BAA-AH Bad

It only took less than twenty-four hours into our Scotland bicycle adventure to form a solid opinion of sheep: they are exceedingly stupid… and dangerous. 

Of course, there are opinions to the contrary.  In a 2017 BBC article one Harriet Constable wrote: Sheep are actually surprisingly intelligent, with impressive memory and recognition skills. They build friendships, stick up for one another in fights, and feel sad when their friends are sent to slaughter. They are also one of the most destructive creatures on the planet.

Before the morning of June 16th I knew nothing about the woolly wonders, thinking them incredibly cute…even sweet.  I mean, who doesn’t love those Serta® Mattress Sheep….or claymation sheep…..or…counting sheep to achieve a peaceful slumber.

Serta Mattress Sheep

So imagine the following scene that happened before my eyes….

Our group of nine cyclists were cycling along a lovely country road in Dumfries and Galloway.   We had already had our group meeting and first route briefing, fueled by cups of tea and coffee and freshly baked, mouth-watering scones along with tiny jars of a lovely assortment of sweet jams.  As we headed together for our first ride we stuck together.  This particular ride would be our day-one orientation ride to work out potential kinks in our bike fitting and to orient ourselves to riding on the left.  The latter naturally a critical skill to master, like…um… immediately!   All of us had a moment of forgetting to look to the right and not the left when entering an intersection (as that’s where cars would be coming from).

We were all pedaling along nicely, getting into a lovely rhythm whilst oohing and awing over greener than green fields partitioned here and there by old dry stone walls (many are centuries old) as well as modern hedges and low wire fences. The stone walls were a marvel to me as there is little to no cement to hold them together. How they have managed to stand over hundreds of years through the fiercest of weather is astounding to me. A major feature of the Scottish countryside these stone walls serve as property boundary lines as well as keep livestock (cows and sheep) from roaming away.

Dry Stone Wall – Dumfries and Galloway

In theory that is.

As we pedaled in a mostly leisurely fashion for this first ride, we rounded one corner to come upon farmland to our left. There were plenty of sheep, of course and for the most part they were preoccupied with eating…grazing. Some bleated in the distance and some who were closer to the rock wall looked up as we approached ….

Several woolly fellows crossed the road quite a bit ahead of our guide leader Jeff and my husband. They happened to be cycling side by side while the rest of us followed single file. They slowed their pace to allow ample space for the sheep to pass slowly, in a manner that suggested they did this every day, as if they were on their afternoon errands.

Then, in the space of a nano-second two sheep grazing on a spot of higher ground looked up, taking notice of us… and for some unfathomable reason they decided to hop the fence.

The incident unfolded before I could blink.

Together….in perfect synchronicity….the two hopped over the old stone wall and directly into the cyclist just inches in front of me. This would be Dr. G. a pulmonary critical care doctor from New Hampshire.

The sheep literally took him out.

I screamed as the sheep ran into Dr. G. causing him to crash and land with a heavy thud to the pavement. Our bike guide, Jeff, literally flew off his bike, as did I.

In that split second I honestly thought that the writing was on the wall for our fellow cyclist. Surely our next stop would be at a hospital.

Aye….you just had to be there dear reader….

But our Dr. G. was spared that afternoon! Miraculously he suffered only a broken helmet, road rash to one arm and a seriously large bruise that took several days to develop. And incredibly, not even the bike was damaged. But, even more remarkable to me was he did not quit his bicycle adventure. After we all calmed down over the ordeal he was given a new helmet and off we went finishing our first days’ ride of nearly 43 miles. Little did he know that he became my hero for the week. I was but a breath away from hanging up the bike before the adventure really began. The country has over a gazillion sheep after all; I wasn’t keen on the now real possibility of another sheep attack.

You can do this…came the whisper on a breeze. And so I did.

Yes, there is bliss when you’re scared sheep-less.

More to come, when time permits.

Enjoy a few photos (click on them for a better view).

AWFUL, Offal

Scottish Sheep, Photo by Andreea Popa on Unsplash

Start Yer Day The Offal Way!

Surely this must be emblazoned on a t-shirt somewhere and if not, it should be as indeed that is what most Scots do.

So let it be known that I tried it too and I can unequivocally attest that the Offal way–or more precisely Haggis— is…..drum roll…

disgusting.

No offense to the kind people of Scotland.

So, you take some sheep pluck (that would be heart, lungs and liver) and mince it up nicely. Then, cook up this awful offal adding minced onions, beef or mutton suet, oatmeal, herbs and seasonings (like that would make a difference!).  Then, you stuff the disgusting “savory” concoction into the lining of a sheep’s stomach (excuse me whilst I stifle a vomit).  The final step is to then stitch up the delicately sautéed organ stuff into a nice ball and boil it for at least three hours.

And that my dear reader is Haggis, which is also described as a pudding.

So, I’m assuming at least one of my seven dear readers is scratching his/her head.  Why on earth would I ingest one morsel of the awful offal stuff?  I can blame it on fellow blogger extraordinaire Neil of Yeah, Another Blogger: https://yeahanotherblogger.com/ who recently vacationed in Scotland.  He said, and I quote:  …” Yet I regret one thing, culinary-speaking: I should have given haggis a try, even if only one or two forkfuls.”

He had no idea that he laid down the gauntlet, in a manner of speaking, plus I was determined to “do as I say” with respect to my nephew Alexandre-the-Greatest.  I’m ever pushing him to give things at least one try instead of opining without experiencing.

So Neil, I am forever grateful to you now that I’ve crossed this experience off my list of things to try (adding it to the list of things to never try again).  IMHO, Neil, you can sleep soundly –and without need of counting sheep!  Trust me when I say you need not regret not giving Haggis a try!

Still, It’s a wonder indeed that this national dish of Scotland— has, by some accounts—been around since the 1400’s and is on the Scottish table for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  And, incredibly, in recent, modern times, popularity has grown so much that there are Haggis potato chips, Haggis arancini balls, and even Haggis Bon-Bons. I wouldn’t put it past the Scots to have created Haggis ice-cream. 

Hmm….wait a minute; let me Google that.

Holy Hairy Coo (hairy cow)!  There is Haggis ice-cream! Don’t believe me?  Watch here:  https://youtu.be/WfjJxe30tdM

Another piece of believe-it-or-not trivia: Haggis is used in a sport called haggis hurling.  Honestly, As God is my witness, I did not make this up.  The “sport” involves throwing a haggis as far as possible.  And get this…the kicker is that once the flung Haggis lands it must still be edible.  The world record for haggis hurling was achieved by Lorne Coltart on 11 June 2011, who hurled his haggis 217 ft.  I’m passing on a YouTube search of haggis- hurling, thank you very much.

Still, I’m close to hurling up my morning Scottish shortbread cookies just thinking about it. 

More on my Scottish adventure when time permits 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿❤️🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Me, Holding my nose and giving Haggis a try
Haggis Potato Chips provided as a snack by our cycling guides

Obstacle Kind of Morning

Broken glass, despised by cyclists the world over.
(photo courtesy of Purecyles.com)

Glass and nails….glass and nails….glass…glass…glass and…

rabbit’s foot.

Now that was random.

Hmm.  Where is the rest of him (or her)?

I took a nano-second scan for the rest of the body.  It was nowhere in my line of sight.  It would be the fourth roadkill sighting (not including a deer that also met an unfortunate end) of the morning and I had been on the bike for less than an hour.

So…Hubby and I are attempting to get our sorry butts into shape for our upcoming cycling vacation in Scotland.  I’ve been across the pond many times but this will be my first visit to Scotland and our first across the pond cycling vacation.  We are woefully behind on training for cycling miles and miles for seven consecutive days. 

At this point, it is what it isI tell myself.

Our plan for the morning was a forty-mile distance.  Though it began refreshingly cool I struggled to enjoy the crisp spring air as I found it difficult amid the din of highway traffic.  Anxiety and tension pulled on every fiber of my being as eighteen-wheelers screamed past me.  I kept hyper vigilant for traffic as a myriad of obstacles such as potholes, road debris (lots of glass and nails) and downed tree branches from a recent storm that littered some of the bicycle paths and road shoulders.

As I peddled I found my head and heart were back in Southern California where cycling was mostly joy-filled.  From spectacular ocean views and frequent dolphin sightings, post-ride coffee and muffins with my circle of cycling buddies to year-round perfect weather, it was truly a cycling paradise.  Sure, there was traffic to contend with but somehow, even with all the cars, it was much more enjoyable than my present moment.  

At a stoplight, I take a sip of water and turn to see that hubby has caught up behind me. 

“I’m not having much fun at this today,” I tell him.

He is surprised. “What do you mean? he asks as he squirts water into his mouth from his bottle. 

“The noise of this traffic is almost deafening.  It’s just not relaxing…not like it was in California.”





My photo, taken during our Big Sur ride

“There was plenty of traffic there too.” he reminds me.

“Yes, but not all these monstrously huge eighteen-wheelers,” I reply.

We’re off again as the light turns green. We turn off the main road onto a designated bike path. It’s somewhat narrow and trees hang low over the path so we’re having to duck every now and then to avoid getting slapped in the face by a tree branch. I’m again well ahead of hubby when I see not to far ahead of me that there is a painfully-thin elderly man leaning against a rail. His walker is on the other side of the path. For a moment I think that he is in trouble but as I get closer I can see he’s fine. He’s smoking a honking big cigar and looks to be happy as a clam.

The rest of the ride went smooth enough…save for a mini melt-down on my part. And yes…of course It was dog-related. So dear reader, if you’ve followed a tenth of my thoroughly uninteresting life you’ll remember that my years of cycling in Alabama were so beset with dog issues that I pretty much gave up on the bike for two years. My beauty of a bike languished in the garage collecting dust and I’m sure she pined for her Southern California days as much as I did.

So here we were, with around ten more miles to home…We had already made the turn-around on the bike path back when I spot a woman walking with her dog. The dog, a large brown lab, was not right at her side and was not on a leash. In fact, said leash was in the woman’s hand whilst the dog frolicked in the weeds directly on the other side of the path from it’s handler. I slowed my pace considerably and loudly announced my approach as in: “On your left.”

Nothing.

Hmm. Let me try this again. Slowing more….I now shout: “Coming on your left.”

The woman turns her head. Ah. Okay, Whew….she sees me.

…but she does absolutely nothing to contain her dog. Hubby has caught up now and is directly behind me. “The dog is off-leash,” he says calm as can be. I’m certain he knows that my head is about to explode.

“No shit,” I mumble under my breath trying hard not to let fear overwhelm.

As I cautiously pass the woman, I was fairly sharp in my rebuke (but without expletives, so that’s good….right?) I added, as I peddled away something to the effect that though I’m not confrontational by nature if her unleashed dog would have come within a half-inch of me I’d be calling the police. I’m sure she did not quake in her boots but dog’s off-leash when cyclists are present is not something to take lightly. It can cause considerable harm to a cyclist who is clipped in. I still recall a huge hematoma one cycling buddy received on her thigh (requiring a hospital stay, I might add) as a result of a dog giving chase. And, ever-fresh in my mind is the day I received a healthy dose of pepper spray to the eyes as a cyclist buddy in front of me attempted to deter being attacked by a large dog.

Don’t get me wrong: I am a dog-lover….after all, The Poodle is the four-legged love of my life. And, I love to see pooches happily running free and unrestrained (like the beauty pictured below courtesy of a photo by Jamie Street) but there is a time and a place for untethered freedom and if for nothing else, when you see people on bikes, one should have the courtesy (and commonsense) to immediately properly restrain their pet. Dogs are animals after all. One never knows when they’ll get a bee in their bonnet to do something out of their normal behavior pattern! Like attack a cyclist perhaps.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

When we rolled into our driveway, I let out a long, slow sigh of relief.

“Another ride in the books and thankful to arrive without a fall,” I said to hubby.

“Amen to that and no flats,” he replies.

Ah yes…no flat tires. There is bliss in that!

Saddle Time

Shifting the Load

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

I walked into the closet this morning to hang hubby’s dry-cleaned shirts and sighed in dismay, as I usually do. Our closet is a nice size and though it is not all styled-out and custom-beautiful as in, say California Closets, it is one of the better closets we have had to share during our twenty-plus years together.  It’s organized well enough that there is a clear demarcation line; my side and his side.

His side?  It’s always in a certain state of….well….messiness. Not that I am a neat freak by any stretch. Point in fact; at this very moment there is a visible layer of dust on the coffee table in the living room.   Still, all things considered, the disarray is fairly mild.  It could be loads worse. 

And there is that word.

Loads

This is the reason for my deep sigh, which is (shamefully) sometimes accompanied by an expletive (or two) when I am in the closet.

I’m working on it folks.

Loads.  As in loads of laundry.

Maybe it’s because my knees are particularly cranky today or I’m trying to fight an infection… but today was an expletive day; only one (see, progress!).

“Shit! Again?”

I just did a mountain of laundry two days ago!  How is it possible that his basket is completely overflowing… again!  Moreover, how is it that one man could produce so much laundry on a weekly basis?!  I walk over to my side of the closet.  Peering inside my pretty little laundry basket I count four items in it.

I all but growl with certain annoyance because, well…I loathe doing laundry. 

I go back and grab my husband’s laundry basket and slowly walk down the stairs wincing in pain as my right knee practically shouts its displeasure over trying out a new workout yesterday; eight minutes of jumping rope.

As I angrily stuff clothes into the washing machine with far too much of a edge to my breath I realize two things:

Firstly, I could be on hands and knees washing clothes in a bucket…or a river or dirty lake ….and/or hanging my personal items high from a tangle of wires from outside the window of my ramshackle-of-a-room located on the fifth story of a dilapidated building that often has no electricity…

and, secondly, but for the Grace of God, I could be sans husband, which naturally signifies that my laundry loads would be reduced by more than half. 

That flash of realization causes me to stop for a nano second.   I then feel a perceptible shift within me which causes me to relax.  My jaw softens and my breath does too.  I simply let go of the load that was building up inside me–the one that nearly had me cursing out aloud at my husband who, at that very moment, working from home, was on a conference call.  He’s busting his tail and I’m belly-aching?!

Human….but not admirable.

Gently now–as if caressing a baby–I continue to load clothes into the washer.  I mindfully reach for the bottle of  detergent and even take a moment to breathe in the lovely fresh linen scent.

So yeah.  I passionately dislike the never-ending, often daunting, routine of laundry.  But the alternative(s)–real and imagined are infinitely more frightening.  I’m not saying I’ll whistle while I fold mountains of laundry but what I do know is that with every load,  I’ll breathe in gratitude that I still am lucky enough to have this gem of a guy in my life.

There is bliss in that!

 

 

Say A Little Prayer

“You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.”  ~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Photo by Mika Luoma on Unsplash

It’s National Prayer Day. I found out only this morning….early….whilst perusing the news on my iPad over my first cup of espresso. Alexa did not inform, which comes as no surprise really. It’s not PC to talk about prayer these days. It’s so unfortunate, I think. There is much value in this simple communication tool between you and God…a Higher Power…or whatever label you want to attach to that which is Infinite Spirit…a Universal Life force that is so much greater than ourselves.

Though I was berated on more than one occasion by my ex-husband because I did not know the Bible from cover to cover (and most likely never will) prayer (IMHO) need not be strictly associated with scripture or religious dogma. Somehow, in my ex-husbands’ eyes this made me less than a spiritual being. Poppycock of course. Nothing could be further from the truth. I consider myself a deeply spiritual soul and my journey on the spiritual path is ever evolving. And yes, prayer is a part of my daily life (and my own various mantras too). My prayers can be as simple as “Please Lord, guide, guard and protect my family,” or my own expressions of love and gratitude for the food that nourishes me, the roof that covers my head, melodies that soothe my soul, or the beauty of the world around me. And, not a day goes by that I don’t pray for more peace and loving kindness all across the world.

Though I was confirmed Catholic I am far from the perfect example of a practicing Catholic. I’ve been known to joke that I practice my own brand of Catholicism, an à la cart practice. Still, I’ll often recite the “Hail Mary” and the “Our Father” when I’m feeling particularly low and in need of a solace that somehow nothing else fills. And yes, most of the time my heart grows lighter, a burden lifted, if only for a moment.

Finally, most nights as my head hits the pillow I silently recite a brief variation of The Children’s Bedtime prayer by Henry Johnstone. It’s what I shared with my children each night when they were wee ones–a lifetime ago, tweaking it for, well obvious reasons; I didn’t want them falling asleep with the thought of death on their young minds.

My version: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…now, tomorrow and always. I love my mamma, my daddy, my brother, my auntie….(etc. etc. etc..)…and, all the people in the world. ~ Amen

The Poodle has pulled himself up from his place on the sofa with an old man groan (literally). Ah…yes. He’s telling me it’s time for his bedtime walk. A glance at the clock confirms his expectation. I can see that the night is getting away from me so I won’t prattle on about this whole prayer thing. It’s not for everyone though I wish it wasn’t so often viciously maligned by those who aren’t so inclined. But rest assured, as my head hits the pillow I’ll say a little prayer….for me, for all whom I hold dear, and for you too dear reader. That’s just how I roll.

There is, I believe, bliss in that.



Weeding Through…

Thought of the day: A man said to the Buddha, “I want happiness.” Buddha said: First remove “I”, that’s ego…then remove “want” that’s desire. See now, you are left with only happiness.

The Poodle sat in the driveway patiently waiting for his morning walk as I surveyed for the hundredth time this week my abysmal lawn (or lack thereof).  I could feel a slow boil of my blood as I looked at the sea of weeds, which was then followed by despair.  My Libran inclination towards aesthetic perfection (or as near as possible) is being seriously challenged. 

This mess of a yard is all too much….

I could, on this brisk spring morning, substitute a couple of words in this Buddha quote:

I want all the %$!# weeds in my yard to disappear.

I want a nice lawn.

Yes, dear reader….I see what I need to do….

 

 

Happiness is: A geranium bloom

Later, after our morning walk, I spent an hour or so raking and picking weeds. I decided that I needed music to keep my brain busy from blame and judgement. As I weeded and bagged yard debris to an eclectic mix of Baroque, Sting, Keith Urban, New Age and Gato Barbieri, I couldn’t help but chuckle out aloud: The mix of music genres was as eclectic as the variety of weeds in the yard.

Sigh.

I look at the bags of mulch piled high near the garage. I am seized by a moment of overwhelming fatigue. Still tired from spreading mulch the weekend before, I’m not sure I–nor my back–is up to the task of yet thirty more bags.

I could be doing a hundred other things right now, Even ironing sounds more inviting than hauling and spreading organic dirt.

But wait, says the voice in my head.

You’re outside on a perfectly lovely spring day. So stop your belly-aching and enjoy the fresh air and the sound of those wind chimes gently playing just for you….

Azalea perfection

So I don’t have grass, I’ve got a sea of weeds, and I’ve got a boatload of work to do (both in and out of this challenging house) but I do have color!

As I stand in the middle of my pathetic looking back yard I pull the earbuds out of my ears so that I can marvel in silence over my pots of geraniums and my two supremely healthy azaleas. As the sun peaks out from under a cloud and a gentle breeze tickles the Japanese maple, I spy a butterfly …the first I’ve seen this spring. Somehow watching the butterfly dance over a verbena flower lifts my fatigue and too the feeling of hopelessness over the state of the yard. I’ve just got to “weed through it” as it were…and It’s going to take time but all things worth the effort do.

Remove the “I”….remove the “want”….and happiness remains.

There is bliss in that. 🙂



Happy Pet Day

It’s National Pet Day so I couldn’t pass up an ever-so-brief homage to my poodle-love. He’ll be eleven in November so indeed, he is getting grayer and moving slower with a hitch in his giddy-up. And yet, he can hear me whisper “cheese” from a mile away (I seems) and when he sees a squirrel his limp suddenly disappears and he’s off with the speed of a Cheetah!  He is a bit more curmudgeonly too; just yesterday he snapped at me when I made him get out of the flower bed because he was trying to dig a hole to the next county over!  After a stern (but loving) rebuke from me and a time-out in his bed so that I could finish planting a few herbs I could tell he felt bad.  As I sat looking over the newspaper, he came to set his graying snout upon my thigh with “I’m sorry Mom” eyes.  

Swoon.

Oh, how he has brought so much joy to my life.  I still pinch myself after all these years….

He Chose Me!

I love you Brando.

p.s.  My boy….I know the time will come…as certain as the sun shines and the stars twinkle in the night sky…

Yet, I cannot imagine a life without you!  I will be a mess for certain….

Kind readers…I know I am not alone in that thought. You feel it too, N’est-ce Pas?  (He is a French poodle after all).

It goes without saying; Our pets enrich our lives in a thousand and one ways.  I’ve got to believe that when that Rainbow Bridge time does come, the unconditional love our beloved pets gave us, not matter what, will keep our hearts light with love and laughter as we hold their memories dear… through whatever life throws at us.  Besides, as Helen Keller said:

What we once enjoyed we can never lose.  All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.

There is always bliss in that.

 

The gray is showing and yes, he’s slowing….
Nearly 11 years ago, his first day home in Southern California
My Happy Boy
Guarding our “middle-earth” Alabama home