Willing to Embark

I thought I knew what I was going to write about tonight. However, the idea never quite settled in, or locked into place as the day progressed. I stayed open, and early in the evening, just as I was about to prepare dinner, I suddenly thought about my altered book, the one I am using as an art journal. I have not created a new page in it for several months.

As potatoes roasted in the oven, I flipped through my journal, waiting for the tap of inspiration that whispered here…create on this page. The book is called Captivating…Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by Stasi Eldredge. This is a duplicate copy of the book that I have read several times. I stopped on page 19, captured by these words mid page :

You can find that life—if you are willing to embark on a great adventure.

I had found my inspiration.

Willing to Embark

Before that sentence, Stasi writes that most women end up living two lives. Outwardly we are busy, efficient, professional, getting by. Inwardly, we lose ourselves in a fantasy world or give ourselves over to food or other addictions to numb the aches of our hearts. But our hearts are still there, longing to be set free, to find the life our desires are hinting at.

You can find that life—if you are willing to embark on a great adventure.

As soon as I read those words, an image popped into my mind. Two years ago my word for the year was Surrender, and my symbol was the River. I learned much that year about surrendering to the flow of life, and going where that flow took me. I could easily compare Life to a Great River, and imagine myself in a canoe, being swept along from adventure to adventure. I didn’t try to resist the River’s current, or take up an oar to navigate. I trusted in Divine guidance, knowing the Dream Giver was just around the River Bend, calling to me.

I knew what to create on this journal page.

Willing to Embark

I used a sketching pencil to quickly outline a rising sun, full of promise, and a canoe being carried down a river. I am riding in the canoe. Those lessons in the manga workbook are paying off! The sketch came together easily, and drawing from my imagination used to be difficult for me.

A black gel pen with a fine tip defined the components of the drawing. I was ready to color. This is the part of art journaling that I most enjoy. I gathered 100 colored pencils, Crayola and Prismacolor brands, and created a color palette that relied on blues for the river and yellows, golds and pinks for the sunrise.

Coloring is meditative for me, soothing and relaxing. As I colored and shaded, I thought about my journey. I have lived as two people…the quiet, correct, do-what-others-expect woman…and the wild spirit who kept her desires hidden deep within her heart. I reached the point of being willing to embark on a great adventure, which first involved an inward journey, to rescue and free my heart.

The outward expression of who I have become has been, and continues to be, the greatest of adventures! It truly is about living as the woman I am and embarking wholeheartedly on that journey called Life.

I just looked up the word embark. It originates from the French word embarque, literally meaning in a ship. My illustration is amazing, in light of that definition. And the unexpected connection between the word and the image that came to me is itself symbolic of my magical journey. Yes, I was so willing. I have embarked.

Willing to Embark

Exploring Edinburgh Castle

The focus of our second, and final, day in Edinburgh was the castle perched solidly atop volcanic rock, high above the sprawling city. The weather was decidedly Scottish…cool and drizzly, with periods of light rain. We weren’t deterred. Donning hoodie jackets over warm layers, we set out on the day’s adventures.

Here are the highlights of our explorations:

Edinburgh Castle has existed in varying degrees of size and fortification since the second century AD. Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest surviving structure in the castle complex, and also the oldest in Edinburgh. Most of the other buildings have been destroyed during bombardments and rebuilt.

Our tour guide, Robby, was knowledgeable and guided us expertly around the castle grounds, telling stories and sharing interesting facts.

Looking out over the battlements, toward the Firth of Forth. The castle is at the top of the Royal Mile, in the heart of the Old City. Edinburgh’s New City stretches out toward the water.

And looking to the west.

The stone structures comprising the castle are beautiful. The castle grounds spiral upward by way of cobbled courtyards and streets. The former royal residences are at the peak, where they were most protected. Today the castle house’s numerous museums and exhibitions and it is one of the most visited sites in the world.

The Great Hall.

The Royal dining room, and a sculpture representing the crowning of Robert the Bruce, located in an alcove off of the room containing the Crown Jewels of Scotland and the Stone of Destiny. Photos were not allowed in the Crown Jewels room.

I love the Stone of Destiny, a slab of ordinary looking stone that the kings of Scotland were crowned upon. King Edward I of England took the stone, and for 700 years, it rested beneath the throne of the English monarchy. But it was officially returned to Scotland in 1996.

Group pic in front of the castle.

We walked through a stark recreation of the living conditions in the castle’s prison rooms, where prisoners of war were held. Americans ended up in here as well, when they were captured as enemies against Great Britain. The rooms, while fascinating to explore, held a troubled energy that empathetically created discomfort in my chest. We viewed the original wooden cell doors, where prisoners had scratched words of hope and detailed works of art, including an American flag.

We enjoyed a light lunch in the castle’s tea room, and later shopping on the Royal Mile. However, most of our day was spent within the castle walls, looking, listening, learning. This was not just a tourist stop for us. The history here is part of our history as well.

The Scots are my people. This is my land. My heart dwells here in joy and peace, and embedded in my DNA are characteristics that sprang from this rich and fertile land. I’ve loved every moment spent in Edinburgh.

Tomorrow we head south to Lauder, in the Borders. This area of Scotland has great significance for my family. I am looking forward to visiting Thirlestane Castle again and

sharing that journey with my mom, sisters and niece.

Alexander McCall Smith wrote about Edinburgh: “This is a city of shifting light, of changing sky, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again.”

I so agree. I love this city. My heart has been pierced by its beauty and energy. Edinburgh, I will be back.

Edinburgh Says Welcome Back

I first visited this amazing Scottish city in 2014. I’ve dreamed of returning since the moment my airplane lifted into the skies above Edinburgh, homeward bound. What a powerful feeling of anticipation I experienced this morning as our small jet flew low over the Scottish countryside, in preparation for landing.

Edinburgh feels like coming home to me.

We are staying in a wonderful 2 bedroom apartment in the center of old Edinburgh. As we waited for our quarters to be ready, we explored the neighborhoods nearby, found a delightful little cafe for lunch, and eventually ended up touring the city in our favorite way on a hop on/hop off bus.

Here are highlights of the day:

This huge sign greeted us as we exited the Edinburgh airport, perfectly expressing the way I feel. In ways I can’t fully explain, Scotland feels like home to me. Although my ancestors came from the Scottish Borders south of the city, and I love that region as well, Edinburgh calls to me like no other place on earth. It is my favorite city.

As I was looking for a quote about Edinburgh that I only half remembered, I came across another one that expresses my sentiments as well: “I always feel that when I come to Edinburgh, in many ways I am coming home.” What surprised me was who said those words…the late actor, Alan Rickman, who has been foundational to my year of inspiration. I should have known he had a connection to Edinburgh as well.

The ancient Edinburgh Castle sits high atop a craggy hill, overlooking the city. We will visit this fortress in the morning.

Beautiful architecture throughout the city, in both the old side and the new side, which is still more than 700 years old.

One of the places all of us wanted to see was the site of the Greyfriars Bobby statue. Bobby was a wee terrier whose owner passed away after a sudden illness. For 14 years, the faithful dog stayed near his owner’s grave in the cemetery. People cared for him, providing food and shelter. When the loyal pup died of old age, he was buried just inside the graveyard gate, near his human.

We toured the Greyfriars Kirk Graveyard as well. This old cemetery has a very gothic look, with headstones and memorials dating back to the 1500s. The overcast day created a gloomy atmosphere that was perfect for our exploration. Bobby’s grave is marked by a headstone that matches his owner’s, John Gray.

We completed our first day in Scotland with a delicious dinner at Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. Debbie and Linda tried haggis for the first time. Mom and I had a veggie burger that was awesome. And I got to enjoy a Scottish cider called Thistly Cross. This light and refreshing hard cider has simple ingredients and no added sugar.

It was an enchanting day, full of glad remembrances and happy reunions as I recognized landmarks from my previous trip. I dearly love this city. The energy is lively, uplifting and intriguing. My heart beats in sync with the rhythms of Auld Reekie, so named for the smoke that used to rise from the cottages.

Riding in the top deck of our tour bus, I couldn’t help but notice bright yellow flags along a street. Welcome Back they declared. Thank you, I silently answered. I am so happy to be back.

Getting to Know Dublin

We arrived in Dublin, Ireland about 8:30 am this morning, after leaving Tulsa at 3:27 pm the day before. It was a long day of travel, however I am grateful for flights that arrived and departed on time and skies that remained free of storms. Other than the fact that none of us slept well on the plane, it was a smooth flight across the Atlantic. I watched movies and chatted with my family and seat mate, and closed my eyes and rested for a short time.

Today we decided to forego naps, even though we have all been awake for 36 hours, and get to know Dublin.

One of the best ways to get to know a new city is to take a tour on a Hop On/Hop Off bus. We found a café in which to enjoy our first Irish meal together, and then boarded a bus for a tour of Dublin. Come along!

We dined at Copper Alley Bistro, where Mom and I sampled the vegetable soup, which was puréed and served piping hot, and the others had traditional Irish fare such as fish & chips and beef stew. All of our meals were delicious and filling.

We sat on the top deck of a double decker tour bus and appreciated learning about this busy city. About half way through, the driver/tour guide changed and Bill was not only knowledgeable , he was humorous with a delightfully thick Irish brogue. He kept us interested and entertained.

We loved the impressive gothic structures that appeared moody against an overcast sky. We were surprised when we exited the plane this morning to learn it was a brisk 46 degrees in Dublin. Long sleeves and a jacket felt great today to protect against the chill.

We learned about Dublin’s history and heard colorful stories about founders, residents and events. This city has many national art museums, which can be visited free of charge. Today we didn’t “hop on and hop off” of the bus so we could get an overview of Dublin and learn where areas of interest were so we could return to them tomorrow.

One of the saddest stories, accompanied by sobering sculptures, was of the Irish Potato Famine that lasted from 1845-1852. The population decreased dramatically in Ireland, due to death by starvation and the exodus of people seeking to survive by emigrating to other countries. According to our guide, Ireland’s population has not recovered from that great tragedy.

We had fun, on this second day of our adventure. We learned how to get around the city, where to shop for simple dinners eaten at our apartment tonight, and we have a general idea of where major attractions are. As we ate this evening, we each contributed to a list of things we most want to do and see tomorrow.

And now, although it is still daylight outside, one by one the others have gone to bed for a long and well deserved night of rest. Dublin is beautiful and rich with architecture, history and legend. The people are friendly and helpful. We are excited about the possibilities and the opportunities that the new day will bring!

Dublin Bound

I am at the Tulsa airport, awaiting departure on the first leg of our journey to Dublin, Ireland. I’m sitting with my mom, sisters Linda and Debbie, and my niece Ashley. We’ve already laughed as we fumbled our way through the airport, dragging our carry ons, dropping travel pillows, watching my mom have to go through a security check because of metal in her knee.

This is going to be an amazing adventure, a one of a kind trip.

I’m posting early because our time is short here and even shorter at the Atlanta airport. And then we will lift into the air and arc over the Atlantic. I am looking forward to exploring Ireland, Scotland and England with my family. Even these times of sitting together at airports is precious as we chat and laugh and dream and wonder.

Ireland is where strange tales begin and happy endings are possible. ” Charles Haughey

Next stop, Dublin.

The Next Adventure Begins

The last day before my next adventure was full of real estate related work, which was fine. I am grateful for amazing clients and a bustling business. And…everywhere I went today, the question I was asked was “Are you packed yet?”

The simple answer was…no!

I started packing about 8:00 this evening as work wound down and fresh clean clothes began coming out of the dryer. As I rolled clothes and tucked them into my carry on, the excitement that has been building for the last week bubbled up. It is almost adventure time!

My post is brief tonight, as I still have a couple of real estate emails to send and a few things yet to cross off my “to do before I go” list before I sleep. However, I am smiling as I write this post. I can’t help it. My wandering heart gets to venture forth, starting tomorrow.

The beginning of the packing process…piles of clean laundry and an empty suitcase.

Keeping an eye on the final work for the day.

Tomorrow’s simple travel clothes laid out and ready to wear. I’m excited to carry the plaid poncho onto the plane and let it double as a blanket.

Young Living Essential Tangerine Oil in the diffuser keeps my energy up.

All packed, in a carry on: one pair of jeans, two jackets, pjs, a pair of walking shoes, a dozen pairs of socks, a dozen undies, two bras, thirteen shirts, supplements, a clear makeup case with my BOOMstick trio and essentials such as a toothbrush and comb, and my quart sized zip lock bag with travel sized liquids such as shower gel, lotion and toothpaste. There is room yet for a few more items after my morning shower.

I have several new shirts from Solgave that I look forward to wearing on the trip. This one expresses well where I am in my life journey: having fun and following my heart and living with No Regrets. I am doing what I want to do, and living large, so that at the end of my journey those words will be my epitaph.

Fifteen hours and counting. The next adventure begins!

Wherever the Road May Lead

Kids are so inspiring. I picked up three of my grandchildren from school today, Joey, Oliver and Aubrey, and after our customary stop for drinks and snacks, the kids suggested a game. We would drive away from the house, and at every intersection, the kids would take turns choosing a direction. We would continue with this “pick a direction” game until time to head home, and then find our way back. 

It sounded like an adventure to me! 

Wherever the Road May Lead
After dropping off backpacks at their home, we loaded back into the car. The kids asked if they could each take their pet along. Carl the dog and the cats, Mittens and Nakoma, all well behaved when riding in the car, joined us. And off we went. 

Wherever the Road May Lead
Wherever the Road May Lead
Wherever the Road May Lead

Joey selected our direction at the first intersection…left. Aubrey chose the next course change…right. And Oliver’s choice was straight ahead. At each crossroad, the kids took turns deciding which way to go, and I drove accordingly. 

I added a requirement to the adventure. I asked each child to watch for something interesting, unusual or beautiful that caught their attention, and requested that they take a photo with my iPhone. They were willing participants. 

Wherever the Road May Lead
We drove on country roads, venturing out into areas unknown. The sky was overcast but the countryside, awakening with bursts of colors and tender shades of green, gave us plenty to talk about and ohhhh and ahhhh over. We quite unexpectedly ended up at the rustic gates of Camp Cyokamo. I’ve heard of this remote campground, but I’d never seen it before. I snapped a pic. The gates were open, an invitation to explore, and we circled the camp. 

Wherever the Road May Lead
This large glass greenhouse, beautifully lit up, caught the attention of all of us. I pulled over so Aubrey could capture this gorgeous surprise, which sparked our imaginations and initiated animated conversations. 

Wherever the Road May Lead
On one of the roads we wandered down, we came upon a property with row after row of old, rusty tractors. We all exclaimed over the site of so many farm vehicles and speculated about the collectors. Were they farmers? How long had they been buying old tractors? Joey took great photos. 

Wherever the Road May Lead
By now I had no idea where we were. We drove down gravel county roads, turned on paved lanes with names like Nutmeg and Redbud, and crisscrossed over rivers, or the same river many times, on concrete bridges. The pets had all curled up and fallen asleep. 

Wherever the Road May Lead

Wherever the Road May Lead
When my daughter-in-law texted to say she was headed home from work, we knew it was time to find our way back. I allowed each child to choose one more direction. And Oliver photographed an American flag rippling in the breeze. His grin alerted me that he had shifted his focus, sneaking in a close up of Yaya at the wheel!

Wherever the Road May Lead
I am grateful that my phone has a GPS! I not only didn’t know where we were, I didn’t know how to find my way back. As I now drove following Siri’s directions, I was surprised to realize how far north and west we had gone. In a few minutes, however, we crossed a familiar highway and I got my bearings. We arrived home just ahead of Megan. 

What a fun game we played, and what adventurous and innovative grandchildren I have. What I enjoyed the most was that the kids were engaged and we had fun chatting and laughing. There were no electronics going in the car…no YouTube videos playing, no electronic games in use, no apps being downloaded. We talked. And wondered about things. And let random directions guide us to new sights. 

It was fun. It was the adventures of Yaya and Joey and Oliver and Aubrey…and Carl and Nakoma and Mittens. I look forward to playing this game again!

Wherever the Road May Lead

Journey 278: Riddles…and Selfies…in the Dark

Tonight my grandson Dayan and I had the joy of journeying through Middle Earth again. Fathom Events is hosting the extended editions of all three Hobbit movies, at our local theater. Tonight was The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of the trilogy. 


I have written several blog posts about the impact the Tolkien stories have had on my life. So I will not go into detail about the movie, except to say, every time I watch The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, I see something new, something fresh. My heart and soul expands because of the bigness of the story and I am inspired to live a larger life because of that expansiveness. Like Bilbo, I long for adventure and a significant role in a meaningful story. I love that toward the end of An Unexpected Journey, Bilbo, who has already experienced growth because of his adventure, says that he is not a hero, not even a burglar, which is what the Company sees him as. Bilbo is himself, and for the first time in his life, he is discovering exactly what that means. 

Dayan and I enjoyed the additional footage, 20 extra minutes of Middle Earth goodness. The majority of those extra scenes were in Rivendell, which made me smile. My grandson and I discussed the symbolism of Rivendell and many other deeper truths  behind Tolkien’s epic stories, a conversation that I enjoyed as much as the movie, which is saying a great deal. 


There was an on screen trivia game to play, as the minutes ticked down to show time. We only missed one question, out of 20, and had fun testing our knowledge. Most of all this evening, I enjoyed spending time with this remarkable young man, who so graciously accompanied me on this adventure. We chatted. And we laughed. A lot. 

Not knowing how many people would be in attendance, we arrived early, and discovered we were the first arrivals. The theater was already in semi darkness. We attempted to take a selfie, to commemorate our evening, and the hilarity began. My first selfie looked like this, after much editing:


Dayan did better with his phone, except we discovered that selfies in the dark cause the flash to come on, and it is difficult to keep your eyes open when the light flashes in your face. Each pic sent us into peals of laughter. 


I experienced a first today. I resorted to using a cane to help me walk easier, as my left leg is healing from a very inflamed sciatic nerve. I warned Dayan that I had a cane tonight, so he wouldn’t be concerned or surprised. After making sure I was going to be okay, and that the cane wasn’t a permanent accessory for me, he gently and relentlessly teased me about it the rest of the evening. From threatening to buy me a life alert necklace in case I “fell and couldn’t get up”, to including the cane in a selfie, to rescuing my cane when I fumbled and dropped it, Dayan’s good natured ribbing raised my spirits and reminded me that in the largeness of my life, this is a small matter. I appreciate him so much and I am grateful that we travel together on our current adventure. We look forward to the next two movies, Wednesday evening and next Tuesday, when we will see the extended edition of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies for the first time. I hope by then the cane is parked in a corner. If not, perhaps I’ll trade it for a staff, like Gandalf has. 


Journey 161: Trip to Philly

philly trip

Ask any realtor. If you want an increase in business, just plan a trip out of town! That’s certainly held true for me. I’ve had this trip planned since January, when my mentor and friend, Lu Ann Cahn came to Joplin. Lu Ann’s book, “I Dare Me” was the inspiration for my year of firsts in 2014. What an honor and privilege to meet her when she stopped in Joplin so that we could do a first, or dare, together. After we served lunch at Watered Gardens, a ministry in Joplin that feeds and shelters the homeless, Lu Ann and I had a late lunch together, and she invited me to Philedelphia to attend the nation’s oldest writer’s conference.

In the spirit of doing new things and journeying far this year, I said yes! The next five days will be full of adventures: first time to fly out of Joplin’s new airport, first trip to Philedelphia, first time to attend a writer’s conference and what a fun time I will have as Lu Ann’s house guest. This personable, lively woman continues to be such an inspiration to me!

philly trip Lu Ann

The Philedelphia Writer’s Conference was established in 1949. The founders were guided by the belief that writers gain from fellowship with other writers and from constructive professional help. The first writer’s conference in Philly hosted four workshops, a banquet and an evening speaker over two days and has grown to offer 14 workshops, four seminars, manuscript rap sessions, a Friday roundtable forum, speakers and the annual Saturday night banquet with keynote speaker. I am so excited to experience this conference, and revel in the creative energy that is sure to be surrounding the event.

Tonight, after the obligatory run to Walmart for necessities for the trip, I am putting offers together, finishing up laundry, hauling out my carry on suitcase and reading an article that is part of an assignment for one of my classes. And, I am full of gratitude…to Lu Ann for cheering me on and inviting me to visit her in Philly, for Greg who surprised me with a card that was encouraging and contained extra cash for the trip, and for you all, my readers, who have journeyed with me along the way, some for the entire 525 days (so far) as I have honed my writing skills and fallen in love with the craft, and others who have joined in at various points along the path, walking alongside, offering words of praise, hope and love. Thank you, from my overflowing heart.

I am full of anticipation and joy as this amazing trip is unfolding. To quote my favorite Hobbit, “I am going on an adventure!” I’ll post next from Philadelphia!

philly trip writers conference

Day 186: Passport

 passport e

Today’s first is a very exciting one for me. I received my passport. I’ve never had one before. I’ve not needed one. The only trip I’ve taken beyond the borders of the USA was to Mexico, back when a passport wasn’t needed. When the envelope arrived in the mail today, I know I held my breath as I carefully opened the package and slipped the blue passport book from within. My passport. My upcoming trip became very, very real.

All my life, I’ve wanted to go to Scotland. As a wee girl, I heard my mom and dad talking about how the Lauderdales came from this country across the ocean. My mom told me stories of that far away place and showed me on a map where Scotland was. A spark ignited in my little heart that has burned brightly all these years. No other dream has occupied a place within me for so long, without being fulfilled.

Scottish map

As a young adult, I researched Scotland myself. The Lauderdales are connected to the Maitland Clan, in the Borders of Scotland. I learned our family history. I looked at pictures of Thirlestane Castle, in the village of Lauder, where my ancestors came from and where current distant cousins still live. I found myself feeling homesick for a land I’d never seen. The sound of bagpipes magnified the ache I felt and caused my breath to catch in my chest. Scotland has called to me, haunted me, my whole life.

I’ve been making vision boards for quite a few years now. Every year, there is a section devoted to Scotland. I’ve never doubted that someday I would go there, it has always been a matter of when. This year, amazingly, during my year of firsts, that opportunity has arisen. My cousin on my dad’s side, Mindy, and her son Harry, have invited me to join them on a Scottish adventure. The three of us depart next month. The trip is paid for, hotels booked, flights secured. And yet holding my passport in my hands today, made it all seem real. This is happening.

What an incredible series of firsts this trip will be. I’ll be blogging daily from Scotland, which will be a great way to capture and remember each day. My heart and mind will be open, ready to receive and learn. I expect there are great mysteries for me to discover in the land of my ancestors, and there will be a sense of coming home. I will find myself and what is deeply true about me, in this ancient place. I can’t wait!

Scottish flag