitar duo with a Denver Public School teacher. I had started taking lessons when I lived in San Diego back in the early 80s and felt that I wanted to master my sound on it. This led to college even though I wasn't really looking to get a degree. My musicianship blossomed with every course I took whether it was theory, lab or an ensemble. It was a busy and exciting time for me but I always managed to find time to write poetry and composed my own songs.

I traveled extensively for years after 1983 attending trade shows for my profession in California, Arizona and even Massachusetts adding new services to my menu with each class. Very few nail technicians offer as many different mediums as I do so I took my artisanship in nails to the highest level. ( I know every type of artificial application whether it is acrylic extensions, gel, silk, linen, fiberglass or paper overlays (the latter of which is very passe'.) To this day I maintain my inventory to offer everything that is in my scope and capability. My vacations usually coincided with shows and classes but one year I really took a "time-off" vacation to Jamaica in 1989 which I found intriguing but also beguiling. Perhaps relaxing vacations were meant for other types of individuals. I remember renting a car and gallivanting all over the island!

A fond memory of learning about airbrushing comes to mind from the originators of the practice of doing this medium on nails. The people collectively owned a company called Colormist ( TM) and they developed the special airbrush stream to be 1/100th the usual width especially for nail art. The designs below show how muted and elegant the designs were and you could make your own templates to create the unique designs. We were only limited by our imagination. Imagine my dismay at what passes for airbrushing designs today. I don't care for most of them because they don't appear elegant to me. They get paint all over the fingers which has to be wiped off. The designs look crude and ostentatious. It may be a matter of taste but the designs below speak for themselves. Today I still do all my nail art with individual brushes to do hand-painted art and I have had many people tell me that my work is unsurpassed. I enjoy doing it my way and not the cookie-cutter method which prevails now.

After eleven years of working both in Colorado and California as an independent contractor (primarily) I took a month off from my daily schedule for a writing sabbatical to set about the business of getting my first book of poetry published. I'll never regret the time I took to find out what the life of a writer entails. The work is very solitary but quite fulfilling. I'll have to say that it is not the life for a loquacious individual unless you become a journalist. Otherwise, it is quite a bit of isolation combined with the fortitude of a nun and a very exacting business as well.

My book Seasons of the Heart was published in July and I did several poetry readings. When I went back to my work as a nail technician I found that my nail clients were the people most keenly interested in my book of anyone. They made my sales phenomenal for a first run book by an unknown poet. (For people outside of the literary world, poetry is the least money-making of all books published and they rarely print more than a few thousand copies even for well-known poets. My book paid for its own printing with the first one hundred sales!)

A little more than a year later, (1990) I decided to get serious about starting my own salon and I found a storefront in which the location was virtually untapped. There were no nail salons in the area and it was a prime business location. Two minutes after signing the lease contract with the owner of the strip mall I had a deja vu moment that told me I had made a decision that would change my life.

When I opened my doors on the first day half my clientele dropped off, telling me that they wouldn't drive as far as my location even though they all had followed me around a ten or more mile radius away from the location I'd started working when I returned to Colorado in 1983 ! I was a little stunned because it was obvious the snob factor had set in, of course. However, I rebuilt the missing clientele within a short time, due to constant prayer on my part and a faithful fortitude that I attribute to being the offspring of a long line of entrepreneurs and business owners.

After three successful years my lease was up and I started looking for a new location since my landlord decided to triple my rent! The only negative factor that I had experienced with salon ownership at that point was finding good, steady employees. This was very frustrating but I found that with being in charge I could make up for the lack of their standards with my own. Since I set the standard there was no one over me with any inhibiting factor of lack of expertise affecting the clientele. It was a great position for someone of my professional stature to keep.

Sure enough, I found a new location only three blocks away and I expanded my service and added a boutique. My biggest profit year occurred at that second location and I enjoyed it more as well. Because the space was quite small and cozy I felt it was necessary to completely redecorate it and I watched my clientele increase. I learned more about my capabilities in those seven years than at any other time of my life. If you want to build your character ( or test it!) start a business !

All during the years that I owned my salon, which was during the years 1990 to 1997, I used my flute playing skills by going back to a church I had attended many years before, on the strength of my mother's preference for the pastor's wife's teachings, to play in their orchestra. This is Marilyn Hickey's home base (ORCC) where I played flute or sang for their church for more than thirteen years! I also involved myself as an actress in the plays the director, Scot Aspromonte, ran from 1998 and really found my niche, I believe. For an interlude during the years '95 to '97 my flute playing and singing took a detour to a little church not far away from my relocated salon which was called "Good News". I was able to utilize my session playing very well there and had a very appreciative crowd for my solo singing, too.

More to come from The Castle Lady ! ; )

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What I Did for Twenty Years ! ! ! Part One

From Spring of 1977 up to two years ago my steady source of income was the profession of manicuring and artificial fingernails. What most people consider tedious and menial work was a creative and financially well-rewarding vocation for me. Even when I started my own nail salon in 1990 I knew that I'd never become a millionaire- busy as I was- but the rewards were in the personal service of people (mostly women) achieving their individual beauty goals- a perk unmatched in any other personal service industry, in my estimation.

I never consciously gave up the profession. I'm still licensed and stock the materials to continue at any time ! The changes to this industry, however, have brought the standards of the practice to an all time low and the evidence of that is empty nail salons with one or two idle Asian "nail servers". Their unsanitary and dangerous practices have placed the integrity of the profession to the point of non-existence. Most of the "discounters" are not licensed and the public remains ignorant that this is a requirement in nearly every state of the union.

The blame for this lack of enforcement remains with the state boards who are supported by the licensed professionals. The boards don't even bother to inform the public of these standards and rarely hire enough people to inspect salons.
As a result I have watched my business diminish to nil even though I offer an impressive array of services, unmatched by most of the people in the nail service industry- professional or no. The discount salons simply offer basic and shoddy services at ridiculously low prices- but where are their clients?
Well, the proof is in the pudding, as they say and I haven't failed to see today's legendary drastic pay-cuts and job displacement as a parallel to the undercutting of the true beauty professionals supported by those who are only out to save-a-buck. I'm more concerned about saving what once was a wonderful profession from vanishing altogether.
During all these years of working as a nail technician I have been an avid reader and writer. I wrote from the time I was an elementary school student and took creative writing courses in high school. Poetry has always been a great love of mine and publishing my own book has been a dream come true. This happened in 1988 with my book, "Seasons of the Heart", a few years before I took the plunge into becoming a business owner for the first time.
To be continued....

The Castle Lady with TLC for all !

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Have you hugged your Zoombak today ?

In a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to our children's safety it's nice to know that technology can work in our favor and not against us. This has come in the form of a new device called a Zoombak. If you haven't heard about them yet you owe it to yourself and your children to check into this innovative GPS locator. It is sized so that it can be placed in a child's backpack, on a bicycle or a laptop bag but I would suggest- for increased personal safety for the child- that it be placed in a pocket or on a neckchain which can be hidden under clothing.
When you log onto the device to find its real time location you can find out their position even from your cell phone. You set up customized safety zones such as "home", "school" or "park" and can be alerted when the Zoombak leaves or enters the pre-set zones.
Check out for further details.
The Castle Lady keeps you and your household safe ! ; )

Tomorrow ? More about me! Stay tuned !

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Life and Times of The Castle Lady

     Many of my readers seem to think I'm some woman of mystery because I don't write about myself very much. In truth, this particular blog isn't a daily log of my activities, either. If you've been reading this blog faithfully you've figured that out by now. All a person would have to do is read through all my entries to make that presumption.
     My original intention for this blog- which was the very first blog I ever started-was to chart my progress (on a frequent basis, if not daily) on my research and writing about European castles. If you jog over to you will see that it became a better forum and format for achieving that goal and I've used that ever since and even after I put up my official web site in September of 2006.
     I think of this blog as my unburdening and current topic opinion forum. it has served me well on that score. It seems to be irrelevant to my castles work. Just keep in mind that I am a writer first and foremost and I'm willing to write about almost anything that is interesting to myself and, hopefully, my readers. During the first three decades of my life I wrote a voluminous amount of poetry, then essays and short stories and plotted out several novels which I play around with since I started researching castles on the internet. I don't take my fiction writing any where near as seriously as I have my non-fiction writing. That may change with time. As long as I am happy with my work on castles, fiction writing will be kept on the back-burner.
     With that put forth, I propose to write about myself and my life for the next few entries. I only intend to write what I want my reading public to know about my life prior to my serious undertaking the profession of writing. Some people might consider my original profession to be equally as whimsical as writing but I can rightly state that it was quite lucrative and a steady, reliable income until only a few years ago.
     In my next entry you can expect to go back in time... to the year 1977. Until then...
Keep on keepin' on.... The Castle Lady 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Love Bears All Things....


Nequaquam nobis divinitus esse paratam
Naturam rerum; tanta stat praedita culpa
(Had God designed the world, it would not be
A world so frail and faulty as we see.) 
     I believe that the happiest people in the modern world are those who experience many deep friendships. We feel obligated to family (usually), and also to spouses and often, even our children. One purposefully forms friendships and this is where the difference lies. We choose our friends and keep the relationships alive through our own volition. Is it any wonder that many times, we prefer the love of our friendships over the love of family and family ties?
     This is not as unusual as many people seem to think. If you have never read C.S. Lewis' book, "The Four Loves" I highly recommend that you do so and as soon as possible. It is the single most book that I can point to and say it made a difference in almost every long term relationship I've had since. It has also been effective in shorter term and fleeting relationships as well. Those which were established before I read it- such as family and people I have known all my life have been a little more difficult to apply the principles to- but if you read the book you will understand why.
     There is a serious problem today of lack of affection between people who may ordinarily have closer ties or at least friendlier relationships for many complicated and not-so-complicated reasons. The increase in social-interactive crimes, identity theft, and a general- purportedly justified- lack of trust is mostly to blame. Our social ills also add to this general alienation between people and cinch the problem.
     If you have attended a church which includes primary Bible studies including regular services then you have been taught to know that God is love and that all love comes from Him. Additionally, we know that we cannot love without Him. Love has many dimensions, faces and duties- just like God. The same way we learn to trust God we can also learn to trust each other. This is possible even in the perilous times we live in if we learn to use discernment.
     Discernment has been a rather unused virtue for the past few decades and I don't see any improvements in wisdom or judgment either. We rely more on our general mistrust and skepticism than we do with our minds. It is a sign of the times but it's also sad. Are we to sacrifice relationships which might be more fulfilling than any other only because of fear ? 
     I believe there's a better way and my feeling is that great discernment is God-given. This requires trust in God first and then you can tap into this "mind" of God and know many things. This is scriptural. Look up Philippians 2:5 which reads "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." This is a verse full of power because it gives us awesome abilities with our own minds. If you repeat this scripture often it's like repeating the promises. Your mental abilities increase immeasurably.
Be blessed with abundance and my kisses !
The Castle Lady
It is impossible to understand the things of God
standing in the shadows of disbelief.
- Evelyn M. Wallace (2004) 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Resolute Heart

"The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one.
 Commitment is healthiest when it's not without doubt but in spite of doubt."
- Rollo May
     You may wonder why I would begin this entry with a quote from a known humanist and yet I believe that some of the best words which fit my criteria come from sources which most people would view as being from left field- given my dedication to being a Christian. Sometimes, however, pearls come from surprising sources. They often crop up where you least expect to find them and I don't think it takes away anybody's credibility to ask questions concerning matters of faith and belief.
     Faith concerns reliance on intangibles and speculations. Matters of faith are a challenge to the skeptic but those challenges should be made reciprocal. One of my favorite quotes by Francis Bacon is thus: "If a man will begin in certainties he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin in doubts he shall end in certainties." Some of the best questions about faith come from skeptical people and when I take on these inquiries I find it strengthening. Perhaps because one must ask these questions of themselves to understand why they believe the way they do.
     I feel the same about my work in writing in general and  the castles project. I am not only committed to my projects but I am resolved to see them come to completion and fruition. A resolute heart is one which has moved beyond faith and into the realm of complete devotion and total possession of the object of desire. It's yours and no one can take it from you.
     Furthermore, I respect a resolute heart. This is the heart of God and we have the capability, by being his creation, to this inheritance. He is devoted to us and has made many commitments to us which is repeated over and over in the Bible that he will keep. Did you know we are God's favorite subject? We are not his only subject of interest but we are His primary concern. 
     Knowing this not only makes me feel secure in His love, it also gives me the impetus to emulate him. To be more and more like Him. All I have to do is be myself. 
With resolute kisses, The Castle Lady !      

Friday, May 01, 2009

Independence Has Rewards

     Recently I came across a quote by Mahalia Jackson when I was going through some old papers that I'd written down from some mysterious source and then promptly put it away for future reference. This quote struck me as particularly apt for our times and for my personal current status, too.
It's easy to be independent when you've got money.
But to be independent when you haven't got a thing-
that's the Lord's test.
      I don't know exactly how I felt about this quote when I first saved it but I've always had an independent spirit and perhaps I felt it was a bit curious of a statement. It's only more recently that I've noticed a negative aspect to my penchant for doing things my own way. Lack of support never seemed to be an issue nor did hardship. My mind hasn't changed at all. When I can work alone at something and rely on my own resources -that's when I hit a happy state that is almost like what the Hindus call nirvana.
     Perhaps it's because I've chosen a subject- castles to be precise- that seems too remote to people. Very few relate to castles or castle lore save for those who live very close by them. (People who live in Northumberland or Yorkshire come to mind.) My internet traffic on my web site and castlelady blog is most often from native English speakers when I check statistics, less often French and even more rarely others. The inquiries repeat themselves over and over again and they are very basic and almost ignorant. I think it's sad that people who have not experienced castles appear to have little or no interest in them. I would perhaps do better in England and Europe with my books than I could possibly ever achieve in sales with Americans.
     The sad part of this is that I want to get Americans excited about castles and I have made very little progress as far as I can tell. Since I have been reading about and poring over photos of castles from my childhood I almost take my own interest for granted but I can't afford to take it for granted. Too many people around me need to catch up and I may as well be speaking Greek as to talk about what I know of my subject.
     Here's the positive: It's like uncharted territory and I have to find out how to spark the interest in the architectural aspect of castles along with whatever people might find intriguing about them. I never realized how much I knew until I started talking about castles with people and then writing about them. For many years I silently studied with no desire to speak of my interest. I have been unaware, all this time, that my passion was like a secret love and it astonishes those who never thought about them. At times, it's like I'm talking about monsters. Other times I find someone who asks all the right questions and then I'm in my element.
      Along with the lack of interest and ignorance there is no financial support for such an endeavor. I could stand up in front of any university crowd and give dissertation after dissertation but I don't have any such credentials to do so and I don't think there would be any support of such training save for an architectural college. Even then, my subject would be largely irrelevant to them, eventually, for the most part. These people have to make a living when they leave with their degrees. 
      Following this path will be a lonely one but I can handle that- and there are rewards there, too. Jesus said, "A prophet hath no honor in his own country." Perhaps someday I'll see an outpouring of interest to match that of sports, movies, music and the like- until then I'll just have to revel in the hidden rewards which exist in rugged individualism and true independence. 
Individual kisses from The Castle Lady  

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Earth Day ~April 22nd~ Change is Good !

     One way to make a true difference in our current times is to be ready for change but how does one prepare for change? In truth, people are such creatures of habit we could be compared to salmon during spawning season when it comes to rearranging and reordering all our ritualistic days of duties, obligations and schedules. Indeed, the idea of even making small sacrifices in the ways we've always done things is enough to make us want to dig our heels into the dirt like stubborn goats and refuse to even talk about it. Is it any wonder that when we hear that word our natural inclination is only to cringe inside?
     When someone prepares for times such as these- slow economy, supply scarcity, money problems and debt- it's imperative to get ready for drastic sacrifices perhaps and learn to live in a different way. This makes me think of words from Thoreau's book, Walden:
        I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do. We may waive just so much care of ourselves as we honestly bestow elsewhere. Nature is as well adapted to our weakness as to our strength. The incessant anxiety and strain of some is a well-nigh incurable form of disease. We are made to exaggerate the importance of what work we do: and yet how much is not done by us! or, what if we had been taken sick? How vigilant we are ! determined not to live by faith if we can avoid it; all the day long on the alert, at night we unwillingly say our prayers and commit ourselves to uncertainties. So thoroughly and sincerely are we compelled to live, reverencing our life, and denying the possibility of change. This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one center. All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant.
     From reading this anyone could sense that we are really ignoring the true essence of our lives. We are much more adaptable than the average animal because we are essentially a higher intelligence. Often, however, we see animals coping with environmental changes (which we made) easier than we did ourselves !
     Many people will have a difficult time with conforming to less consumerism, less waste, less necessities, etc. but if we set our minds to economy then it is not so difficult to start altering our standards, if only for a time. This is only one instance of adaptation. Perhaps your industry has dried up and you're now looking at having to go back to technical college, learn a new profession or restart a business at a new location.
     Some will face other "run-off" problems involving social interaction and even coping with discrimination. We cannot know everything that will come at us when we're trying to improve our lives but we can change the way we feel about our lives and the lives of those around us even in the midst of hardship or perhaps because of it. This is the day of repentance. It is upon us and we must listen not only to our hearts but look in each others eyes for the answers as well. As my mother would say:
United we stand, divided we fall.
The Castle Lady

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Iraq? Don't Get Me Started...

     When thinking about our continuing occupation in Iraq I always think of two quotes which I found to be true: 
When liberty is taken away by force it can be restored by force. When it is relinquished voluntarily by default it can never be recovered. -Dorothy Thompson (1894-1961) American Newspaper Columnist
"If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country I never would lay down my arms,- never! never! never!" -William Pitt, Earl of Chatham,  during a speech November 18, 1777
     These are, in essence, the basis of my opinion.  For democracy to prevail in such a war-torn country as Iraq, they must propagate their own form of a democratic society. This may not necessarily match our version in the U.S. Few countries have such a difficult set of decisions to make concerning how to be fair to all religious groups inhabiting their land and make any form of democracy work. How does one make democracy work in such an environment ? Most religions work upon some mutual goals: respect for other religions, commonalities in philosophies and personal deportment, working for the common good even among widely-differing opinions. Radical Islam is a rare exception to this rule and intolerance is rampant and militant in most cases. The basis of their religion in many respects is undemocratic.
      So what is the answer?
      I believe that democracy requires that the governed body of people have important points of contact in like-mindedness. They must respect a specific set of rights- whatever they determine those to be. They do not necessarily need to share the same culture. (The U.S. couldn't be more culturally diverse, right?) They need to appreciate all cultures and find ways to accommodate others.
     Militarism needs to be set aside. That won't happen as long as the United States Armed Forces reside in Iraq, it's as simple as that. Look at the type of societies run on militarism and you can see what kind of environment it creates. N. Korea, Saudi Arabia, Jerusalem, etc. Iraq has not actually changed much and it won't as long as we're there. They need to create a society that is intolerant of fascist states of mind and ways of governing. They need a real and kind leader to step up to the plate. I don't know if they have such a person but they need one.
      The United States had George Washington. Any prospects Iraq ?
The Castle Lady sends out lots of encouragement !

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Remember when self image meant nothing?

Remember when fun was "king" ?

Spring has sprung so let's have fun !

The Castle Lady ; )

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's That Day Again !

Sla'inte is ta'inte !
(pron. slawn-chuh iss tawn-chuh)
If you've never heard this quote, you will if you ever celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Ireland. For many years now the Irish have made their way to New York to celebrate because the type of celebrating we make here in the States was so different than what they allowed on their own shores. That's of the past now since they recently voted for an official holiday in Ireland making a St. Patrick's Day to rival our own.

You're probably thinking that I have a wee bit of Irish in me and you would be right- on both sides of my parentage. I think that makes it official.

Something I have never understood- until recently- is how words like hooligan came to be thought of as Irish. The ironic part of this is that it came from an Irish name which was originally O' hUallachain. In English we say Houlihan which eventually morphed into hooligan when a rowdy street gang run by a family of that same name terrorized London during the 1890s. Even a song was circulated in the pubs making that name stick officially for any hoodlum.

The English probably knew how to deal with a slew (sluagh, Gaelic for crowd or army) of hooligans. Just break their pints of ale to smithereens ( from Gaelic, smidirini) and put the kibosh (from Gaelic, cie bais) on their drinking galore. (from Gaelic, gu leor)

Now here's a word you might not expect and it even surprised me! Cairn is an Irish word you don't hear very often and possibly not at all on American shores. A cairn is a pile of stones set up as a landmark, monument or possibly even a grave. St. Patrick is buried along with another saint underneath such an edifice. I wrote very recently about these curiosities on my Castlelady Live Space in January. If you read the entry which was titled "Castlerigg, Stonehenge and other Stone Circles" you'll recall that I mentioned Carnac in Brittany, France.

The similarity of the words did not escape my attention and I'm sure you noticed it, too. What you may not know, however is that Ireland and Brittany do not belong in the same branch of Celts. I can hear you ask, "There's more than one?" yes. The Celts are, in fact, made up of two families. The Irish, Scottish Highlanders and the Manx (Isle of man) are of the Goidelic branch,- the true Gaels. The Welsh, Bretons and Cornish are of the Brythonic branch who spoke the Briton language. You will find variations between the Brythonic languages which make these quite different even amongst their own but what you normally don't see are the words that suddenly appear quite alike- such as cairn and carn- outside their respective branches.

You learn something new everyday !
Happy Saint Patrick's Day everybody !

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Running Out of Patience?

I receive regular e-mails from the DCCC on a regular basis and the last one I received caught my attention because it contained words that struck me as a Bushism. (For the uninformed, a Bushism is a mangled quote and is a trademark of the former Bush administration and, of course, Bush himself.) In it, Michele Bachmann ( a republican Congresswoman) is quoted as saying, "We're running out of rich people." This is such an ignorant remark that now I'm wondering if she actually meant to say, "All the rich people are running out of this country." Now that would be truthful but we know that there has been a clear trend for quite some time now of deception coming from the GOP so we're left not knowing if she's just ignorant or can't really see what's been going on for more than eight years now. It's quite possible that she refuses to see.

You see, the U.S. economy has been taking serious hits ever since a policy was instituted in this country of giving tax breaks to businesses that took their industries out of our borders. Outsourcing has been one of the most harrowing economic blunders ever to hit this country in its wallet. Just to illustrate this for everyone, fiscally, it is like giving your child an allowance for feeding your neighbor's dog while ignoring your own. So how do we fix the problem?

Well, first we need to take away that ridiculous tax break they've been giving to these businesses who don't care about Americans or their livelihood or how they're going to pay for all that stuff pouring in from Asia. The second action is to institute a special import tax for all those goods coming from our outsourced supply which comes from many countries. The tax break should go to those who are investing and banking on our own fiscal health right here in the good ol' USA.

I have had several people ask me, if I went into politics, what my own key issues would center on. Several ideas come to mind including the one above but in all honesty I have felt that the insurance industry is one that has needed serious reform for decades. The reason why insurance is such a financial burden on this country's citizens is because the office that was supposed to regulate the agencies and companies does nothing of the sort. As a matter of fact, if you call the Insurance Commission on most issues you will find that they work in close alliance with the insurance companies-not with the people, who they were instituted to represent.

The insurance companies claim fraud eats into their companies' coffers when, as a matter of fact, they spend more money on investigating fraud than the so-called fraudulent claims cost. The real issues are on the amounts of money it exacts from consumers while giving nothing in return and, with the help of the Insurance Commission, making it impossible for many people to get the money entitlements they deserve. You won't see any commercial for that on T.V. It's not fair for an insurance company to penalize those people who pay their insurance premiums faithfully and don't make any false claims. State Farm and all the rest would have you believe that they have no choice but they do.

If the average person looked at the insurance budget he is on currently and the policies he's signed, he'll find he is over insured in many areas- including his automobile insurance. Not only that, he'll find that any amount of income he could have used as truly discretionary (i.e. to buy luxuries) is sunk into insurance premiums which are never returned to him in any amount. To me, this is almost feudal and somewhat like having to deal with the Mafia.

A more honest system of insurance would be rebating. What do I mean by that? Well, in essence, any and all policyholders who pay for their insurance in installments would, after a certain time period, have a portion of their premium money returned if they have made no claims on their insurance. This could jumpstart the economy in a way never before seen just by putting money back into the hands of the person who earned it. This is the only fair way to reward someone who has managed to live in a responsible way. I would call it the 'good citizen' rebate. I would like to see this happen with every type of insurance with the possible exception of life insurance which works on a completely different basis.

In conclusion, I'd like to mention that an economic recovery for this country is going to take time and a lot more effort if we really want to turn every aspect of the problems around. It may take more than four years of Obama's administration but if we all work together on the issues a lot can be done in four or eight years. The Clinton administration proved that so let's get to work. Okay?

The Castle Lady with lots of love !

Friday, February 13, 2009

Brainstorms in the Dead of Night

     I have a book that I would recommend to any writer for its comradely support. It was published specifically for this reason and there is one entry in there I have read a couple of times now. The book title is : Rules of Thumb- 73 Authors Reveal Their Writing Fixations. The entry by Samantha Hunt reminds me of my similar experience with inconvenient inspirational moments:
Knock, Knock, Knock
     Sometimes if I'm lucky, I'll wake up in the middle of the night with a phrase or sentence echoing in my head. I have never felt responsible for these words plucked from an unconscious reservoir, but rather imagine that they have arrived here, in the dead of night from some exterior source, possibly even off the lips of someone I was talking to in a dream. The phrases rarely make sense. "You weren't going to do all that you nosy queen of habitat," I remember one of them saying.
     Despite the lack of meaning gleaned from the phrases, I feel that to ignore these words would show a terrific lack of respect for mystery, and so it is my one writing rule that I force myself to get up in the wee hours and record these ( really often very dumb) messages so that I might remember them in the morning. "Into the forest I walk with the good bear. Goodbyes and lacerations." What the heck does that mean? I haven't the slightest idea, but I wrote it down anyway. It's the rule.
     Perhaps these phrases are the lowliest of words, the desperate beggars that come knocking at midnight wanting to be put to use in a story. Maybe they are ghost phrases destined to wander in ambiguity until some mortal tries to make sense of them. Or perhaps they are stern warnings that I am just too dense to decode. Or else maybe they are gifts , gifts of nonsense. It doesn't seem to matter. All I know is that were I to ignore these foolish words I would somehow cheapen the value of all words. So in the dark I obey these voices, these midnight inconveniences, not out of superstition but because they connect me to that which is most crucial to my writing: the gloriously inadvertent, the perfectly unintended.
     While I may not be able to relate to everything she wrote I have had moments where I have woken up with a paragraph burning to roll off my pen. I also have obeyed these voices and been pleasantly surprised at the revelations and wise words which seemed to come out of nowhere. I feel that this is spiritual and must not be ignored. I believe all writers should practice this because we are a special breed and we certainly know who we are, don't we? Ms. Hunt takes it seriously and I think we all should. The truth is that if we are dyed-in-the-wool writers we can't help it anyway!
     There are times when I am in the park walking and then a couple of divine sentences overwhelm me and I know that one of those rare moments is upon me. The perplexity is being caught without pen and paper to jot them down as quickly as possible. I have also woken up in the wee morning hours grappling for any pen and paper in the room. At one time I started carrying a mini-cassette player around with me when I had one of these inspirational moments in the car. These revelations can come at any time so it is imperative to get them recorded, somehow, as soon as possible. I've also been without means only to find out later when I could get to writing materials that my memory had lapsed by then and those fleeting gifts of wit were gone and irretrievable.
      If you get these one-offs occasionally or even frequently- and it's okay if you don't, it won't make you any less a writer- then by all means make sure you keep something handy to be able to jot down these ideas, crazy witticisms and outright nonsense ( if you will !) as quickly as possible. It's for a very good reason you were chosen to hear it. 
Just me, The Castle Lady with inspirational hugs and kisses !    

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Good Marriage

     Of all the types of advice we receive in a lifetime I think the most attentive you'll find a recipient is on marital advice. I've seen enough Phil Show segments myself and gotten my fair share of seeing the negative side of what can go wrong with a marriage, that a positive spin on such a subject is always a welcome change. Since I have never been married I figure it's quite a job sifting through all the aspects- good and bad- that are said but I am not sure the advice has prepared me for the (hopefully) inevitable.
     The following quotes are from a short segment on marriage by Wilfred Arlan Peterson. I thought these were very good with a few amendments of my own:
  •          You are never too old to hold hands.
  •          Never go to bed angry with each other.
  •          Don't take your spouse for granted. Keep the courtship going perpetually and learn to be romantic.
  •          Keep a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
  •          Stand up for each other when facing down or to the world.
  •          Do things for each other in a spirit of joy not an attitude of duty.
  •          Your independence should be equal, dependence mutual and your obligations, reciprocal.
  •          Don't expect perfection in each other and have compassion for failings and faults.
  •          Speak words of appreciation and demonstrate gratitude in thoughtful ways of your own.
  •          Learn to forgive and forget.
  •          Don't forget the words "I love you" and say them as often as you feel necessary- or more often.
  •          Half of marrying the right partner is being the right partner.
     The last one is so true and the most important one of all, I believe. I once read those words on a bumper sticker and it impressed me so much that I have worked on that more than all the advice I have ever received. No one is ever really ready for marriage- at any age- until they get that one right. All the rest of these pointers are much easier to execute in a relationship if you take care of that last one first!
Just pointing the way to marital bliss-
with a kiss!
The Castle Lady   

Sunday, January 18, 2009

All for One and One for All

     Today I was reading a section of the newspaper which had a wonderful article written by David Shribman on our past president's inauguration speeches. It mentioned the quotable quotes of Lincoln, FDR ("the only thing we have to fear is fear itself") and JFK's immortal words- "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country". The article goes on to show how many of the presidents who took office used the inauguration day to inact, through symbolism, what their primary aim would be while they were in office.
       An example is when Jimmy Carter, along with his wife, got out of the presidential limo and strolled down Pennsylvania Avenue, which was risky behavior for a president after the assassination of JFK. His point? It was to show that he was going to have an open book on his dealings in the White House- as opposed to the clandestine dealings of Nixon and the Watergate Scandal. There is more in the article dealing with the movers and shakers that have taken to the Oval Office and it really started my thinking processes along another line. Something I only thought about today.
        Obama has been speaking a lot about us basically taking our country back by using the privilege of being a citizen, taking on a responsibility we have not been exercising. This makes perfect sense to me and I believe he's right. We all need to do our part to help him make these changes effectively. Together we can make great achievements in the areas of obtaining affordable health care, securing our borders effectively, putting people back to work and making sure that each and every person who has put a portion of their work into social security will have this fund to fall back on when they most need it. Collectively we can get our economy and our greatest strengths back on track and going in the right direction.
        Perhaps the most important lesson this country has learned in the wake of 9/11 is how important our people are- when we unite and pull together for a common cause but this is not to take away from each individual. I think about one president- perhaps the greatest president this country has had in modern times- being taken away from his post and out of the presidency in ill-timed fashion. This is, of course, John F. Kennedy, who by his absence has shown how important each individual is to the fabric of the common good. You don't have to be a president to make a difference, just someone with a strong vision and motivation to better yourself and others.
         Therefore, I propose that each and every one of us who want to see this country get back on its feet and once again lead all the nations in every aspect, to see Obama as the leader of our great citizens who will go on to do great things. Obama is the figurehead but our greatest strength will be ourselves working for the common good.
Here's a bear hug from The Castle Lady !