My Magpie Fall Into Winter

Mushrooms

See what happens when you leave things untended for too long, you come back to find mushrooms sprouting everywhere. Seriously, my spam folder is full of little gems and none so nice as these lovelies found growing in our back garden.

I did not mean to abandon GOTJ, but my everyday life wrapped its arms around me and slowly seduced me away so that every time I thought I might stop by and leave a word or two, something else caught my eye. Like the easily distracted Magpie, I have filled up the days and minutes of the last few months with whatever shiny distraction looked more appealing in the moment.

It would be great to say that the distracting moments have all been golden, but dark shadows have passed over our sweet village with one terrible secret coming too close to where we call home. The fallout is ongoing and has felt overwhelming at times, stirring up old ghosts for me as the details have been revealed. I know I am being vague and I promise it is not with intent to tease, but rather a desire to wait until things have worked their way through the legal system.

Things are ‘all go’ here as John and I make our home ready for a quiet Christmas and I promise to be back with some more seasonal photos over the next few days beginning with images from a lovely candlelight Christmas carol service I attended in a tiny village church nearby.

Hand to heart, I shall endeavor to do better by my blog and my readers in the new year and if any of you are still out there, I would love a little roll call or a cheery hello.

What Do You Do When The Lights Go Out?

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With our dinner only half-cooked last night, the power suddenly went off and we had to make do. Having a gas range made it easy to finish cooking most of our meal, leaving the frozen garlic bread the only casualty.

For most people losing power is a blip, a minor inconvenience that is sorted almost as quickly as flipping a switch at some central location miles away. Last night our house  went dark for a little over eight hours. I know that’s nothing to people who can go without for days and weeks due to bad weather or for those in countries where electricity is a luxury not the norm, but I have to tell you, I was getting a bit twitchy after about four hours without an internet connection. Our home phone was out too and since we don’t have a need for cell phones that do more than make calls and text, I felt a little anxious being disconnected from the rest of the world.

At first we used flashlights to get around once the sun set completely and then I remembered the candles. Clearly we had not been using them enough because they were not the first thing I thought of as we settled in for our evening in the dark.

Kindle By Candlelight

In total, I spent a few hours reading my Kindle by candlelight and the rest of the time John and I spent talking in that old-fashioned way before computers and other linking devices, by actually looking at each other while speaking.

We found the evening so enjoyable that we talked about setting a date once a week to turn off the power and the distractions that go with it.

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I’ve got a few ideas for what to do when we take our planned, ‘lights out’ night, but if you have any suggestions to share, feel free.

I Don’t Want A Big Birthday Party!

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How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? 

~ Satchel Paige

Even though she was born in America during The Great Depression, my stepmom Cullene seems almost ageless. She’s been that way to me for years and so much so that once she moved into her sixties, I never could remember exactly how old she was.  After asking her more times than I should, I finally just started doing the math myself and even now I still have trouble reconciling her actual age with her active life.

As you may have guessed, today is her birthday.

She doesn’t want a fuss and has countered each suggestion for something more noteworthy with the dexterity of an athlete and firmness of someone who will not be swayed from what she wants. We finally settled on a small family celebration with just a few of us gathered round to eat, sing, and celebrate what is certainly a special day for us even if she would rather not make a big deal of it.

My sister Jennie and I have not been very closed-mouthed about which birthday this is (think big one) and Cullene would likely be horrified to know how many strangers now know about her birthday.  I think we are just so impressed with the way she seems virtually unchanged by the passing years that we cannot help but brag on her.

She has been my guide in so many ways since she married my dad in 1972 and watching her carry on as she does makes me rethink what life can be like as I move through my fifties and plan for the future.

I have been in the Atlanta area for about the last month and I arranged the dates of my visit in part so I could be here to celebrate her birthday. Most of us would think of this one as a more significant birthday, the kind where a big party is almost expected, but respecting Cullene’s wishes, we will keep the gathering small.

I have written about the profound impact of her influence on my life in several earlier posts and you can read some of them here and here or even more if you put her name in the search column on the right.

Cullene has agreed to let me take a few photos, but she has never been a fan of having her picture made and from the look on her face in the photo above I think her lack of enthusiasm for the camera began at an early age.

Happy Birthday, Cullene!

Bridge Building & Invitations

Newquay

I tend to be pretty competitive, but not with everyone.

When it comes to those close to my heart … I let a lot slide.

In those relationships, love is always more important than winning.

That’s not to say I don’t feel disappointment, I just try not to linger there too long.

I can be a relentless bridge builder when a misunderstanding threatens a relationship.

But it doesn’t always work and it’s no good pushing too hard.

Sometimes all I can do is build a bridge and offer an invitation to the other side.

After that, I let go.

How do you handle disappointment in relationships. 

Birthday Party Bonfires & Ghostly Faces

Elizabeth Harper Ghostly Face in Bonfire Smoke

I’ve been in the UK long enough to have attended a bonfire or two especially since they occur routinely on the 5th of November every year, but last night was actually my very first one. John and I went to a 50th birthday party for a friend in the village and in addition to fireworks, there was a huge bonfire. While I expected to see a roaring big fire, I did not expect to see the faces that you see in two of the images I took.

Elizabeth Harper 2x Ghostly Face in Bonfire Smoke

An interesting observation is that these two photographs are separated by six photos in-between, none of which have anything resembling a face, making it seem to be a look that came, went, and re-emerged from the smoke.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen something unusual in a photograph and I’m sure there must be an explanation, I’m just not sure what it is.

What about you, have you ever had a ghostly image show up in your photographs? 

The Not So Lost Original 82 Posts … Of Gifts Of The Journey

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Unearthing An Archive

If you’ve been paying attention to my blog over the last few days you may have received an update or two you that found confusing. As long-time readers know, GOTJ had another home before moving to this one.

Stalker Forces Change

I was forced to change my website in early 2009 because I couldn’t moderate comments on iWeb and I had begun to accumulate ugly comments from a woman who had stalked and harassed me for months before finding my blog and making her vitriolic comments public. It’s an old story that I thought had died after not hearing from Maggie Namjou or  Margreta (Maggie) Kerr for several years.

Emails From Others

I have received emails from other people asking about her during this quiet time, people like Louise and Ian who contacted me last week with questions about what John and I went through while Maggie was harassing us.

Having saved hundreds of emails she sent us and recordings of the screaming rants in our phone messages on our wedding day, we told Ian and Louise that we would be happy to help with evidence as they deal with a lawsuit involving Maggie Namjou.

I don’t need to rehash the past, but if you don’t know the ugly story and want to know more, you can read about it by clicking on the links. http://stalkerupdate.wordpress.com/ and  http://giftsofthejourney.com/stalker-alert/

After Louise contacted me about the missing links to the old posts dealing with Maggie Namjou, I decided while I was dusting off the past for her, I would repost the original 82 posts ensuring all writing associated with GOTJ could be found in one place.

History Repeats Itself 

So if some of what you see over the next few days or weeks looks familiar, check the date to see if it’s one of the missing 82.

I’ve been able to transfer the comments associated with each post, but the links back to the blog sites of those commenting seems to be lost. Please feel free to leave another comment if you’d like and thanks so much for your interest.

New Posts

One last thing, I plan to add new material during this time so don’t stay away thinking it’s the season of reruns … you won’t even see the 82 unless you’ve signed up for an email notification found in the top right corner or you go looking for them in the archives. I found my footing with these early posts. I hope you’ll find something in them too.

The Last Photographs Of My Life … Not Yet

Wales 2013

Multi-Car Accident on A40 in Slebech, Wales ( I took this from inside the ambulance. The blue van in the middle of the road is the one that hit us. She also hit the car to the left, near the sign.)

Four days ago my husband John and I were hit by a woman in a van. It was 2:20 in the afternoon on a Friday in Wales.

The driver was drunk … almost twice the legal limit.

She drove head-on into our lane and only John’s quick reactions saved us from something that could have been very ugly. I don’t know why she made the decision to drink and drive or why she felt it necessary to try to pass a delivery truck on a crowded two-lane road after having had the equivalent of four pints of beer, but she did.

None of the cars were moving slowly although 40 to 45 miles an hour may sound slow to those used to higher speeds on major roads. I imagine the drunk driver was also accelerating when she pulled out from behind the large truck that witnesses said she’d been trying to overtake for a while before reaching us. They said it almost looked as if she had someone else in the car jerking the wheel back several times before she drove into our lane.

I looked up from a book I was reading when I felt John shift suddenly and saw the van coming at us, his quick response moved us to the edge of the road or what they call ‘the verge’ here. She hit the side mirror before striking the back side car near the tire which caused our car to go into a spin. We left the road temporarily while spinning … moving through the grass and mud before going back into the road and coming to rest across both lanes.

Wales 2013

We were traveling in the opposite direction of how the car is facing in this photo.

Wales 2013

The blue van in the middle of the road in the distance is the one that caused the accident. She also hit the car near the sign to left in the photo. You can see the grass we brought with us after spinning through it. The white car was behind us and stopped to help. (That’s our tire jack on the right … it flew out during the spin. We lost a big suspension coil as well)

Knowing there were other cars traveling in both lanes, I expected to feel the impact of more cars even after we stopped moving, but all was still afterwards except for the sound of my own coughing. As the dust from four airbags cleared, I knew I was unharmed, but I had to force myself to look at John because I knew his side of the car had taken the hit.

I was afraid to look for fear of what I might see.

Seeing him unharmed except for a bit of blood on his lip was unbelievable given the wild ride we’d just experienced and before we could say more than, ‘Are you alright,’ we heard a man yelling, ‘ Get out of the car, get out of the car!’ It turns out having four airbags going off at once can give an impression of a car filling with smoke and as we jumped out I didn’t know whether the car was on fire or about to be hit by something larger.

Having my camera in my lap at the time of impact proved useful and I snapped a few photos before a mad adrenalin rush and uncontrollable shaking had me sitting in an ambulance being evaluated. I took a few more photos from a sitting position inside the boxy vehicle which is larger than most American ones.

Wales 2013

My window to the world from inside a Welsh ambulance (enlarge to see the Welsh writing on the wall.)

Wales 2013

After hitting us and the delivery truck she was trying to pass, she hit the wall to the right and scraped the road. Somewhere during her out of control ride, she also hit the white car on the left side of the road too.

My title would suggest these were the last photographs I was referring to, but at then end of our day after being released from the hospital and having arrived by taxi at our B&B for the night, I was going over my photos when I came to those I’d shot less than an hour before the crash occurred.

I told John as I flipped through them that had things not gone as they had, someone else might be looking at the last photographs of my life … my final view.

These are some of those images.

Wales 2013

Wales 2013

I don't usually take photos that include the car, but I liked the cloud's reflection in the hood.

I don’t usually take photos that include the car, but I liked the cloud’s reflection in the hood.

My Last Photo ... Not Yet

My Last Photo … Not Yet

The photo above of the rider-less horse … is the very last one I took before the crash occurred. The rider had dismounted just before I took this shot.

Big big thanks for all of the kind thoughts from our Facebook friends. You heard first about our encounter with the drunk driver and your supportive comments were very much appreciated.

Warning! Comfy Slippers Can Lead To Public Embarrassment

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I gave my husband a pair of slippers as one of his Christmas gifts. He’d needed a pair for a while and had been walking around in red wellie socks for several months looking like a movie extra in Dr. Zhivago, one of his favorite films.

Finding them was no easy task. He is particular about his feet and while they are not big, he prefers a looser fitting shoe with a bit of extra width. I found Clarks, King Switch slippers in a nearby town and they’ve been perfect.

Too perfect, in fact.

Before I say any more, I want to let you know that I have John’s permission to share this next part.

Lately, John’s been going on walk-about in his slippers. It began one night about a week ago when he set off on foot to meet me and some friends at the pub. He noted privately to me that he was running a bit late as he’d walked half-way there before realizing he was wearing his house slippers. We had a little laugh about it and went on with our evening.

A few days later, John dropped me at my evening spin class and went off to do some shopping. When we got home later that evening, I noticed he was carrying a bag of groceries in one hand and his slippers in the other. On his feet were hiking shoes that he keeps in the back of the car for impromptu coast path walks which confirmed what I knew before I asked, ‘Did you go out in your slippers again?’

He said yes with a slight bit of exasperation and after I had a laugh, I said, ‘You didn’t wear them into the store, did you?’ He said he went into Asda to pick up a few things and went up to their shoe area to see if they had a canvas shoe he’d bought in the past. He’s been looking for his size for some time and when he didn’t see it, he decided to try on a different style to see if it might be a good substitute.

Looking down to take off a shoe to try on one of the new ones, he realized he was still wearing his slippers and said, ‘Oh, bugger!’ Then he remembered that he had just done the grocery shopping at Morrison’s and said, ‘Double bugger’ before hurrying back to the car to change.

I asked him if he saw any of our neighbors while he was out as it’s unusual not to run into someone we know. He said no and that they’d probably gone the other way after seeing him coming down the aisle in his slippers. He said they’d probably thought, ‘Poor old chap’ if they had seen him, although as quickly as he likes to move through the store, I’d say it’s unlikely anyone had a chance to notice his feet.

We had a pretty big laugh over the visual he would have presented shopping in slippers. After that, I wondered what makes Clarks slippers feel so different than his previous ones … I gave them a good going over and after talking with John, decided it must be down to two areas.

It turns out that the solid no slip soles on Clarks slippers along with the firm bit across the top contribute to the solid shoe-like feel.

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Clarks King Switch Slippers – Internet Photo

I told him if they were as comfortable as he said they were, I was going back to the Clarks store to buy a few more to tuck back for when these wear out. He jokingly said he might try them on the TMB the next time we walk it.

That would be an interesting test … 105 miles through the Alps in his slippers. What would people say?

I never forget to exchange my slippers for shoes before leaving the house … I wonder why?

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Since we’re sharing funny stories … what’s your funniest ‘Oops’ moment?

Safer In the UK – One American Mother’s Perspective On Gun Control

Mountain View Elementary School (Internet Photo)

Mountain View Elementary School (Internet Photo)

Few things were certain for me in my early years, but some things were absolute.

School was my safe place, home was not.

Watching the news yesterday as the reports came in of the murdered children and adults in a Connecticut school, I could not help but flash back to the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, where my daughter was a student at the time.

I wonder how the recent mass shootings affect her, but I don’t know because she doesn’t talk about it.

My husband, John and I spend a fair amount of time talking about gun laws in the US and the UK. Having lived in the UK since 2008, our conversations are different from when I first moved to Cornwall. While it’s based more on how I feel here than the statistics John has quoted, it’s difficult to argue with the facts.

John frequently cites the numbers of gun deaths in the US. It used to annoy me, but having lived in a place now where I feel safer because guns are so restricted, I wish I could have the same relaxed attitude when I’m in the US.

I kept a .22 revolver for years in my home in the US. It was an old family pistol that my dad gave me and it made me feel safer. Unlike some of my handgun owning friends, I had weapons training in the military firing M16 semi-automatic rifles, and a M60 machine gun. Additionally, I’d had some experience with handguns as well.

I always recognized how deadly guns could be, but felt the risk necessary to ensure my daughter and I were safe if someone tried to break into our home and cause us harm. My gun was meant for protection at home which is the argument most Americans make when people talk about new laws intent on restricting their ability to own handguns.

Statistics still show that most gun deaths occur in the home with family members killing those they once wished to protect, a reality that makes the protection at home reason more difficult to justify. While the right to bear arms may be protected by the constitution, it has long been one with frequently deadly effects.

Here’s something for gun enthusiasts in the US to consider. The most recent figures I’ve been able to find show 87 people die each day in the US from gun related injuries while in the UK, only 58 die each year. It’s difficult to argue with those kind of numbers.

87 Deaths A Day versus 58 Per YearI feel safer living in the UK. I never ever worry about being held up at gunpoint or shot while shopping at the mall. Church is still a place of sanctuary and while I might get a rude gesture by someone with road rage, I know I won’t get shot. I could go on listing … public transport, movie theaters, and University campuses, but I think you know where I’m going with this.

Britain didn’t wait for as many reasons to push for change … after the Dunblane massacre of sixteen elementary school children, they did what was needed to keep it from happening again.

The Brits I meet are always talking about the US and our need to have so many guns. They tend to make ‘Wild West’ jokes about it, but they’re not really trying to be funny. I think they’re shocked by how much Americans will sacrifice to carry guns, a question I’m beginning to consider now myself.

I’ve chosen to focus on change in this post because I can’t bear to think about any more sadness and loss. This year alone has had more mass shootings than I want to consider and the grief of the families who’ve lost those who were precious to them, breaks my heart.

A Big Serving Of Hate With A Side Order Of One Person’s Version Of Christian Love – No Friend Of Mine

Some people seem to have lost their minds over the election and not just people like Donald Trump.

My friends and family have remained civil over our political differences of opinion, as should be when people who care about each other disagree.

Some folks however, have gone into total meltdown mode and have been spewing some shocking rubbish.

And the really scary part is they actually believe what they’re saying. Heaven help us if these people have guns because they’ve been whipped up into such a frenzy who knows what they might do in the name of God.

They scare me.

The day after the election I was forced to ‘unfriend’ someone on Facebook. She’s the only person I’ve ever had to exclude from my Facebook life and ironically, for the second time. About a year ago, I don’t remember exactly when, I unfriended her the first time. We’d graduated from the same high school, although years apart and I never knew her. I had approved her request both times based on mutual friends I could see that we had in common. The first time I unfriended her had to do with what I considered to be aggressive over the top hate talk, but it was nothing like what she said on Wednesday after President Obama was re-elected.

I unfriended her quietly the first time and thought no more about her, but the problem was that she came back. After a some months I got a friend request from her and I must have not been paying attention because after seeing her connections to a lot of my high school friends, I accepted her friendship. This is a mistake that will not happen again!

I’ve omitted her name as I have no wish to shame this woman and she probably won’t even know this post has been written, but what would her Christian friends think about her hate filled rant … what about her adult children and her grandchildren?

It might be easy to just dismiss her as unhinged, hope she gets help, and move on, but she’s not alone and that’s the really scary piece to me.

Most of you who’ve read my blog for a while know I have many questions about faith and God and how I feel. I’ve touched on it here before and I’ve been open about my doubting Thomas thoughts about the power of prayer, but I have to admit that lately I find myself whispering a few words that begin with ‘God,’ and end with ‘please, keep him safe,’ because I think President Obama needs some extra protective energy around him, especially now.

I don’t know what you’ve heard, but here’s a look at one person who while no longer in my social circle, is still very much out in the world sharing her message of hate while calling herself a good Christian.

(Internet Image)

This was the comment on Facebook that cause me to unfriend her:
“Obamacare will be the death of America!!! WE see what it has done to other countries and we don’t like it. We like our freedom of choice in doctors. We work hard and we deserve what we want and can pay for. Those living on welfare need to get off their ass and go to work!!!! I’m tired of keeping them up and all the give me programs out there. The US economy did not grow, it’s terrible! The number of people laid off work, loosing their homes, cars etc. If it grew it was the RICH that got richer from it. The news media would like you to think that because they are all corrupt liars! Obama is an EVIL, communist muslim! I doubt very seriously that any of it was legal. Blank panther parties keeping out voteres, maching going down, Am. soldiers votes lost…..blah blah blah!!!!!!! I don’t know where your from Claire but if you live in the US your in for a rude awakening. Wait and see! America is a nation divided …and a nation divided will fall!!!!!! A nation without God is doomed and that is what America has become. America has a disease….That disease is socialism with unlimited federal power and it will take the entire strength and will of the people to overpower it.” SAD SAD day in America….. November 7, 2012 …. the day America died.”
Then she sent messaged me on Thursday with the two comments below that were sent a minute apart.
Elizabeth….. YOU know nothing about me and that is clear to see. You speak not with your lips! It is clear to see that you are the typical Liberal that thinks only his/her way is right. I have seen OBAMACARE first hand with my parents. I know what it exsists of and I have read most of the papers on it. As have my friends. All he wants is to help the elderly die…quick so he doesn’t have to pay for them. You have the right to post what you like but I also have that right as well. Being on FB and posting allows you to say what you please as most people do or defriend them, as I did you. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you or hate you, I choose not to be your friend any longer. It doesn’t matter if you agree with me or not, Obama is clearly NOT a Christian. ( that is NOT why I didn’t vote for him ) Nor was he born here in the USA. Time will reveal that, I only hope and pray that it isn’t to late. Whether he wants evil for us or someone has named him as the person to do the job, evil is upon us.
From what I’ve heard, and I have friends in the UK, the health care system there is a mess! WE don’t want your type of health care~!~~ Most americans, the ones that actually work for a living, do not want OBAMACARE! We want our country to stay the same with the freedom to choose our doctors and type of medical treatment. When you have spent your whole life working at a job and retire with benefits, the president should not be allowed to strip them from you. THAT IS COMMUNISM my friend! Most Americans don’t need welfare, food stamps or free health care. Only the sorry, lazy people need that!
NOT one single person can name anything that Obama has done good for the USA….NOT ONE! The people that voted for him or the ones that one FREE everything….they live in a give me, give me state of mind, constantly demanding freebies, they are lazy and worthless, white, black and any other color!
I personally do not care if the President is black, green, purple or orange or his religious beliefs ( as long as he keeps it to himself) …for without the help of congress and senate the president can’t do anything…but what I do care about is the fact that our President needs to be more concerened with our military, protecting our men in other countries, not vacationing in VEGAS and lieing to cover his ass from NOT being here when this country needs him and OBAMA has not been! He has also proven that in the latest storm on the east coast where he showed his face for TV, and they are still without power, food & water. NO help has been sent in. He is a coward and a lier!!!
Truthfully John I don’t care who is upset with my remark, what bothers me is that you ENGLISH think you know what is best for us in the USA!!! The USA was not founded on Communism or muslim beliefs and we don’t want it forced don’t our throats! If they try there will be another revolution like you have never seen! You need to listen to other news stations or media sources and get ALL the facts before voicing your childish remarks.
Unfortunately there are not a lot of educated people on politics in the USA, they just go vote based on one thing that bothers them like abortion or gay rights. Those are things that need to be addressed but not the sole reason ( which most have proven here on your page ) when voting for a President. They should be more concerened about the happenings of this country and where it is headed. I’m ashamed that Americans are that stupid and uneducated!
My feelings about your comments would be a waste of my breath. I feel you have NO say so in the events of this country since you are now a citizen of the Brits! I don’t count duel citizenship. You can not be loyal to two countries during a time of war, so I don’t understand why they even give that. Makes no sense at all to me.
I wish you nothing but happiness, because I am a good Christian person with a huge heart of gold and would never wish bad on anyone. Hope you new country gives you more happiness than the one you left :)
I did not mean to offend you or John, I would never do that and for that I’m sorry. I just want you to know where I’m coming from with this letter.

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I did find the smiley face a bit much in light of what she said during her ‘letter’ to let me know where she was coming from.

According to CNN, a lot of unfriending is happening on Facebook post-election, and I wonder if any of you have had a similar experience.