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Remembering Kissing the Blarney Stone

I have a lifetime goal of learning or doing something, significant to me, new each year! The only criteria is something started in one year must be credited to that year and cannot be carried forward into another year.

While stationed in Alconbury England, I thought, a tour and quick study of Ireland would be an appropriate goal. So I took a bus tour of the Ring of Kerry. The tour started in Dublin on the east coast and ran along the bottom of Ireland and up the west coast.

Dublin in 1965 was less built up than London. We stayed in the old section and saw donkeys pulling carts thru the winding, narrow, frequently cobbled streets, rather than trucks. Milk delivered from large milk cans on the carts. Dipped, with ladle, from the milk cans into the home owners containers. This is my lasting image of Dublin!

The Ring of Kerry is a beautiful, verdant area, totally green and full of many beautiful gardens many of which we visited. Most if my fellow passengers were elderly retired couples who showed concern and care for a single lone woman, making sure she had a great time.

One of the last stops on the trip was Blarney Castle. Built in the 1400s. It has earned the reputation that a particular stone, in the battlements, when kissed would confer ” the gift of gab”! Being a quiet and shy person I felt this would be a worthwhile endeavor. The castle today is an empty stone shell, about 50′ high or 4 stories. When entering the main door you are surrounded by four stone walls open to the sky. On the right are stone steps clinging to a wall going straight up to the battlements. Probably about 4′ wide without a railing. Even tho I had not yet developed my fear of heights yet you can bet I hugged the wall in that climb.

This is one of several instances that confirmed to me the importance of traveling and doing things every year! No one knows how long they will live, so crowd as much into your life as you can as soon as you can! You see most of my companions were older and a four story climb was beyond their physical capabilities. Only four of us made the trek.

As I said the stone was part of the battlements and I will try to explain its placement. There was a stone walkway around the interior of the castle. Periodically there are drainage holes in the walkway with the wall continuing over the open area. The Blarney stone is the bottom stone of the battlement wall as the wall passes over the open area. Safety bars are in place today that assist you in the kissing ritual. Thick metal bars have been installed at the bottom of the well to help prevent you falling thru the drain hole. The view thru the bars is the TOPS of some beautiful large old oak trees. On the battlement wall two hand holds have been installed to assist you in reaching the stone. To do this you lay on your back, with your head over the hole, grab the holds, while a nice elderly attendant grabs your legs to prevent you falling. You pull your body out over the hole until you can reach the under side of the Blarney stone and give it a kiss. You have been given “the gift of gab”.

2106. In praise of underwear

Weave a Web

It’s amazing in the modern era how people have become creative with underwear. There are so many varieties to choose from. To illustrate this, here are a bunch of celebrities modelling some of what is available. It is a delight to see them modelling underwear in a chaste manner that belies what lies beneath the surface. Modesty is a quality sadly missing in many undies’ ads.

1. Scented Underpants: They come in all sorts of smells. Clearly the wearer has chosen Hot Chili Pepper. It’s a very popular odour because it lends the eyes a certain wateriness which makes people think the wearer cares.

2. Equity Underwear: In the good old days women’s knickers could be frilly. These days a sturdier approach is required. Simple pleats are the order of the day, often with written suggestions as to how to get into people’s faces and live life to the Max…

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Remembering

It’s been a long cold day. We had some beautiful spring weather the last couple of days but today is sweater and lap robe day. The walls of my bed sit room ( built by my son in law with attached bath and kitchenette) are covered with memorabilia reminding me of a long productive, active and fulfilling 80 years. You may be bored but I am going to explain what each means to me. Starting at the door and circling the room.

My grandson provided me with a wonderful collage and next to that is my granddaughters letter of achievement from the president! The third picture is a pointilist painting of a tree and the night sky, it’s a whole story ( see Okeefenokee swamp) but it brings to mind canoeing across the swamp, what an incredibly awesome trip! The picture under it from a distance looks like a smiley face (actually it is Lake St. Catherine on a snowy day) and is from my period when I was into photography.

Above the closet doors hangs my first extravagance. We were not poor but we did have to watch the pennies when I was growing up, so I had a tendency to be frugal. But I was doing well, supporting myself as a nurse, when I decided to purchase a framed pic of my name. It was composed of six postcards each a letter of my name with a Victorian depiction of the letter with an angel. I believe they were $10 per card ( unheard of) matted with a golden frame. Even tho expensive I have had years of enjoyment from it!

The picture of the boy with his dog (Spot) is a watercolor I painted in the style of Mary Englebrit. From the era when I was taking painting lessons! The caption is ” Every boy should have his spot”.

Below that is a photo of me KISSING THE BLARNEY STONE in order to receive the gift of gab! While stationed in England I took a tour of the Ring of Kerry in Ireland. What a truely interesting experience.

The landscape painting is an inspiration for my painting lesson. The picture itself is actually an inheritance from a man I had an affair with, in our later years. And below that is a photo of my two great granddaughters.

On the next wall is a collection of things. Mostly of beaded items made before my arthritic hands became useless. There are necklaces, pocketbooks, eyeglass holders and just pics I liked. The cherubs, one black and one white ( beaded at a time when it was not incredibly prejudiced to admit there where black people and white people.) When I grew up there were only black white, red and yellow, poc had not yet been invented. Anyway this beading reminders me of the process leading from being a devout Christian to Atheism. Another harem scarem pic with a witch reminds me of a very TRYING Outward Bound experience! In among these is a rug from when I was a hooker ( rug hooker) featuring elephants just because i like elephants! Onward to the poster of THE WAVE with a framed pic of the wave, beaded, and superimposed on the poster. Just because I like water. I swim ( water ballet) , canoe, kayak, white water raft or just sit and listen. The final wall is a desk, cabinet, bookcase built by my talented son in law.

Remembering Cookies

This is not exactly a remembrance nor a particularly happy memory but something that is bothering me today. Something I want to get off my chest! I have been baking Christmas cookies this week and today I made a batch with pot! Yes they are separate from the others and clearly labeled.

I am one of those people opposed, most of my life, to pot. In spite of being a nurse for 35 years and seeing my fellow medical professionals using I maintained my bias till about age 70! That is when my arthritis had progressed to the point that nothing helped the constant pain and stiffness and that is when my grandkids convinced me, don’t knock it till you try it! Well for me I found it decreases the pain and also helps relieve the stiffness much better than any of the myriad arthritis drugs I have tried. I had been thoroughly indoctrinated against pot so I had to reconcile the improvement in my health with my knowing how dangerous this drug is! Those of you who believe like I did I wish you would read, consider, and do your own research. Read but do your own research!

We know from research, particularly in states that have legalized pot for medical use that in fact it is a medically helpful drug and I think this fact is becoming more and more acceptable, except to pharmaceutical companies. Pot is cutting into the profits of pharmaceutical companies. These companies produce drugs such as xanax and Zoloft and 8 or 10 other mind altering drugs and do not want their profits diminished by a cheaper drug that does an equal job. They do not want to lose their control over you! Millions and millions and millions use their drugs to alter their world reality in order to cope with anxiety and depression. This fact provides the pharmaceutical companies with huge profits so they need you to believe that pot is dangerous. Please look up the side effects of these psychotropic drugs and you will find that they have MORE and more severe side effects than pot. You will find those side effects listed in the fine print!

So before you condemn me for pot cookies think about what I have said and try to figure out if you too may have an unjustified bias!

Remembering Mules ( Grand Canyon )

While stationed in Texas we worked 10 on and 4 off which gave me great time to add many of the Western states to my list of seeing all 50 states. So one weekend I went to the Grand Canyon. There was a trip where you could ride a mule down and up the canyon wall. We saddled up on a beautiful spring day in April. Mules are big, as big as horses. But it was fine as we ambled thru the pasture to the trail head. Once we hit the down trail it suddenly became a little scary. A mule is wide, your legs are well spread. The trail is cut into the side of the canyon cliff and is about 4′ wide. When you look for the trail from the back of a mule, IT ISN’T THERE. On the one side us the canyon wall which is close enough to touch so with the mules wide belly you cannot see the ground. On the other side is the drop off so all you see is empty space! It was a beautiful and fantastic ride with the guide periodically giving us some history and geology of the canyon. During the morning we rode to a plateau area about half way down the side of the canyon where we stopped and had a picnic lunch.

Now with your legs spread across the mules back for hours and going down hill your pubic bone was pushed against the saddle horn. Yep, you guessed it every one now had a bruised and sore pubic bone. At least it was uphill going back. Little did we know the coccyx bones would be just as sore by the time we got back to the top.

Although it was a windy spring day when we started, once we got below the rim of the canyon the wind was cut off and with the sun reflecting off the rocks it warmed considerably so we were surprised how chilly it got as we neared the top. We all put our sweaters and jackets back on. We were unbelievably surprised when we reached the pasture that it was snowing, with a lite dusting over the ground. A trip of truely interesting and fun time!

BALANCE

Well I fell off the couch (did not get hurt) and that started this long line of remembering. My balance is gone, started noticing it’s loss in my fifties. This post is going to detail where my thoughts took me today.

Balance plays a part in most activities including my love of canoeing. When I was about 12 I won a scholarship to the CAMP FIRE GIRLS camp Adahi. The water sports really appealed to me, I passed the beginner, intermediate and swimmer red cross test but wasn’t old enough to take instructor. Canoeing classes were really fun! You may have seen people paddling canoes by doing two or three strokes on one side of the canoe then switching the paddle to the opposite side for two or three, than back. That type of paddling can become tiresome quickly but with a J stroke or a sweep you can easily keep a canoe on the straight and narrow, and it is Sooo much easier! Another stroke was (don’t remember it’s name) was used to help prevent you from capsizing. Just slap the water with the flat of the blade to prevent a roll over. Our instructor demonstrated and then I proceeded to slap and then continue to roll, several times. I never learned that stroke but I got pretty good at getting back into the canoe from the water, lol! Never occurred to me I might have a balance problem!

Another form of exercise I practiced was biking. I was diagnosed with arthritis in my 30s so running ( I did however like and practiced hiking) was not a good option for me but biking is much easier on the joints. However when I was in my 50s I started to fall with my bike occasionally. It wasn’t until my late 50s after a really nasty spill that it finally dawned on me that in fact i did have a balance problem and about that time I had to sell my bike!

This is the age I discovered White Water Rafting, now that is an exciting sport. That’s a story for another time! But while rafting I frequently saw kayakers running the rapids and decided to learn to paddle a kayak. I did very well on the smooth surface of the lake BUT the moving water of the river was a whole nother story. Remember that roll over in the canoe, same stroke for the kayak and same results for me. I got really good at exiting the kayak while under water but not good at getting back in unless I went to shore!. Um, did I have a balance problem?

Now I am old and I definitely have a balance problem. At first I just hung onto the walls when walking around the house and used a cane outside. Then I graduated to the Walker. Medical personnel will tell you to lift your feet ( not slide them) so you do not stumble on imperfections on whatever surface you are walking on but I have to tell them repeatedly that I MUST have three points of contact with the surface in order to maintain my balance, either two feet on the floor and one hand on the Walker or both hands on the Walker when lifting a foot. I am just as likely to loose my balance with two hands and one foot as I am with both feet on the floor shuffling! I know they are just as indoctrinated in lifting the feet as was in my nursing career but we should never stop learning! I have learned from experience that shuffling is safer!

So that is how I fell off the couch, I was reaching for a pillow on the other side of the couch when I lost my balance and slid off the couch!

Remembering Plan

My plan is to write several short passages that give a snapshot of my long, happy, and productive life. I am and have been a logical and goal oriented person for all of my 80 years. For example when was four years old, so i have been told, I decided i would be a nurse and I achieved this and worked as such for 35 years! Obviously I do not remember my initial thought goal but I have also been told that it probably had something to do with the fact that I broke me arm at about that time.

We lived in a project in Philadelphia because my dad was recruited to work on the war effort as a mechanical engineer on tanks and jeeps. The project had a large gully running thru the middle of it, grass covered with trees on the side of the hill ( probably 15 or 20 feet deep as I remember it). I made an excellent playground for all of us in what came to be called “the greatest generation”. The trees growing on the sides of the ditch were surrounded by low stone walls. The tops of the walls were a great playthings for youngsters to balance and walk on. The wall was angled to match the slope of the hill. Well as you can imagine at four my balance was not the best and as might be expected I slipped and used my arm to catch myself and that is how I broke my arm!

In my late teens I also established a simple goal of doing or learning something new, significant to me, every year. The only condition was that a goal started in one year could NEVER be brought forward into another year, i.e. if I did and learned something or two somethings or six somethings it could only be attributed to that year ( which leads to another story, LISTING GOALS). Life is so wonderful and interesting and varied you can never live long enough to run out of goals! Whoops there actually is another condition, since I was in nurses training and learning new things at a very rapid rate I decided my career could not be included in this particular goal. Medicine grows by leaps and bounds year in and year out so it would be unfair to include that in my personal goals.

Remembering

My purpose is to tell stories of my life. Whether they inspire anyone or not isn’t important but I want to show that in spite of life’s ups and downs life is entirely worthwhile! Life is what you make it and one of my favorite sayings is ” life is not waiting for the storm to pass, Life is learning to dance in the rain”.

At 80 I am physically handicapped but still have many memories to keep me company and remembering them provides me with many pleasant hours! So I have decided to write down some of those memories. I hope some of you will see and enjoy this little antidotes and even possibly inspire you to make similar memories of your own.