Thursday, September 30, 2010


Up until recently, I would have said that Dallas is one of my least favorite places.  I guess I would still say that, but I've just spent the better part of a week here and I think maybe Dallas and I have made peace with one another.  I have a somewhat pavlovian response to this city.  It's not, ring a bell and I'll salivate, but mention the word Dallas and I immediately start to feel stressed.  Let me explain why.

I come to Dallas once a year for training, which normally involves a day of class and then a day in the simulator.  The simulator training rotates every year, one year it is training, and the next year it is a proficiency check, or PC.  The PC is like a test, and we are expected to perform things like engine failures on takeoff, engine fires, systems failures and windshear recovery.  Obviously these are things that we don't normally do in the airplane, so it is very nerve wracking to be tested on something you only get to practice once a year.

I suffer from an affliction commonly known amongst pilots as checkride-itis.  It seems that no matter how much I study or prepare for a checkride, I am always nervous about it anyway.  Flying an airplane is a very fluid process, and conditions change all the time.  No matter how prepared you are, something can always throw a monkey wrench into your plans.  I think it is this unpredictability that causes me so much angst.

My other problem with the simulator is that I expect myself to perform flawlessly, and anything less than perfect I regard as a failure.  My instructor reminded us that PC stands for Proficiency Check, not Perfection Check.  I wish I had taken that into consideration over the last few weeks, which I spent wishing Oct. 1st would hurry up and get here so my test would be over.  The checkride went just fine, as it always does, and now I'm sorry I spent so much time and energy worrying about it.

It would be unfair of me to say I don't like Dallas just because it is the place that I happen to take my checkrides.  Dallas and I just don't see eye to eye on quite a few issues.  Texas is the land of oil, rodeos, big pickup trucks and steak houses.  I'm concerned about the environment, I am disgusted by the treatment of animals at rodeos, and a vegetarian.  Well, I guess I can't say I'm a vegetarian anymore because I am eating fish.  Wow, that's the first time I've not been able to call myself a vegetarian.  That makes me sad, but at the same time it's the first time I have been to Dallas and actually been able to eat.

Vegetarians are an alien species in most of Texas.  The hotel where we used to stay had a steak house and a bar, and nothing else around it.  The only thing I could eat on the menu was cheese quesadillas, which by the fourth day became very unappetizing.  We have since switched hotels, and this one is next to a great mexican restaurant.  Not only that, but the hotel actually has a recycling bag in every room.

I am eating fish and Dallas is recycling, maybe we could learn to get along.  Unfortunately, that still doesn't solve my checkride-itis.  Until I can find a way to stop getting a knot in my stomach when someone mentions the big D, I think I'll stick to coming here only when I have to.  But maybe I won't spend so much time dreading it next year.

Monday, September 27, 2010


As I sit in my hotel room in Dallas, I am beginning to panic.  This is a new record for me, I usually reach this state of mind several weeks before I get to Dallas.  I'm here for my yearly class work and simulator training.  It's a review of things we don't normally do every day - things I hope to make it through my career without having to experience - events like engine fires, failures, evacuations, etc.  Usually about two weeks before I get here I start panicking because I haven't been studying.  I do everything I can to procrastinate, although in the end I always end up being over prepared.  In fact, my house is never as clean as it is the month I have training. This year I'm lucky enough to have someone to clean the house for me, so I've found other things to distract me instead of studying.  Mainly writing.

Yesterday I had my first writing class, and now I'm so inspired that it is even harder to stop writing and start studying.  It was a strange feeling sitting in the workshop with 5 other writers.  Wow, did I just call myself a writer?  (I write, therefore I'm a writer, remember?)  Anyway, I felt completely out of my element, as all of the other writers in attendance seemed much more accomplished than me.  As the day progressed and we worked through exercises, I felt myself getting more blocked with each subsequent task.  I was over-thinking and comparing myself to everyone else, instead of just writing.  My inner critic was raising it's beastly head with all of the common put-downs.  "You can't, you're not good enough, why are you wasting their time, you don't belong here."

There was one comment missing though, the one that normally comes to the front with lightning speed and can snuff out my self confidence in a flash.  The fear of wondering what everyone else thought of me was conspicuously absent yesterday, and it was an amazing relief.  It appears that all of the spiritual work I have done on myself in the last few months is actually working.  While I was hearing my inner critic in one ear, I was able to accept it for what it was and I had a strange sense of peace and calm.  I realized that the other people in class weren't there to judge me, but on the contrary, they wanted me to succeed.  I also realized that most of the other writers had insecurities of their own, so they certainly weren't concerned about mine.

It is an incredibly liberating feeling to be able to focus on learning and growing, instead of feeling inhibited because I'm worried about how others perceive me.  I know that I will get exactly what I need to out of this class, and that it will help me evolve not only as a writer but as an individual.  I can't wait to get started on our writing assignment for the next class, but I guess that will have to wait until tomorrow. I've procrastinated long enough for today, and now I am really starting to panic.  The books are calling me, and the pen will have to wait.  But not for long.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Supersize Me

We seem to have an oral fixation in this country.  The obesity problem is an epidemic, and it is making our health care costs skyrocket.  And yet everywhere we turn we are encouraged to consume, consume, consume.  I am talking about food here, but the same could be said for our houses.  Because everything is so inexpensive, we seem to have a need to fill every nook and cranny in our bodies and our homes with as many things as we can cram into them.  When our home starts bulging at the seems, we just buy or build a bigger one.  Unfortunately, we can't supersize our bodies like we can an extra value meal.  It's a shame that quantity, not quality has taken over.

Here's an example.  I took my son to church on Sunday, and he was in children's church for less than an hour.  While he was there they gave him a snack.  He is in preschool from 9-11:30 in the morning and he gets a snack.  The other day I dropped him off at the babysitters after breakfast, and they had been waiting for him to arrive to have a snack.  If the snack was a piece of fruit or some veggies I wouldn't have a problem with it, but we all know that's not what he is eating.

I don't mean to sound like I am preaching here, because I am struggling with this food addiction myself.  I have a friend coming into town this weekend, and I suggested we meet for lunch or dinner.  Not for a walk, or for yoga, or to talk, but to eat. When I take my son to preschool, I fill a to go cup with tea or coffee to take with me.  Do I really need to do that?  How often do we just shove food into our mouth without really paying attention to what we are eating or drinking?

I have been to Italy a few times, and I really enjoy the attitude towards food in that country.  Most things are fresh and/or home cooked, and meals are a time to sit and converse and enjoy food.  Gas stations on the highway have hot food, sandwich bars, and several selections of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Even the school lunches are home cooked.  I remember watching a Jamie Oliver show where he went into an Italian school kitchen and showed the cooks what a British school lunch looked like.  The cooks said they wouldn't feed it to their dogs.  Is that an exaggeration?  Probably.  But how do we teach oue kids that they don't need to eat constantly, and that they need to consume clean healthy food to fuel their bodies, when we aren't getting the message ourselves?

I notice that since I have been back in the states my allergies have returned.  I am still eating the same things I ate in Scotland - bread, coffee, and more sugar than I care to admit. Is it just the accumulation of all of these things over time that I am having a reaction to, or is it the extra additives we put in our food, like high fructose corn syrup?  I'm beginning to think it's the latter.

Someone told me the other day that studies have shown that sugar is as addictive as heroin.  I can't speak for the heroin side of it, but I sure am having a hard time kicking the sugar again.  I find that once I stop eating it for a week, I no longer crave it.  I'm trying to cut back my son's sugar intake as well, but that is next to impossible now that he has left the little cocoon that is our house and is out in the big, sugar obsessed world.  I know I sound over protective, but I am amazed at how many times in one day he is offered sweets.  And how do I tell him no when everyone else is eating it?  He even has a new mantra when I talk about sweets.  When I tell him he can't have something, he looks me in the eye and says, "It's all about the sugar."  We both have a long way to go.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Amazing Grace

If you read the last post and are anything like me, you went straight to google to find out what the term "sin eater" means.  A short definition from the, states a sin eater is "a man who (according to a former practice in England) for a small gratuity ate a piece of bread laid on the chest of a dead person, whereby he was supposed to have taken the sins of the dead person upon himself."

I must admit after learning the definition, I wondered why I felt called to buy a book about sin eaters. The visuals I was conjuring up in my head to go along with the definition certainly creeped me out. In the last post, I discussed how the book "Walking With The Sin Eater" has finally helped me realize why I keep drawing lemniscates. It has also helped me learn the meaning of several herbs/flower essences I have felt drawn to lately, such as chicory, garlic, fennel and juniper. And more than all of that, it has me pondering religion and some of the beliefs I've had all of my life.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I have been unable to find a church to fit my evolving spiritual views. I feel closer to God than I ever have before, but at the same time I find myself appalled at some of the things that are done in His name. All of the lives that have been lost over religious disagreement, the money spent on lavish churches when it could have been spent elsewhere, ego driven leaders that are more interested in power than in living a "Christian" way, all have made me question where I fit in with my spiritual beliefs. I'm starting to realize that my connection with God is something only I can discover, it is not something that I need to be interpreted for me or have someone else tell me what I should believe.

The book brings up the point that maybe even Jesus was sick of what was going on in his name. "Be like me, act in the ways that I act, but do not give your power to me or others, or feel that you must become part of a movement where I am all that matters."

As I pondered this idea today, feeling somewhat like a heretic, I had an invitation to visit a new church with a friend. The theme of the church for the next few weeks is "Re- Start", and my friend and I both felt the message was appropriate for me. I did enjoy the church, and I will probably go back again. During the sermon, the minister talked about the great chasm that sin creates between us and God, and the only way to bridge that chasm is through Jesus Christ. Do I really believe there is a chasm between God and I?  What do I believe?  I sent up a prayer asking God to give me some guidance. Is it really ok to feel what I'm feeling? Can I connect with Him as well on my own as I can through a church? Do I need to be told what to believe, or to have passages of the bible interpreted for me?

Believe it or not, I think I actually received an answer to my prayer, and it came in the very next song. I had an idea a few months ago to start my own "fellowship", if you will.  Since I couldn't find a church that I enjoyed attending, I thought I would start my own group of like minded people. I planned to call it the "Amazing Grace" fellowship. I actually had one meeting, but then the busy-ness of life took over and it fell by the wayside.

If you haven't guessed it already, the song that followed my prayer was Amazing Grace. Coincidence, synchronicity, or sign? I'll leave that for you to decide, but I certainly know what I believe.

Lemniscates and Sin Eaters

My friend and I were in a shop the other day that specializes in crystal jewelry, incense, new age books etc.  As usual, I found myself in the book section, even though I have a stack of unread books at home.  I was trying to decide between two books to buy, both of which were in the Spirituality/Celtic genre.  One of the books I wanted to buy, and the other book I knew I should buy.  After my experience with the "Book of Kells,"  I bought the latter.

The book I bought is called "Walking With The Sin Eater," by Ross Heaven.  The title sounded strange to me, as I had no idea what a sin eater was, and the description on the back cover didn't explain much.  As I flipped through the book I saw it mentioned Wales and Glastonbury, two of my favorite places.  I also saw that it discussed shamanistic insights and a pilgrimage, and I think these things drew me to the book.  Now that I've started reading it I can barely put it down.

After I do yoga, reiki or meditate, I often find myself in a very relaxed, almost hypnotic state.  When I feel this way I normally pick up a pen and start to write.  I have the urge to write words, but mostly what I end up drawing is the infinity symbol, or lemniscate.  This has also been happening to me when I try to draw a mandala, which frustrates me.  In my head I know what I want the mandala to look like, but all I keep drawing are spirals and lemniscates.

I've tried several times to google the meaning of lemniscate, but I never seem to find anything useful.  Imagine my surprise to find a description in "Walking With The Sin Eater."  The book states that it is a powerful magical symbol often found on the staff of healers.  "It stands for the meeting of souls: saint and sinner, man and God as one."  It is also a sign of direction and purpose.  "It means that its bearer can never be lost because the circles double back on each other.  By following them, the traveler may therefore go as far as he wishes into the worlds of spirit and matter but always find his way home."

As I find myself drawn into the world of alternative healing, this definition hits the mark perfectly.  In fact, I'm embarrassed to admit I had tears in my eyes as I read the passage.  Some would say it is just a coincidence that I keep drawing lemniscates, but I find it an amazing synchronicity with a much deeper spiritual meaning.  I also feel like I'm at the beginning of a "pilgrimage" in my life, trying to find my true purpose and what I am really being called to do.  The thought of "never being lost" is a reassurance that feels very comforting to me right now, as I'm not sure where I will end up on this journey.  Yet again, I am learning that if I give up trying to control things and listen to my intuition, the answers I'm looking for will appear almost effortlessly.

The Dove

I've been having a hard time getting myself to sit down and write this week.  I complain about not feeling spiritually connected, and yet I don't make the time to connect with Spirit.  When I actually sit down and make the time to connect through yoga, reiki, writing, or drawing, I feel so much better about myself.  I've also had some unusual synchronicities this week to write about, but I still haven't been motivated to sit down and write.  (I've learned to use the word synchronicity rather than coincidence, as I don't really believe in coincidence anymore.)

While we were in Scotland, I was looking for a book that my sister-in-law had mentioned to me.  At least three different times on the trip I went into a book shop and thought, "oh, there's the book," only to pick it up and realize it wasn't what I was looking for.  The book I kept being drawn to was called the "Book of Kells."  It is an illuminated rendition of the four gospels from the Ninth century.  The original is in Trinity College in Dublin.  After being guided to that particular book numerous times, I still wasn't getting the message that it was that book I was meant to have.

Fast forward to this week, at my friend's house.  I showed her my new earrings from Scotland, which have a celtic symbol on them.  She said, "Those remind me of this book we bought in Ireland," and she pulled out the "Book of Kells."  Ok, Ok,  I get it.

The book talks quite a bit about St. Columba, who founded the abbey on Iona and was credited with bringing Christianity to Scotland.  We visited the abbey while we were there, and it is fairly remote.  We took a ferry to the island of Mull, drove for an hour where we only passed 3 houses and a shop, and then took another ferry to the second island of Iona.

As I sat at my friends house I flipped through the book, and I discovered Columba's name in Gaelic means "Dove of the Church."  I have a fondness for doves, and I had the strange experience last week of seeing 3 doves at the beach.  Forgive me if you read that blog entry, but in case you missed it here's a recap.  I was sitting by the pool in Fort Lauderdale, and 3 doves came and landed on the table next to me.  I had seen plenty of seagulls and even pigeons around that day, but I had never seen doves at the beach.

I didn't mention anything about doves to my friend, and I put the "Book of Kells" down so she could give me some reiki.  During the reiki session, she said she envisioned a white dove.  "This dove is always with you and he protects you," she said.

After the session, I picked the "Book of Kells" up again and went to the section titled "The Peacock and The Dove."  I have also been drawn to peacocks lately.  This section explained the significance of doves in the ancient artwork, and stated that the dove was used as a symbol for Spirit. Hmmm.  Maybe I'm not as spiritually disconnected as I thought.  Ok, ok, I get it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Paper or Plastic? How About Neither?

I truly believe that it is possible to learn something from everyone you meet.  It might not always be something positive, but you can learn something none the less.  I try to keep an open mind when I have a conversation with someone, and I realize that I don't always know the best way to do something. (Unless I'm talking to my husband, in which case I am always right.)

I wish the US would take this approach and look at the way other countries resolve some issues.  I think that any time someone (or something, as a country), thinks that their way is the only way, and that they know better than everyone else, you start to lose something.  Now before you start throwing daggers at me, I know that there are a lot of things we do well here, things that are worthy of emulation.  And I also know that places like the UK have some issues that I'm glad we don't have to deal with here.  These are just the things I think we could change in the US and be better off for it.

The entire 10 days we were in Scotland, I think I went into two bathrooms that had paper towels.  All of the others had hand dryers.  Now before you say it, I hate those things too.  In fact, I've stopped using them since they never get my hands dry.  Lately when I am in an airport restroom, or any other restroom for that matter, I've been noticing the mountain of trash we create by using paper towels.  We use an enormous amount of landfill, not to mention trees, to dry our hands, when they air dry (or dry on our jeans) just as well.  I'll admit, when it's 10 degrees outside it's not very comfortable to go outside with wet hands.  And it is annoying when it's cold and flu season and I'm trying not to touch the doorknob to get out of the restroom.  I've started to look at these as minor inconveniences compared to how much waste is generated using towels.

Another one of my personal pet peeves is our use of plastic bags for groceries.  In the UK the majority of people I watched go into the supermarket had a reusable bag.  In the US it's just the opposite.  Sometimes when I hand the clerk my cloth bag, they put something in a plastic bag and then put it in the cloth.  It wouldn't be so bad if the plastic bags weren't paper thin, because then the bag boy wouldn't feel the need to give me 6 bags for the 8 items I've purchased.  If I forget to take my cloth bags and ask them to pack it heavy to use less bags, they just double bag it.

My sister in law was telling me that there has been a major "anti plastic bag" campaign the last year in the UK.  They have managed to cut the number of plastic bags used in half, I can't remember the exact numbers but it was in the millions.  Every shop I went into, they asked if I needed a bag before they just mindlessly shoved my chewing gum into a bag I didn't need.

Contrast that to the states, where the plastic bag industry just spent millions to successfully stop an anti plastic bag law in California.  Do I think it should be a law that you can't use plastic, probably not.  But unfortunately, some people need it to be mandated to do the right thing.

I was listening to a radio show last year, and the host was talking about the island of plastic waste floating in the Pacific that is twice the size of Texas.  In the next sentence he said something to the effect of, how dare they tell me I can't use plastic bags, I'll use as many as I want.  This is the attitude that drives me crazy.  What's best for me is not always what's best for humanity.  Like I said earlier, you can learn something from everyone you come into contact with.  Even if that something is just a reminder to be a little less selfish and a little more open minded to change.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bye Bye Allergies, Hello Mercury Poisoning

The next few blogs will most likely be about my trip to Scotland.  I have a lot of observations and stories from my trip, and I don't want you to have to slog through one giant blog to read them.

I've been a vegetarian for twelve years, but I've started eating fish again in the last few weeks.  I'm starting to pay more attention to my intuition and to what my body is telling me that it needs to be healthy.  When I was working with the nutritionist, I would often know the foods that I should or shouldn't be eating before she would even tell me.  This wasn't through research, but through signals I was getting from my body.  For example, when I would pick something up that I shouldn't be eating (and I don't mean a doughnut or ice cream or something obvious like that), I would have the urge to put it back down.  It was like a little alarm bell going off in my head, "Danger Will Robinson, Danger."

On the flip side, I kept feeling like I should start eating fish again, but I just couldn't get my head around the thought.  After my nutritionist, acupuncturist and husband all suggested I eat fish, I figured I'd stop ignoring the signs and try it.  I tried it a few times before we left home, but I ate quite a bit of it in Scotland.  It helped that there was an abundance of fresh seafood along the coast of Scotland, and I must say the fish was delicious.

I have a few rules for myself about consuming seafood.  The first rule is to eat only one animal at a time, although I have had shrimp sushi twice so that one might be going out the window.  The other is for the lump of meat on my plate to be indistinguishable from the animal it came from.  For example, I ordered a  half lobster salad, thinking it would come out as a lump of meat on a salad.  Oh no, it came out as a lobster chopped in half on top of some lettuce.  Even though my husband pulled the meat out for me while I turned my head, I quickly lost my appetite and could only eat a few bites.

I know this sounds hypocritical.  If I can't stand to think about where the meat comes from or how it arrived on my plate then I shouldn't be eating it.  But an amazing thing has happened since I've started eating fish again - I haven't had a single day of allergies.  The reason this is so amazing is because I have been eating all kinds of things I was previously supposed to stay away from.  I mentioned I had coffee for breakfast every day on vacation, well I had wheat toast too.  I never understood why my husband complained about the bread in this country until I went to the UK.  You can actually spread butter on the toast without the bread falling apart.  Ah heaven.  I had a few glasses of wine, and just two nights ago I had two margaritas.  These are things that previously would have made me wake up in the morning with gummy, sticky eyes, but that hasn't happened.

My theory about why this is happening is that there was something missing from my diet that the fish is now providing.  That must be the case, because I now find myself craving fish all the time.  I had mahi mahi tacos the other night in Lauderdale that I was absolutely salivating over.  This doesn't make me feel better about myself mentally, as I'd still rather be a vegetarian.  And I had to sit with my back to the fish tank in the restaurant, because if I had spent too long watching the fish swim around I would not have been able to eat their cousin for dinner.

Hopefully, I haven't just traded one medical problem for another.  My allergies seem to have abated, but now I'm worried about all the mercury I'm consuming with the fish.  I'm sure there's a fine balance somewhere, I just have to find it.  I've made myself hungry writing this, so I'm off to cook breakfast.  If only I could find a good piece of toast.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

It's 5 O'Clock (am) in Glasgow

Upon arriving at the Glasgow airport from our redeye flight, we discovered that our rental car wasn't available yet.  It seems that in the UK if you say you're going to pick up your car at 8 am, they take you literally and don't have a car ready for you at say, 7:15.  So we went to have breakfast at the pub/restaurant while we waited.

One of my favorite pastimes is people watching, and there isn't a much better place to do this than at an airport.  Some might say the beach is better, but I have to disagree.  Just as often as not I see something on the beach I would rather not have seen.

As we sat there eating breakfast at 7:30 in the morning, I noticed a strange thing about the Glaswegians at the other tables.  Instead of drinking coffee or tea, the majority of them were drinking beer, I even saw someone with a glass of wine.  At 7:30 in the morning?  Which begs the question, how early is too early in Glasgow?  One of my dad's favorite sayings was, "It's five o'clock somewhere."  I guess it doesn't specify five o'clock pm, I just always assumed that's what it meant.

I guess if the Scots are anything like my English in-laws, they know they'll be drinking tea every hour for the rest of the day, so why have it for breakfast too.  And that is not a slam on my in-laws, I love them dearly.  I just don't have the extra "tea stomach" that seems to be inherent to the British.

And I can't figure out why they don't drink coffee, although I know that sounds very American.  For some reason, the coffee in the UK is about a million times better than what we have here.  In fact, the description for an Americano on the menu was "a posh name for a regular coffee."  Even their instant coffee is better.  I had previously given up coffee because of my allergies, but I had to have one that morning because I didn't get much sleep on the flight.  After tasting it I was ruined for the rest of the week and had to have one every morning.  Why can't we have coffee like this in the states?

Maybe the difference is in the way the coffee is made.  Instead of a giant coffee maker, most people make it in a french press.  It takes up less room in their house, and I think it makes a better cup of coffee.  Maybe they are starting with better coffee to begin with, but I buy some pretty good coffee and it never tastes like that.  Or maybe it's the fact that you just don't see many people walking around with coffee "to go" in Scotland.  I prefer this approach, although it might not seem so quaint if I lived there.  It was a nice change to sit and enjoy my coffee, rather than just mindlessly consuming something while I walk.  And besides, it gave me that much more time to sit and people watch.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I've just spent the last two afternoons on the beach in Fort Lauderdale.  I feel like I'm on vacation, but I'm actually here for work.  It's trips like this that make me really love my job.  I'll try to remember this sentiment the next time I'm stuck on an overnight in a place like El Paso, TX, or Jackson, MS.

It was a bit of a culture shock being on the beach today.  Last week in Scotland, we took a ferry ride to the island of Harris/Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.  Harris is unlike any place I've ever been, it's rocky surface made me think of being on the moon.  After about a half hour driving on a single track road, we came to one of the most remote and beautiful beaches I have ever seen.  Gorgeous white sand, mountains in the distance, crystal clear turqouise water.  Luskentyre Beach was unbelievable, and part of what made it unbelievable was that we were the only people on this amazing beach.  Not a house to be seen anywhere, in fact I think we only passed about 3 on the drive to the beach.

Fast forward to today.  A thousand people on the beach, and not a square inch of property that doesn't boast a multi million dollar high rise.  As I was sitting on my beach chair trying to enjoy the sound of the waves, I kept being distracted by the inane conversation of the obnoxious twenty somethings behind me.  Either I'm starting to act like a hermit or I'm just starting to sound like my mother, but these girls really annoyed me.  I realize they had every right to have a conversation on the beach, I just didn't want to hear it.  I'd rather hear the sounds of bleating sheep in the distance.  Is that what sheep do, bleat?  Baa-ing in the distance just doesn't sound right.  It doesn't matter, Luskentyre was so remote I don't even remember seeing any sheep.

Even though it was 30 degrees cooler on Harris, much too cold to get in the water, I felt myself wishing I was back there today.  I remember being in Scotland for the first time 12 years ago, and thinking how amazing it was that you could drive for hours and not see a town or even a house.  I thought, "How could anyone live somewhere so remote?"  I still couldn't live there, but I sure don't mind going for a visit.  To have a beach like Luskentyre all to ourselves was almost surreal, and I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to experience it that way.