Driving Miss Grace

photo (9)To continue my discussion of Wows and Wonderfuls for 2015…

Scotland has more scenery than you can imagine. As one person put it, a postcard out every window. Imagine a place the size of South Carolina that includes palm trees, reindeer, hundreds of islands, the largest neolithic henge in Europe, the best preserved neolithic village in Europe, northern lights, the Willow Tea Rooms, hairy coos, TABLET, nearly 200 whisky distilleries, castle and kilts (of course!)… and top notch public transportation.

The Scottish Crannog Center

The Scottish Crannog Center

Here’s the catch, though. Scotland also has the Highlands, which remain some of the least populous terrain in any developed country. The English got around to building a few roads through the Highlands in the 18th century to facilitate troop movements, and that was pretty much the last major infrastructure initiative in the northwestern half of Scotland.

The top notch public transportation is the sunny side of a situation that can require driving forty miles around a loch that’s

Castle Jamie... I mean DOUNE.

Castle Jamie… I mean DOUNE.

one mile across; and that road, she is QUITE scenic and might be one lane in places.

This is why I count among my major accomplishments in 2015, DRIVING IN SCOTLAND–all by myself. I started off as a co-pilot to a travelin’ buddy who knew what she doing behind a Scottish wheel. When we reached the MacBoondocks, she let me have a turn. Eventually, I solo’d, rented my own vehicle, and even tooled around in Perth, a city of 50,000.

Orkney - Ring of Brodgar

Orkney – Ring of Brodgar

“So you drove in Scotland. What’s the big deal?”

The big deal is that for an American, you are sitting on the passenger side of the vehicle, and you are piloting that car down the wrong side of the highway. When you pull out of the parking lot at major attractions, you will see signs in six languages admonishing all and sundry to “KEEP LEFT.”

train_1618801cDrivers in Scotland apparently come in more than six languages. Wheee! Add to this the fact that in much of the country, the road signs are in two languages, and your American brain takes a while to figure out which one is English.

And guardrails? Guardrails are for countries in need of tort law reform and single payer health care systems. In Scotland, you will see the occasional guard rail, but you’re morel likely to see sheep on the highway.Then there are the roundabouts… sheep on skye

Yes, I count driving in Scotland as an accomplishment, in part because I want to live there someday, and to see all there is to see, driving is a necessary skill. In a small way, it’s like learning the language so I can talk to the locals. 

Daniel final PEACH coverI tackled this challenge in what I think were planned, manageable, safe steps, but maybe you’ve set some challenges in the past year that required more of a leap of faith. I’d like to hear about both approaches to challenges met and bested in 2015, and to one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Daniel’s True Desire.

And if you’d like to join me for 2016’s adventure in Scotland, click here for more  information on Scotland with Grace (and hairy coos, kilts, and castles)!  




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18 comments on “Driving Miss Grace

  1. Well I’m retired now and have health issues that have slowed me down a lot. My main challenge is to keep moving and to stay as healthy as possible.

    I guess if I have a strategy at all, it is just to stay as positive as possible. That is work for me sometimes because I am not a sunny, optimistic person by nature. But I have always known how important it is. But one thing that I do have going for me is that I have always been able to see how blessed and fortunate I am.

    Looking forward to reading Daniel’s story.

    • Over and over again, I hear Art Linkletter’s admonition, “Old age is not for sissies.” It’s a time when you plan, you strategize, you set up contingencies, and then your health, the economy, your grown children and grandchildren, the weather… can all come along and shove into facing a challenge nobody could have foreseen.

      Hats off to you for starting the discussion with a mention of attitude, because that’s the one thing we do maintain control over.

  2. My biggest challenge in 2015 has been training my corgi Celeste. She is stubborn, smart and she barks. I have been working with her for about 18 months. Sometimes, I can see that she’s learned a new skill and others times I wonder why I get up so early on my day off!

    We finished her Rally Novice title in March. Our scores were not the best as she would not sit, stay and let me walk around her. This piece was our bug a boo. We couldn’t go forward without being solid on this skill. We tried new food, special treats and nothing worked. Celeste was stuck and she started to bark and get frustrated.

    So, we decided to change it up. Celeste and I tried herding, nose work ( which Celeste loved) and focused on off leash heeling which Celeste excels. Lots of cheese and praise! We focused on the positive and trained for the CGC (canine good citizen) title which she achieved in July. In August we took a few weeks off. Training started in September and in our first class….Celeste sat, stayed and let me walk around her! And she downed, stayed and let me walk around her! Success!

    Now, we are working on advanced CGC title and an Urban CGC title. Yesterday morning, our training class took place at the Plymouth waterfront. Celeste was not “spooked” by the ghosts, pilgrims or witches, she stopped and sat at each crosswalk, climbed stairs and moved in busy traffic. Working outside with a group has been a great change for us as well.

    It took Celeste time to be confident with the stay/walk around piece. And it took me awhile to figure out that she needed to sort through the new skill and that food or praise wouldn’t get me the end result. As I write this morning, Celeste is on her mat in the down position waiting quietly (so far),

    Have a great week and here’s hoping that Daniel and Lady K’s story are well received.

    • She is stubborn, smart, and she barks…

      I am amazed at how her stubbornness became YOUR determination not to give up on her. Her smarts became your ingenuity in finding a way to tunnel around a dead end. Her barks became your willingness to communicate outside the usual treats and praise lines to give her the confidence to be appreciated for more than many would have said she was capable of.

      What a huge year for the two of you. WELL DONE, Ladies!!!!

  3. I’m a big proponent of the small, manageable steps approach. It makes everything simpler! My son has had an anxiety disorder since he was very young and when a 3-year-old has extreme anxiety, the whole family has anxiety. I worried that his issues would be too difficult to deal with, but with a phenomenal therapist and a regimen of small, manageable changes, he has learned to deal with his anxiety like a pro and taught me a thing or two (or 20!) in the process.

    I cannot tell you how excited I am for Daniel’s story! He’s been a favorite of mine for a long time.

    • That anxiety… you wonder how anybody escapes its clutches when the media has learned to tap our very neuroscience to maximize our fretful response. Shame upon the lot of them.

      Good on you, for realizing early that the twig affects the entire oak grove, and for tackling a big challenge with patience and persistence.

      We all worry too much. Not many of us DO enough about it.

  4. Grace, how wonderful that you have met and conquered a challenge. And how even more fantastic that you enjoy Scotland so much. BUT if you haven’t visited the South West, you have only scratched the surface. Galloway, mind you, needs someone who can appreciate the subtle, and whose palette hasn’t been spoiled by the drama of the North. Is this you? If you ever make it down this way, I’d be happy to suggest some routes you might enjoy.

    • Let’s keep in touch! I have been to Burns country, but that was just passing through. For somebody who has driven for days to go see my parents, the idea that any part of Scotland would be considered remote is puzzling.

      And it’s all beautiful. Every corner, crag and glen that I’ve seen of Scotland has been some kind of beautiful.

  5. Hi Grace,

    Everything I do is in steps it seems. I write a weekly column for my professional society’s website and this week, it’s gonna be about doing things in stages! We choral conductors know our choirs won’t be able to sing….the Faure “Requiem” or Mendelssohn’s “Elijah”….. right off the bat but through a planned rehearsal period, with stages planned out, they certainly are capable of singing anything!

    We all want to just *do it* but in order to really *do it*, it can’t be all at once, but gradually. I would be petrified to drive in Scotland (or anywhere in the UK)but you did it the best way possible for you….and it worked! Perhaps because you are a musician, you know you can’t just play without practice!

    Looking forward reading Daniel soon!

    • What you say makes great sense. We expect individual musicians to practice, practice, practice… why not ensembles? I know when I’ve been a part of a choral group, the spring concert is always more varied and ambitious than the autumn offerings.

      Same with writing. I think it was Voltaire who said, “Nobody learns to write well quickly.”

  6. How wonderful to think about moving to Scotland, Grace! I’m jealous.
    I have a chronic health condition that is impacting me more than ache year, so my challenge is to try as hard as I can to let it slow me down as little as possible. And that’s definitely difficult. I’m trying to stay practical and upbeat about it, and grateful for the many blessings I do have.

    • Oh, health. Sorry to hear you’re grappling with this challenge, because it’s real, it’s not fair, and you did nothing to deserve such a burden.

      I will wish you an abundance of good days, and when those are in short supply, good friends and good books.

  7. I frown a little every time I’m reminded of your upcoming Scotland trip. Not that I want to be a writer (so I might be a terrible addition to the group) but I would love to travel Scotland with someone who has been before.

    Challenges this year? Changing the way I do my job. The expectations have changed when it comes to the standards and testing (we’ll just skip right over what I would love to say about testing). However, test we will and that test has changed. Strangely I don’t have a problem with the changes (except the addition of MORE tests) but it requires me to take a much more hands-off approach to teaching. That’s not how I’ve done things in the past (few public school teachers do) but now it is a must. I’m not great at it yet, but I’m getting there. “Did you read the question” and “Look it up” are slowly becoming my new answers to the infuriating student statement of “I don’t understand.” Oh, to get paid for all the times a student says “I don’t get it”, “I don’t understand”, or “what am I supposed to do.” I would be retired and taking that trip to Scotland with you. 🙂

  8. Driving in Scotland is quite an accomplishment, Grace! I’m not sure I’d be up to driving anywhere in the UK or anywhere else (I think they do it in Japan?) where everything is ‘backwards’ to what I am used to. The fact that I have dyslexic tendencies makes it more likely I’d have directional issues if I tried. 😉

    Our biggest challenge of 2015 has been a series of health issues for our daughter – ones that have been going on throughout the year. Turns out she has an autoimmune disorder that makes her highly susceptible to blood clots among other issues. She is having to make some lifestyle changes that decrease her chance for clotting — including staying over hydrated, eating well, getting the right amount of exercise, not sitting still for long periods, and so on. Many of these things are common sense but they are more difficult for a college student to get used to and stick with.

  9. I learned to drive later in life so it’s always been a problem for me. I force myself to go some places but it’s baby steps for sure. Learning to live on an extremely tight budget is another one. I never craved a lot of things or a lot of money, but having my husband laid off has come as a shock. Again baby steps. I have learned to take one day at a time and enjoy all the small pleasure in life. Family, friends, animals and books will help get me through. And I had no idea Scotland had palm trees!!!!

  10. Hmm… I have gone rock climbing and white water rafting, I really hate both, but I did try it. They were certainly out of my comfort zone. I took a class where I wrote 6 poems. I enjoyed that. Since August 24th, I have made a commitment to my health and have stuck with it. I’m not always perfect, but I keep going.

  11. Hello Grace.

    Happy to hear you managed to drive in Scotland – AND enjoy it!
    My challenge this year was to work harder to become a writer. One of the steps I took was a huge one: I went to RWA (gathering – Scottish-flavoured pun totally intended! – of thousands of romance writers) in New York. I was totally overwhelmed by the event but am still happy I went. So much so I’d like to go again next year. But this time (and that will be my step/ challenge for 2016), I’d like to have a book to SHOW.