Picturesque Fairy Tale

There once was a girl named Jane who escaped the clutches of everyday life and found herself in a faraway land where her deepest longings were waiting for her there….

The Old Rectory On The Lake (photo not mine)

While in Wales, my dream came true. There was a place I had seen on the internet called The Old Rectory On The Lake nestled in the southern part of the Snowdonia National Park. After viewing hundreds of photos, I knew I had to be a part and see for myself this beautiful piece of earth. My friend and I traveled there in January of 2019 and met with the owners, John and Ricky who were fabulous hosts and allowed us to tour the entire property on our own. You see, I had fallen in love with this gem and was considering to purchase it with a settlement that never happened but the funds at the moment are the only thing holding me back.

While walking the entire property inside and out, I felt the world of cares lifted from my shoulder as you may have read an earlier blog about my misfortune back in 2017-2018, and peace settled instead. Outside, the sounds of birds and maybe an otter playing around in the lake along with the fresh air, not to mention those breath-taking panoramic views surrounded me with an unexplainable feeling that you can only experience to understand the depth of my meaning. I knew in my heart that I could spend the rest of my life waking up to spectacular views every morning and taking my time walking around the lake every day that the weather permitted. I was even amped up about hiking the Cader-Idris that surround this beautiful place. If you know me, you know hiking is one of my favorite past-times.

It was cold and rainy on this day, so my photos does this place no justice, but even in the dreariness of Wales’s infamous, unpredictable weather, the beauty is unmatched and magnificent. I fell in love with how the mountains and valleys come together in a lush verdant landscape. A few of these photos were taken from the detached chattel with Sauna and shower, and a hot tub built on an elevated decking area. I can imagine sipping on good ole southern sweet iced tea as I am used to, or the hot tea English style while taking in the stars at night soaking in that outdoor prominence while the bubbles sooth away all of my yesterdays. I would definitely lose time here trying to endure this grand lap of luxury with its rhythm of peace.

As I walked the property in the drizzling rain, I thought about what I would change if I owned the place and there was not much I would change nor would want to, but I do have my American style that will never die and adding a few touches here and there would definitely make it home for me. It’s warm and welcoming, a place I want to be but there are a few things I would add if given the opportunity. I would change the small house down by the lake that is used to house extra guest and make the front all glass where the lake would be your view at all times. I would also change the kitchen to the main house as it is an industrial kitchen for the five star award winning B&B that it is currently being used for and make it into my dream kitchen area and maybe, just maybe bring down a wall downstairs separating the main living space from the dining area and make it all open. But that idea is not set in stone because I do like the exposed stone wall with the A-frame ceiling with exposed beams and oak flooring and nothing but perfect views on your left and right spilling in those big huge windows.

There are ten rooms in this house including the Vicar’s study downstairs and two garages that have been converted into a retreat, an open plan self-contained unit with a small kitchen, but I would definitely make this my writing and music studio. Each bedroom has its own full bath and is perfect for entertaining guest who come for a get-a-way. My favorite part of the house is the entrance with its huge gothic front door and the curved window that was designed and put in by John, the owner himself. He has fabulous taste, I must say! Did I mention there was an under stairs wine cellar?

It’s my understanding that the house has been taken off the market, but I do remember chatting with John and Ricky while sipping hot tea, and he was very clear about not selling the house to just anyone because he didn’t want others to come in and change it into a hotel or something similar, rather he wanted someone to buy it to leave it as the house that it is which was my plan all alone. I had no desires to run a hotel nor a B&B and I even shared with the owners what I would do to the place if I chose to buy it which was make it my home and add some personal changes which I mentioned above which both John and Ricky fell in love with. But other buyers wanted to change the very thing John was hoping would not happen which is why I think the house was taken off the market. If someday soon, a miracle happens and the money comes my way, I will go to Wales and have another sit-down with the owners and sign papers if they would indeed agree. Oh I do pray this real-life fairy tale will become reality for me some day….

The Shadier Dark of Darkness

For the past several days and sit-down conversations with bank officials and lawyers, my eyes have been opened to a dread that I have become victim to and trying to maintain sanity has been a harsh struggle. “Have you heard of the Dark Web?” That question hung in the air as I stared hopelessly into the eyes of the bank manager who was trying to deliver the news that my financial information wound up on the dark net. I had heard of the Dark Web as well as the Deep Web, but never gave it much thought thinking nothing like that would happen to someone like me who is very careful with my information. I quickly learned it doesn’t matter how careful one can be, it’s still not enough.

If you’re wondering, the Dark Web is much more scarier than you might realize. It’s darker than any shade of dark to be found and can destroy a life in a matter of seconds. Most of us spend a considerable amount of time on the internet like reading news, social media sites, online-retailers and the list goes on. But this is not even a fraction of the internet as the biggest part of the net sphere is the Deep Web which makes up over 93 % of what is available on the internet. There are many layers as was explained to me over the past three days. These layers go beyond private sites and different databases that isn’t indexed by Google. Just beneath the Deep Web is the Dark Web which you need special resources to get into it. This particular web is hidden and is encrypted and hosted on anonymous servers. Now, not to get confused with the good side of the dark web which was originally developed by the U.S. Navy allowing searchers to search anonymously, but the availability or level of this anonymity makes illegal things possible.

What can you find on the dark web? I researched and learned you can buy drugs, a list of every weapon available and also the weapon itself. You can find child pornography which I want to say right now, do not make your children or grandchildren’s photos available on the internet especially beach or water photos of them in their swim suits. I asked my bank manager why didn’t she have family photos sitting around on her desk? She quickly told me of the growing problem of people coming into the offices and seeing these photos and selling them to the dark web but it doesn’t stop there. Many of the bank employees have been threatened with people claiming to have their children and giving a description of their child that was in the photo on the desk. She then proceeded to tell me under no circumstance should any parent or grandparent proudly post photos of young children on Facebook, Instagram or any social media site.

You can also find murders-for-hire and any illicit item or service that can be dreamed up in this arena. This darkness is intentionally hidden from search engines and is only accessible with a special web browser. It’s scary what lurks beyond the user-friendly websites and it’s bigger than you will ever be able to fathom and the Dark Web and Deep Web loom in very dark corners. You can find Pharmaceuticals, Fake Documentation services, Carding Sites and that sickening sex trafficking corner that is untraceable.There are so many dark secrets to be had and found in this dark corner of the net. What does this have to do with me? I just found out that the Financial Fraud Sites, which are many and cannot possibly be listed, held financial information attached to my name and bank accounts.

Early Monday morning around 12:30 a.m., I spent 45 minutes on the phone talking with customer service about my options being that I had just found $6,500.00 was pending to be taken out of Square which is a payment platform I had attached to my checking account that could receive payments for services rendered on-line. I have not used this device or platform and certainly didn’t owe anyone money. I was advised to stop that particular account immediately and tear up the card associated to it which I did while on the phone with this representative. Hours later when the bank opened, I was there first thing without any sleep that night so as not to oversleep. I sat down with the bank manager who pulled up the account which had NOT been deactivated by the customer service representative and there was another transaction of $12, 000.00 Pending.

I was doing everything within my power to keep from throwing up. My blood pressure reached into orbit and I was falling apart quickly. She immediately got on the phone with FBI, and other internal resources to get an investigation going. Before the end of that visit, another slice at my account had been posted for an additional $87,000.00, then another $12,000.00. Corporate immediately shut down my account and an investigation had begun. I felt empty on a whole new level. I’ve had horrible things to happen to me, but this knocked me off my feet entirely. My bank fixed everything, but they could not fix the fact that I am now an occupant of the dark web and not by choice. The internet has been convenient for me in so many ways, it’s been my friend. But it’s also been my biggest enemy hidden away in some very dark corner. I will change the way I do things now. Your information is NOT safe. HANDLE WITH CARE and don’t use your card for on-line shopping, or to support those you think you trust. That number should never leave your wallet even using it in stores isn’t 100 % safe. We all need to take every precaution in protecting our assets…

A Hidden Secret

To look at me your first thoughts might be; sound, healthy, got it together maybe even happy. I will admit, I do love life and being outdoors attuned to nature and for the most part, I’m a positive being but in reality as much as I would love to be the above mentions, I have a secret…

I woke up this morning disappointed. The sun was shining brightly through the French doors and I felt a surge of dread as I tried to hide beneath my blanket where the dark is usually my comfort. I lay there while thoughts ran rampant scattering all over the place and the headache I developed forced me to get up and take pills for the pain. Actually, since Christmas of 2017 I have lived with these headaches the loss of energy, sluggishness and feeling hopeless. I don’t think I’ve slept a full night through since that dreadful day in December. In fact, if I get three hours of sleep, I’m doing good. My appetite has changed and I eat when I remember to and wanting to be alone is my new purpose in life a place where I have often entertained the idea of suicide.

My name is Jane Hardin and I suffer depression.

Most mornings when I awake, I wished I hadn’t and become angry because I had. It’s a genuine struggle that I live with and even I don’t understand the hurdles I go through on a daily basis much less expect anyone else to understand meaning I put on a mask and pretend all is well. Many days, I stay in my loungewear and throw my hair into a messy bun not caring about my makeup routine. Why bother? My condition is not manic but at times it borders along that gray area and I battle with trying to keep it hidden. My depression began somewhat situational as we all go through things that bring on sadness, it’s part of the human emotion. There were adjustment disorders where my mood was completely depressed in the beginning and I understood that “this too shall pass” but for me it didn’t!

In January of 2018, things began to worsen as I struggled to come to terms with the dramatic life change I was forced to accept and I noticed that I was dealing with unfocused anxiety. I went to the store to purchase OTC sleeping pills. I also made a quick stop at the local liquor store and bought strong whiskey. I refused to seek professional health for many reasons. I’ve had friends who nearly died trying to wing themselves from anti-depressants not to mention the stigma Christianity has placed on those who suffer this bigger than life distraction and going for help meant a lack of trust in God not to mention the accusing voices blaming your distress to demon possession which is neither logical nor biblical. However, I do agree that Satan has a plan for our lives and he will do anything in his power to deprive us of our joy and happiness and his ultimate goal is to rob us of our eternal life and when we are at our lowest, we become vulnerable and the devil himself moves in for the kill.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking those who do reach out for professional help and believe me it’s not a lack of trust in God, nor demon possession or anything of the sort, because if that were true, then why do most symptoms disappear when mental illness is treated with the right medications? There are no medications for being possessed of the devil, that scenario alone is laughable. God can use right counsel and drug therapy to bring emotional healing to those who suffer. But for me, it has been a matter of affording the help I needed so I have done my best to help myself.

I declare that 2018 has been the worse year of my life to date. After losing my job, I lost my home. I lost everything I owned including my mind. I was in an automobile accident that nearly cost me my life and my car insurance had lapsed three days before. My other car was repo’d on Mother’s Day a week after my accident. There was nothing left of me especially after losing all of my clothes an valuables that was put in storage so I could move in with a friend and live on the corner of a sofa. I don’t know anyone who could have remained sane during this horrific time of life.

There was nothing left for me to do, so I took advantage of finishing my novel I started back in 2010, Secret Hostage and in April it was published. I then started writing another book, Girl Gone Positive but I have not been able to find an ending being that depression snuck back into my existence. It’s not writer’s block just a hurdle that is too big to jump in this point of my life especially when my book is about being positive which brings me to say, being positive every single day of one’s existence has become a hallmark operation. Being positive every single day, through every circumstance is being untruthful and is a load of bull. To me, it’s dishonesty and deception. The concept of positive thinking represses the reality of the moment like trauma, abuse or any other hurt you’re left with, but………..

I firmly believe its what you do with the negative that counts. I believe you should be cognizant of the negative and try to make something good of it by not allowing it to rule your life but turning it into something that you can grow from and move forward. I believe in understanding our strengths and weaknesses and taking measurable steps to come up with a grounded plan and initiate it. I believe your mind is powerful and you can do anything you want if you use application with your thoughts. Don’t just think it, do it! Put action into the theory. But not everyday is going to be a good day and I have come to realize this and trying to heal myself through knowledge and help from my Father God is not an overnight success story. In my war, I have to fight many small battles and learn to overcome many things as I go while each battle has it’s own victory or defeat.

I haven’t completely recovered from all of my loss, and I struggle daily as a result. Every night, I go outside and stare at the night-sky and I open my heart to God as I unload the day’s burdens washing my face in my own tears. That old familiar question is always the first to pop up. “Why?” I never get an answer, but am always reminded that my condition was not caused by sin and I can always come to my Father God and bring my weariness and my burdens and He gives me rest. Not so much in sleeping the entire night through, but rest as in peace for my soul and I go there constantly to get my dose. It’s kind of like a subscription, and I have to get my renewal. It’s not a one-time peace treaty, but definitely a place to find what I need when I need.

Don’t judge me by my words I’ve written this day. I’m not the only silent sufferer and I do know for a fact there are many others who also keep secret the depression that resides in their lives. Life can be harsh and not every day is going to be a “great day!” But I do learn in every day I am blessed to participate in that it’s my duty to fight my war, but my battles I have to give to God when they are too much or too heavy to deal with. We all have our vices. Yours might not be depression, but you struggle just the same whatever it might be. Why can’t the church open up to this dilemma rather than pass judgement and push it under the rug? Why does the church want to put you on the firing range if they find out you suffer? Why can’t the church remember what they are there for? The sick? The sinner? Not the well and high and mighty who look down on others less than them. Yes! I do have it in for those who think they are above anyone and I can smell it a mile away. I am an underdog. I am a nobody. But I’ll be the first to defend those who can’t defend themselves or don’t have the courage to and I’ll be the first to remind you that “whatever you do to the least of your brothers and sisters, you do it unto Christ.”

I am broken. I am flawed. I do not completely have my act together. But maybe through my brokenness, I can use my voice or fingers to reach others who also feel they just don’t measure up or feel they are too far gone. If I remember correctly, throughout the Bible, God did not choose the righteous or those who were perfect. He chose a king who committed adultery, a king who murdered. He chose a Hebrew with a speech impediment. He chose foul-mouthed fishermen, a prostitute and a tax collector. He even chose someone who persecuted Christians and the flawness goes on. I’m not capable of much but God doesn’t need for me to be capable, He just needs me to be available so therefore I am. If you suffer depression, feel free to reach out to me. We can do this together and hopefully it will spread as we forward our availability to help others. Let’s not do this alone anymore…

Wales Continued….A Non-Tedious Or Tiring Journey

Wales, a place that stole my heart and refuses to give it back is the small country wedged between Scotland and England, landscaped with pristine coastlines and dramatic mountain ranges and is guaranteed to sweep you off your feet. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into words or express extravagantly my experiences there. The rich history and that charm unlike any other on this planet leaves you with a greater feeling of authenticity especially when you take a walk through the stone-laden halls throughout the country itself.

I remember pulling off to the side of the road and jumping out of the car to capture some of earth’s breathtaking views. Being that I’m not a professional photographer, my photos (cell phone camera) do not give you the total experience that I was blessed to breathe in on that cold road trip in January of this year.

The photos above were taken from the side of the road of Llan Ffestiniog which is a village in Gwynedd en route through Northern Wales. As we traveled on, my heart skipped a beat as we topped a hill and the most beautiful beach came into view, Traer Beach. Needless to say, I had to stop and become one with the spectacular land and sea view I’ve ever seen awaiting me with it’s rock-covered beach and ambient ocean stretching far to where the end meets the sky. I almost forgot just how cold it was as I walked along the shore speechless pinching myself wondering if I was only dreaming.

I wanted to see what was next around the bend and followed the coastline into another area located in Llanabar close to Barmouth where you can stay for days taking in the stunning views in all directions. My curiosity got the best of me as I discovered a wonder situated beside the beach. An early 13th Century church (St. Mary and St. Bodfan) an impressive architectural gem of a building with a large sloping graveyard filled with unique carved headstones, some still in tact but stained with age while others were crumbling among the wild flowers and tall grasses. It would be fitting to mention among these Holy ruins are war memorials I believe 12 Commonwealth war graves that begged your attention perhaps a few tears. I took time walking through the seaside cemetery paying my respects to those gone before and searching for a name that I might recognize from history.

We left this area and headed into Barmouth in the county of Gwynedd. This old-town village where the mountains meet the sea overlooks the Cardigan Bay. While visiting a local shop, I noticed across the street a beautiful old structure, somewhat of an unorthodox chapel full of eclectic mix of interior and exterior treasures. We did not have time to go inside and visit, but I did visit it via internet but no pictures of my own to share other than the exterior from the photo I had taken.

Ebeneezer Chapel Emporium

After leaving Barmouth following those snakey country lanes, we found ourselves driving parallel with the River Mawddach estuary where I spotted an old bridge in my rear view mirror therefore sending me into a quick stop in the middle of the road to get a shot of what I found out to be the Barmouth Bridge a wooden construction built in 1867. Thankfully no traffic was coming from either direction giving me time to take my photo. I learned this bridge is one of the longest timber viaducts that is still used in Britain and it’s measurements are approximately 800 yards across and is supported by 113 wooden trestles. After getting my photo, I drove around the curve and in view there was a structure that resembled a castle only smaller. I have searched to find out what this building may be, but to my dismay was not satisfied by any findings leaving me to believe it’s someone’s home. The castle-looking building was built on a bend of the road which also over-looked the Mawddach River. I dared not stop on this curve so my friend took the photo for me.

Our last stop of the day was awaiting several miles up the road. We didn’t even know it existed and darkness was edging its way in quickly. As I followed the winding road, I accidentally took a wrong turn and needless to say it was a worthy mistake. Driving down a long narrow road into beautiful scenery in the Penrhos Mountains, we found ourselves among some history hidden away from public view in a place called Ty’n y Groes in Coed y Brenin Forest. There were two major trails that was accessible along the river that ran through the park. One of those trails was The King’s Gaurds Trail where you could view the biggest trees with very wide trunks and along this path is the King’s Champion, the tallest tree in the forest. Then there was the Penrhos Mountain Trail which was a rugged steep trail that leads you above the forest to where you can see great views of the Snowdonia. I regret not being able to hike these trails, but one day, I will return and it’s on my re-do list. However, I was able to get a few photos of the entrance area before heading back…

When Night Settles

There are places around us with rich history and dark pasts. I for one have a healthy curiosity, yet an unsettled indecisiveness about haunted tales and dark stories that proliferate from so many others and may be debatable. One such tale has peaked my wonder and I obliged my need to know.

Allow me to make it clear, my indecisiveness is that of ghost stories. I do not judge those who do believe nor do I toss out the idea of accuracy, it’s just I have never seen one but I have seen things that were nightmare worthy and have been forever etched in my memory bank. Before I go any further, I have concluded that in certain places on this planet when night settles in, it has it’s own kind of darkness and your mind either intercepts and believes or denies the events at hand.

Last year in May of 2018, my family and I ventured off a few miles from home to a place located in the dark corners of upper state South Carolina to a popular historic site called The Poinsett Bridge in the Blue Ridge mountains. This particular bridge is said to be the oldest standing bridge in the Southeastern United States. It was constructed in 1820 with impressive weird shaped rocks and a pointed gothic arch that is very rare and gilded in a medieval tradition. Here is a photo I took below.

The Poinsett Bridge

We enjoyed a hike up the mountain. It was amazingly beautiful, hot and a treacherous hike indeed and I’m very thankful we weren’t greeted by timber rattlers that are said to be prominent in these parts but there was that one snake but he was friendly and non-venomous.

Family Hike at Blue Ridge

Now that you have an idea of this area, lets talk about what happens when night settles in. I videoed my experienced from Saturday night, the 4th of May 2019 when we returned at night in hopes of fueling our expectations from stories that are very much alive from the locals and many who come seeking truth of these tales. I had taken photos as well but they came up missing and I had to screenshot some photos from my video which did not turn out well. As I mentioned earlier, tales have been described with grueling details from those who have ventured here and have become the recipient of harrowing experiences. Now, here is mine…..

When we arrived at the bridge, it was pitch black and very warm outside. We wore our jackets thinking it might be somewhat chilly in the higher elevations but learned quickly they weren’t needed. We didn’t have flashlights so we used our cell phone lights to see and I had a small LED light attachment for my phone I used as well. I also had my GoPro but it decided not to participate in the adventure by being stubborn and refusing to work, ( it wasn’t the GoPro that wasn’t working it was me not working it right as it was new to me) therefore all events were captured by cell phones. The moment we exited the car, you could hear the rushing water moving through it’s path. It was loud and boisterous as it had rained earlier that day. It was the only sound to be heard.

As we neared the bridge we stood at the top of the landing with our little lights shining below and down on the bridge was a very dim light that was not at all very lengthy in duration, but long enough for its debut in my photo gallery then dissolved into the woods as we headed down. That alone was enough to change my mind but I did not want to be the only chicken in the coup so-to-speak and pretended to be brave. I have to mention here, there are no residences here nor streetlamps nor any kind of towers nor lighted street signs around for miles and to our knowledge, we were the only folks there.

You can barely see the light on the bridge past the stairway below.

Others have said they have witnessed red and white lanterns throughout the woods and up the mountain, but the light seemed to be waiting for us on the bridge as if it knew we were coming. As we walked the path from the landing to the bridge I noticed the struggle with my footing as the ground was very uneven as it had been worn through time and it was the same all through the woods but as we stood on the bridge I felt a heavy overwhelming feeling. No one said a word. It was eerily quiet and the only sound to be heard was the rushing creek below. We killed all sources of light and just listened. There were five of us, and two, myself and my oldest son, decided to go ahead to get a feel of things. We crossed the bridge and turned right onto a dirt path that led us partly up the mountain. I heard noises all around me and compensated that for wild animals. I stood still looking into my camera as I scanned the area, and even though my naked eye could not see anything, after getting home and looking at the footage, I had captured a predominance of orbs all around me and a substantial unexplained mist that crossed my path.

As we turned and headed back to join the others, my son whispered and told me to hurry. I turned to look at him and he was looking behind himself motioning me to speed it up and keep going. He never told me what he saw but my son isn’t afraid of anything and whatever he saw or heard, it was enough and he kept it to hmself! After meeting up with the others, we talked a few minutes about what we felt, heard or saw. The other three felt a presence on the bridge edging it’s way around and between them, I didn’t have anything substantial to tell just yet neither did my son volunteer any information so we proceeded to head down the path leading to the woods.

In my camera, I saw the mist again. It seemed to have taken a liking for me being that no one else saw it in their photos or videos. It floated by very quickly and spiraled magically into the trees. Fortunately I was able to screenshot it from the video.

The mist

As we got deeper into the woods, we heard moaning sounds that did not sound animalistic. Suddenly, there was a loud evil sound that hauntingly echoed through those woods and seemed to bounce off the wall of that mountain piercing our ears.
There was a certain conviction within the walls of each of us that it was time to head out and we did just that. As we headed back, I was at the front of the group and I saw something to the right of me as I scanned my camera in that direction. It was tall, human-like and it was dark as if it was cloaked. I think some refer to that as a shadow figure. While everyone else was pushing their way forward, I wanted to stop in hopes it would show up in the video so people would believe my story and it did. But nothing showed up in the screenshot from the video that I can tell, except the darkness it stood in but I know that I know I saw this entity and it wanted me to see it.

As we made our way from the woods, across the bridge, I felt relieved to get out of there. When we reached the stairs and climbed to the landing, I snapped a photo of the moon and it was as eerie as the night had been. I was left with a begging question of whether or not I believe, and as I stared at the peeking moon, reality set in and I pondered the event coupling it with reasonable answers for everything I witnessed but then again, none of my reasonable answers made sense to the darkness that dominates the night as well as the chills that dominate the spine when entering the lore of the dark corners. I believe what I witnessed…

Roundabouts,Celtic Castles and Dainty Pubs (and demons that roam the halls of Bryn Melyn).

On December 9th, 2018 we rented a car for our upcoming trip to North Wales. As an American and my first time driving in England, I knew there would be challenges but I was positive that I would become accustomed in no time after hearing rumors that you adapt to the motorways very quickly. I soon found out how wrong those rumors were, at least for me. There are rotaries (roundabouts if you are British) which goes in a circle and you have to figure out which lane you need to be in to exit the roundabout, but figuring out the exit was a challenge within itself.

In America, we don’t have many rotaries but the ones that do exist are simple as you enter counter clockwise compared to British roundabouts that you enter clockwise. It’s difficult (or in England, bloody difficult) enough to keep in mind you’re driving on the left side of road navigating from right side of car. I’ll not go into detail the numerous times as the driver I got in on the wrong side of car or drove in the wrong lane. It did not take me long after leaving the car rental place to realize that my brain receptors were going to be confused for the next thirty days and as sure as the sun will rise in the morning, mad stress had settled in and made itself at home.

Despite the chaos of the motorways, the stunning scenery from rolling hills to the picturesque countryside begs to be explored with its quaint villages, green fields and beautiful rivers and majestic lakes which you will find all across England. You are destined to fall in love and the fresh air melts your driving worries away and as we headed to Northern Wales, the beauty intensified and my heart felt like it belonged there. Our fist stop was in Llandderfel which is only two miles from Bala.

Bryn Melyn Cottages

Upon arrival, I noticed the cottages was a detached farmhouse, once a stable over 300 years ago. The setting was a stunning courtyard of traditional stone barns that had been converted to what they call self-catering cottages. I was hungry to know the history of this beautiful place and could not wait to unload the car and get to work to find the knowledge I was seeking. As I grabbed some bags and headed for the door, I stopped to take a photo of the entrance and at that moment, I felt a presence that wasn’t exactly pleasant. At first, I brushed it off thinking that it was just me suddenly feeling tired, but once I entered the cottage and headed upstairs, I knew immediately something didn’t feel right. I know that touch of the uncanny, the “creeps” if you will and my spidey senses certainly heightened as my attention and focus was like a laser on the landing upstairs where everything seemed unwelcoming and you just knew something was wrong in that place.

I’ll save the details for another time, but my entire stay there in those cottages was very uncomfortable and the heaviness was always present. When I researched and learned what occurred there many years ago, I understood why I was feeling the way I did. When evil has been present, it doesn’t necessarily leave it might linger forever and I was not there to construe willful agency about some circumstance. I didn’t now the circumstances nor was I told prior to my arrival there. But I will say this in all honesty, I do believe the evilness was malicious as the individual that was with me endured changes during our stay there and his attitude towards me suddenly dimmed the minute we entered those doors. He was not the same person I knew going in.

Every time we left the cottage, things changed and all normality would return and we both agreed that the cottages was without doubt, haunted or possessed as I believed it to be. We decided to spend our time exploring the beautiful area and we found a quaint little pub just around the corner from where we were staying and it became our nightly place to dine. The home-cooked meals from the varied menu was outstanding and we felt cozy warming ourselves by the open log fire. The friendly and welcoming atmosphere made for a perfect environment.

The Bryntirion Inn Pub

This Pub is also a secluded Inn with en-suite guest rooms. I don’t know much about the suites or accommodations, but the owners, Martin and Linda Woods were very pleasant folks and their aim was to make each customer feel at home and if I ever return to this particular area, this Pub will be the first place I stop for fish and chips. But there is also a little surprise when visiting the Pub and his name is Screwfix. He is the Pub cat and while mainly staying to himself, he might come around and rub against your leg in hopes of breaking bread with you.

Screwfix
The Pub fireplace

We enjoyed spending time at Llyn Tegid which is Welsh for Bala Lake and is the largest body of water in Wales. The ducks were very friendly and entertaining not to mention the beautiful scenery surrounding us. Peaceful, serene and very cold with threats of snow storms rolling in so we didn’t hang around the lake for very long. We headed back into Bala which is a lovely market town and community located in the Snowdonia National Park. We enjoyed shopping for snacks at the local grocery store and even had lunch in one of their marvelous diners. Have I mentioned how wonderful the food is in Wales?

Bala Lake and those snow clouds coming in.

After our stay at the cottages, we really didn’t have an itinerary and decided on the spur-of-the-moment to go look for castles and we chose Harlech which is a seaside community in Gwynedd. As we drove along those skinny winding roads, just ahead in the distance arose the towers of the medieval Castle of Harlech spectacularly situated on a near vertical cliff face where it is perched overlooking land and the Irish sea that separates Wales from Ireland. I had never seen a castle in person and my excitement was definitely climbing to unprecedented levels.

We drove down the one tiny street that snaked through the sleepy town to find a parking space. It was very impressive and so was my driving, but at the same time, very terrifying. I finally found a spot to park and I have to say, in England it doesn’t matter which side of the road you park just as long as you park. I was caught by surprise upon exiting the car to experience the charm of the small, old town. There was even a fold-up chair in a parking space that left us chuckling. I suppose that’s one way of getting dibs on the parking space. We walked the stone walkways through the town and visited a couple of shops there before migrating to the castle.

Harlech Castle

It was a tail spin after learning the castle was closed that particular day but we were able to have lunch at the Caffi Castell by the castle and I enjoyed the apple pork stew with buttered bread it’s absolutely difficult to put into words just how delicious it was. After our relaxing time in the Caffi we headed back to the car for our next adventure and along the way, we browsed a few shops before leaving. As I got back into the car and began to drive away, I felt an aire of sadness leaving the breathtaking landscapes and amazing coastlines, but I somehow felt I would return again some day and it is on my to-do-again list.

Chatsworth House

I was blessed to have the privilege of spending a day at Chatsworth. If you haven’t googled already, the Chatsworth House is the vision of beauty and serenity in the heart of the Peak District in Derbyshire which is in the East Midlands of England. This magnificent stately home is the dwelling place of the Cavendish family dating back to the 1550s and is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.

Chatsworth House

My moment of awe began the instant we drove up onto the property with the magnificent view of the park and stunning myriads of sculptured landscapes. I remember getting out of the car thinking this is just like the Biltmore House back in the States, in Ashville, North Carolina which is a Chateauseque-style mansion built for George Washington Vanderbilt 11 around the late 1800s. However, after seeing the Chatsworth, one can draw conclusions of the many similarities, yet differences that create the characteristics of the two mansions, but by far the Chatsworth is much larger.

Our first stop was the Cavendish Restaurant located on the Chatsworth property where we enjoyed great conversation, excellent food and a very relaxed atmosphere with friendly staff members. We were made to feel welcome especially after learning that one of their visitors was an American (me) indulging in the magic of England’s cherished history. After a wonderful lunch, we couldn’t wait to begin our tour of one of England’s most beautiful estates.

Cavendish Restaurant

The Chatsworth house has over 300 rooms, 17 staircases to explore and to view its beauty just a few days before Christmas made it more magical than ever. The entire house had been transformed into Christmas displays throughout with many dressed Christmas trees and fancy garland hanging elaborately from chandeliers. Upon entering, you can’t help but notice the beautiful entrance with it’s glossy marble floor patterned with intricate details along with the warmth of the soft strands of white lighting woven through garland and cascading overhead with a Christmas tree decorated in white lights at the end.

Entrance into the Chatsworth

After walking through the corridor, I found myself transported into a world of make-believe as we entered the “Once Upon A Time” a classic selection of stories from my favorite Fairy Tale book in my childhood. There were different tales all through the Chatsworth House creating a live storybook worthy to take you back in time. The themes were enchanting to the young as well as the old like myself who has never forgotten her mother’s voice reading my favorite tales to me every night before bed. There was my favorite, the Cinderella theme located in the Chapel to Snow white in the Sculpture Gallery and the house was filled with Pied Pipers roaming the corridors. I was also captivated by The Princess and the Pea theme by Hans Christian Andersen and the Pied Piper who posed for a photograph just for me. I have to include the theme, James and the Giant Peach as I loved the display that cascaded down from the ceiling reminding me of the story of the magical journey where James learned of courage and friendship. Needless to say, my imagination ran wild as I was caught up in the magic that was woven all through the house.

Cinderella Theme in the Chapel
Snow White Theme
Snow White Theme

The Princess and the Pea Theme
The Pied Piper


James and the Giant Peach Theme

As we continued our tour, I stood amazed when I entered the infamous Painted Hall with its black and white marble floor and that grandiose staircase fit for a King. Then you have that richly painted ceiling depicting the life of Julius Caesar and beautiful works of art and sculptures galore and vast wall paintings to keep your eyes busy.

Grand Staircase
The Painted Hall.

You might recognize the Painted Hall scene from the 2005 Joe Wright’s film version of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly and Matthew McFadyen. In fact, the Chatsworth House was used as Mr. Darcey’s place of residence which many believe Jane Austen based her book idea of Pemberley on this very house. You will also recognize from the movie the Cascade scene in the gardens behind the house which was my favorite part of the entire visit. At the top of the hill is the willow tree Fountain with a rushing sheet of water cascading down over elegant steps which feeds into another fountain on the South lawn called the Sea Horse Fountain. But it doesn’t stop there as there are countless landscapes throughout the property such as the maze and the monkey puzzle, the Greek Altar which all are surrounded by beautiful woods and forests and who could forget those tapered trees? In the Canal Pond situated on the west side of the house is the beautiful Emperor Fountain that is the most photographed scenery at the Chatsworth and I also loved the Flora’s Temple that frames the carved statue of Flora which is one of the few sculptures that survived from the 1st Duke’s garden. It’s also the place you will find the minstrels playing the wind-up music box. The minstrel was more than happy to smile for the camera.

Cascade
One of the Mazes in the gardens
Flora Temple with Minstrel
Emperors Fountain

I cannot end my blog without telling you which room in the Chatsworth house is my favorite. It almost goes without saying that is if you know me. When I turned the corner and saw the grand piano placed near the entrance to the room, I had to stop and study the area thoroughly. It wasn’t the music room, but a room exquisite and lavishly decorated with rare artifacts and books. The Library! This particular library out of several at Chatsworth, houses 40,000 books and is the largest and most significant collection of literary rarities and among that huge collection are books handmade by monks from the Middle Ages and its been said there is a book of magic known as The Key of Solomon in which spells were written in Latin. The age of this particular book goes back to over 500 years.

I admired the dark wooden shelves and the different sitting areas where one could spend an entire day thumbing through yellowing pages or playing the piano as the sun sets over the beautiful rolling hills. As a musician and writer, this is what a paradise room would be to someone like me. To conclude, there are many extending qualities with the Biltmore and Chatsworth with the Biltmore being the largest estate in America and the Chatsworth being the largest among the two and much of the décor found at Chatsworth does not exist in the Biltmore but both have substantial character of their own and I feel honored to have seen both.

The Library

Margaret Goes Fishing

Online dating sites are supposed to be fun and if you are a serious prospect for finding love, chances are you have a paid subscription and you mean business of finding that long term relationship. With that said, you have to up your game with a grade A profile highlighting all of your “must-haves” for that potential boy or girlfriend. You have to start your new journey with a bang and make others in the field or sea take notice even your competition.

I decided to have some fun after hearing so many stories from some of my friends who had joined a site, some having successful endings while others were mere nightmares. In reality dating can be messy enough, but dating sites complicate things even more not to mention the stress from that first date. Some dates turn out good while others go from bad to horrific, but the meeting process that starts the journey can be one for the books indeed.

I created a fake account, with a fake name, Margaret Hatcher, and photos taken from snapchat. I wanted to treat my profile like a commercial and highlight some features that I knew would draw the bad ones to the front just like a marketing campaign. And thus, my profile packed a punch indeed.

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Meet Margaret Hatcher. She’s 58 and a Capricorn. She has a Graduate degree and her profession is a Stripper. I created her lifestyle to be one that drinks often and smokes occasionally, but many would question her degree while trying to stuff her thong with George Washington bills. Just look at her photos. Can you without laughing? Yet, she received 179 responses to her profile before I stopped counting and this is where I can honestly say, there are some crazy, messed up people out there, even desperate. I purchased a month on POF just to get a good shot at seeing what might transpire. Within minutes of posting her profile, she got her first prospect.

Her first gentleman caller was no gentleman at all. He was very adamant to find out if it would be alright for him to suck on her toes on the first date. I must say, in my quest I never imagined encountering a casual fling involving someone who found ecstasy in sucking toes and sang praises of feet. But you will have that from time to time. I suppose there are myriad ways to enjoy each other and a foot massage is one, but toe sucking took me by surprise especially when asking Margaret would she mind if he put her entire foot in his mouth. Margaret replied, “I am having some bunions taken off and nail fungus treated.” This did not become an imposition to him as he told her that was no problem. He was not the only guy who had fetishes and for the most part I have to keep this blog sanctified and not release all of the nastiness that was experienced.

There were those who were curious and rightfully so, then there were those who were downright rude. I encountered married men looking for extra curricular activities if you know what I mean. When I learned they were married, I wasted no time telling them what I thought and you would be surprised at the married men who make fake accounts just to satisfy their cravings. There were tons of stilted chitchat starters which made even Margaret Hatcher very uncomfortable. I can’t even imagine just how sour a real date would have been with most of these atrocious characters.

I accidentally made Margaret 6’3″ tall (laughing here) and some of the guys asked if Margaret was really that tall, so I went with it which made Miss Hatcher’s character even more hilariously funny but mind you, it did not keep the creepers away. Now, I have no idea what it’s like to be tall, but my experience as Margaret Hatcher brought many challenges and questions that would make a giraffe blush. But the name calling began such as Amazon, long feet monster along with other names I cannot mention, but I felt the need to be the bigger person in the room, no pun intended, as I clearly was more times than not being so tall and grace the character of my stripper. After all, girl’s gotta pay the rent.

At first I thought this journey was going to be a waste of my time, but I always walked away laughing as well as scratching my head and in all honesty, I could not wait for my paid month to be over with as I was entirely happy to get away from POF and delete the profile, but I did learn a lot about the desperation of so many loners out there and believe me, it’s a scary arena to be in. There are so many dating sites and for many they are an extremely competitive medium and you need every advantage you can get, but POF? Talk about the variety of fish in the sea! You will definitely find it here and the mad libs are far from originality. It’s more like going for a job interview or reading job resumes. Where’s the panache? If you are considering a dating site, do your research and beware of the mentality that is prevalent on these sites especially POF.

At the end of the month, on the 29th, I updated my “about” section and let all of my fishes know that Margaret Hatcher was indeed fake as if they needed to be told, but trust me on this one. I also posted a photo of the real me, and my inbox started blowing up completely even the rude fishes became nice and the sex crazed lunatics suddenly became tame and wanted a chance at real love. If you are going to take the plunge, take some advice from me and don’t waste your time or money on Plenty of Fish. I would recommend the old fashion way by getting out more and away from the internet. If you do choose to explore your options across the net, please be very careful with the information you allow the world to see about you and beware of those sick predators who are waiting for that opportune moment….jh

The Tides Do Turn…

What a journey! The ups and downs. The tears and depression. Each day brought a new problem that continued to pile up leaving me with no hope and lots of burning questions.

An inner battle between faith and fear was a constant every day. I struggled to hold on to faith. One moment I would fly high on wings of confidence, then another I was drowning in a sea of panic.

I cried out to God to help me with my struggle. It was clearly draining the life out of me and the stress was literally killing me physically. I had issues with trying to understand God’s way of doing things when I know His ways are not mine, nor His thoughts.

I began to write down scriptures from my devotions that were based on doubts and fears, confusion and turmoil. Depression and anything of the likes thereof, and everyday, I would start my morning by reading these scriptures aloud.

Nothing seemed to be improving only getting worse, but as I continued reading these particular scriptures that dealt with my current situation, something deep within me released its grip. I began to accept whatever came my way thinking of all the sufferings Christ endured and it made me Christ – like to suffer as well.

Then, something miraculous began to take place. Little miracles were popping up, then bigger ones. I can’t say this without mentioning the peace that settled inside my soul. The kind you can’t explain. Where I stood in the middle of a brutal storm, with everything crashing around me even my health, the loss I was facing became a miracle itself.

I should be homeless. I should have lost everything I owned including my precious little twin cats. This ate at me every day tormenting me to no ends. But, God has a different plan. He promised He would never leave me nor forsake me. And He hasn’t.! I’m still here! I still have everything without losing anything and that is a huge miracle in itself.

Never give up no matter how dark your life becomes. Hold on to what you believe no matter what. Miracles still happen and yours is just around the corner…. By Jane Hardin

The Unknown…

That “feeling of the unknown” and also, “feeling like you could explode from the inside out” is a scary place to be. It would be nice if problems came (not saying that problems are nice) one at a time rather than in clusters. And, it’s true, when it rains it pours.

It’s been total chaos the past few days at work. My patient totally oblivious as to what is going on in her life. Her family coming in, rearranging everything and treating her like she doesn’t exist. They are putting her in a home against her will and I have spent hour after hour trying to calm her troubled soul while she constantly repeats those words too familiar to me, “please God, please help me.” I too face losing my home and I know that pain all too well. So, while trying to comfort her it has felt like someone hit me in the gut knocking the very breath out of me. I even asked God, was all of this some kind of bad joke and I expressed how unfair it seemed.

After settling my mind, I reminded myself God is good. He is not the author of confusion and He’s certainly not the one who does bad things to us. But, He is there to help us through it and if we trust Him, He promises to make good of our dismay. I hold on to that. I’m here at the end of this particular journey reeling in the unknown and drowning in thoughts combined into a coherent whole of the journey itself. My conclusion is uncertain as I try not to fear what I cannot see and hope which is something I have a lot of, its my life line. In saying that, I know my Father God will not leave me to suffer great loss. He will take all of my mess and make something good out of it. I’m not saying I won’t lose anything, I could lose everything, but God will not let me suffer it……

By Jane Hardin