Surrender 40: From the High Kings to Scotland

I love how today’s fresh idea arrived via a flow of little events that led me merrily along. It began with a text from my niece Ashley. She asked if I had heard of the group The High Kings. She had heard several of their songs on Pandora and thought I might be interested in their Celtic sound. 

 

I had not heard of The High Kings, however I quickly remedied that. I discovered they are an Irish folk group formed in Dublin in 2008 by Celtic Woman manager Dave Kavanagh. The band consists of Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy, Martin Furey and Darren Holden.
I found videos of The High Kings on YouTube and listened to lilting tunes such as “The Rising of the Moon” and “Rocky Road to Dublin”. Ashley and I texted about how enjoyable it is to have a quiet afternoon, alone, with music playing. 

            Listen to The Irish Pub by The High Kings

 

I continued to listen to this Irish folk band as I worked. I was in creative writing mode. I paused to listen to The Irish Pub song. The lyrics reminded me that just yesterday Greg mentioned there is an authentic Irish Pub in Tulsa, OK. That’s what the song is about, that wherever you go around the world, you’ll find an Irish pub. I smiled over the synchronicity, and determined to visit Kilkenny’s in Tulsa soon. 
  
I remembered the Scottish pubs that Mindy, William and I visited in Scotland. Although I’m not much for “a pint”, I loved these charming places to eat and drink. If you want to get an idea of what the local people are like, we discovered, stop by a pub. Our first night in Scotland, we had fish and chips at The Horse Shoe in Glasgow. 

  
Instantly I was transported back to Scotland, reliving the ten days I spent there. Memories of that time stirred, bringing joy, and an ache akin to homesickness. Into that emotion packed space, an idea arose, and grew, taking shape. I jotted down thoughts and started an outline for a fun memoir type article that I will submit for consideration to the right publication. The conclusion for the piece that I haven’t formally written yet came to me, fully formed. I wrote it down. 

  
I love how that idea was birthed. I’m excited to write the piece up and see what happens to it. And along the way, I was introduced to a wonderful Celtic band by Ashley, reminded to visit a pub in Tulsa, and revisited Scotland in my heart and mind. That’s a great afternoon well spent in my opinion. I’m reveling in the adventures that accompany the writer’s life. 

  

Surrender 39: Hidden Treasures

For the next six to eight weeks, Mondays will be spent in Arkansas. I am helping Greg get his dad’s house ready to go on the market, to be sold. We’ve spent random days there, sorting items and hauling out the stuff that accumulates over a lifetime. This is now a very focused and intentional plan to complete the necessary tasks and have my realtor friend in Arkansas list the property. 

It’s been interesting, opening up drawers and clearing out closets and cupboards. So many memories hidden within. So many times Greg and I have laughed or teared up. For Greg especially, these items we are bringing into the light again represent his past, and his parents’ lives, captured in old photos or a favorite watch or a worn billfold. 

 

Greg’s mother, Leta, had Alzheimer’s the last nine years of her life. I’ve found treasures that she apparently tucked away and then forgot about. They are reminders of her illness, yes, but more so, finding these forgotten purchases and half completed craft projects remind me of her love for her family and her creativity. 

I love the cloth balls I found recently in the bottom drawer of an armoire. I don’t know if she bought them or made them, these simple balls created from strips of colorful fabric. They are homey. And perfect nestled in a white footed bowl in my vintage wooden sieve after the paperwhites finished blooming. 
 

Today I worked methodically through kitchen cabinets, throwing away plastic containers and paper goods, and sorting through a large variety of knick knacks, kitchen gadgets and keepsakes. High in an upper cupboard, I found stacks of delicate cups and saucers.  Leta, who enjoyed hot tea as I do, collected tea cup sets. 
  
I had fun looking at each cup and finding the matching saucers. I discovered a small cup that looks like it’s made from polished alabaster. Within the cup was a scrap of paper with Leta’s distinctive handwriting on it, identifying the cup as being from Cairo, Egypt, a gift from Aunt Pearl. I was delighted! Greg’s great-aunt Pearl was one of my favorite people. This bright and adventurous woman was traveling the world well into her 80’s. 

  
I picked up a pretty bone china cup. It was so delicately made that the light shown through it when I held the tea cup up to the light. I peered within and found another scrap of paper, folded up and yellowed with age. Unfolding the paper, I was amazed at what Greg’s mom had written: 

A gift to Bob’s grandparents/Kygar, on their 20th wedding anniversary. 

I felt a little shaky! This cup was given to a couple who married in 1888. Their 20th wedding anniversary would have been in 1918…98 years ago. The saucer must have been broken long ago and there is a very fine crack noticeable in the bottom of the cup. But for the cup to have survived this long, through countless moves, and the hands of children and grandchildren, is astounding. 

  

Anna and Daniel Kygar, on the left, are pictured above with Ruby (Kygar) and Bill Moore on their wedding day. The other couple is Bill’s parents, T.O. and Lillian Moore. Anna and Daniel celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary the next year. 

I carefully returned the cup to the shelf. I am thrilled to have found this treasure, and I want to continue to preserve this keepsake for my children and grandchildren. The world won’t shatter, if the tea cup does, but I don’t want that happening on my watch. I’m thinking about how best to display the cup, with its tiny scrap of information. 

I’m grateful to Leta Moore. As her Alzheimer’s progressed, she often wrote little notes to herself, so that she would remember. And when all memory was gone, she trusted that others would find her notes, and becoming the keeper of the information, continue on the story. Well done, Mom Moore. I found your hidden treasures and your words. I’ll pass on the items, and the stories . 

   

Surrender 38: Super Sunday

Today was Super Bowl Sunday, and a milestone event at that, with this being the 50th. Here in the US, this day is very much a holiday, with parties, special food and drink, and keen interest in the outcome of a football game. 

At my house, there wasn’t a party, or a big spread of snacks, and no alcohol was consumed. It was a low key, relaxing day that flowed eventually to the kick off of the football game of the year between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers.  

 

Angel, pictured above, perfectly captured the mood of the day! Rest was perfect. My sinuses were very congested today, and I’m grateful I could sip hot tea and enjoy a peaceful afternoon. 

 

I had intended to cook up a pot of chili, so that there would be something to eat during the game. And then Greg found a goulash recipe on Facebook that he shared with me. That sounded better! It’s been years since I’ve prepared this tasty dish. Here’s the simple recipe:

Easy American Goulash

2 lbs ground beef, browned

1 medium onion, chopped

1 medium green pepper, chopped

32 oz tomato juice

I 16 oz can diced tomatoes 

2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked

After browning ground beef, combine all ingredients in a large cooking pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

The goulash was great, served with thickly sliced and buttered toasted bread. Greg said my goulash is better, but he enjoyed this version as well. 

 

While waiting for the big game, I spent the afternoon engaging in one of my favorite activities, coloring. I not only enjoy expressing my creativity via coloring, it is also very similar to meditation, slowing my mind and heart rate and quieting my body. 

I completed the parrots picture, which was a weekly challenge for one of my coloring groups. I appreciate the challenges. They push me to learn new techniques and color pictures that I wouldn’t, otherwise. Because of them, I’m becoming a better colorist. 

 

As the game began, I returned to coloring a work in progress, for a monthly challenge in another group. I’m not a huge football fan, although I enjoy watching the Super Bowl, primarily for the commercials. An advantage to not really caring which team wins is that I can watch in a relaxed state, appreciating things about both teams. 
  
My favorite Super Bowl commercial was the one with dachshunds sporting hot dog costumes, running toward people dressed in ketchup and mustard outfits. It was adorable! And the Doritos ads were winners again this year, making me laugh the most. 

   
The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl, 24 – 10. It was a good game, with the teams evenly matched. I colored during the game, glancing up occasionally, listening as I laid color onto my page…and paused to look up during the commercials! That’s backwards, I know, but the routine worked beautifully for me. Super Bowl Sunday was a Super Day! 

  

Surrender 37: Looking for Margaret, Countess of Lauderdale

Today’s surrender evolved out of a request for information from my sister Debbie. She is working on her own copy of our family lineage, after she and my niece recently joined the Maitland Clan. To find the birth and death dates she asked for, I hauled out my genealogy notebook. 

  

This black binder, stuffed with pages and pages of notes and charts, represents years of research by my mom, my Aunt Annie and me. When I first connected to the Internet, back in the early 90’s, I made use of sites such ancestry.com, pouring over names and dates, building my own family tree based on the work of many others. 

However, it’s been a long time since I’ve done any fresh work. As I flipped through pages in my notebook, looking up info for Debbie, I paused by one particular name. 

Countess Margaret Cunningham 

b 1660 in Glencairn, Scotland

d UNKNOWN 

  
She was married to John Maitland, was mother of James Maitland, who traveled to America. She’s in my Scottish lineage, yet back when I had been doing research, I had not found much about her. I had nothing listed about her parents. 

Well the Internet has exploded since those early days of the World Wide Web. I googled her. I was not disappointed. A wealth of informative came up. Primarily using a site called GENi, I grabbed a pencil and began to fill in the blanks. 

  
What I discovered was more than her dates of birth and death. I found a whole new line of ancestors that includes more than 100 people, so far! I had intended to add Margaret’s info, and then color. But my curiosity compelled me to keep going. I surrendered to following that trail. 

I’m so glad that I did! Researching the Cunningham branch of my family yielded amazing finds. Back I went, generation after generation, to the old kings of Scotland, to Ireland, to Carthage, North Africa, Russia, and the ancient kings of Norway, Denmark and Sweden. 

Within Scotland I have newly discovered ties to the clans of Cunningham, Campbell, Gordon, Hamilton, Douglas, Lindsay and Montgomery. And I can show that I am related to Gandalf. Yes! One of my distant ancestors is Gandalf Alfgeirsson, King of Vingulmark in Norway. That may be the closest claim I have yet to Middle Earth! 

I loved coming across names in my family lines such as Ragnall mac Somhairle – Lord of the Isles, Raum the Old, Svadi the Giant and Auor the Deep Minded. Many of my ancestors died in battles, on land and sea, and one unfortunate, Ragnar Sigurdsson, a king of Sweden, died in a snake pit. 

  
My explorations today created nine pages of new notes – and I’ve only traced back about half of the names I wrote down – and re-ignited my interest in genealogy. Looking at the names, jotting down birth dates and death dates, all the way back to the year 320, I held on to the thought that these were real people, living real lives, loving, marrying, birthing the next generation, dying. They experienced great joys and great hardships. They laughed and cried. 

As the search for Margaret Cunningham Maitland, Countess of Lauderdale, took me all over Europe, and dipped into Africa and Russia, I recognized again, we are all ONE family. We are ALL connected. I see that just from looking back from one individual. When I look at all my known family, I can almost cover the globe. I am here, right now, because of all of these other people. That’s amazing!

I love the words of Native American writer, Linda Hogan: 

“Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”

There’s even a Gandalf walking back there! 

  

Surrender 36: Happy Birthday Josh

This year, I’ve surrendered to an idea that came to me, to honor each person in my family on his or her birthday. Parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, both “regular” and “great”, all will be celebrated on the anniversary of their entrance into the world, or on the day of the birthday party, whichever arrives first! 

I kicked off the year, with the first birthday, followed by great-niece Aralyn. And I just this moment realized I missed her daddy, my nephew Eric, whose birthday was three days after mine! Watch for a belated birthday post. My son-in-law Josh leads off the February birthdays. Today is his actual birthday. 

 

  
Josh is married to my daughter Elissa. However, I’ve known him all of his life. When I met his parents for the first time, Deb was pregnant with her first born, Josh. Mike and Deb moved to Pittsburg, KS and a few years later, Greg and I moved to Joplin. We saw the Adam family often, and their four children and our three would play together. Elissa and Josh, being the eldest of the kids, have hung out since they were children. 

Elissa and Josh each have a son from their first marriages, Dayan and Jonathan. When they married a little over a year ago, after reconnecting and dating for several years, they brought their hearts and their boys into a beautiful new family. 

 

   
I love and appreciate Josh. He is steady and dependable, low key and quiet, yet when he shares, he has something worthwhile to say. He works hard, helps around the house, cooks. Josh is a wonderful husband to my daughter, and an excellent dad to Jonathan and stepdad to Dayan. 

  
 

And while he’s not normally one to be the center of attention, he certainly knows how to have fun! I love when my whole family is gathered. Watching my adult children and their sweethearts laughing, joking, and chatting animatedly together brings great joy to my heart and a smile to my face.

I’m thankful for Josh and this opportunity to express my gratitude for his strength, his character and values, and his kind and generous heart. Who would have known, years ago, that this charming boy would one day become a son? I’m so glad he’s part of my family. Happy birthday Josh! I love you! 

  

Surrender 35: World Cancer Day

I was aware that today was World Cancer Day, however, I didn’t intend to write about it. I didn’t want to write about it. I hate cancer. I pushed the idea of doing anything or blogging about it away most of the day. And yet, the topic of cancer popped up over and over today, partly, I’m sure, because of the day of awareness. 

 

Although my family has not been as hard hit as many have by this disease, we have not been untouched. 

My sweet daddy passed away after a valiant two year battle with pancreatic cancer. That was almost six years ago. Greg’s brother Ray, my Grandma Mildred, my cousins Bill, Steven and Mindy, Uncle Dale…all succumbed to this disease as well. One of my clients, who is also my friend, just found out his young adult daughter has stage four glioblastoma. One does not have to look far to find someone affected by the ravages of cancer. 

 One of my favorite pictures of my dad, cuddling my daughter Adriel.  

I reluctantly looked up info this afternoon, about World Cancer Day, which launched in 2000 with the purpose of raising awareness about cancer, promoting research to cure and prevent the disease, and improving treatment. This year’s theme is “We can, I can”. 

Thankfully, there was good news from the American Cancer Society. There are 14.5 million people alive in the US who have or had cancer. And while individual cancer mortality rates vary, depending on the type, the five year survival rate for all US cancers diagnosed between 2005 – 2011 is 67%. That’s a 19 point increase since 1977. 

  
The bad news is that 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year. The leading cancers are lung, breast, bowel and prostate. 

World Cancer Day wants to continue shrinking the burden of cancer, according to its website. In keeping with its theme, organizers have suggested certain goals. Collectively, they said “we can” inspire action, create healthy environments, build a quality workforce and shape policy change. They suggested “I can” understand that early detection saves lives, support others, return to work and make healthy lifestyle choices.

 

For me to take a “head in the sand” approach to cancer serves no one, helps no one. I at last realized that my reluctance to recognize this day was a way to pretend that the disease doesn’t exist. My resistance clued me in to the fact that I was taking myself out of the flow. I don’t want to do that, or pretend any longer. I checked in with my friend, asking about his daughter. I researched what’s going on in cancer research, discovering there are some promising treatments and possible cures being developed. 

And I found an awareness raising campaign, Talking Hands, in which this year’s motto is written on the palm and a photo taken. The pic is shared on social media with the hashtags, #WorldCancerDay and #WeCanICan. The photos will be collected on the worldcancerday.org site. I wrote on my palm with a purple marker, for my dad, because pancreatic cancer uses a purple awareness ribbon. 

  

ESPN anchor Stuart Scott said, “When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.” 

My dad taught me the truth of this. My dad decided to live every day of his life, doing what he loved to do. Cancer didn’t win. Dad won. He also taught me that how you face death is as important as how you live your life. He faced his with courage and grace and even humor. And he loved us all through the experience, before he said goodbye. Thank you for such an amazing gift Dad. I love you. We can…I can…raise awareness…and beat cancer. 

  

Surrender 34: Completed Vision Boards

This evening my sister Linda, my mom, and my grandson Dayan gathered with me to complete our vision boards. Or in Dayan’s case, his drawing.  

And just like last week, we enjoyed a time of creativity and lively conversation, as we began the task of gluing images, words and phrases onto the white poster boards. Dayan deftly sketched Egyptian landmarks, artifacts and symbols while contributing to the topic of the moment. We had so much fun, chatting and laughing, that Dayan opted to stay with us this time, rather than going to his youth group. 

  
I love that three generations of my family can have so much fun together. Somehow the conversation shifted to music. Dayan used his iPhone to play a couple of his current favorites, one of which was Pink’s version of Bohemian Rhapsody. Of course, we sang along. Adele’s widely popular song “Hello” was discussed and a funny video watched. When Linda requested the actual song, well, we put our hearts and souls into that sing-along, and perhaps a few hand motions. Adele would have approved, I’m sure. 

 

As we finished, we took turns holding our boards up so I could take pictures. Mom started the trend of peeking over or around the edge. Her board features her word for 2016, “Kindness”, and an emphasis on health, fitness, finances and a trip to Ireland. 
 

Linda’s board has her word for the year, “Courageous “, at the top. She is focusing on fitness, organization, better habits, a trip to Seattle…and her love life apparently! 

My board is pictured below. I am hence forth referring to this yearly practice as creating an awareness board. I’ve realized that I’m capturing who I am, at this moment in my journey, on my board. This is an accurate snapshot of who I am, right now, and what I enjoy, what I dream about. 

My symbol is there, in the middle of a collage of words, quotes and images. My word, “Surrender”, is captured in a couple of quotes. Creativity, writing, coloring, and gardening are all represented. My family is there. And almost half of my board is devoted to travel, with Scotland and Italy pictured as destinations. Rivendell made the board, along with a playful nod to an upcoming adventure in which Dayan and I will meet David Tennant and Billie Piper, from Doctor Who. 

I appreciate my family joining in, in the creative exercise, the conversations and the singing. They created awesome boards and Dayan’s drawing is amazing. I like the way my Awareness Board turned out. It’s a great collage, representing a great journey. Life is great! 

  

Surrender 33: Old Chicago Pizza

Today I got to try out, for the first time, a restaurant that opened recently in Joplin. Old Chicago Pizza is located at 3320 S. Range Line Road. I met my good friend Garen there, who is always great to suggest new places to experience. 

 

I arrived a few minutes ahead of Garen and looked up info about this restaurant. Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom started in 1976 in Boulder, Colorado. It is now part of CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries, which operates 60 restaurants in 22 states.

Old Chicago features delectable pizzas in deep dish, thin crust or stuffed crust versions. They also serve more traditional dishes, such as pastas, sandwiches, salads, burgers and calzones as well as appetizers. The cheesecake is highly recommended. And each restaurant carries a wide assortment of beer. 
 

The Joplin restaurant is clean and brightly lit, with ample seating space, and a bar at one end. Garen joined me at a booth and the task began of deciding what to order for lunch. Everything in the menu looked appealing. We passed on an appetizer, although they offered great choices. Although we were in a place that specializes in pizza, both of us opted for a sandwich. I’ll try the pizza another time. 

I sampled the California Chicken Sandwich, primarily because it is served with slices of avocado, accompanied by a side of fresh veggies with ranch and bleu cheese dressing for dipping. Garen had a Spicy Thai Chicken Sandwich with the fresh veggies as well.
  
Both sandwiches looked amazing! I can only vouch for mine…it was amazing. I believe Garen enjoyed his also. We quickly gave up trying to pick the sandwiches up to eat them. They were so loaded, it was impossible not to make a mess. A knife and fork worked well. 

What a great meal, at Old Chicago, and a wonderful time of catching up and sharing with my friend. I deeply value Garen’s perspectives on life and his input. We’ve been friends for seven years and it’s been a privilege to journey with him, learning, growing, discussing ahas and oh nos along the way. He’s been present with me through times of great joy and great sorrow. 

Today he told the waitress it was my birthday. It was…last month! She wished me happy birthday several times, and even left a note on the bill, writing “Happy 21st birthday!!” 😃  To celebrate the day, we of course had to try Old Chicago’s famous cheesecake. Covered with strawberries and blueberries, we found it worthy of its reputation! 

Garen’s birthday was last month also, just three days after mine. It’s my turn to treat him to lunch. I’m thinking about what new place to try next!

  

Surrender 32: Mesmer

I came across this movie recently as I was searching for Alan Rickman films that I’ve missed. It’s a historical piece, set in Vienna in the 18th century, and I was unfamiliar with it. When it popped up again this afternoon, I decided to watch just a few minutes of the movie, to get a feel for it. I was especially intrigued by the subtitle on a movie poster: “Look into his eyes, and surrender the secrets of your soul.” That was very much an invitation!

 

I was more than intrigued, after watching for a few minutes, and settled in to view the entire film. 

Mesmer stars Alan Rickman, Gillian Barge, Amanda Ooms and Martin Schwab. The 1994 biography/drama was directed by Roger Spottiswoode and has a run time of 1 hour and 47 minutes. The movie is unrated, however, I’d give it a PG-13 rating, for adult themes. 

Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer (Rickman) is a physician in 18th century Vienna, who uses unconventional methods for bringing relief to the ill. Whether the suffering are plagued by physical or mental disorders, Dr. Mesmer believes that the patients have some responsibilities, both for their diseases and their cures. 

 

He employs what he terms “animal magnetism”, an invisible fluid that courses through all living creatures, to confront illness or dis-ease in the body, bringing about an eventual cure. Mesmer has learned to use the magnetism that runs through his own body to begin the healing process in another. 

However, virtually everyone, including Mesmer’s wife (Barge), believes the doctor to be a fraud, a charlatan, engaging the patient’s imagination with his own charisma, rather than creating true healing. At a time when blood letting was the most oft used course of treatment for all illnesses, Mesmer’s techniques seemed more magical than medical. 

 
Mesmer has the opportunity to fully use his unorthodox practices on young pianist Maria Theresa Paradies (Ooms), who has suffered from blindness and fits of severe pain since early childhood. Maria’s abusive father (Schwab), who does not want his daughter to be healed, seeks to have Mesmer ostracized from Vienna. No one, from the haughty medical community, to Mesmer’s jealous wife, believes in the amazing claims the doctor makes, even when it appears that Maria regains her sight. 

Is he a charlatan, a fraud…or a genius? 

This was a fascinating movie. I was so curious about whether the story was based on fact, that I paused about 2/3 of the way through, and did research. Franz Mesmer was an actual person, who did propose his theory of an invisible force that could be transferred between living beings and even inanimate objects. He was totally misunderstood and his theories never proven, even though a council that included American Benjamin Franklin studied his techniques and attempted to identify the invisible fluid that Mesmer spoke of.

 The real Franz Mesmer.  

I recognized that Mesmer, whose methods created the word “mesmerize”, was familiar with and used energy flow. He called it an invisible fluid and magnetism, which is an accurate way to describe chi, or the life energy that flows through us all. His manner of using his own hands to direct that invisible force, bringing healing to others, is very similar to the practice of reiki. 

Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Dr. Mesmer created deep sympathy within me. As a boy, Franz saw the harmony in nature and the disharmony, in mind and body, of humans. That imbalance, he believed, led to many of the ailments that people suffered from. “How could I not try to help?” he asked. 

 

Mesmer believed that the eyes could see inwardly, as well as outwardly, and that each person must begin the journey toward healing by gazing inside first.  He didn’t offered immediate healing. He knew it was a day by day journey. However many who sought him out were disillusioned when their afflictions weren’t instantly cured. Mesmer appeared to live in the moment, knowing that past trauma could result in disorders and that trying to live in the future created anxieties of the mind and spirit. Sadly, he was way ahead of his time, in his thoughts and beliefs. And truthfully, even by today’s medical standards,  his energy practices would still be considered unconventional by many. 

This is a film, a story, that will stay with me for a long time. I truly was…well…mesmerized by Mesmer, and appreciative of his work, his heart and his vision. I’ll never again hear that word that’s synonymous with enchantment, without thinking of Dr. Franz Mesmer.