Monday, July 7, 2014

She Inspired Independence and Self Determination

"Never forget how to play," is what this lovely woman told me at the tender age of five-years-old. Her wisdom and life experiences are the inspiration of this blog and the website, and also for my life in general.

Born at a time when women were not as equal as they are today she stepped outside the box to do it her way.

Born Lynda Kennedy she married a second generation American from a good Irish family like herself. Their families were both from County Cork. Never knew if the families knew each other previously but they were true to their roots. Especially in her beauty.

Fair complexion, high cheek bones and her hair when I knew her was white, thick, soft and to her hips. She wore it pinned up as in the photo, but when this photo was made she had Titian red hair. So her fiery red hair matched her determined temperament.

She was married to Peter Mullen until 1917 when she divorced him. She had done her best to giver her son a solid family, but Peter's drunkenness and physical abuse brought her temper to a boil.

Her son Leo remembered hearing her warn his dad, "If you ever hit me again, remember you'll have to go to sleep sometime, and you might not wake up." Leo was 14-years-old when Lynda met Peter at the door with a loaded Colt 45 and told him to never come back again.

Peter did leave and he never sent any money to help support Leo. Lynda had to find a way to make an income.

It wasn't until the 1860's that Alabama allowed married women to own property and maintain their own income. There was new ground being walked by women in 1917 and property ownership was one thing but she decided to own income producing property. She started by renting out a room in their house on Georgia Ave. in Mobile, Ala. The house was small but the rent from a room kept she and Leo fed and in their home. Before she died in 1963 I remember going with her to collect rents from her tenants. Several years after her death Leo had to sell the properties to the Federal Government for the land to build Interstate - 10.

She did get married again to a man who was most proud of his wife's independence. She also fostered a healthy respect for independence in her son Leo and he too married a very strong minded woman who worked outside of the home when it wasn't the proper thing for a wife and mother to do.

Lynda Kennedy Mullen McKenzie, was playful in spirit and always ready to tell a good story. She had at one time been fond of smoking a corn cob pipe, but by the time I met her in 1956, she had quit smoking the pip and would puff on a cigarette every now and then.

She grew herbs in the kitchen windows and people came to her for remedies of their ailments. She was a practitioner of  what they call "The Secret" today. "Anything you put your mind to, you can do," she advised my brothers and I as we grew older in her tender care.

Lynda, was known to me as Granny, my great grandmother. She was tender and loving until you made her angry, when that old fiery temperament would flash from her eyes.

She inspired my mother to be a very independent woman and also left me with many great lessons and an adventurous and independent spirit as well. But the one thing that always stands out the most was her whispering in my little girl ears, "Always remember how to play."

Friday, May 9, 2014


Went looking for fun and adventure within a two-hour drive of Mobile, Ala., so girlfriends can share a great outing. I took my husband, Jeff, on the trip as the navigator and he manned the GPS.

Within  the large circle of two miles away from Mobile is  Hattiesburg, Miss., but I wanted to try a different place. The dogs had to be included, and we packed a cooler then all piled into the car for a Sunday jaunt and walk on the Tuxachanie Nature Trail.

I had never heard of Beaumont Mississippi until I stopped at the service station to regroup and check the GPS.

After my trip to Ireland I am seriously wondering if there is an evil GPS spirit that loves to cause me angst and aggravation. After trying to force the stupid thing to give us a route that didn't include going into Hattiesburg, I decided to use my Smart Phone and pull up the map and our location. I found the road we were looking for on the phone's map. We drove seven miles back toward Mobile to F S 303; a country road through the DeSoto National Forrest.

After five miles down F S 303 a small sign (not much larger than a sheet of legal paper) caught my attention because the largest word was "WARNING!" In the area where bullet holes pitted the sign was barely legible - "TANK CROSSING."

"What kind of tank crosses a road?" I asked Jeff.

"The kind that goes boom boom and blows things up. See look." He said that as he pointed to a row of makeshift buildings in all conditions from being newly built to totally blown to smithereens.

"Where the heck are we that we would encounter tanks?"

"I don't know,but we might aught to get out of here."

A couple of miles further we saw another sign that warned we were in the practice bombing area for the Mississippi Air National Guard.

"Great,now they can take aim from their tanks and from the air." It reminded me of the day I got the call from the Secret Service and heard a small aircraft flying over my house. I seriously searched the skies for a drone that day.

We came to the end of the road and could go left or right. The sign on the corner showed an arrow pointed back toward the direction we had just driven that notified us of the Camp Shelby practice area. We turned left because we knew if we headed south we would eventually find the Gulf of Mexico. Glad to be out of there, we drove across the road and went to a dirt road to let the dogs out for a few minutes.

There were purple sweet smelling flowers along the road and some Black Eyed Susans.

BOOOOM - it was so loud I looked for a tank or plane. Jeff said he heard the jet. Neither of us needed to call the dogs back to the car as they ran and jumped in the back seat.

Now, unless you are interested in a game of dodge the bomb - this is not a trip I recommend driving to according to the Garmin GPS direction.

As we quickly got away from potential death by bombs, we discovered that the road we turned onto ended at Hwy 49 which goes north and south with Gulfport at the southern end.  We also saw the entrance to the Tuxachanie Trail on Hwy 49, which is where we were headed to begin with.

Two things we explored where a group or a family with pups could have some fun.

1 Black Creek Campground,  a great location deep in the forest with picnic tables, sandy beaches where the artesian colored water was cold, fresh and gently running past. The dogs ran wild and crazy with giant smiles while we ate our lunch.

2 Red Wolf Wilderness Adventures for canoes or kayaks to cruise Black Creek or the Tuxachanie River.

There are other adventure companies in the area but the closest was Red Wolf. Here is some information about the adventures in Mississippi. I highly recommend taking I-10 to Hwy 49 in Gulfport to get to any of these locations, and avoid the bombs.

Black Creek Trails - 

Tuxachanie Trail -

Red Wolf Wilderness Adventures -

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ancient Irish DNA Makes Courageous Woman

Redmond Castle now Luftus Hall in Hooks Peninsula, Co. Wexford
Ten days 2,000 miles

Many people would not travel to a foreign country without a traveling companion or group. This Irish blooded lassie took the 10 day trip alone. Many said "You're more courageous than me."

Who did I have to yell out?

I missed turns, because the road signs were either non-existent, written in Gaelic, located past the road to turn on, or posted on the side of a building on a plaque that was maybe 12 inches long and four inches tall. I know the leprechauns were falling down laughing as I screamed at the car, the road or the woman that kept telling me to turn down wrong roads or make a U-turn. (The GPS woman.)

I swear, the guys at the car rental place where I got the GPS changed the settings to avoid all major roadways. It took me down roads that looked more like country driveways with 50 mpr speed limits.

Whenever I met an oncoming vehicle I know the other driver saw my eyeballs and heart pop out of me and hit the windshield. That is how it felt, to me, when I slammed on the brakes so hard the poor little Nissan choked to a stop.
Click here and take a quick trip down a road with me.

I programmed the GPS to go to Dunbrody Abbey. It took me through switchbacks, country roads and out of the way places until it said "Arrive at Dunbrody Abbey on right."

I didn't see anything resembling an abbey, but there was a long manicured drive. I turned right. Drove a quarter mile to the front door of a very nice family home. I had to ask, "This wouldn't be Dunbrody Abbey, would it?" The kindly gentleman, that came out to see me, just laughed and shook his head.

Checked the map before heading out of their drive to find the abbey. It was more than an hour away, in the opposite direction. At that point I felt so lost I wanted to cry, but had to push on and ignore the stupid voice in my head, and the one that kept saying "Recalculating," and going to the wrong places.

Good thing I am blessed with a sense of direction, and the willingness to argue with  the annoying GPS voice that kept trying to tell me what to do. She kept saying "Turn left now," and if I had, I would have been in the water of Waterford Harbor. I kept the stupid thing on to watch the map as I drove; I didn't have another navigator.

 Once I was on the M8, I called Budget Car Rentals to report that I had an outdated, contrary and insane GPS. The replacement was newer,but it was still programmed to avoid major roads, such as the M8 - M25, which are highways somewhat like an Interstate in the US.

The scare last year, when I thought I had a heart attack, may have been a good thing after all, because I learned my heart is healthy. If it wasn't, I probably wouldn't have made it back to the USA, only because of the stress of driving on some of the roads in the Republic of Ireland.

Suddenly, after days, of driving my body stopped bouncing as if on a bronco in a rodeo. I noticed there were road signs that made sense and were strategically placed where the driver would know what was ahead, when and where to turn. I was in Northern Ireland, UK.

Three lovely days were spent with a cousin in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. I am most grateful to cousin Sean for driving around the Causeway Coast, which allowed me to take in all of the scenery and splendor of the rugged sea shore. For those interested this is also where they film Game of Thrones the HBO series.

We discovered each other through DNA testing and the Internet. I had tea with another DNA cousin in Clanlara, Co. Clare. The first night in Ireland was with a Face Book friend for her birthday in Arklow, Co. Wicklow. It was lovely to share the time with each of them. The Irish people I met along the journey were gracious, helpful and kind. Personal thanks go out to all of them for making my journey feel less lonely.

Even with a technical problem with the Air France plane in Paris, I did safely return home.

To see photos of my trip please visit my Flickr account:
Ireland 2014

Causeway Coast Northern Ireland

Last Day in Ireland