Look closely–or not. Can you see me now?

Hope

I’m not really a fan of magic shows. I don’t like magic because magicians never reveal their secrets. I don’t like sleight of hand. I don’t like tricks. I don’t like audience manipulation.

Too much of what goes on in real life is deception that happens right under our noses, especially with the entertainment industry and media outlets. We’re fed what they want us to digest. We see what they want us to see.

Okay, maybeee I’m a major conspiracy theorist. Maybe I believe there is more than what meets the eye. Maybe I believe there are cover-ups. Maybe people will do whatever it takes to maintain power. It’s all about power. Maybe I’m just jaded. Maybe.

It’s not that I don’t like intrigue. I’m a big fan of mysteries. I love a good mystery—as long as the writer leaves us clues and allows us to figure out what’s really happening. What I don’t like is the mystery that leaves me hanging, the one that has no end, no solution, no plausible plot, no purpose.

Those mysteries make my head hurt. There’s nothing so disappointing than to invest trust and time into an author’s work to find out he or she was merely throwing words on the page in some advant garde attempt to experiment with art. Heck, if it’s got no purpose, what am I doing reading it? Time is slipping, slipping, slipping into the future. There’s so little time left, we can’t afford to waste it.

Why am I all of a sudden so enthralled with magic? The answer is easy. I watched the movie Now You See Me, and it piqued my interest.

I almost didn’t watch it. As I said, I’m bored by theatrics. But I like Morgan Freeman, so much so that I traveled to Clarksdale, Mississippi, to visit his blues club Ground Zero. Now there’s a story.

I prefer real magic, like what a person feels when standing on a cliff overlooking the Badlands in South Dakota or when standing on the edge of the real Walden’s Pond–as opposed to the lack of feeling that comes with staring at a photo of Walden’s Pond in a 20-year old text book.

I like the magic of “What if …?”

Not “the manipulation of “I know the facts, Jack, but you aren’t privy to it.”

The movie Now You See Me tells the story a group of mentalists or magicians who metaphorically sell their souls to be pawns, mules, slaves, or whatever you prefer to call them, to a discreet organization that uses many but welcomes few.

These magicians will never be part of the inner workings, so why would they want to be used?

Most of us are already controlled. We’re marks. Why would we willingly surrender what freedom we have  so that we can be closer to the source of deception?

The news is controlled by a few conglomerates. Education is controlled by Pearson. The entertainment industry is controlled by…well, by those of whom we do not speak. And how does this control happen?

By manipulation? Yes. By magick? Yes, at least, I think so. And by our own flaws. What would we give up to be accepted, or to appear that we are accepted?

Envy. We’re controlled by envy. We’re prone to either envying others or wishing others would envy us. We are our own worst enemies.

I say, “Let it go, already.” It’s time to walk away.

With my favorite holiday, St. Patrick’s Day, right around the corner, I’ve been thinking about magic quite a bit. I still get excited when I see rainbows, and I really think there is something wonderful, something magical, at the end.

And there we go again. That word magic.

Maybe, even at my ripe old age, I’m still too childlike and naïve.  I believe in a different type of magic. I can’t give up believing in serendipity. There’s something truly magical about serendipity.

But there’s one thing I’ve learned about serendipity–you can’t make it happen.

I know. I’ve tried.

I’ve set out on a Saturday looking for something wonderful to spontaneously happen, only to go back home empty and disappointed. Serendipity really is an accidental good fortune–which is the opposite of what illusionists create, i.e. the illusion of something wonderful.

Slight of hand. Calculated manipulation. Lies. Plain and simple, just lies.

I despise lies.

I’ve read several reviews about Now You See Me. Many reviewers blast the flaws of the plot–or the lack there of.

What I can’t figure out is if the purpose of the movie is to make a commentary about the obvious “controlled” media industry, or if it is showing us something in front of our faces that we can’t see. If so, what is it?

The main character tells us, “The closer you think you are, the less you’ll actually see.”

Our arrogance makes us think we’re smarter than the average bear, and, thus, the more arrogance we possess, the more prone we are to manipulation.

Then again, sometimes when we want to see something, our minds make it happen. Our minds create closure. In some ways, maybe, we don’t need other people to deceive us. We deceive ourselves.

I would make a horrible mentalist–though I know I’m way too susceptible to hypnosis. That’s why I’ll never do it.

I like the facts on the table. That’s why I would never make it as an illusionist, an allusionist, maybe. You know, being an English teacher, I make all sorts of references to Thoreau, Emerson, Poe, Hawthorne, etc.

What’s wrong with being simple? I’m not a mentalistic, magical, or magickal. But I do like me some serendipity.

What’s the difference between magic/magick and serendipity? Magic(k) requires control, holding on. Serendipity requires submission, letting go. Control verses acceptance. One leads path leads to stress, greed, and power lust. The other path leads to inner peace, tranquility, and joy.

So in keeping with the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day and the luck of the Irish, I wish you all good fortune. May your paths cross with serendipity, and may you never give up in believing in the “what if” at the end of the rainbow.

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Gold at the end of the rainbow

rainbow

Here I sit on St. Patrick’s Day, my favorite dreamy day of the year. There will be no celebrations. No parties. No special foods, well, maybe McCreary’s fish and chips. No ticker tape. The only way I celebrate, have ever celebrated, is in my head. I think. I imagine. I wish. I hope. I dream.

I’m not sure why I’m so fascinated with the Irish. I latch on to fads every now and then, but I’ve been this way ever since I was a little kid. I guess I have this hope that I will serendipitously find the gold at the end of the rainbow. Maybe I will. Maybe I have already. Would I even know?

As I grow older, I realize my wishes are numbered. Will I ever make it to Ireland? Maybe.

That’s a strong maybe. A year ago I would have never gotten on a plane to fly by myself. Last September I traveled to Dallas alone. Nice trip.

Life is full of changes. I’ve never been one to like change, but I can’t change change.

Five years ago I imagined myself teaching journalism until my last breathe in classroom. I couldn’t imagine ever giving up the newspaper.

But next year I’m passing the torch to someone else. Whom? I don’t know. But it feels good. It’s time. I took the advice of a lady who is in her 90s, a veteran teacher who gave up her teaching career to become a technical writer. She knew when it was time for her to move on when she knew she didn’t want to be a fixture.

I don’t want to be a fixture. I don’t want to force myself where I’m not wanted or needed.

I haven’t quit my day job. I’m still teaching, but I don’t want to die before I get my second wind. I’m just taking a different direction, putting my focus in a new direction.

Will I make it as a writer? Will I ever see my novels published? Maybe.

I’ll admit I have felt like giving up, especially when I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the writing process. And then, I started to doubt my ability and the worth of my story. But if it didn’t have promise, I wouldn’t have made it to the finals last September, would I? I will never “arrive” as a writer, but I have to keep on keeping on. I have so many books in my head. I need to get my motivation on and just do it.

So, on St. Patrick’s Day, I start thinking about the new, not the old, the possibilities, not the dead ends.

I’m still looking for the gold at the end of the rainbow. But I will never steal it. I will never beg for it. I will have to serendipitously stumble across it and know for sure that it is mine.

Éirinn go brách

Ever since I can remember I’ve always been in love with all things Ireland. For the last two days I’ve searched my memories, wondering why. Why am I so fascinated with a country to which I’ve never been?

Surely, my dad is responsible for the influence. Before the Red Sox finally won the championship after seven or so decades, people used to ask me why a Southern girl like me could be so hopelessly in love with a team from “up there,” Boston. My dad loved Boston, and therefore so do I.

I always hoped I could take my father to a Red Sox game. I doubted he’d ever make it to Fenway, but I crossed my fingers for Atlanta. It never happened. When I was pregnant with Michael, I traveled to Boston just about this same time of year, determined to put my feet into Fenway Park, not for me but for my dad. I was determined to do whatever it took.

The first time the security guards kicked me out. This was for my dad.  I couldn’t travel all the way from Tennessee just to be told no. I was going in. If being arrested were part of the deal, so be it. But instead I pleaded with the security guard, and he let me in, and I got to see that glorious Green Monster. I stood in away and took in every detail so I could bring it home to my dad.

There is so much Irish influence in Boston. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to Ireland.

I remember planning a week in advance what I would wear to school on St. Patrick’s Day—the holiday of my people. I was determined, even as an elementary school kid, that I was Irish. The funny thing is that’s exactly what my son Michael did when he was in elementary school. He told all of his friends he was Irish. He would come home and tell me his buddies all commented on his Irish brogue, which, by far, does not exist. His Southern drawl is as Southern as they come.

I’m not embellishing the truth. Irish blood does run through my veins. My great-grandmother Clancy’s parents were born in Ireland. But I also have roots in Denmark. My other great-grandmother immigrated from there.

I think all writers need a magical place that fuels their imagination. For me, that place is Ireland. My favorite place to write a couple of years ago was a coffee house called the Celtic Cup in a nearby town. I used to take my laptop and sip on a peppermint mocha while Irish music and lush Irish scenery played on the flat screen hanging near my table.

And at Christmas a group of local musicians asked me to play Celtic Christmas music with them. I’m not so great at guitar, but I loved the music. I was enchanted by it, moved by it.

I’ve always dreamed of going to Ireland, but I never really believed I would. I am afraid of heights. Therefore, I am afraid of flying. (To be more exact, I’m afraid of falling, crashing.) Therefore, I could never imagine myself on an airplane.

Oh, it’s not like I haven’t flown before. My dad worked with a man who had his pilot’s license, and he took us up in his tiny little four-seater plane. The ride was miserable. My parents kept saying, “Why don’t you look down? Look down. You’re scared, aren’t you. Look at her.” Then they laughed.

I don’t think I would have been so nervous about the whole ordeal if they hadn’t been telling me how afraid I was. Plus, the guy who was flying us failed his motorcycle test on multiple occasions. You tell me? Wouldn’t you have been a bit unnerved?

And for years, I have felt it is just not Biblical to fly in a plane. If God wanted me to fly, we would have given me wings. Right? There’s scripture to back me up—Matthew 28:20. “Lo, I am with you.” It doesn’t say anything about being up there among the clouds.

But times have changed.

I have decided that one day I will go to Ireland, even if it requires strong drink or heavy medication. I will board that plane.

Ireland is like a magnet that just pulls me toward it. Maybe it’s my destiny. But if I ever do go there, I’m not sure I’ll ever come back.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

May the sun shine, all day long,
everything go right, and nothing wrong.
May those you love bring love back to you,
and may all the wishes you wish come true!
~ Irish Blessing

Creative Escapes — McCreary’s

McCreary's in Franklin, Tennessee

Every since I was a little kid, St. Patrick’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. It’s not so much what I do on the day. It’s more like the dream of what can be done. Maybe I just hope I’ll find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or maybe the leprechaun will grant me my wishes. I’ll never stop dreaming.

Actually, I don’t have to look far if I’m looking for a real treasure. I’ve found a jewel of an eatery in downtown historic Franklin, my favorite place to escape. McCreary’s Pub is a family-friendly restaurant that serves patrons a variety of traditional Irish fare plus a broad choice of traditional American foods.

Okay, so I couldn't resist a nibble before I snapped the picture.

My favorite is the fish and chips. The portions are hearty, and the taste is delectable. The cod fillets are deep fried to a golden brown and come with chips, a.k.a homestyle fries. In most restaurants I skip the tartar sauce to save calories, but I try a little when I’m at McCreary’s. However, my favorite condiment is the malt vinegar.

Other selections include Shepherd’s Pie, the Dublin Pot Pie, and the Whiskey Salmon. I haven’t broken from my routine yet, but I’m determined to try at least one of these dishes.

The portions are plentiful, but if you’re really hungry, you’ll be tempted to try the appetizers. My favorite is the Wings of Donegal. My younger son isn’t particularly a fan of wings, but he really likes these. They’re served with creamy bleu cheese and celery, and they’re delicious.

If you’re really adventurous, you might try the bangers and mash, which, translated, refers to chicken sausage stuffed with asiago cheese and spinach, served with mash potatoes, homemade Irish soda bread, and spicy mustard.

I like the wings!

I’m such a night owl that I do well to make it to Franklin for lunch. However, McCreary’s now serves breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. Irish omelettes, bangers, and bread pudding French toast are just a few items on the menu. And fish. I’ve never head fish for breakfast, but if I can eat artichokes for breakfast—as I did in Indianapolis at the ACFW conference, I can certainly try fish.

While the food is great, it’s the atmosphere that brings me back to McCreary’s. This is truly a locally owned Mom and Pop style store that makes customers feel like family.

The first thing patrons will notice after stepping into the little restaurant is words of St. Patrick stenciled literally all around the walls. The words “Christ above me” make it clear the owners aren’t ashamed of their beliefs.

People of all ages are welcome. However, you should know that McCreary’s is a pub, and like other fine restaurants, beer and other adult beverages are on the menu.

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner,  you might consider making McCreary’s your St. Patty’s Day destination. They’re open until midnight with plenty of St. Patrick’s Day swag to give away. Families with young children would probably find the early evening hours or lunchtime more suitable. The later hours are better suited for adults.

On Friday and Saturday nights and on St. Patrick’s Day, patrons can hear live Celtic music. Ever heard of a bodhran? Neither had I until one my musically talented friends introduced me. If you catch the Celtic music, you may hear a bodhran, as well as a fiddle, a tin whistle, a guitar, or a mandolin. You might even be invited to dance a little jig.

As I’ve mentioned before, historic Franklin is my favorite creative escape. But McCreary’s was a serendipitous discovery. I’m a fan of coffee houses, and my favorite of all favorites used to be a little place called Jammin’ Java in Franklin. I used to catch my favorite Christian bands there before they became so popular.  Unfortunately, Jammin’ Java is no longer open.

I happened to be chatting with one of the artists during GMA Week in Nashville, and I told him my lifelong dream was to own a coffee house / music venue like Jammin’ Java. Little did I know that he was personal friends with the man who owned Jammin’ Java. (He happened to work within the Christian music industry.) The artist gave the owner a call, and within minutes he met with us and filled me in on the details of starting my own venue—a dream I still hold onto today.

Turns out the former owner of Jammin’ Java was the proud owner of a new Irish pub called McCreary’s. I had to go check it out. And I keep on going back today.

Even though Franklin is a good hour, hour and a half, away from my little town, the trip is well worth the time and gas money. On the way there I get lost in the beautiful roadside scenery, and after my meal, I always take a stroll through the town and visit some of the shops. My favorite is Philanthropy, a unique boutique, specializing in clothing, jewelry, and gift products with “purpose, passion, and style.”

I’ll have to save this review for another blog, but trust me, if you like fashion with an artistic flair, this is the store for you. More importantly, Philanthropy donates a portion of every sale to charity. Currently, Philanthropy is raising $35,000 to build two wells for the people of a village in Southern Sudan. Philanthropy also raised $30,000 for the Hands and Feet Project, started by the band Audio Adrenaline.

If you’re looking for a fun, family-friendly way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, take a trip to McCreary’s. The employees are always willing to go the extra mile to make the customers feel welcome. (For St. Patrick’s Day, they always add a little green food coloring to my son’s Sprite just to make it more festive.) And if you have room, take me. I’ll never pass up an opportunity to enjoy this creative escape.

If you hold a four-leaf shamrock in your left hand at dawn on St. Patrick’s Day, you get what you want very much but haven’t wished for.  ~  Patricia Lynch