There is something magic about Rylie Rahall. She is one of those kids society calls an “old soul” because her kindness, understanding and empathy are way beyond her years. She’s the type of child who excitedly plans each valentine for her classmates and teachers, even though the project will be extremely taxing. As she explained to her mother: "Each heart will be perfect for each person in my class because everyone will get their own special heart that was made just for them and nobody will have the same one. We are all different, Mom, and that makes us all special in our own way."
Rylie’s parents, Tim and Erica Rahall, can tell you the worst day of their lives: November 30, 2011. This was the day they learned their baby had Ataxia-telangiectasia and nothing would ever be the same.
Ataxia-telangiectasia or A-T is a horrific, rare genetic disease combining the worst symptoms of muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, immune deficiencies and cancer. It is a degenerative condition attacking the nervous system, brain and the body’s immune system in early childhood. Children with A-T are predisposed to fatal cancers and are usually confined to wheelchairs by the age of 10. They often do not survive their teens.
In the devastation of this diagnosis, the Rahalls have dedicated themselves to fighting the clock on this pernicious disease. Their largest fundraiser, the Rylie’s Angels A-T Golf Tournament, is now in its 6th year. Last year, with the help of numerous volunteers, it earned an unprecedented $95,000 for research and this year they are hoping to break 6 figures.
As a result of these efforts, scientists are developing chemical compounds to assist in combating A-T, finding ways to lessen the side effects, creating A-T cell models and learning how the protein works in brain cells. In addition, this research has broad reaching consequences beyond A-T. Scientists are also learning more about neurological diseases, cancer, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s and immune diseases providing hope for the Rahall family and humankind in our mutual fight against disease.
For information on the golf tournament, sponsorship opportunities or donations please go to: https://www.atcp.org/RahallGolf
Note: Spinster’s Guide™ is a proud supporter of Rylie’s Angels. She holds a huge place in all our hearts.
A little worn out by the singles’ scene? Are your friends feeling the same way?
Corral your single gal pals together and have a party! (Marrieds will have a good time too!) The Spinster’s Guide™ to your Pop Up Single Gal Party has you covered:
Just add drinks, party snacks, and have yourself a party!
Here is my article for the UK website Singles Warehouse :
With recent political events, I’m not sure any citizens from the British monarchy are listening to the colonies anymore but after paging through 1000s of American dating profile pictures, I do have a couple pieces of advice. Hopefully, this information will bring more romance and harmony to the British Isles.
2. Clear body parts, other than your own, from the photo.
3. Think carefully regarding your largest asset.
4. Hunter-gatherers are so passé.
5. Just put the Sharpie® away
I’m hoping this assists you in selecting the perfect dating profile picture. As you can see, the States have a way to go.
P.S. P.J. thanks for your ideas! I'm on it!
I just received an email from Singles Warehouse. They are an online dating site located in England and are interested in me writing a guest post for their website! So, the big question is: What do I write about?
Here’s the idea list thus far:
· In my book The Spinster’s Guide to Dating, I compared the Orange County dating scene to the African Serengeti. Maybe the English can identify with this analogy. I bet they get some interesting creatures at their watering holes.
· Possibly, I could offer a helpful list of dos and don’ts regarding online dating profile pictures. I’ve seen everything from a guy, pictured with a former girlfriend and her face scribbled out, to a dude, sitting in a Playboy Mansion grotto scenario, embracing two bimbos. ( I don’t even want to think about the women who respond to these photos.) Of course, the English are probably too sophisticated for such shenanigans.
· Or maybe, I could pull a Bridget Jones and rewrite a modern-day Jane Austen story. But would the English purists frown upon colonial copying!?
Such rich content with a multitude of directions! Look out Jolly Old England!
I need to apologize. I started the year all gutsy and ready to fight my fears with the No Fears campaign. Instead, I was sidelined by the political situation and wrote about the March on Washington and whether a pink hat and a red baseball cap could make a relationship work. Although the political situation continues, I need to lighten up. My friend Susan, the proprietress of Twig in Laguna Beach, suggested I start a line of greeting cards. Since another dear friend, Peggy, made the same suggestion years ago and I respect both of them so much, I figured I would toss my hat in the notecard arena.
In designing the cards, I had 2 primary goals:
On a Valentine’s Day, long ago, Robert was my fifth-grade classmate. He did not fit in. He was quiet and soft and didn’t garner much attention. I have no idea about his background. I don’t even remember much about him.
Our class party was filled with goodies and busy children excitedly passing out valentines. Ken P. had a big stack. Maureen B.’s desk was covered and Jack P.’s large pile was sliding off onto the floor. Sitting, directly across from me, was Robert. There was not one card on his desk.
It still makes me sick to my stomach and although time has blurred the details, I am still blown away by the utter desolation that little kid must have felt that day.
Valentine’s Day is tough for a lot of people. Some have lost loved ones and are hurting. Some never found that anticipated great love, and are sad and lonely. Some are little kids who just want to be liked. Maybe we should all remember this.
So…if you’re living the Valentine’s Day dream with candy, a romantic dinner and warm kisses, good for you. And if you are not, you are not alone.
Be kind out there…
P.S. And Robert, wherever you may be, happy Valentine’s Day.
Unfortunately, an already very shallow dating pool has been split in half. We now have a left end and a right end and our ideas are the rope floats keeping us apart. Websites are popping up all over, catering to this new polarization. On your right, you have TrumpSingles.com displaying a very upwardly mobile attractive couple out for an elegant evening. On the left, you have Maple Match catering to liberal U.S. citizens who, as a result of the election, are ready to exit the country.
So, the big question is: Can a pink beanie and a red baseball cap ever live happily ever after?
According to Grindstone, there are some political unicorn couples out there. You have Mary Matalin, a Republican political consultant, and James Carville, a Democratic commentator. Their diametrically opposing views seem to fuel the passion and perhaps their disagreements are a form of foreplay.
They are not unprecedented. Although, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt had 6 children, their marriage definitely had its rocky moments. During FDR’s presidency, Mrs. Roosevelt wrote This Troubled World, a book directly opposing many of her husband’s ideas.
There are other presidential examples as well. After the very conservative George W. Bush exited his presidency, his former first lady Laura Bush, proclaimed she was pro-choice and supported same-sex marriage, in direct opposition to her husband’s beliefs.
All three couples have differing values and opinions but managed to keep their marriages together. Of course, I suspect with very different levels of success. So, maybe it works and maybe it does not work but they do offer hope. If they can come together, compromise, and make their relationships work, shouldn’t our country, with all its collective resources, be able to do the same?
I think we all need a little humor. These slogans were seen on Inaugeration Day and at the Women's March on Washington. (There are fewer pro-Trump slogans because he won.):
For my #2 No Fears I am invoking the First Amendment and joining the Women’s March on Washington.
For the record, I am nonpartisan. I have voted for democratic, republican and independent candidates. I have been pleased and disappointed with my respective presidential candidates' wins and losses but this time is different. It is so different, I am spending the equivalent of an Italian vacation to cross the continent and make my views known.
Before my right-leaning friends ditch me, I must say I do see positive changes, directly and indirectly, attributable to our president-elect:
After a great deal of soul-searching, I realize there is a whole lot contributing to my concern regarding Donald Trump and I can understand why the Women's March has had a difficult time finding a unifying theme. Which, of the many issues, does one choose? After more thought, I find a rather simplistic answer with two overarching loosely defined characteristics fundamental for a good president. There is much evidence Trump has neither. They are: truth and empathy. (Thanks to Meryl Streep for using this perfect word in her Golden Globes speech.)
Our president-elect has a very complicated relationship with truth. I have heard him connect Ted Cruz’s father to Lee Harvey Oswald via an article in a tabloid, say thousands of people in New Jersey cheered the collapse of the Twin Towers, tweet he would have won the popular vote if millions had not voted illegally, claim he could not release his tax returns due to an IRS audit , and other obviously ridiculous statements. Jane Mayer of The New Yorker interviewed Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of Trump’s bestselling book The Art of the Deal:
Schwartz said of Trump, “He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.” Since most people are “constrained by the truth,” Trump’s indifference to it “gave him a strange advantage.”
Trump understands the power of the press and puts an extraordinary amount of time into managing it. He is the first president to adopt Twitter for conveying his message. On the surface, this does not appear to be a poor decision. After all, aren’t we receiving the undiluted truth directly from the source The problem is he, with his own interpretation of the truth, is his own fact checker. Isn’t this the job of our legitimate press and part of the checks and balances of our country? He does not appear to believe so.
There are factions alienated by this president:
Our 45th president is a complicated human being, unlike any previous president. Like all Americans, I hope his tenure is successful but do not see this happening without some major changes and there are a whole lot of us who are VERY concerned.
After pouring over press sites, both liberal and conservative, trying to distill my viewpoint into a slogan for my protest sign, I have finally figured it out. Superman’s mantra was: Truth, justice, and the American way. I’m changing it a little to fit the situation: Truth and Empathy are my American Way. I have designed the sign with super ”men” of all colors, sizes, and genders standing with capes waving in unity . For truth and empathy truly are my American way.
Here’s how it went: The 2 marrieds and I arrive at the saloon and this good looking tall guy approaches me. I feel a little giddy until he tells me he’s a pilot and flying out in the morning. It’s very hard not to roll my eyes.
Me: No, you’re not. You’re drinking. Pilots don’t drink before flights.
Pseudo-pilot dude: Uh… the airlines have loosened up their restrictions.
I give him the “how stupid do you think I am” look. For some reason, this does not turn on my new “pilot” friend and he soon disappears.
Looking around the bar, we spot this guy who really stands out. He has grown his mutton chops into semi-moustaches sticking out six inches from both sides of his head. My friend is intrigued and asks if she can have her picture taken with him. He agrees. Later we notice he is groping her boob in the photo.
Everyone seems to know each other and I ask one of the regular gals if there are any guys who will dance with me. She pulls a cowboy aside and we two-step. I’m proud of my resourcefulness in talking to her but notice the guy assumes some non-existent intimacy.
The last dance is Sweet Home Alabama and my married friend and I rock out to it. After all, she is one half of my date! It is the best dance of the evening and everything ends on a high note.
Onto No Fears #2!
Regarding fighting my fears and going out dancing by myself this evening, I have two confessions:
Very much looking forward to the evening. Rumor has it the place will be packed! I'm sure I'll be witnessing a massive hit-on-a-thon upon my married friends!
The first week of 2017 and my first act of bravery! I'm putting on my big girl pants and going dancing Thursday night!
Last year, I talked my friend into crashing a party. We heard all this great music and laughing and did not want to miss out. Unfortunately, it did not go well. Mortification has blocked some of my memory but there was confrontation, outrage, and kicking-out involved. Looking back, we should have grabbed a bottle of wine, offered it to the hostess, and said the party sounded like a lot of fun and to enjoy the wine with our compliments. We might have been invited to join in the festivities. Invitation or not, it would have been a classy way to handle the situation and is exactly what I will do next time. You, dear reader, may use this graceful option for any of your upcoming party-crashing opportunities.
Upon returning, tails between our legs, my friend’s husband was shocked by our new party crasher status and even more shocked I was the instigator. I was chastened but also a little proud of us. We did not stay home listening to all those people having a good time. We put on our party pants and went for it! Of course, we went down in flames but we STILL went for it!
In the same vein, my overarching goal for 2017 is to be more bold. I know a life well-lived requires one to be courageous and I am ready for the challenge. I aspire to tackle one fear-inducing activity each week and blog about it. I’m going to talk to that guy at Peet’s. I’m going to go to that event by myself. And finally, I’m going to crash that party… but this time with a bottle of wine. You, dear reader, can learn from my mistakes and forge your own courageous path. Together we can lead emboldened, richer, opportunity-filled and more productive lives because we decided to be brave.
Happy No Fears!
P.S. Click on the Happy No Fears image for the downloadable PDF.
I decided to get a head start on this “fighting my flirting fears” thing and made a b-line for a local bar with dancing. I had already vetted the place. It’s not a 20 something hang-out and there are no cars in the parking lot worth more than my condo.
Upon entering, a guy catches my eye because I’m certain he has not caught anyone else’s eye. He is unattractive; thus he is not intimidating and the perfect man for some flirting practice! Also, I figure he might appreciate the attention, so I head over his way. Couples are pulling some complicated esoteric dance moves and I turn to him and crack, “How come you’re not dancing?” He pauses and looking slightly panicked, points to the opposite end of the bar and responds in a squeaky voice, “My girlfriend is over there.”
I consider this guy for a beat, a whole lot of dialogues running through my head, and decide to take Kenny Rogers’ sage advice: You've got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away.
Do one thing every day that scares you. ~Eleanor Roosevelt
There is something very empowering in throwing caution to the wind, getting down and dirty, and battling your fears. You walk away, with your back a little straighter, knowing you had the grit to take on those demons. With time, stretching your fear-fighting muscle can become a habit creating an emboldened you. With each new challenge, you become a cage fighter yelling, “Bring it on!” with new found guts and determination propelling you forward, making you more and more unstoppable.
Flirting is my terror trigger If I see an interesting man in a coffee shop, I can’t start a conversation. I would never approach a guy at the grocery store or go to a sports bar by myself to watch a game. If I see a man looking at me with interest, I always avert my eyes. I worry about being embarrassed or looking stupid or being rejected. That, dear reader, is a life based on fear and a recipe for a whole lot of missed opportunities. My New Year’s Resolution is to get out there and not be so darn fearful. I want to figure out a way to meet that guy in the coffee shop or grocery store. Right now, my only strategies are dumping coffee in his lap or knocking over a fruit display. I may need more help than I thought…
And then I’m going to blog about it. You can offer me suggestions because I sure don’t know what I’m doing! You, dear reader, can sit in the judge’s booth displaying your number cards: 6 for technique! 2 for creativity! 10 for tenacity! And maybe this little blog will inspire you to get out there too!
My business partner Patty, whom I call Wordsmith, came up with the perfect catch phrase for this resolution. Instead of Happy New Year’s, we’re calling it Happy No Fears!
I seem to keep wondering off on tangents. I started this blog thinking
I would write about the funny parts of dating as some objective observer. I felt more comfortable addressing the singles’ scene as a science experiment run amok, rather than allowing myself to become emotionally involved. Unfortunately, in this continued social distancing, I’ve veered off track and written of cats in Airbnbs, Mary Queen of Scots, decisions in writing my book, hiking and a whole lot of extraneous stuff.
The truth is: I’m not very brave. I thought writing a very funny book about dating and having a website would force me to get out there and at least socialize but I’m having a rough time. Even with all the bravado of Spinster’s Guide, I’m a little embarrassed about being single. I just don’t feel like I fit. As my mom has said, she thought I would be the stable one with 6 kids. Instead, I’m divorced (a born-again spinster for you semanticists out there) and navigating the singles’ scene in my 50s. If that were not enough, there is an added complexity: I’ve been single for years. All this “me time” has created a monster who is not great at compromising and has a list of dealbreakers a mile long. Sometimes, I wonder if I haven’t lost my stomach for dating.
An example of my social failure happened the other night. I noticed one of my favorite bands playing at a local bar and asked several friends if they would like to go. (That’s also the thing about being single. You must plan everything ahead if you’re going to spend time with others. You have no built-in social life.) My pals all had packed calendars. I did not have the guts to go by myself (it’s humiliating to be the old lady at the bar) and stayed home. I am embarrassed to say, I have no idea if I would have had fun because I was too afraid of being alone.
I needed to take a page out of Shonda Rimes’ book: Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person. She talked about her year of saying yes to everything and all the opportunities that came as a result. Maybe you can join me, dear reader. Maybe we can be the proverbial roller rink stars, pulling each other forward through the morass of potential loneliness, embarrassment and heartbreak and coming out on the other end, not to a whooping crowd, but perhaps with our heads held a little higher in living a life not compromised by fear and perceived expectations.
In thinking about our country and its place in the world in the future, I created the following slideshow.
With much love,
There is an arrogance in writing a book. The author assumes others will be interested in her work. Otherwise, why would she write? This assumption weighs heavily upon the writer’s soul and bores a reservoir of self-doubt, ebbing and flowing with the tides of insecurity. It can make one a little crazy and explains the self-destructive nature of many creative people.
After my own self-questioning, I have decided to actively dismiss these insecurities. I post the following quote on the fridge:
The one thing all famous authors, world class athletes, business tycoons, singers, actors, and celebrated achievers in any field have in common is that they all began their journeys when they were none of these things. ~Mike Dooley
It alleviates SOME of my worries…but not all of them.
I start thinking about my book and choosing its guiding principles. As I mentioned before, I want it to be one’s go-to book for dealing with dating. I want it to be light, funny, uplifting, beautiful, and gift-worthy. I want it to be a page-turner, one shares with her friends. I decide it will be for women over 40. (Later, my chosen demographics soften as I meet readers in their 20s and 30s, who share some of the same frustrations.) I would love for men to enjoy it too. I figure they may be feeling a little discouraged as well.
I think about the illustrations:
In the introduction, I write about the craziness of Orange County dating with the “real housewives” and 50-year-old guys looking for their 20-year-old soulmates. I see myself as my reader’s designated driver, keeping her laughing during the ride. I draw a picture of a stereotypical spinster. She has glasses, frizzy hair, and is holding a cat. Another cat is on a cat tree in the background. (Cats will be big in this book.) It is a little scary how much she looks like me.
I write other stories. In one vignette, I compare dating, in the OC, to the African Serengeti. I have fun making it sound like a National Geographic special with the reader watching from a viewing booth! I also draw a picture of a hand “giving the bird” with its wedding ring finger. It is a little offensive but that is okay. Dating is a little offensive.
During this time, I am also teaching. I spend hours after school grading, tutoring, organizing, and planning for my classroom. The remaining time, I am working on the book. After a while, it starts getting to me. I feel lonely, isolated, and a little chunky. I figure I need friends and some exercise.
I search the online Meetup sites and join the Orange County Hiking Club. I figure I can get in shape, meet some new friends, check out the dating scene for writing ideas and have a little fun. I start with the short hikes but soon find all the adventure is in the longer ones. These hikes are populated by the monster hikers. With this group, you feel guilty falling because it slows everyone else down and at the end of the trail, the organizer is taking trophy pictures of injuries. These crazies have their heroes too. There is a gal who forgot her hiking boots and ended up scaling the ominous C2C (Cactus to Clouds) in sandals. This trail spans the Palm Springs tram route and continues to San Jacinto Peak. It is over 10 miles, one way, with more than 10,000 feet gain and I stand in awe of anyone who can complete it. There are pictures of her victoriously waving her sandaled feet in the air on the website. She is not the only one. There’s another gal who became stranded in a snow storm, close to San Jacinto Peak. She holed up in an old cabin, close to the top, for several days. Through her resourcefulness and rock hard determination she survived and became part of the local folklore. These people are the Bear Grylls of the hiking club and I want to be just like them. I want to be strong, bold, fearless, gutsy and doggedly-determined.
I go on these hikes and meet some fantastic characters along the way. I ask one guy about his social life and he tells me,” This is a hiking club, not a dating club.” Obviously, he has not been paying attention! There is the curmudgeonly guy betting me, “This group will never make it!” Another holds my hand during an especially steep trail and I think I am falling in love. I write about the princes and the frogs; hiking grit and how it parallels dating; and the character-revealing aspects of a tough trail. I draw pictures of turtling, peakbagging and some of the pitfalls of trailblazing. I have a lot of fun and meet some great people!
And then one day, my friend Michael takes it up a notch. He has secured coveted permits for the highest peak in the Continental U.S.: Mount Whitney! I feel like I have hit the lug nut lottery when he invites me to join the group! I enthusiastically accept his invitation, having no idea this adventure would open a whole new very frightening chapter for me, one I could never have imagined…ever….
Next week: Scaling Mt. Whitney and It Wasn’t Supposed to Be Like This
Eight years ago, my boyfriend and I were talking about the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain. McCain had just chosen Sarah Palin for his vice presidential running mate and I voiced my concern regarding her candidacy. My boyfriend’s response: Let’s be real here. The only reason you don’t like Sarah Palin is she’s SO hot.
I remember thinking two things:
The idea was not entirely original. A close friend had mentioned an acquaintance who was writing a book about her dating misadventures. Of course, this person had the idea first and I did not want to take it from her. I was relieved when my friend reassured me her acquaintance was no longer working on her book. (She must have found a guy!) The field was wide open.
Writing and illustrating a book is an enormous undertaking so I needed to think carefully about whether I was willing to take it on. The pros were:
1.) Books had helped me enormously during difficult periods in my life. Years earlier, I had been in the midst of a very tough pregnancy and a friend gave me Dave Barry’s hilarious book: Babies and Other Hazards of Sex. This book portrayed the realities of pregnancy with cartoons of Lamaze classes, barfing, huge weight gains, and labor. It made me giggle and feel so much better.
I had a similar experience after a devastating breakup. I was bereft and became an insomniac feeling sick to my stomach most of the time. My only relief was reading the book: It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt. The chapters about psycho breakups and drinking-and-dialing made me laugh out loud and feel so much better. I must have read it 100 times.
I wanted to do, for single women, what these two books had done for me in pregnancy and heartbreak. I wanted to create a book about all the really funny parts of being single and make my reader laugh. I envisioned it as one’s go-to book after a really bad date. It could be a mini-vacay from dating reality!
2.) I looked carefully at the demographics and was encouraged by the numbers. There are now more singles than marrieds and with a 50% divorce rate providing new entries into the single column daily, my potential reader base was huge.
3.) I love writing and drawing.
4.) My cartoons had been published in the Orange County Register and miscellaneous newsletters. I didn’t totally suck.
5.) Twenty-five years ago, I had accomplished the impossible. My joke was published in Reader’s Digest. They had sent me a bumper stick reading: I found money, fame, and glory. Reader’s Digest published my story. If I could do that, I could do this. Right?!
6.) There were so many directions I could take this topic. I could make it as big or as little as I wanted.
7.) I would learn a lot and meet many new and interesting people.
8.) If the book did really well, I could affect change. Maybe I could create a greater acceptance for women’s choices. Maybe people would stop asking or thinking: Why aren’t you married? Or better yet, maybe the sympathetic looks would end at those high school reunions. ;-)
9.) If the book did REALLY well, I could give significant support for organizations like Rylie’s Angels.
10.) I love the idea of books. I didn’t want them to die away. I wanted to be part of their resurgence.
11.) And last but not least, it would push me to get out there and date. After all, how could I write about dating if I was not doing it myself?!
Next week: How does one go about writing a book?!
In Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel Gone Girl, the protagonist
talks about being the “cool chick”. She wants her man to fall in love with her so she denies her own aspirations and desires to become his dream girl. As a result, she gets the guy but compromises her soul in the process.
Here is the BIG problem: Not only is the “cool chick” setting up unrealistic expectations for her relationship, she also is doing it for the rest of us. Men see these idealized women and start expecting everyone to behave accordingly. Those of us who would like honest, authentic relationships cannot be ourselves and cool at the same time and thus begins the frustration.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of you “cool chicks” out there! You know who you are, but if you’re in total denial, here is a list of some of your “cool chick” moves:
STOP IT RIGHT NOW! Not only are you swimming in a huge vat of Not Happy, you are forcing the rest of us to swim with you. By you compromising yourself, you are sending a message to all men that this is what women do. They expect it of the rest of us and we are SICK OF IT.
So, what do us non-cool chicks do? Perhaps we should unionize and come up with a conduct contract declaring a boycott on cool chick-ery. None of us put down our gender. None of us sell our soul for a relationship and none of us become someone we are not. Of course, there will be scabs among us and we will need to figure out a relevant way to deal with their actions. Perhaps, it is enough to live a life of inauthentic relationships, acting like someone else, and the consequences of those “cool chick” choices.
Perhaps your love life is not going the way you hoped and you
Mary, Queen of Scots ~ Unknown Artist ~ National Portrait Gallery, London
are feeling a little sorry for yourself. Maybe you are thinking relationships worked better in the past and this just is not your decade or century or millennium. Or perhaps you feel the deck was stacked against you. If you had been more beautiful, everything would have gone better. Or maybe being born in a rich family and wearing great clothes would have made your love life come together.
I am here to tell you: It is never perfect. The Queen of Scotland was classically beautiful, born into a rich family, and wore all the latest French styles. Her love life was definitely no fairytale. It was more like an episode of Game of Thrones.
In 1561, Mary, Queen of Scots returned to her native Scotland from France, after leaving in her childhood due to political unrest. She is 17 and known throughout Europe as a great beauty with many vying for her hand in marriage. She eventually marries Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. He is one of the few men who is taller than her and some believe she cannot resist his charm and handsome countenance. Unfortunately, she soon learns of the character behind this appealing exterior. Darnley is a philandering, scheming, alcoholic with royal aspirations. In her frustration and sadness, Mary’s friendship with her private secretary, David Rizzio, deepens. Darnley suspects the worst and is enraged. As a consequence, at a small dinner party, hosted by the queen, a group of noblemen drag Rizzio away and murder him in cold blood, leaving a shattered Mary behind.
The Murder of David Rizzio ~ Artist: William Allan ~ National Gallery of Scotland
The following year an explosion rocks Edinburgh and Lord Darnley’s residence is completely destroyed. He and his valet are later found partially naked and strangled outside the rubble. There is much conjecture regarding James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell (a close friend and suspected paramour of Mary) and his part in the plot.
The events of the following months are unclear and their details depend upon the motives of the teller. Historians do agree that Mary left with Bothwell and they had sexual relations. Some believe Bothwell seized Mary, ravished her, and forced her into marriage as a power move for the crown. Others believe the two were lovers and she consented to leaving with him, leading to further questions regarding her involvement in the plot killing Darnley.
Whatever the reasons, the Lords of Scotland were outraged by the course of events and demanded for Mary's abdication. She and Bothwell met them on the battlefield in the Carberry Hill Confrontation. She realized they could not win and surrendered, some believe, in exchange for Bothwell’s safe passage. The two never saw each other again. She was held captive for the next 20 years and later executed. Bothwell was captured and languished in a Danish prison until his death in 1578.
Edinburgh City Chambers tablet ~ Photographer: Kim Traynor ~Creative Commons Attribution Share
The tablet reads:
On this site stood the lodging of Sir Simon Preston of Craigmillar, Provost of the City of Edinburgh 1566-7; in which lodging Mary Queen of Scotland after her surrender to the Confederate Lords at Carberry Hill spent her last night in Edinburgh, 15th June 1567. On the following evening she was conveyed to Holyrood and thereafter to Lochleven Castle as a state prisoner.
So when you are sick of the dating scene, think about Mary, Queen of Scots. Contemporaries considered her the most beautiful royal in Europe, many men wanted her, and she had all the privilege accompanying her royal status. However, her love life was more synonymous with the implications of the Game of Thrones threat “Winter is coming” than any fairytale.
Traveling can be a little intimidating at times. You stay in Airbnbs trusting the hosts are not whacked-out axe murderers but how can you really be sure?! Here are 7 signs you're going to survive the night:
The only scary thing about your entire visit: keeping the door shut so Boubou didn't get any ideas.
Thank you Vassilies, Tulay, and Boubou! It was an absolute pleasure!
Hanging in the Dutch display area of the National Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland is the wedding portrait of Susanna Bailly. It was completed in 1645 by Frans Hals. The hope and anticipation are evident in Susanna’s slightly vacant eyes.
About six feet away hangs another painting by Hals. It is the wedding portrait of Francois Wouters, Susanna’s fiancé. He looks like he is about to face the firing squad.
The onlooker can only imagine this couple’s future together: the tears, anger and disappointment in lost dreams and compromised futures.
In a world of spinsters not allowed to own property, being required to stay in convents, and enduring horrible injustices, there is one thing I know. I would never marry a guy who looks like he is awaiting a public execution in his wedding portrait. A bad marriage is NEVER better than being single…even in 1645.
When we last left our nerdy heroine, she was sitting in a Scottish hostel, drinking coffee and trying to determine if she should “hit on” a guy a couple tables away.
Unfortunately, the internal battle continued: So what do I say to this guy? He looks pretty busy to me. What if he treats me like a total annoyance? I would hate that. But what if it goes well? Geez…this is making me a little nuts.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” interrupts a young girl, carrying a food tray.
“Of course not,” I respond slowly.
The two of us proceed to talk about traveling in the Highlands and similar childhoods. After about 15 minutes, I look up and notice the “guy of my dreams” is long gone. A lost opportunity with him and a gained opportunity with her. Still pretty great.
My biggest regret: I wish I’d been more brave. I lost my opportunity because I was looking for the perfect thing to say and was worried about the outcome. Maybe I didn’t need to worry about being all perfect. Maybe it was more important to just do it. The young girl did and got a great conversation and a new Instagram follower. Maybe it’s more important to grab opportunities no matter what.
Have a good life European male version of me! I guess our universes weren’t meant to collide. And maybe that’s okay.
Come to find out, youth hostels aren’t just for kids!
Sipping coffee in the restaurant at the Youth Hostel Edinburgh Central, I’m seeing characters of every age. There is the group of north-of-40 travelers (my people!) who haven’t seen each other in years and keep kissing. At the next table, a sulky grandson and his gray-haired grandfather (in the O.C. this would be his father) sit. Two really cute guys (younger than my daughter) are eating breakfast and I’m trying to work up the nerve to ask them to pose with my book. And then there’s the class of boisterous junior high girls who are a microcosm of the rest of us: The hipsters with their cute little outfits who couldn’t be bothered to put their shoes on. The one with her statement fluorescent pink Crocs who just wants a little attention. And, of course, you have your standard issue ‘tween girl who’s a little too young to look that bitter.
What really catches my eye is the guy who looks like the European male version of me sitting a couple tables away. He’s got nerdy glasses, a sweater, a stack of papers, and a laptop. Wow!
So the big question…how does a gal with crappy flirting skills get this guy’s attention?!