Day 233: Celebrate Elissa’s Birthday

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My daughter, Elissa, had a birthday while I was away in Scotland. I got to wish her a happy birthday via Facebook and text. However, I missed getting to see her and have our traditional birthday dinner. Tonight 13 family members gathered at Rib Crib, in Joplin, to celebrate Elissa!

Elissa is my firstborn, the child who made me a mommy. When I was still a child, all I wanted to be, when I grew up, was a mom. I used to sit and daydream, in one of my solitary places, about the children I would someday have. Three years into my marriage and one miscarriage later, I began to wonder if that dream would go unfulfilled. I spent a year reading about the gift of children, preparing for the role that I still hoped to embrace. I was given a Divine promise, that I would become a “joyful mother of children”. I believed! Shortly afterward, I found out I was pregnant. When Elissa Dawn was born and placed in my arms, I thought my heart would burst, so great was my joy.

This beautiful girl, intelligent, creative and witty, has taught me so much, about parenting and about life. Fiercely independent, since her toddler days, she has never ceased to amaze me with her ability to learn and grow, adapt and create. She was my perfectionist child and in her I saw myself and my own need for perfection. We both learned to let mistakes be okay. Everyone in my family is artistic and most of us draw or create by looking at a picture and copying what we see. Elissa is gifted with the ability to draw and create from her imagination. She is an amazing cartoonist and illustrator, creating the book covers for all three of my mom’s published children’s books.

My daughter’s passion has always been horses. She loves most animals and has the ability to connect with them easily and deeply. But her great love is reserved for the mighty horse. During her teen years she spent many hours each week at the stable where she took riding lessons and boarded her horses. Elissa was happiest when she was mucking out stalls or seated in the saddle atop a magnificent mare or gelding. I spent many hours watching her compete all over the Midwest or simply care for and train horses at the stable.

One of the greatest aha moments that I had as a mom came as I stood leaning on a fence, observing Elissa as she worked with yearlings in an indoor arena. “Watch this one,” she called out to me, “he’s naturally gaited. He will make a great show horse.” I noted the high stepping little colt as he ran around in a huge circle. “And this one is a jumper.” She laughed as another young horse ran toward the end of the arena and sailed over the gate. Elissa carefully studied each horse and then worked with them, in accordance with their gifting and natural abilities. Standing there listening to my wise daughter, I suddenly had clarity on a scripture that many use rearing children. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he shall not depart from it.” The interpretation usually given is to discipline a child in order to modify behavior so that he will grow up decently. Watching Elissa, a new meaning came to me. Perhaps I was instructed to observe my children, note their gifts and encourage them, “train” them, “in the way they should go” meaning to guide them to follow their hearts and use their God given abilities and desires. It wasn’t about correcting, it was about allowing, and working with, not against. My parenting style shifted that day and my sweet daughter, happily in her element, with hay clinging to her shirt and jeans, was to thank for that shift. I am forever grateful.

My girl is a mom herself now, an amazing one, with a wonderful son. Elissa has spent most of her adult life working as a legal assistant and spent a year working for me as my assistant. She currently has an awesome job with a progressive and innovative company in downtown Joplin where her attention to detail and her ability to learn quickly allows her to shine. And she’s recently begun to ride again, engaging her passion for all things equestrian. Her dream is to someday own and operate a horse training and boarding facility. I have no doubts that she will accomplish all that she wants to do. Happy birthday, precious daughter. May joy, beauty and happiness continue to surround you!

Day 232: Welcome Back Arby’s

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Three years ago, when the tornado tore through Joplin, both of our Arby’s restaurants were in the path of destruction. One was located on south Main Street and the other was on south Range Line. Both buildings were demolished and at that time, Arby’s chose not to rebuild.  If I had a craving for an Arby’s roast beef sandwich, I had to drive to Webb City. True, it’s not that far to go, but I’ve missed having an Arby’s nearby.

Today, for my first, I had the joy of purchasing a meal via the new Arby’s drive through. The red and white restaurant is located at 2408 S. Range Line, which is a little further south than the original site. I know many in Joplin were excited to hear the announcement that Arby’s was, at last, returning to town. I’ve enjoyed the restaurants that have opened since the tornado that are new to Joplin, and I appreciate the variety of eating establishments to choose from. I’ve also celebrated the return of each restaurant that rose again from the ruins.

The site on Range Line was the former location of KFC, however all traces of that restaurant disappeared as remodeling transformed the building. Arby’s officially opened yesterday, August 19. According to the Joplin Globe, eager customers began lining up at 3:00 am, seven hours before the doors opened at 10:00, to welcome Arby’s back to town. Famous for their roast beef sandwiches, the fast food chain also offers smoked turkey, ham, brisket and chicken plus Angus steak, corned beef and pepper bacon.

I celebrated Arby’s return with a mouthwatering Reuben on rye bread, and a side of potato cakes. The sandwich was piled high with sliced corn beef, cheese and sauerkraut and was delicious. I actually went all out and added a cherry turnover to enjoy later. Welcome back, Arby’s!

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Day 231: Into the Storm

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When I first saw the preview for this disaster movie about a small town hit by tornadoes, I was pretty sure I’d pass on this one. The theater audience watching with me reacted strongly to the preview, which began with the haunting wail of storm sirens. However, my mom and sister wanted to see this movie. During this year of firsts, I haven’t backed down from my emotions or anything that triggers them. For my first today, I saw the movie Into the Storm.

Into the Storm stars Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh and Max Deacon. It was directed by Steven Quale. This thriller/drama is rated PG-13, for storm violence and language and has a run time of 1 hour and 29 minutes.

A small town in northeastern Oklahoma, Silverton, is having high school graduation and going about life as normal, unaware that a series of dangerous storms is approaching, capable of producing strong tornadoes. A group of storm chasers is very aware of the unstable weather and is headed to Silverton in hopes of capturing a tornado on film. Pete, played by Matt Walsh, drives his team of storm chasers onward ruthlessly, willing to risk everything and everyone to get his footage. Meteorologist Allison Stone (Sarah Wayne Callies) finds herself at odds with her boss, trying to prove that data is more reliable than instinct in predicting where the next tornado will appear.

In Silverton, high school vice principle Gary Fuller (Richard Armitage) is concerned about the changing weather, and about the whereabouts of his son, Donnie (Max Deacon) who has slipped away to help his high school crush complete a video assignment for school. As the storm cells approach Silverton, they spawn small tornadoes and then progressively larger and more violent tornadoes, until a massive EF5 tornado forms that threatens to destroy the entire town, and everyone in it.

Whether it was intentional or not, this film parallels the events of the Joplin tornado. There are many similarities, beginning with the storms striking on the day of the town’s high school graduation. Other points of similarity included storm chasers arriving in the town, the highly unstable weather conditions that produced multiple cells that merged together to create a  monster tornado, security camera views and footage of destruction in the halls of the high school, a shot of the school’s sign, with some letters missing, and a high school student who was a videographer. In the movie, he survives. Sadly, Joplin’s well known and charismatic high school senior videographer was one of the victims of the 2011 tornado. There is a scene in the movie where the meteorologist says that tornado producing storms are becoming more frequent and unpredictable. Look at Katrina….and Joplin, she says.

I wasn’t sure how this movie would impact me. I confess to feeling a bit tense as the movie began. The sound of the sirens going off, several times, and the sound of debris hitting cars and buildings and the crash of breaking glass very much reminded me of May 22. Although I watched most of the movie with my arms crossed tightly across my chest, a protective posture, I forced myself to detach, and just observe. While the acting and storyline were average, the special effects of the tornadoes and the damage inflicted upon the town were very well done and had the feel of a documentary. The use of hand held cameras by characters in the film contributed to that feeling. I found myself watching for details such as the trees being stripped of foliage. One of the movie’s last scenes felt “right” when the eye of the EF5 tornado passed over the group of characters who had taken shelter in an underground drain system. They thought the tornado had passed. Their relief was short lived when they realized the calm was the eye, and the trailing edge of the massive tornado was about to strike, and the second wave of wind would be worse than the leading edge. Joplin residents found that to be true. I found that to be true. It was during that last surge of power that I thought the house was ripping upward from its foundation.

As I crouched in the darkened closet during the tornado, I could hear the roar and the sound of breakage, feel the house shudder and creak and pull upward. I couldn’t see what was happening. I saw the aftermath. I saw amateur videos afterwards and clips from storm chasers. I watched footage from security cameras mounted within the high school and St. John’s Hospital that documented the time of impact and the immediate destruction that followed. A part of me has wanted to be able to see what the tornado looked like, see the debris fields as they formed, watch with an impartial eye, and watch without turning away, as the massive twister moved through town. Somehow, watching Into the Storm tonight gave me a chance to do that. Seeing that huge swirling mass of black move through the fictional town of Silverton, tossing cars, crumpling buildings and exploding electrical poles, allowed me to face my own memories and fill in the blanks of what I couldn’t see. I could allow sorrow and fear to dissipate as surely as the tornado did, both on the screen and in Joplin.

I was pleased the movie ended with the characters being filmed as they spoke of survival and life and the hope of rebuilding their town. I have seen this lived out in reality. I am grateful that hope always prevails.

Day 230: Kindergarten Open House

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Today’s first was one of those milestone moments. My granddaughter, Aubrey, starts kindergarten next Monday. This evening was the kindergarten open house at her new school. I had the privilege of attending open house with her, along with her Papa Greg, and her mom. Baby brother Adrian arrived in his stroller. Part of my job was to keep him entertained while Aubrey and her mommy gathered information.

It doesn’t seem possible that Aubrey is old enough for school. And yet there she was, excitedly exploring her new classroom, meeting her teacher and moving from station to station, gathering papers. She is a very social child, always ready to make friends with other children. For the first time ever, I saw her be a bit shy when she was introduced to her teacher. She didn’t speak much until we left the classroom, but she flashed her teacher a gorgeous smile. I know by the second day of kindergarten that sense of reserve will be gone.

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The classroom was bright, colorful, and arranged for the comfort of small students with low tables and tiny chairs. I was impressed that the teacher had placed information and fun games on tables set up around the room. It kept parents and children flowing. One table was covered with special scrapbook pages, one for each child. The instructions were to add pictures or words to the page, illustrating what the child enjoyed or liked. There was a sample page that the teacher had made, showing her favorite movie and several other favorites, to give the kids an idea of what to do. Aubrey was pleased to note that her new teacher liked the movie “Wizard of Oz” too.

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After exploring her classroom, Aubrey wandered down to the library. We all let her lead the way. The library had a wealth of books lining the sturdy shelves. This bright little girl pulled several large books from the shelves, glanced through them and slid them back into place. She is already looking forward to checking out books. We also peeked into the art room and the gymnasium, which was in the process of getting a new floor.

What an adventure this sweet child is embarking on. It seems like only yesterday that her daddy, my son, was turning to wave to me from the kindergarten room door. I turned around a couple of times, surely, and now his child will be waving from the door next Monday. I look forward to watching Aubrey learn and grow, and continue to shine as her radiant self!

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Day 229: Afternoon Tea in the Garden

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Today is my first day home, after an enchanting and beautiful 10 day journey throughout Scotland. I am very grateful for the time spent there and for the many memories I brought home. I am also grateful that I arrived home early this morning and had today to recover from jet lag!

I look forward to seeing all my family and friends, and getting back into the flow of business. However, today was a wonderful day of gentle self care, resting and sharing a few stories with several family members. Mindy and I enjoyed our daily afternoon tea so much, while we were in Scotland, that I was very intentional about continuing that tradition. For my first today, I enjoyed afternoon tea, in my garden.

I bought and brought home several boxes of Scottish Tea. I have a white ceramic teapot and cups and saucers. I needed simple foods to complete my afternoon tea. Being a day of rest and self care, I didn’t tackle baking scones….that will be a first for the near future! I am grateful for Lorna Doone shortbread cookies and readymade chicken salad.

I selected the Highland Blend Tea for this first lovely experience. Made by Edinburgh Tea & Coffee Company, it is a brisk and refreshing blend of fine black teas. It was golden in color and had a light delicate smooth flavor. I’ve adopted the British and Scottish custom of adding a dollop of milk to my tea. While tea bags were steeping in the tea pot, I prepared two varieties of finger sandwiches, chicken salad and thinly sliced cucumber and cream cheese. I added several shortbread cookies and tea was served!

While my simple afternoon tea didn’t compare with the lovely high teas I experienced in Scotland, it was a start and more importantly, an honoring of my desire to continue the tradition of daily tea. That sip of hot tea, even on a 90+ degree summer day, brought a deep sigh of contentment and a smile. I am excited in the next few days and weeks to experiment with baking scones and other goodies and trying different types of finger foods.

My second first for today, also related to the Scotland trip, was to download a CD onto my iPhone of the Scottish group, Red Hot Chilli Pipers. This fun, energetic group describes their music as “bagpipes with attitude and drums with a Scottish accent”. We heard their music and saw videos of them in various places in Scotland. I would have loved to have seen a live performance. Someday! Their music is an upbeat and lively bagpipes meets rock n roll. This is a great addition to my bagpipe music collection.

It was wonderful to travel and see a long time dream become reality. And, it is wonderful to be home and back into my usual flow. Life is amazing!


Day 228: Journeys and Meetings


The trip to Scotland officially ended today. We flew out of Edinburgh about noon, their time. But my journey continues!

There are so many precious memories that I’m carrying home with me. And insights and realizations to ponder and allow to deepen before sharing. It was a magical trip. Life, itself, is magical!

We landed in Newark, NJ, back in the US, at 2:16 pm, in spite of leaving Scotland at noon. To our bodies, it felt like 7:16. Jet lag began!

Of all the places in the US that our flight could have arrived, Newark was the city. And we had a five hour layover. An opportunity presented itself for an amazing first. I have had a dear friend, for seven years, that I met though social media. Yet we’ve never met in person. Today, as I journeyed homeward, I met my friend Mark Semple for the first time.

Mark and I connected all those years ago through an online site of Mike Dooley’s called The Village. I was looking to connect with people who were aware and growing in their spiritual journeys. We did connect, immediately. Mark coaches others, journeying alongside offering wisdom, support, encouragement and sometimes a challenge.

I coached with Mark for a time. One day he issued a challenge to me that shifted my life. He said, “Step up into the Cindy-shaped space that only you can occupy, and BE the person you are created to be “. I knew that I often pulled back from being fully myself, choosing to get by unnoticed. Mark’s words came to mind often. I accepted the challenge. I began to occupy that space that was mine alone to inhabit, more and more. I began to shine!

It has been an amazing continuing journey. I am grateful to have Mark as a traveling companion. We share ideas, beliefs and the joys of life. Very soon, we will collaborate on several projects, offering perspectives and insights we’ve learned along the way.

Mark and I have not sought a meeting. Our friendship is not dependent on proximity. We’ve always had the attitude that at the perfect time we would meet, if we were meant to. That perfect time appeared in connection with this trip, which added to the magic. It was surreal to see this person who has been so important to me AND hear his voice at the same time!

I am completing this blog post as we are in the car, headed for Joplin, after arriving by plane in Tulsa, OK. We are nearing the end of our journey, having traveled more than 4500 miles today. I am full of gratitude for all that I experienced. And I am full of anticipation for where the journey is taking me!


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Day 227: Shopping on the Royal Mile, Fringe and Saying Goodbye


Today marked our return to Edinburgh and our last full day in Scotland. We said a fond “See you again soon” to Wilson, who made our stay in Lauder so pleasant. And boarded the bus bound for the city.

As if blessing us, the sun shone all day, occasionally sliding behind a fluffy cloud for a moment, only to reappear and stream golden light onto us and Edinburgh. It’s the only day we had here without rain.

Arriving in Edinburgh we made our way to the Hilton near the airport, in preparation for flying out tomorrow at noon. But this was not a day of relaxing. After we dropped off our luggage we took a bus back to Old Town. We wanted to savor every moment of our time left in Scotland, and each of us had a list of purchases to make. Mindy and I also wanted one last afternoon tea in this bonnie land.

When we first arrived in Edinburgh, from Glasgow, I didn’t notice a big difference in the feel of this city, other than an ancientness in Old Town that I didn’t feel as deeply in Glasgow. However, after spending several days in Lauder and the Borders, where life moves at a wee bit slower pace, I immediately felt the shift in energy when the bus pulled into the bus station. It wasn’t a bad energy, but a surge of strong busy energy, connected to thousands of people.

Nowhere is this bustling energy more apparent right now than on the Royal Mile in the heart of Old Town. The Fringe Festival is still going strong, continuing until August 25. It is the largest art and entertainment festival in the world and has been held each August for the last 67 years. Performers from all over the world showcase their talent in more than 3,000 shows. While venues for shows are all over Edinburgh, many performances take place in buildings along the Royal Mile or in the open air in the streets in and around the Mile. Performances range from singing and mime to plays, comedy routines and musicals, from the spectacular to the downright weird!

As we approached the Royal Mile on foot, the bustle and busyness and noise came out to meet us, rolling over us like a wave. Thousands of people were shoulder to shoulder on this famous strip of road as performers took to the streets, sidewalks and makeshift stages. We divided up. Harry headed to a store he wanted to visit while Mindy and I started on our shopping lists. Amazingly, our first two stops provided exactly what we were searching for.

Mission accomplished, except for buying Scottish tea to bring home, we gathered Harry and began the search for a spot to settle for afternoon tea. This proved more challenging than we thought it would! As Harry would gladly testify, we walked a long time, looking for just the right place, only to push through the throng and discover we’d made a huge circle, back to where we had started. Not finding a new shop to try, we returned to a restaurant we had eaten dinner at earlier in the week and had a late lunch followed by a simple tea. It was perfect actually. After our light meal we had a cup of tea and a bite of bakewell tart, which was a deliciously tart cake with fruit filling and almond flavoring.

We again split up to complete our shopping, Harry to buy a book while we girls headed to a tea store. We are serious about continuing afternoon tea when we return home. We previously bought Scottish cookbooks and today we bought Scottish tea. I can’t wait to have afternoon tea in my garden at home.

I have to admit a pang and tear filled eyes as we walked away from the Royal Mile. It’s not because I don’t want to return home. I do! And I’m exited to see my family and friends and jump back into the real estate business. No, the brief moment of sorrow is in feeling the separation from this beautiful place I love so much. But more than sorrow, I feel gratitude and joy for this wonderful journey that has so deeply connected me with my roots, with this amazing country and with new friends. I drank in all that I could and the trip feels completed. I’ll carry this experience in my heart no matter where I am. I look forward to my next visit, and bringing others with me who want to share the journey!


Day 226: Exploring Lauder and Melrose


After a very exciting and emotional day yesterday, seeing Thirlestane Castle for the first time, we opted for a relaxed day today, walking around Lauder, taking pictures. In the afternoon, we visited the nearby town of Melrose, home to the Melrose Abbey.

As every day has begun in Scotland, we had a great breakfast. Our “homebase” in Lauder has been the Lauderdale Hotel, which is so fitting. In the US, my maiden name of Lauderdale is uncommon. If I run into another Lauderdale, I know we are kin! It’s wonderful to see the names Lauder and Lauderdale everywhere in this burgh.

The Lauderdale Hotel is a small, comfortable hotel, with a cozy pub and top quality restaurant attached, that has the feel of an inn. Actually, it has the feel of home. Owner Wilson McKay works long hours to make sure of that! The staff is friendly and helpful, the rooms are exceptionally clean and well set up for a short or long stay. And there’s a pretty sitting room to gather in, gardens out back, and a dining room for guests to enjoy a complimentary breakfast. We enjoyed chatting with Wilson last night after dinner. When he heard I wanted to try haggis, he suggested a small one for breakfast. Wilson not only cares for his guests and oversees the smooth running of the hotel…he also bar tends and is the breakfast chef! As promised, I had a wee haggis for breakfast this morning, along with a fried egg and two pieces of Scotland’s wonderful bacon. The haggis was delicious!

After our breakfast, we wandered about Lauder, snapping pictures and stopping in a few stores. Lauder is a ancient and beautiful little burgh, snug in the rolling hills of the Borders. I love the stone buildings and cobbled walkways and streets. It’s not hard to imagine life here hundreds of years ago.

There are records dating back to 1124 that mention Lauder as a kirk-town, kirk being the Scottish word for church. What began as a fort near the town was given to the Lauder family and they in turn sold the structure to the Maitlands in 1587. This fort transitioned into Thirlestane Castle as it was added on to over the centuries. The history and antiquity in this town, in this area and indeed, in all of Scotland, amazes me. It makes me gawk a lot as I walk around!

Our charming host, Wilson, told Mindy about a fabric shop in the nearby town of Melrose. In the afternoon we took a taxi to the home of the Melrose Abbey and had a look around. Melrose is another beautiful small town. Tall rock walls surround the Abbey on one side and part of the town. Mindy was able to buy 100% wool by the meter at the shop Wilson suggested. We enjoyed a walk along the main street in Melrose and had a delightful early afternoon tea at Russell’s. The dark clouds that had been gathering unburdened themselves as we sipped our tea.

We experienced our first heavy rain since we’ve been in Scotland. Although we pulled our hoods up and sloshed through the rain to visit several more shops, alas we had to cancel our visit to the Abbey. That experience will have to wait for a return trip.

For return I shall. I love this country and this little town of Lauder in the Scottish Borders. Last night I dreamed I returned here to live, working to connect American Lauderdales and Maitlands with their homeland, marketing for Thirlestane Castle and the burgh of Lauder itself! What a dream!

Walking today, I realized that several things that are true about me have deep roots in Scotland. My love of land and working the earth, of water, of growing trees and plants and flowers, are traits, gifts, carried genetically to me from this wild country. Everywhere I looked today, in Lauder, in Melrose, there were flowers blooming in vivid, riotous colors! Flower boxes, hanging baskets, tiny front gardens, seemingly random patches of earth, all filled with luscious flowers. No wonder I am transforming my own backyard back home into a garden. I am responding to an ancient desire that has been imbedded in my DNA.

There are other truths I’ve discovered about myself during my stay here that I will take home with me and ponder for a while. I’ve had beautiful “aha” moments and great clarity and my love and appreciation for Scotland and her people has deepened. It’s almost time to fly home. There has been such joy in this journey. I won’t say “goodbye”. I’ll say “until next time”.


Day 225: Thirlestane Castle


A very long time ago, a wee lass with the last name of Lauderdale, heard about a far away place called Scotland. Listening to stories about this place and hearing that her family came from a little village called Lauder ignited a fire in her heart, even though to her limited understanding, her family consisted of a daddy and a mommy and younger sisters living with her. Stories of a castle that still existed sounded like a magical fairy tale, and that magic enchanted the wee lass and created a strong desire to see this place. Today, half a century later, with the fire still burning within her, the grown woman stood at last before the castle, which was magical indeed, and felt such gratitude that in writing about the experience, the feeling could not be contained and leaked out of her eyes.

Oh what a long journey this has been, from my first longing to see Scotland and be in Lauder, to the actual experiencing of it. All the time melted away today as Mindy, Harry and I arrived in Lauder. I have loved every moment of my journey through Scotland. And yet at the back of my mind, the mantra of I am going to Lauder has reminded me of the experience to come and the fulfillment of a dream.

Being in Lauder, feeling the ancient roots of my family’s heritage, walking the village street, seeing Thirlestane Castle and wandering through its rooms, knowing the portraits of long gone men and women are connected to me is not only the pinnacle of this trip, it is the pinnacle of a lifetime journey to get here.

The Lauderdales of America are connected to Clan Maitland of Scotland and the Border town of Lauder through a single ancestor who traveled to the United States long ago. For 700 years Thirlestane Castle has been home to the Maitlands. A long line of earls has arisen from this place, with the current 18th Earl of Lauderdale, Ian, residing in London. The 2nd earl, John Maitland, became the Duke of Lauderdale and was a powerful man in Scotland and England. The castle is currently resided in by Gerald Maitland-Carew and his family.

As a child, and later as an adult, hearing and reading about Scotland, the castle, earls and a duke, were fuel for my imagination and my desire. Going to Scotland to see it all for myself was a matter of when, not if. For years, a corner of each of my vision boards has been devoted to images of Scotland, a visual reminder of a childhood dream that grew as I grew. How amazing, during this year of firsts, that the opportunity arrived with an invitation from my cousin Mindy to travel to Scotland with her and her son, Harry. Mindy’s mother and my father were sister and brother, Lauderdales who passed on that Scottish blood to us, and have now both passed out of this lifetime. Mindy and Harry have dreamed of Scotland all their lives as well. I can’t imagine anyone better to live out this experience with than these two.

It was surreal today, standing at the castle, taking pictures outdoors with my camera. We slowly moved through the rooms that are open to the public. In the large paneled library, I saw an old black and white photo of a Maitland who looked like my dad. There is such history there, and a sense of time moving on, highlighting, briefly, this earl, that countess, this family. Time still moves on. The castle has faced decay and the threat of ruin and has needed extensive restoration, which continues today.

I felt small, to be in such an ancient place. In quieting my mind’s chatter I could hear the echoes of generations of people living, in joy and in sorrow, within the thick walls. I could feel the connection, their souls with mine. And I left a part of my spirit, my energy, simply by being there, to merge with the family memories that flow through that grand place.

I am a Scot. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, I have arrived at the place where I started, and have known it for the first time. I came home. And I will carry home back with me to Missouri, as an ember that continues to burn in my heart, until I return again.


Day 224: Edinburgh Castle


The focus of today’s first was a visit to Edinburgh Castle, in the heart of Old Town. At the top of the Royal Mile is the gate to the castle. With a sense of awe we passed through that massive gate and entered a different world.

Once through the gate, it’s like being in a small city. A small fortified city. Built upon volcanic rock and overlooking both Old and New Towns, the castle of Edinburgh is an imposing fortress. Some sort of structure has sat atop that hill for more than 2000 years. From its vantage point, the castle has never been taken by force.

We opted to take a guided tour, rather than just wander around. Our tour guide, Jonathan, had a Scottish accent and the look of a Scottish laird with his red hair and beard. It was blustery and cold today so Jonathan sported plaid slacks rather than a kilt.

He expertly guided us through the castle grounds, relating stories and interesting facts. At the highest point, near the great hall and residential quarters, he set us free to explore.

Mindy and I had already spied our next stop…the castle tea room. Harry is good natured about our new obsession with afternoon tea and indulges us. And obsessed we have become. We have a good breakfast early in the day and then we skip lunch and have afternoon tea instead, which traditionally is between 3:00-5:00. We then have a late supper, between 7:30-9:00. We have wholeheartedly adopted the customs of this friendly group of people!

We enjoyed our tea and getting out of the cold wind for a short time. Mindy and Harry left to investigate the Whiskey Experience shop while I chose to remain in the castle.

On my own, I climbed the tower to view the Honours of Scotland, the royal crown, sword and sceptre. Our guide had explained how, in 1707, after England and Scotland united, the Crown Jewels were hidden away in a secured vault until they were rediscovered by Walter Scott in 1818. The pieces are on display now at the castle, along with the Stone of Destiny. Scotland’s first king, David I was crowned sitting on this large chunk of sandstone. All the kings of Scotland have been crowned thus. When Scotland united with England the Stone of Destiny was moved to Westminster and the kings and queens of England have been crowned with the stone beneath their throne. For 700 years the Stone of Destiny remained in England. It was recently returned to Scotland. The Scots will allow the stone to return to England for any future crownings but our guide told us, fiercely, that the stone will never again be away from Scotland for such a long period of time.

I stood before the Stone of Destiny and felt Scotland’s rich heritage so deeply. I wanted to touch the stone, as a way of acknowledging that I too am fulfilling my destiny. Alas, the stone is encased in glass, protected as it should be. It was enough to hear the story and see the stone.

I visited the residential palace and saw the room King James VI of Scotland and I of England was born in. It was a small room for a man who became so important. I also visited the chapel of St. Margaret, which is the oldest building in the castle complex. The original castle was destroyed in the 1300’s and was rebuilt in sections. I stood the longest on a battlement overlooking New Town as it marches down to the water, the Firth of Forth. So many have stood where I stood and looked out over the city during the past 2000 years. I felt such a kinship with the Scots. My ancestors. My people. Nearby a Scottish flag curled around the flag pole, temporarily snarled. I stood and willed it to catch the breeze and unfurl, so I could capture a picture. As I stood, camera ready, the wind picked up. The flag rippled and twisted and patiently, I waited. With a loud snap it untangled and unfurled, flying unfettered above the castle. I captured the image and smiling, wound my way down through the stone passageways to the gate. I didn’t shout it out, but in my heart rang a cry of freedom!