The United Card Event with Sam Heughan

Note: This account is taken from the author’s notes and memory. It is NOT a transcript of the event.

If you ever have a chance to participate in a United Card Event, I strongly recommend that you do. This afternoon I participated in the Zoom Virtual Experience webinar with Sam Heughan. Sam was interviewed by Ginger Zee. Ginger has interviewed Sam in the past, and they were totally at ease with one another.

Let me back up a day. All 100 participants of the virtual event received a package of goodies from United Card Events. The big box, delivered by FedEx contained an autographed (Sam Heughan) copy of Clanlands, a Sassenach Spirits whisky flask, a travel journal, a package of Walker’s shortbread cookies, a tin of Edradour whisky fudge, a bag of Gimbal’s Scottie Dogs licorice, Mackie’s of Scotland haggis and cracked black pepper flavored crisps (chips) and a picture of Sam. It was quite a wonderful box of goodies.

Autographed copy of Clanlands.
So many goodies including a Sassenach Spirits Whisky Flask.

We also were given a link for a Photo Booth. When you clicked the link you were asked to select a frame (with standing stones, a plaid, or a map of Scotland) which came in three different sizes. Once you selected a frame your face appeared in the frame and you tapped a button to take your photo. Then you could accept the photo or try it again. Then the photo was emailed to us. I had so much fun with this. I ended up taking five photos and used all three frames. I even changed my shirt twice. Call me crazy, but it has been a long covid year, since I last saw Sam in New Orleans.

Photo Booth Picture

Then it was time to make sure I was in the waiting room. We were treated to music from Season one of Outlander while we waited. Promptly at 5 PM ET the program started. Surprise! Ginger Zee was the interviewer. With her background of covering Outlander, she was the perfect choice. Sam was then introduced. It looked like his hair might be a little damp from the shower. He had just arrived home after a 14 hour day of filming Outlander Season 6. It was 10 PM in Scotland, and I truly appreciated his willingness to do this special event after his long day.

Sam was just in from a 14 hour day on Outlander.

Ginger kicked things off with a discussion of what she said was her favorite episode of Men In Kilts (the latest episode). Sam said the original title was Natural Beauty. He said that the episode did not really have a through line like the other episodes did. He and Graham just wanted everyone to see the natural beauty that is Scotland. I have to say that the episode really delivered on that.

Ginger mentioned that she really enjoyed the episode partly because Graham was so scared. Sam said that Graham was truly scared, and he said that he (Sam) was also pretty scared as they got into filming it. It was a cold, windy day, and once they got to the ledge they had to unhook the line that they had been holding going down. Sam said that when he got back up to the top, they said now go back down so we can get the drone shots. So Sam went down again and unhooked. He said he ended up on the ledge for quite a long time that afternoon, and it was pretty scary. He also stated that he does not like small enclosed places, and that for him that would evoke a smilier reaction to Grahams. Interestingly Sam said he doesn’t really like heights. I find that a little strange considering how much he likes to climb mountains.

Sam talking about Men in Kilts

Sam said that he thinks he and Graham bring out both the best and the worst of each other. Sam related that when they showed up at Doune Castle to do the first day of filming that he had been so busy with all the production details that he hadn’t really thought about what they would be saying. Suddenly he thought, “oh no, there is no script!” Needless to say that bit did not make it into the show. Sam said it was a great learning experience.

Next Ginger mentioned that Sam and Outlander have done a lot for tourism in Scotland and figures that Men in Kilts has done even more to spark interest in people traveling to Scotland. Sam’s response was that his own relationship to Scotland has grown over the years since he started filming Outlander and came back to Scotland. He said that every project that he has done such as his whisky, tartan and Men in Kilts was born out of his love for Scotland.

Ginger said that she has interviewed a lot of people, but that what makes Sam different is his heart. She mentioned My Peak Challenge and how she sees it all over social media. Sam talked about wanting to share his love of fitness and the outdoors with people. Furthermore, he wanted people to help others while helping themselves. Ginger asked him for his best MPC story. He talked about amazing changes that Peakers have made in weight loss, mobility, strength and in making friends and being a part of a community. He said there are so many wonderful stories. He mentioned the Ambassador groups located world wide, and how Peakers help each other to achieve their goals. He said that the community that has developed is very special.

Sam speaking about My Peak Challenge

Ginger asked about what Sam would like to do if there is another Men in Kilts. He said he would really like to do something on Shetland, and talked about the fact that the people who live there consider themselves more like the Norwegians than Scots. He would also like to do more on the other west coast islands.

Ginger then turned to Outlander and said she couldn’t believe she did not start with it, but that she had really loved the last Men in Kilts episode. Sam laughed and said that he had just come from set. He said as a matter of fact you can probably still see the scars that Jamie has on his hand. He held up his hand to show us. He said, “and this hand is really red because I was fighting today. I can’t tell you who it was though.”

Ginger said that she had seen that there were three new characters. Sam said yes the Christies. Thomas Christie was in Ardsmuir prison where he met Jamie. They have a history.

Ginger then asked if there was something that Sam could share from set that maybe has not been shared before. He said well the young ones (he and Cait are the old ones now) are in control of the music. He said that he and Cait have always shared a make up trailer, and that they always practice their lines while they are getting their makeup done. But he said they have lost control of the music to the young ones. He said that Sophie plays Taylor Swift and that he likes it. He said he had also watched the Taylor Swift documentary and enjoyed that.

He said that they are really close to the crew. After all this time they know their families, and have seen them have children. (It was a really sweet sentiment).

Ginger asked Sam if he would ever consider going on a tornado chase with her. Sam got really excited and said “Oh yes!!! Wow I would love that.” He said he had not understood until recently how violent tornadoes are. He said the United States has some very significant weather like the hurricanes and tornadoes. He said they have a whole section where tornadoes come every year. (I had to laugh since I live in tornado alley).

Sam was pretty excited about chasing tornadoes.

Sam said he is planning a Route 66 Motorcycle trip. He said that he thought it would be a great way to see America and that it seems old school and a lot of fun. He also mentioned that he would like to go to Montana and play at being a cowboy. Ginger noted that she had spent a lot of time in Montana and has family there.

Ginger then asked him if he had any other projects that he could announce. Sam said he would love to be able to announce another project, but that he is working so much on Outlander that he does not have time. However, he said he did a romantic comedy movie with Priyanka Chopra before Christmas. He said that is was a very different role for him, and when he showed up he wondered what he had gotten himself into. He said that he plays a basketball player. He said that he did not know anything about playing basketball, but that there was a small court near where he lives, and he practiced there before shooting the movie. He laughed and said he got started listening to Kanye West while he was playing basketball. He further stated that he loved working with Priyanka – that she is very hard working and driven and really great to work with. He enjoyed hanging out with she and her husband Nick Jonas. He said they drank lots of tequila. He said he had a great time working on the movie.

Ginger said that Sam has been using swords for the last several years. How did he enjoy working with guns in SAS: Red Notice? Sam said he wanted to use all the weapons, the hand guns and the long guns. They worked in plenty of hand gun work because he thinks that is sort of iconic to Bond and to Great Britain.

Sam wanted to work with all the guns!

Ginger asked if Sam and Graham were to make a Hallmark movie what would the title be? Sam said probably the Grinch Comes for Christmas. The grinch would obviously be Graham, and he would be the five year old causing trouble.

Ginger asked if he was working on anything else. Sam said that he and Graham were working on a new project and that they are doing Zoom calls. He also said that there were lots of Men in Kilts possibilities. Ginger would like to see Men in Kilts come to North Carolina.

At this point we transitioned to audience questions. Not everyone got to ask a question but several did.

Question: Do you ever get nervous in an audition?

Sam: I used to be terrible. I spent 10 years being horribly nervous. I’d see other actors go in and say Hi! Great to see you. I wished that I could be like that. I even started buying a coffee before I went in. It was like a prop. Then I realized that I just needed to concentrate on the character. I also realized that the people casting want you to walk in and be the character. They want you to be successful.

Question: How do you get into character when you are auditioning?

Sam: Well it depends on the character. For instance, for the Paul Newman role I tried to get to the essence of Paul Newman. For Bloodshot I tried to understand why Jimmy was so angry. Jamie is exciting because he is constantly growing and learning more.

Question: How do you turn off the dark stuff that you have to play.

Sam: Season one had some really dark places, and season 3 was difficult in many ways in that Jamie was almost catatonic in the first episode. He did not want to be alive. But I have really never found it too hard to turn it off. With Outlander by the time the day ends, you go to costume, and get out of all of that, them it’s to make up and you have to remove all the make up, and then there is the drive home. We have a lot of humor on set. Our cast and crew are very supportive. We laugh a lot.

Question: Would you ever do a role on Broadway?

Sam: I would love to. Theatre is a shared experience. Watching TV or a movie is also a shared experience, but the theatre is the most primal, the foundational shared experience. I think it plays an important role in our lives.

Question: What are the West Coast of Scotland must sees?

Sam: The islands. Mull is one of my favorites. It has a Munro, and it is not crowded. I camped out there in the summer. It has a really pretty harbour. There are several other islands like Eigg and Muck.

Question: You said that most people do not like your favorite music, but what is your favorite music?

Sam: I like lots of different kinds. I was listening to heavy metal today as I was getting ready for the fight. I love the overture to The Magic Flute. And like I said, I have been listening to Kanye West. And I’ve mentioned before that I love Scottish music. If you know some good music, tweet me or put it on Instagram.

Question: You mentioned in another interview that you want to have more balance in your life. How are you achieving that.

Sam: Well that is kind of hard right now because we are working long days. But I am planning a little trip at the end of the year. Actually it will be quite a big adventure, If I get to do it. But I am trying to be more self aware.

Question: What do you most admire about Jamie’s character and what do you think about how horribly women were treated in the 18th century.

Sam: That is an interesting situation – historical accuracy. Women were treated horribly, and we still have a long, long way to go. We have lots of discussion on Outlander, and sometimes I’ve said, no Jamie would not do that. Then I am reminded that it is the 18th century, and things were very different, but seen though our lens today – no.

What do I most admire about Jamie? Well it has to be his love for Claire. It is never-ending and he would do anything for her, to protect her. They are still in love with each other even though they are older. I think that is what makes people love this story so much.

(Then my name got called!!! Squee!!)

Me: Sam, thank you and Ginger for doing this event. I live in Oklahoma, and Route 66 runs right through our state. It is a great historical route. There is even a big round barn that you pass. Ginger says – and also the Wichita Mountains are great.

Question: How many episodes have you filmed so far in Season 6?

Sam: You’re a cheeky one. (Laugh). I don’t think we have completed any so far. We have filmed many, many scenes from multiple episodes. I’ll let you do the math. It is taking us 24-25 days to do a block. Each block has 2 episodes. We started at the end of January, soooooo.

You’re a cheeky one!

Question: What part of Scotland do you still want to see on your Harley that you haven’t yet.

Sam: I want to do the North Coast 500. That would be really fun. I’m going out this weekend with a few people. One of our security guys has a Harley, and Wendy’s husband has a motorcycle. So it should be fun. We have some days off around Easter.

Question: With all the things you are doing will you ever do fan events in the future?

Sam: I love fan events. The last fan event I did was last January in New Orleans and it was so much fun. I love New Orleans. The food, the music, the people. I would love to do another fan event in New Orleans. So yes whenever we can again.

Question: Can you tell us anything about the Covid protocols that you have in place on Outlander?

Sam: Yes. Men in Kilts was one fo the first to shoot with the protocols. Sony used us as sort of a guinea pig. Of course we had a small crew and only two cast members.

Outlander has two machines, and we are tested every day. Everyone has a bubble – multiple bubbles depending on what you do etc. We wear masks and even eye protectors in certain situations. So far it has gone very well. It’s hard and very different.

Question: Do you have any regrets from earlier seasons or jobs? Things that you would like to be able to do differently.

Sam: I haven’t watched all of Outlander. I have watched Seasons 1-3, but not Seasons 4-5. I’m still too close to those. But looking at Season 1, I think we were so new and just getting started. But I think it has a fresh and real feeling. Or at least that is what I see. And I just think how lucky I have been to have done Outlander. It changed my life. (When Sam said this, he just glowed – his sincerity was so obvious).

Ginger: Well it is wonderful! Absolutely top rate.

Question: Which of the two national parks in Scotland do you prefer?

Sam: Loch Lomond is very easy to get to with it being so close to Glasgow. The Cairngorms are wilder. They are sort of the gateway to the Highlands. But both are wonderful. There are so many places in Scotland that are just wonderful.

At this point the audience questions ended. The moderator from Chase, Sheryl Webster, came on and asked Ginger and Sam several travel questions.

Question: Aisle seat or window?

Ginger: It used to be window, but now aisle.

Sam: I’d say the same. I like the aisle now so I can get up. But if I want to sleep the window is better.

Question: Where are you looking forward to traveling to next?

Sam: America. I really miss going to America. I will be glad when we can go back and do press and premieres.

Question: If you are on a long haul flight who would you like to be able to sit by, if you could choose anyone at all?

Ginger: My Mom (I’ve missed her in Covid). Or James Cameron. He is the most fascinating interview I’ve ever done. I’d love to ask him all about his movies.

Sam: Jamie Fraser. He would be very interesting to talk to. He would be totally excited to be on an airplane. But also the first person to climb Mt. Everest. But most of all my Granddad. Yes, I’d like to sit by my Granddad.

My Granddad.

That was the end of the program. Cheryl thanked everyone and reminded Sam that he needed to do his pictures for us. Yeah!!!

Outlander Fan Events

Outlander Fan Events

Several people have asked me about the opportunities to meet the cast of Outlander.  They want to know how to know which events to go to and how to spend the most time with the cast.  I will share what I have learned over the last two and a half years. This is by no means perfect advice.  Each person has to determine what they want most, and how much money they are willing to spend.

There are basically two types of events:

1.  Corporate Events – often these are cons. As in Comic Con (convention). These events often host more than one fandom.  I attended Emerald Con in Seattle and Jibland in Rome last year.  There were many TV shows/movies represented at Emerald Con (over 60,000 people).  The activities were in 2 buildings and we had to pay attention to schedules and rom numbers.  At Jibland there were about 5 TV shows represented.   The new Creation Outlander events are Outlander only.

To attend a con you can buy a basic ticket and then purchase autographs and pictures.  Prices for the Con ticket to get in vary from $100 to $1,000 or more.  Prices range from $25 to $80 for each autograph and $80 to $110 for solo pictures and $150 – $250 for group pictures.  Each Con’s prices are different.

You can also buy packages- such as Platinum, Gold, Silver or Copper etc.  The packages vary in cost but usually are $250 to $1,000 or more.  The packages usually contain pictures and autographs.

The higher level packages may allow you to attend a party or other exclusive activity with the stars.  They also allow you to cut to the front of the picture and autograph lines.  At a con you can expect to stand in long lines for pictures and autographs.  If you get several pictures that means that you will stand in line many times.

If you have purchased multiple autographs of a star, you can have them all signed at once.  However, if you have purchased autographs for multiple stars, you will stand in line multiple times.  Occasionally two or more stars will be in the same room and you can move from one to the other.

Getting the top level ticket, will insure that you do not stand in line very much, and it gives you the most access to the stars.  Regular tickets usually get you no more than 30-45 seconds for each picture and about the same for autographs.  If you have multiple autographs with one star, you will get more time with them. but probably 3 minutes tops.

Some events have Meet and Greets – These are 20 – 40 minute sessions (depends on the event) of 5-20 people and one of the stars.  You get to ask questions of the stars.  At Sasnak City we also got to take a selfie with the star. The cost of Meet and Greets run from $80 to $150 and are usually not included in a package.

2.  Fan run events– I have attended three of these. In general, they are smaller events that focus only on Outlander.  They definitely have a different vibe and are a lot of fun. They are done from a love of Outlander.  These wonderful people are fans first and foremost, and do their best to see to it that the fans have a great time, meet other fans and meet the stars of Outlander.

These events rely on volunteer help, and do their best to keep costs reasonable.  Anyone who thinks they are making money, needs to think again.  They must pay for the actors appearance fees, their travel, lodging, meals and other expenses.  They must pay for the venue, printing costs, food and drinks for attendees and other costs associated with the event.  They deserve our thanks for all the hard work they do to make these events special.

Outlander in the City – There have been three of these events in New York City.  Outlander Homepage and Outlander Forever were the hosts. These events were for an evening (3 hours or so) cocktail party.  The evening cocktail party tickets were all the same price.  There were selfies and the stars autographed a picture prior to the event that those attending received.  No autographing was done at the event. 

These were terrific events, and a great opportunity to meet the stars and speak with them briefly.  They also raised money for the stars’ chosen charities.  The stars have really been appreciative of this aspect of these events. Outlander in the City has provided  amazing evenings of Outlander fun for the participants and the Outlander cast members.  

 Sasnak City Event – This was a 3-day event held in Kansas City, with 8 actors in attendance.  Gina Phipps-Hubbell headed up a team of amazing volunteers for this fan run event. There were different levels of tickets for the event with various prices.  The more expensive the tickets the more you got to do.

The Sasnak City event was unique because two ticket levels had multiple opportunities to interact with the actors for longer than the time it takes to snap a picture or sign an autograph.  The top ticket level had several additional opportunities to interact with the actors. The other two ticket levels could purchase meet and greets. The stars had a great time, and all said they would come back. What a great recommendation!

Through The Stones – held in Davenport, Iowa usually in late November or early December.  It is hosted by Debbie Ford and her two sisters.   I have not attended this event.  However, I know they do lots of fun things like trivia contests and classes on various topics that are Outlander related.  This year Edward Spellers (Steven Bonet) will be the guest.

The Gathering on the Ridge – held at The Mast Farm Inn in North Carolina and hosted by Kim Stuart Puhrmann.  This event includes The Grandfather Mountain Gathering, Outlander related classes, hikes, and an Outlander guest.  This year the guest is David Berry.  I’m attending this event this year and am really looking forward to it.

Outlandish Vancouver – which last year included David Berry and Diana Gabaldon as guests is hosted by Koko Pipkin.  Pictures from last year’s event looked like everyone was having a great time, and her guests were terrific.  No one better than herself and Lord John Grey!

This list of Outlander fan run events is not exhaustive.   There may be others that I have not listed.


  • Decide what is important to you and whether or not you are willing to stand in line.
  • Decide if you are willing to travel alone and meet other fans.
  • Decide if you are willing to share a hotel room with someone you do not know in case you have to go by yourself.  (It’s a great way to meet new friends).
  • Determine your budget ahead of time.
  • Carefully read what is included with the various ticket levels.
  • Act quickly if you want a top level package. They sell out fast.
  • Decide what you want to get autographed. Remember it has to go in your suitcase.  Sometimes the pictures that are taken at the con are available immediately so you can get them autographed.  But have a back-up plan in case something happens.
  • Take sharpies for the stars to use. They usually have them, but be prepared.
  • Be friendly, patient and flexible.  Sometimes schedules change, room numbers change so pay attention and listen to announcements and be flexible.
  • Sometimes the actor you purchased your ticket to see, may cancel.  Remember an actors filming schedule can change.  It is beyond their control.  Do not send them a hateful tweet.  Do not scream at the people in charge of the event.  They can’t control it either.  Take a deep breath and know that the provider is going to try to get a replacement guest.  If they can’t get one, your money for pictures, autographs and Meet and Greets, will probably be returned, but not your ticket to the event.
  • Be appreciative of all the actors and express that appreciation.  Do not complain to them about anything.  These people work hard and deserve our upmost respect.  Also be respectful and appreciative of the people who work so hard to make these events happen.
  • Behave with dignity and respect at all times.

We always try to get the information for the events in Clan Heughan as soon as possible.  We will post in the group, and we have a great spreadsheet of events with links done by Samantha Kraupner in our files.  Samantha updates it when new info comes in.




Twenty Years: Jamie Fraser

Twenty Years: Jamie Fraser

Twenty years without his anchor and home,

Yearning for blood of his blood, bone of his bone.

Beloved wife and child never seen,

Their life he ensured by making her leave.

A sacrifice so painful and great

He thought their loss his terrible fate.


He rode to Culloden Moor to die

He awoke to find he had survived.

Captured, he awaited to be shot,

A boy’s debt of honor determined not.

The redcoat officer sent him home

Left with broken body, heart, and soul.


His sister’s determination saved his life,

A life filled with grief and internal strife.

Everyone thought Claire had left him or died.

He couldn’t explain, and inside he cried.

He prayed see them safe dear God,

And in his dreams at night she trod.


He longed to touch her, he loved her so,

His heart bleeding, cold as the snow.

A bleak existence he lived for his crimes,

Seeing his family from time to time.

Solitude the Dun Bonnet’s companion.

Surrender saved his family from famine.


His cave he traded for a prison cell

Loneliness and sorrow, too great to tell.

Chains of iron, cold and gray

Laird of broken men he became.

Then stripped of pride once again

Sent to Helwater far from his men.


A willful girl used blackmail and deceit,

And in her virginal bed she conceived.

His child he saved, but could not claim.

He watched him grow and hid his name.

To protect the wee boy, he had to leave,

His heart filled with longing without reprieve.


Now a stranger where he once roamed,

He felt alone, although he was home.

Marriage vows made because he was lost.

Companionship carried a heavy cost.

So once again he was a man alone,

Happiness and love never to know.


A smuggler, a printer, an author he became.

Danger he sought to ignite a flame.

Fragmented man of many names,

His life and home never the same.

Responsible as always for family and men

Soon to be labeled traitor again.


But she loved him still through time and space.

Determined to find him to the print shop she raced,

And walked through the door to an unknown fate.

He heard, “It’s Claire,” turned, and saw her face,

That beautiful face that was his heart

Two souls reunited, never to part.

The Flip-Top Trailer

My parents were firm believers in the educational value of travel. They loved to travel, and my brother and I were certainly the beneficiaries. Our family vacations provided me with some of my favorite family memories and some hilarious incidents along our journeys.

It is important to note that Mom and Dad could not afford for us to travel in style, but I can honestly say we had so much fun that I never gave it a thought. We camped out under the stars, in tents, in homemade flip open trailers and in a tiny travel trailer.  It wasn’t the Waldorf or even the Holiday Inn, but it was grand.

In fact one of my earliest memories is camping out under the stars on a folding cot. Our cots were softened with quilts that my grandmother had made. I have a distinct picture in my mind and the feel of the quilts under and over my body. I vividly recall the feel of the morning dew on the blankets and trying to snuggle deeper under the quilts to stay warm in the brisk morning air.  I think I was three years old.

My paternal grandmother lived in our home. My grandfather died the year before I was born, and she lived with my parents until she died at the age of 96. Grandmother also loved to travel, and she was up for any adventure my father could devise.  Traveling with her was an education in itself.  She was a natural story teller and innately curious.

My father always believed that any problem could be solved with a little effort.  He also believed in building or devising economical alternatives to what could be purchased. This belief led to the creation of his flip-top trailer. The purpose of this project was to enable us to travel and camp in more comfort.  He had seen commercial trailers that folded open and had a fabric top that covered the opened area. Sleeping platforms were on either side of the open trailer bed where things like Coleman cook-stoves and lanterns, fishing poles and tackle, groceries and suitcases could be stored.  Of course Dad wanted one and decided he could build one for much less than the purchase price.

Anytime Dad had a project my brother and I were expected to be involved.  Dad and Chris constructed the bottom part of the trailer from an old pickup axle and built the bottom and sides from plywood. They painted it red to match our red and white Ford station wagon, and their part was complete.  The women in the family had the pleasure of constructing the tent.

It is a testament to my Mom and Grandmother that they set to work without a pattern and managed to create the tent top. What a learning lesson that was for me on so many levels. Mom used geometry to figure out a pattern and how much fabric would be needed. Grandmother, who truly was an expert seamstress, bought enough canvass to complete the project.  Laying out that much canvas on the kitchen table and cutting it into the pieces was an adventure I’ll never forget.

Then it was time to sew the tent structure including grommets to attach it to the trailer.  Now most people would never attempt such a sewing project without a commercial machine, but we didn’t have one of those.  Grandmother had a Singer home sewing machine that was her pride and joy.  It had replaced her old treadle model. What perseverance it took as she and mother wrangled those huge pieces of canvas and tried to fit them under the presser foot so the needle could sew the seams. They broke needle after needle in the tough canvas. But they never quit, and they certainly never said a bad word, although they may have thought them.

We finally completed the tent, and it was hooked to the trailer. It was probably a miracle that it fit.  But fit it did, and bingo, Dad had his flip-top travel trailer. He pulled that homemade flip-top trailer down the roads of America for several years.

One of our more memorable trips with that trailer was to Miami, Florida one December to attend the Orange Bowl. I remember it being pretty cold on our over night stops in Mississippi and Alabama. But it was lovely and warm in Florida. We saw alligators and went to a place called Monkey Jungle where we were inside the cage and the monkeys on the outside. We went to the football game and had a great time even though our Sooners didn’t win.

While in Florida we passed field after field of luscious red tomatoes and row upon row of avocado trees. Our family dearly loved both. So Dad stopped that station wagon and asked if we could buy or pick tomatoes and avocados. What a great experience. I can still see my mother sitting in the back of that station wagon with the back window down, peeling and mashing avocados, adding chopped fresh tomatoes, and everyone singing as we rode down the road.  Nothing could have tasted better!

There were many other similar adventures as we traveled across our great country. I learned about our geography, our history and our people. And while those were of great educational importance in my life, they were not the most important lessons I learned through our family’s adventures.

I learned the value of family and the camaraderie that can be enjoyed with those we love. I learned that you do not have to be rich to enjoy travel and to provide valuable experiences for yourself and your family. I learned the value of dreaming, of having a vision, of not being afraid to try something.   I leaned the beauty of creativity, and the possibilities wrapped in saying I think I can do this. I learned to be independent and adventuresome and to appreciate the beauty of nature.

My Dad and my Grandmother are no longer with me, but every time I travel I think of them.  I see them in the towering mountains and the deep blue oceans, the evergreen forests and the quiet streams.  Travel is more than just a vacation for me.  It’s a connection to my past and my memories.  And the best part of it all?  I’m still learning.

Sooner Sassenach Musings

Reading did not come easily for me.  I was surrounded by readers and read to frequently, but reading bewildered me.  I remember wandering around my neighborhood after lunch one afternoon to avoid going back to school.  I was six years old, and I was afraid I couldn’t read the site words that had been introduced to the class that morning.  Luckily the school called my mother and reported me as AWOL.  She found me, gave me a severe lecture and returned me to school and the dreaded words.  At that point in my life reading was something to be avoided.

The next summer we moved to a small town, and I started second grade in a school that taught reading using a commercial phonics program.  My classmates who had been there the previous year knew the rules of decoding.  I had no idea what they were doing, and I do not recall anyone taking the time to teach me the basic rules. I guess I was supposed to learn the rules through osmosis.  Schwa “e”?  What on earth was that? Reading was confusing and difficult.

However, I loved the times at school when my teachers read books to us.  I also loved to visit the library in a nearby city with my Mom and enjoyed checking out books.  I read those books, and I usually enjoyed the stories.  But I wouldn’t choose a book over playing outside or riding my bicycle.

Then in my eleventh summer, I wandered into our small, newly opened, local library. It had a welcoming feeling and it was air-conditioned, a rare luxury at the time.  Soon I was stopping by as I rode my bicycle around town. Few people frequented the library, and it was usually just the librarian, Chincie Ross, and me.  Chincie, had known me forever, and she let me stay as long as I wanted.  I spent most of the hot, sweltering, summer days in that little library.

At first, I just looked at the books on the shelves, ran my fingers across their spines, enjoyed the cool air, and occasionally pulled a book out and thumbed through it.  I can remember the smell of the older books and the slightly different smell of the new ones.  I remember looking at the pictures on the colorful dust jackets and reading the blurbs about the books.  Some of the blurbs sparked my interest, and I begin to read the books.  I was soon transported to other times and places.

Chincie did not confine me to the children’s section.  She let me read adult books.  I felt very grown-up and a bit naughty.  The stories were fascinating, and the characters were often living quite different lives than those of the people I encountered every day in my small town. I was challenged, inspired and entertained.

And that summer, I fell in love with reading and the magic to be found on the pages of a book.

My love affair with books and reading is a permanent one.  I’ve never lost the excitement of starting a new book. Very, very few days have passed in my life without reading from a book or two.  The power of well constructed prose, a compelling story and intriguing characters keep me coming back for more.

Some authors speak to me more persistently and eloquently than others.  Last year I discovered the author, Diana Gabaldon.  Her books are unique, and I discover new delights each time I read or reread one.

This morning as I read  Gabaldon’s The Scottish Prisoner, I had one of those amazing moments that stopped me in my tracks and sent me back to the beginning of the passage.  I read:

Jamie felt a strong desire to go across and see what the open books were, to go to the shelves and run his knuckles gently over leather and wood and buckram of the bindings until a book should speak to him and come willingly into his hand.

It had been a long time since he’d owned a book.

In an instant, I was back in that small town library running my fingers over the spines of books on a shelf; I was in my favorite bookstore waiting for a book to speak to me and come to my hand.  And as I read that last line…my heart broke.  For Jamie is a man who has an innate curiosity, an educated man, who has been denied the woman he loves, his children, his home, his life’s work and even his liberty. I could feel the longing of his soul to have a book to hold, to read and savor, to consider and ponder the wonder of its language and to derive his own personal meaning from it.

These words evoked a visceral response in me, and I remembered how precious books are to me, how blessed I am to be able to see, to read the written word, to have the means to purchase books whenever I want and to have the time to read them.  These words created a connection between the author and me, for she understands what it is to run fingers across a shelf of books, and she understands the true value of having a book of your own.

What sparks or creates a love of books and reading?  I think it is the connection that the author makes with each reader.  I began discovering those connections the summer I fell in love with books.   The summer I became a reader.