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Travel 2017: An American in Europe

Académie de musique de Paris.

What an adventure!

It’s hard to believe it’s over. A year of planning, researching, and of course, the hardest part– counting down the days. Before you know it– it’s come and gone.

Four days after returning home and I’m a bit jet lagged, my senses are still a little overwhelmed; but most of all, I’m happily content with having completed another whirlwind adventure.

The Basilica in Lyon, France.

In nineteen days, Michael and I managed to visit 16 cities in 3 countries, halfway around the world. We walked over 124 miles, sailed some of Europe’s most famous rivers, experienced the speed of the EuroRail and saw first hand, many historical landmarks that many Americans have only read about in books.

I thought I’d lead off my day-to-day blogging of our adventure with a brief overview.

What can you expect to glean from our adventures? Aside from our personal impressions of the experience itself– I might be able to dispel some of the myths, mysteries and misconceptions about travel and the places we visited.

What do Europeans think of America? Are Parisians really rude? How easy is it to get around a foreign city? How different is the European culture from that in America? What’s different about a river cruise compared with an ocean excursion? Are travel and sightseeing difficult abroad?

Visiting the windmills in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands.

I invite you to join us as we explore London, Paris, Amsterdam and many places in between.

Tours and exploring on our own… food and wine… museums and parks… transportation… the locals… so much to see and do.

You might pick up some travel tips or benefit from our experiences. You might enjoy just going along for the ride. Curious?

Travel with us.


A view of London from Trafalgar Square.


Dreaming of Versailles and a Sunday in THE Park

We considered it, dismissed it, then couldn’t ignore it. I was dreaming about it.

Beautifully sculpted gardens, manicured lawns and bubbling fountains– surrounding an expansive, palatial wonderland full of historic, architectural  detail and dusted with gold gilding.

This is the Château de Versailles.

Dreaming about a place is one thing– actually visiting and experiencing it is something else entirely. There’s nothing as magical as feeling an undeniable connection to a place.

First Visit

We’ll only be in Paris a few short days and it’s the first visit for both Michael and I. There are so many incredible things to see and do in Paris. Where do we begin? In the initial planning stage for our visit, we did our research, made lists and talked to friends. With so many options, we finally made what we decided was the best decision for us: Experience the city itself and find our own connection– feel it’s vibe. Our visit will be less about the individual attractions and more about the overall ambience the city has to offer.

Dreaming of Versailles

A few months ago, Michael and I watched the first season of the Netflix series, Versailles.

Louis XIV’s love and nurturing of art, elegance, beauty and architecture inspired the world. Versailles was his dream. A stunning palace that stands as a tribute and glowing example of 18th century French art. At 28 years old, Louis set out to build the greatest palace in the world.

Suddenly, it became all too clear that we had to visit Versailles. I was dreaming about it. This was the type of connection I was looking for– and it made the rest of our Paris planning more clear.

Instead of seeing a lot of historic places because, well, we had to; make the experience personal to us. Enjoying it rather than rushing to see everything we possible can. Granted, we will still see more than most people probably would in three days time– it’s just our own approach completely changed.

A Sunday in the Park

Going all the way back to my childhood, Georges Seurat’s painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884) has influenced my life. The musical Sunday in the Park with George, later became one of my all time favorites. But long before the musical, I spent hours in a classroom, staring up at that painting– wondering who those people were.

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Georges Seurat, 1884. (Photographed: August 2014)

Flash forward– years later– In my college art classes, I spent a lot of time focused on Seurat and his work. Then in my senior year, I drove overnight to Chicago to see Goodman Theatre’s production of Sunday in the Park with George. I had a profound connection to the piece. After college, I had the opportunity to play George in an ill-fated theatre company’s production, that ended up being cancelled, with the demise of the company. Sadly, a near miss.

And one last connection– my biggest audition as an actor– for the second national touring company of Into the Woods— I sang George’s song Finishing the Hat from Sunday. I didn’t get cast but the director had me sing way beyond my chosen 16 bars– so I must have done something right.

A Must

When it hit me, I was surprised I hadn’t already considered it. Just recently, it dawned on me that of all the places I really would connect with in Paris– I had to at least try and visit Île de la Grande Jatte. It’s very different from Seurat’s time. There’s very little park there now. It’s mostly a developed suburb, part of an upscale commune at the gates of Paris. And, (I had decided) if I was going to do it– it had to be on Sunday. It might be possible but that Sunday morning is the day we leave for our Rhone river cruise. I think it’s doable, though we haven’t been given the departure schedule yet. The island could take up to 45 minutes to reach. So if we’re up early and on our way, we should be able to make it, even if it’s a very short visit. Our friends George and Mary said they’d be up for the adventure. That makes it perfect because then it can truly be ‘A Sunday in THE Park… with George’.

Hopefully the stars will align. Dreams happen. Weather and time permitting… I’ll be there.


The Arresting Rise of the Social Media Police

You type a few sentences, add a link or post a picture and hit SEND. Then the sirens start. WARNING! WARNING! The social media police are stalking you, ready to take you down.

Watch Out!

It was a pretty simple joke. I updated my status on Facebook with what was meant to be a humorous comment, referencing a current event. Tainted, of course, with a little sarcasm. I thought it was harmless and was surprised when a dear old friend took offense to it.

Is there anything at all that isn’t offensive to someone these days?

Social Media is a way for us to connect. We share our thoughts, what we’re doing, our hopes and dreams– we may reach out for support, ask opinions or look for some healthy debate. It’s called sharing. It’s called communication. We use it to keep touch and stay informed — maybe even learn a thing or two.

I’ve found that most posts in social media fall into three categories: I felt this, I did this, and I saw this (and I want to share it).

How is that a bad thing?

Even if you post something that might not be a popular opinion– it’s nothing more than an expression of who you are at that given moment. Doesn’t freedom of speech give you that right?

Is there such a thing as inappropriate content? Of course there is….. BUT Politics, religion, entertainment, current events, family– your life– is completely within your rights to share.

My Opinion

I seriously think there are a lot of people that should not be connected to social media. They aren’t capable of accepting what they find there– or allowing others to exercise their right to free speech. They don’t want to discuss or debate an issue they may disagree with– but they will judge you for posting it.

Do I read, like or comment on everything posted on social media? No, of course not. I do, however, respect the right of people to post it. If I want to engage with people about it, then I will. Most of the time though, people just want to get something off their chest, share a story or state their point of view. They aren’t really looking to have a conversation. That’s okay, too.

On topics I’m not interested in or disagree with — I just scroll on by. If it’s ‘fake news’ or something I feel strongly about, I’ll try to use it as a ‘teaching moment’ and comment. What I will not do, is criticize or state an opposing view that I am not prepared to back up. What would be the point?

That is where the social media police come in.

So exactly who are they?

They are the people that troll online, criticizing people and trying to regulate what they want to see. Don’t even try to please them because they will always find something wrong with your posts.

They are the people that don’t like a specific thing– sports, politics, religion, even cuteness– and issue ultimatums. Usually, that will include the threat that they will delete you or stop following you, if you don’t submit to their demands. They think it is their right to control you.

It becomes difficult when the attacks come from someone you respect, love, work with, or from family. The bottom line is: maybe you (and they) need to stick to other ways to connect. Avoid the rush and get off social media if you can’t handle it.

I’m a political person. Even so, after the above mentioned friend threatened to delete me for my politics, I did a quick look back. Of my past 50+ posts on Facebook, only 10 (20%) had anything to do with current events (not counting entertainment industry posts) and not all of those were even political. For the ‘average’ person– is that too much if that’s what interests them?

Would you tell a mother not to post pictures or stories about their child? Would you tell an actor or musician not to share their work? How about someone fighting cancer or a sports enthusiast? Should they stop posting specific things because you say so? It’s ridiculous.

Sure, I’ve unfollowed some people and even deleted a couple. I’ve never bullied them. At the same time, some of my most favorite people (on social media) are those with whom I have diametrically opposing views on certain issues. Because — we can talk about it, maybe debate it and also even sometimes joke about it. We show respect for one another. I think we enrich each other’s lives because we are open-minded enough to want to learn and understand each other. We’re better people because of it.

Advice to the Would Be Social Media Police

Get off social media!

It’s that simple.

No one has the right to try and control another person. Stop being a bully. You are not the center of the universe. If you don’t like what you see on Facebook or Twitter? Close your account. Shut down your computer. Take a walk. Breathe.

I think if you’re the type of person that just wants to see pictures or cute posts of puppies and food– there are still probably email lists you can sign up for to get your daily dose.

Don’t like what you’re seeing? Your misery and controlling nature doesn’t need to be forced on the rest of us who might actually appreciate the diversity of the world.

Knowledge is power. Acceptance is the key.

If you really don’t like what your friends are posting, maybe you’re just too afraid of learning something new. Or maybe, you really just don’t like your friends.

You decide.

Relearning How to Read in the Internet Age

There’s the old joke: “I know it’s true because I read it on the interweb.” Now– it’s not even funny. For most of us, the Internet has become our main source for news and information.

How can you know if what you are reading is true?

Fact, Fake or Spin?

One thing I learned how to do over the past year was how to tell the difference between fact based news, ‘spin’ or biased news… and of course, fake news.

We used to be able to depend on news sources to report the facts of a story without adding ‘color’, their opinions, spinning it a specific direction… or reporting ‘gossip’ as truth. Sure, the news has always been used as a propaganda machine to some extent. For the most part though, we were allowed to come to our own conclusions based on the facts we read. That’s all changed. Today, we are most often told exactly what we are supposed to think, believe or feel about a story. True or not.

You can’t believe everything you read. Can you believe anything?

The first things I look for in any article are quotes and source links. This doesn’t make it completely reliable but it lends some support for accuracy. If the subject is of true interest or importance to me, I will click on at least one link (for sources) while I’m reading. If the article is suspect, don’t be surprised if the link takes you to advertising or some totally unrelated website. I found, on more than one occasion, linked sources that were cited in an article were not what they claimed to be. Some were dead links or “page not found”. This should make you doubt any validity in what you are reading.

May, Could, Might…

Whether you’re reading or watching a news story on television, you can be sure you’ll see or hear words that should immediately send up red flags.

When a reporter asks someone what they think— they are asking for an opinion or an assessment. Neither of these constitutes fact, even if it supports what you want to believe.

When you read, “The Constitution is the framework of the United States Government.” This is a statement of fact. If you read, “The Constitution may have inspired the governing documents of Latin American countries.” This statement is conjecture. It might be true but would require further research to find whether or not it is a fact.

On the other hand, you could also read, “John Doe is a racist.” (A statement of “fact”.) If this is true, where are the documented sources that back this up? If there are none, or the supporting information is a conclusion based on interpretation– don’t accept it as truth. Look for other sources that will either support or disprove that accusation.

Here’s another example: It seems that every day there’s a new article about some food or diet supplement that may cause cancer. These are all highly suspect. The word may is the key. What other information is provided to back this up?

We should never be afraid to question the validity of what we read. More important, never accept something as fact just because you read it somewhere.

Studies, Polls and Findings…

For every topic, you can find studies, polls and findings in the search of answers to important questions. You have to look at a) who sponsored it, b) how many people participated in it and c) under what condition was the data collected.

Can you trust them?

One of the more famous ‘false claims’ (findings) in recent years is that diet soda causes obesity. You can find many articles that will provide studies and polls to back up that claim. Sort of. What they don’t tell you is that the respondents also may consume a half gallon of ice cream, two bags of chips and a candy bar in between their meals. Diet soda, itself, doesn’t cause obesity. If a person drinking it assumes they can eat more of everything else because they are reducing their sugar intake by not drinking regular soda… guess what? They aren’t going to lose weight or can just as easily gain weight. This should be common sense.  So what those articles are really inferring is that obese people who drink diet soda, are often likely to justify replacing those missing sugars with something else… furthering their high sugar intake.

Polls. Many polls aren’t very reliable. Often the sampling of people surveyed might not be large enough or broad enough. Polls are also highly susceptible to emotion. An individual’s feelings (opinion) can change based on many factors; changing the result of what the poll was supposed to measure.  Because of this, they aren’t always an adequate predictor of future behavior or actions– even when every effort is made to interview a broad cross-section of respondents. The 2016 election is a perfect example of how inaccurate polling can be.

Breaking News…

News as it happens.  Breaking News is now a daily event. We can’t always know the who, what, when, where and how as it is unfolding. Jumping to conclusions is the worst thing we can do. The fact that the media, and often our leaders do it — is just irresponsible.

Three recent acts of violence– Las Vegas, Cincinnati and London were all immediately speculated as ISIS attacks. Terrorism. Those accusations in all three cases were later proved to be unfounded.

We have to be careful of the narrative we’re fed as news is happening. Things aren’t always what they initially seem.

Misleading Headlines…

It’s hard to go online, especially on social media and not see shocking or sensationalized headlines. Some you can immediately identify as fake news. Others, you can’t be sure. The art of writing the headline is what sells advertising and makes readers click and read.

A quick way I’ve found to test the reliability of a headline, can be found in the first paragraph. Real news will usually state facts about the subject at the top of the article. (This isn’t always the case with an expose or human interest story, though.) If the first paragraph launches into something totally unrelated to the headline, you’re best bet is to find a different source.

Ridiculous? Yes.

Many headlines for articles posted online are geared towards getting you to click– then be subjected to tons of advertising and pop up spam. I’ve found some articles that amount to nothing more than a couple of meaningless paragraphs surrounded by dozens of advertisements. There are many ‘news sources’ that do this and many that are just plain fake news sites. As you identify these, you’re better off avoiding them in the future. The headline may be enticing– but why waste your time?

Whatever you do : Don’t accept a headline as truth, or a statement of fact without reading the article. Most definitely, don’t share the link to something you haven’t read. This is how fake news became so prominent.


True or false? Did he say it? This meme is FALSE.

They can be funny or cute, provide an inspiring quote of the day, or a list of fast facts to make you think. Are they true? A meme is just a picture (usually) with some words, meant to grab your attention. What harm can they cause? The answers are: they aren’t always true and just like fake news– they can cause damage.

I’m sharing a pretty harmless one here: Winston Churchill and the Arts. It doesn’t hurt anyone– but the fact is: there’s no evidence that he said it. It has, and continues to be shared frequently because it supports a narrative that favors the arts.

Search for the Truth…

So how can we know if what we are reading is true? The answer isn’t a very satisfactory one. The only way you can be fairly confident something is true– is to research it. Are there multiple unbiased sources that report the same facts? If it involves a person, are there actual quotes (preferably video) backing up the claims?

People have busy lives. Researching everything you read (to find if it’s true) is not something most people can, or want to do.

I will regularly use sites like snopes.com and factcheck.org to see if a trending story has already been researched.

Wikipedia can be a great launching point for finding quick information but it should never be your final source. Anyone can update, post or change the information on Wikipedia. Fact or fiction. Check the sources.

As a rule, if I can’t find documentation to back up a claim, I won’t accept it as truth. Through the Internet, we have immediate access to so much information. The real challenge is deciding whether we can really believe it of not.

We have to be vigilant in our search for the truth and not be afraid to question everything. It’s always better to be safe now than to be sorry later.

Life Through My Eyes

Eyes wide open.

Staring at the world

Taking it all in

Enjoying the good things

Surviving the bad

Questioning it all.


I started this blog several years ago to share my thoughts. I think I often have an interesting perspective on life and wanted to share that with others. I have a voice and I wanted to be heard.

Everyone has a story. A tale to tell.

For whatever reason, I’ve often felt like I’m on the outside looking in. Even when I’m in the middle of it, part of me is watching from a distance.

I’ve started dozens of posts over the past year and a half– with a hundred more ideas locked in my brain. Aside from my travel posts and those about my furry children– most have gone unpublished. Unread. Silenced or self-censored.

I became completely obsessed with Presidential election, cable news and the expansive concerns that have divided America. At times, it could be so overwhelming that it was paralyzing. It seemed to invade every waking moment of my day.

The lines between broadcast news, journalism, social media, advertising and ‘fake news’ have become so blurred many people don’t know what to believe. Unfortunately, to the detriment of society, too many people will believe anything they hear. Anything they want to believe, that is.

Well, I’m over it. My silence is about to be broken. If I can help or at least entertain with my words, so be it. I may hurt or anger a few people. If I can educate or open a few people’s minds along the way, then I’ll be achieving my goal.

I may not be an expert on some topics but I also won’t post blindly. I believe that even posting an opinion requires some research and justification. We can’t help who we are or what we believe; though helping others understand the backstory can make the picture more clear. Truth? Fantasy or fiction? In today’s burgeoning mecca of information it’s often difficult to tell.

I don’t want to write about just one topic because that’s not who I am. Theatre, Film, Animal-Lover, Writer…. Nature, Politics, Travel, Equality… History, Restoration, Photography, Reading, Cooking and Gardening… the Human Experience… these are the things that contribute to my psyche and make me a whole person. In daily life, my mind can jump from topic to topic in an instant. I want to share just some of what I see and what I feel. We may not agree– but by communicating there is a place where we can connect. We all have a common ground though many are afraid to approach it.

I’m going to write about it. I’ve been guilty of posting things on Facebook that require more than a one sentence proclamation or allegation. People have become too sensitive and judgemental and often aren’t willing to accept other people’s right to self expression. They aren’t afraid to tell you, you are wrong– yet refuse to defend or debate in a respectful manner.

Some of my posts may be short and hopefully, to the point. I think this blog may be a better platform to express myself. Besides, more than likely, those people that want their Facebook feed to be nothing but ‘cute’ memes and puppy dogs won’t bother to read it anyway.

I just don’t get it. It is easier than ever to communicate with the world. So why are so few people willing to listen?

Travel 2016: Day One – London (and getting there)

London, Rome and Broadway On the High Seas 7- cruising southern Italy. This time around, we booked our own pre cruise adventure– with the exception of the hotel in Rome, booked through Playbill Travel. The first five days we were on our own to create our own experience.

It’s funny how months of preparation and research fly out the door in the few days prior to leaving on an extended vacation. This was our third trip overseas and you’d think I’d be used to that last-minute feeling of anxiety but it still takes me by surprise.  I suddenly found myself forgetting and rechecking everything I’d prepped for; probably asking Michael the same questions repeatedly, hopefully not driving him too insane. All the research on London and Rome was a jumbled mess in my head so I found myself going back over notes I’d made just to be sure I was ready.

The Flight

This was the first time traveling since we got the Global Entry clearance which includes TSA Pre-check. Of course, wouldn’t you know I was one of the people randomly selected to be scanned at security. Luck of the draw.

We flew to London Heathrow, direct flight, business class– on an evening flight out of Chicago O’Hare. The seating on this American Airlines flight was cozy yet smaller than past times we’ve flown business class. I watched two movies: All the Way and Trumbo, both starring Bryan Cranston, and enjoyed them both. Though I did manage to get a little sleep, I’ve found it’s really difficult for me to sleep more than a couple hours in the air. Michael, on the other hand, can sleep like a baby.

Overall, the flight was comfortable and it was on time. We arrived at Heathrow shortly after 9 am and breezed through to pick up our luggage.


The Tube is the best affordable way to get around London.

The Tube is the best affordable way to get around London.

Luggage and the Tube

We don’t travel as light as we probably should, so we found ourselves both lugging our two checked bags and two carry ons– that’s right… on the Tube. Aside from being a little awkward manipulating, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. Except– that moment when we reached the first very steep escalator in one of the stations. I had a moment of acrophobia and kept it under control by staring at the back of Michael’s head.

The ride took us about 45 minutes to reach central London. Did I mention that I still didn’t know where we were going?

You Call THIS a Hostel?

Michael spent many hours researching London accommodations, months prior to the trip. To keep me guessing, he decided that our destination would be a surprise. It became a running joke that we were staying in a seedy hostel, complete with rats, paper-thin mattresses and a shared bath.

As we got closer to the trip, Michael would get “daily email updates” that he’d share with me each morning before he left for work. He’d inform me of pending updates such as ‘new pots to catch the water from the leaky roof’, warnings to ‘sleep with one eye open’, our daily ‘work assignment’– crazy stuff like that.

I can’t tell you how many times we’d finish watching TV or a movie and he’d say, “Did you see our hostel?” It was even one of the locations used in an episode of Downton Abbey that we re-watched before the trip. I was clueless.

The whole time, I knew I was in for something pretty incredible but Michael still managed to outdo himself. Our ‘hostel’ turned out to be the historic and opulent, St. Pancras Hotel.

St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel

We got off the Tube at King’s Cross, exited the station to the street and Michael just stopped in his tracks. “There’s your home for the next few days,” he said. I looked around and was a little confused. All I saw was this stunning, monster of a building– complete with clock tower, across the street. Overwhelmed would be an understatement. Welcome to St. Pancras!


My first view of the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel.

My first view of the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel.


Arriving early in the day, we didn’t expect our room to be ready. I soon found out Michael had scheduled a tour of the impressive building shortly after we checked our bags. (I’ll write a separate blog post just on the hotel– too much to include here and visually too impressive not to share.)

After touring this magnificent facility, we were able to check in to our room. And as if my head wasn’t already full enough, Michael had snagged of of the three designer suites in the hotel– the Sir George Gilbert Scott Suite. The suite was named after the building’s architect. You’ll see in my next post, images of this carefully restored slice of history.

Staying in the historic section of the St. Pancras, we also had exclusive use of the Chambers Club where we could have breakfast, afternoon tea or just relax.

After settling in, we had just enough time to head out, catch the Tube and do a little exploring before our first show.

My First Visit to the West End

The West End is often referred to as London’s equivalent of the Times Square Theatre District in New York City– only it isn’t. Yes, it is the hub of many entertainment venues in London but that is where the comparison stops.  I found the West End to be quite charming and warm. Though it was bustling with activity, it was still easy to take a relaxing stroll through the area. The streets are loaded with unique shops and quaint restaurants enticing theatregoers around every corner. There is completely different vibe here than the tourist-driven frenzy that exists in New York.

Charlie marquee

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory marquee at Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Our first show– my first ever in London, was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Perhaps a little ironic that it was written by the American musical theatre team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman who also wrote the hit musical, Hairspray.

I loved it! As opposed to trying to compare it to other productions, I’ll say this: It was probably my most thoroughly-satisfying theatregoing experience in the past ten years. The physical production, the cast and the adaptation were all nothing short of magical. As one of my most favorite and most-memorable books growing up, this production of Charlie… made me feel like a kid again– rediscovering Roald Dahl’s delicious tale as if it were the first time. I can’t say enough good things about it.

From our seats, inside the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

From our seats, inside the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

By the way, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is slated to make it’s Broadway debut next spring.

After the show, we took a leisure stroll through the West End with one destination in mind: Shake Shack.

The Shake Shack on 8th Ave has become one of our go-to places when we’re in NYC. With their popularity growing, others have started to sprout up in major cities around the world. (London already has three.) Michael and I both love their thick creamy concretes and their burgers and Chicago style hot dogs are good too. London’s Covent Garden location didn’t disappoint. It became our nightly stop before returning to the hotel every night after our shows.

Bellies full and exhausted, we returned to our hotel and actually slept through the whole night, peaceably.


On the street in the West End.

On the street in the West End.


The Nags Head in the West End.

The Nags Head in the West End.



Voices hushed.

Lives stolen.

Dreams shattered.

Promises unkept.

Memories lost.

Just silence.


Out of the abyss there is a cry in the dark.

It starts softly, faintly

Piercing the silence.

It grows louder


It seems to come closer

Until it becomes a deafening scream.


Then it passes

Fading to a whimper

Another visit of that nightmare gone

Then just silence.


This is my memory. This is my grief. This is my mourning.


Friday morning, I stood alone in a field of flags. Crying. Remembering. I was surrounded by 2,976 American flags blowing gently in the breeze.

3051 children lost a parent that day. Their average age was 9 years old.

I walked through rows and rows of flags in a field of rain soaked grass, I began reading the markers: citizens, police officers, firefighters…. and their ages…. 34, 41, 32… 21.

21. Lukasz Milewski.

img_6419Lukasz immigrated to America from Poland in July– just two months before. His parents came one year earlier, leaving their two children behind to finish school while they prepared a new home for them in the land of opportunity. When he arrived, Lukasz immediately found a summer job working in food service for Cantor Fitzgerald at the World Trade Center. A start of a new life. America.

Only two short months. His American Dream was cut short. Stolen from him.

This is just one story. One heartbreaking story– of many– that would not reach their natural conclusion. His opportunity, his voice, his life– silenced.

The passing of fifteen years has done little to take away the great empathy and sadness I feel for the many lives lost on September 11th, 2001. My heart goes out to the families whose futures were forever changed– whose hopes and dreams were so unexpectedly taken from them.

Life goes on.

I pray that they have found peace.

I pray that they have achieved some level of happiness.

Life goes on.

We remember.

We will always remember.

But life goes on.

These are the stories we must tell. We can’t be silent. We must be the storytellers. Stories of hopes and dreams. We must honor them by passing down their stories of courage. We will never forget.


When I Was A Kid…

With my sister in 1967.

With my sister in 1967.

I spent most of my childhood, growing up in a small town in Florida.

When I was a kid…

  • We played outside.
  • We played outside without our parents having to watch us.
  • We played Cowboys and Indians, Cops and Robbers or War. (and never really thought about actually owning a gun!)
  • We dug in the dirt.
  • We made forts and hideouts on empty lots with brush and debris.
  • We rode bicycles for hours. (Without helmets.)
  • We sometimes built a fire and slept in a tent in the backyard.
  • We were often barefoot.
  • For special entertainment, we played outside at our cousins’ houses.

When I was a kid…

  • We had daily chores like dusting and washing dishes.
  • We read books. My sister and I checking out 20 books at a time from the library.
  • We learned how to grow vegetables in a garden.
  • We saved our allowance all year so we could buy Christmas presents for our family.
  • If we wanted candy or ice cream, we picked up pop bottles and cashed them in for their deposit at the nearby convenience store.
  • We did our homework without being told. (And it actually affected our grades.)

When I was a kid…

  • If we had fast food it was a special occasion. A sit down restaurant was an event.
  • We watched television less than 3 hours a day.
  • When we wanted to look something up, we used the encyclopedia.
  • Telephones had cords and were only used for important (short) conversations.
  • We wrote letters and mailed cards for birthdays and holidays.
  • Dessert was a rare treat not a daily source of nutrition.
  • We drank water from the tap (or even from the hose). We had pop/soda no more than once a week.
  • Other than going to the grocery, shopping was only something you did for school clothes and at Christmas.
  • If there was something you really wanted, it didn’t magically show up at the end of the day. If you were lucky in might show up under the Christmas tree.
  • We didn’t hang out at the mall or see all the current movies. (I can count the movies I saw growing up on my fingers.)
  • We learned to draw, write, and made and built things with our hands.
  • We knew how to use our imaginations.

When I was a kid…

  • We didn’t have computers, or Internet, or Smart Phones or cable TV.
  • If we wanted to communicate, we opened our mouths.
  • Safety was something you did, not a government mandate.
  • Teachers weren’t babysitters, they were actually allowed to teach class.
  • We didn’t always lock our doors.
  • Black Friday didn’t start in July.

When I was a kid…

  • We loved our country and believed in the American Dream.
  • Politicians were intelligent and respected– they were our heroes.
  • Congress did something.
  • We weren’t afraid of Police. They were there to help us.
  • Guns were only used by soldiers, police and hunters.
  • Most families we knew only had one working parent, with one job and they were able to live comfortably.
  • We were taught honesty and hard work were the keys to success.
  • We thought people were just people regardless of color, class or religion.
  • You could believe what you heard on the news.
  • Everyone wasn’t out to get you.

Then we grew up…

And everything changed.




Cash, January 2016.

Cash, January 2016.

Sunday when I took Cash up for his nap -okay, our nap- I gave him his treat but didn’t throw a few of his toys on the bed like usual. Not that he actual played with them– more than anything I think he just liked having them around him. Seeing this, Cash took matters into his own hands (paws) and somehow managed to open the door to Belle’s crate and took her bone. With it hanging out of his mouth like an oversized, cartoon cigar he climbed up on the bed, turned around in circles and laid down– pressed against me– to go to sleep. Michael had Belle and Dudley in the other room, so this time was just about us.

I have a lot of memories like this- simple, not profound but beautiful.

My boy.


Cashman. Boogey. Boogers. Boog. Goofy. Goof. Son. Brother. Big Brother. Baby Boy. Old Man. My Cash.

Yesterday, I had to say goodbye. Time simply ran out.

Twelve years and nine months. He outlived his sister by just over two years and has been my constant companion since then.

But it was time.

Saying Goodbye.

Saying Goodbye.

I thought I was losing him twice earlier in the day but Cash always was a fighter. He hung in there. He hung in through the ride to vet, where they were able to give him medication to make sure he was comfortable and he hung in until Michael could get there.

Nose to nose and staring into his eyes I told him I loved him. I told him it was okay to let go. I whispered it was time for him to run and find his sister. Nose to nose I felt him take his last breath.

Through it all I tried to stay calm, to not cry, to reassure him. When he was finally gone– through the sadness and grief– more than anything I felt lucky.


Cash was a gift. The last two years when I really got to know him and bond with him on a different level were the greatest gift.


Fall 2015

Fall 2015

I’ll miss his smell. I’ll miss the upturned corners of his mouth–that I call a smile when I’d kiss him or stroke his fur.

I’ll miss him pretending to sleep, one ear flipped up so he can hear what’s going on and not miss anything.

I’ll miss Michael getting out of bed every night when it was time to go to sleep and kneeling at the end, scratching his ears and covering him in kisses.

I’ll miss Cash waiting for me at the door, begging for treats, snuggling with me on the couch and in bed… his guilty looks… his playfulness.

And most of all– those eyes. I’d swear looking into his eyes connected our souls.

So very Lucky.


Cash and Dudley Two Weeks Ago.

Before posting on Facebook, I posted the following:

I want everyone reading this to stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, take a deep breath– and be grateful for all the good things you have to be thankful for. Life comes with no guarantees. The only thing certain– is this moment.

I wanted to share– but not make this all about me. Grief and loss is something we all experience throughout our lives. So many times we get caught up and forget the important things.

Earlier this month, it seemed a lot of friends were experiencing grief and loss. I found and posted this:


When we got home from the vet, we let the babies out and I had to plug my drained phone into the charger… next to Cash’s empty food bowl. A while later, I opened the refrigerator to find his half can of dog food, covered in foil, staring me in the face. Little moments of grief and remembrance. There will be a lot of those moments over the coming weeks. The empty space on the couch, toys only he played with, tags in drawers forgotten long ago. It’s all part of the process.

Within hours of posting on Facebook, over a hundred people has expressed their condolences. Reminding me once again that I am so Lucky.

At bedtime, there wasn’t even any discussion. Belle and Dudley got their peanut butter, their crates were left open and they both climbed up on the bed. They played a little before settling down and going to sleep. I didn’t sleep well– but mostly because it’s hard to sleep with a sixty-pound boxer pushing me to the edge and snuggling with her head on my chest– snoring softly. I was blissfully uncomfortable.

So very, very lucky.

Cash & Roxie as puppies.

Cash & Roxie as puppies.


Thank you Alyssa Davis for putting this together.

Thank you Alyssa Davis for putting this together.


Cash and Belle. 2014.

Cash and Belle. 2014.


One of my most favorite pictures of Cash and I.

One of my most favorite pictures of Cash and I.

My Top Five of 2015

Another 525,600 minutes have come and gone. (Okay, so there’s a few hours left.) Time to reflect on the past year. Aside from the day to day, ordinary activities–much of which provide many unexpected special moments; there are those stand-out things that make the year unique.

Here’s my list for 2015:

63ac43d64175ea5318660196bf16c54eMovies. I started the year watching a lot of independent films on Netflix and with Amazon Prime. There’s quite a bit out there to explore. Some are quite creative and unique. Others are just good old fashioned story-telling. And of course, there are many that are downright terrible. I didn’t keep track of how many I watched but I’m sure it was over fifty.

Michael and I saw quite a few main stream movies this year as well. For years I’ve avoided going to movie theaters because people can be so rude and annoying. We found though, if you go to the first showing of the day; you can avoid most of that. Plus, our local theater just replaced all their seating with recliners and reserved seating. Very comfortable and convenient.

Hateful-H8ful-EightWe’ve seen probably a couple dozen movies in the theater this year. I don’t remember much of what we saw– so many were either bad or just okay. I have to admit that the best film I saw this year was one I had dreaded going to see. Quentin Tarantino’s The H8ful Eight is glorious story-telling. We saw it Christmas Day at one of the 98 theaters presenting the movie in the 70mm road show edition. I can’t say I miss film over digital but the work itself is pretty fantastic. It was the last and best film we saw this year.

I also should mention I really enjoyed (for different reasons) The Age of Adaline, Trainwreck and Get Hard; all released this year and all of which I saw while flying overseas.


day4Politics. The abnormally early start to the Presidential campaign has been impossible to escape. Much of it has left me dumbfounded. I don’t want to offend anyone (at the moment) by spouting my political views. I just want to say that this election cycle can best be described as the worst, bottom of the barrel, reality TV possible. No one could write this stuff.

elephant-donkey-republican-democrat-symbols-background_0_0It’s not just national politics that gets me worked up. I’ve spent a lot of time this year following local politics as well. You know what? It isn’t any better.

The bottom line is that you can’t trust politicians. Even the supposed good ones. They all publicly support or oppose one thing– and the turn around and quietly vote the opposite way. Too much talk –too little action. Action that doesn’t back up the talk. Why is it so hard to find an honest politician? (Insert joke here.)


s167566754460200885_p8_i4_w750Reading. I used to love to read. This year I challenged myself to read 20 books. I’m ending the year having read 96 books! I know, I know– why didn’t I push to finish 100? That wasn’t the point. Returning to one of my great loves was the thing.

I started reviewing books as well. Goodreads, Amazon and NetGalley are my prime target audiences. Goodreads continuously has book giveaways called First Read giveaways. I was fortunate to win 9 books in 2015.


rp-book-towerIn August I wrote about my three top favorites and they remain my favorites now at the end of the year. You can read about them here and here.

I don’t know how I let myself get away from reading. Whether for entertainment or education– I have really missed the world of books.

You don’t even have to spend a lot of money on books if this is your passion. There are many places online where you can find free books waiting to be read. I know I’ll be reading many more in the coming year.




Published. One of my bucket list items has always been to be a published author. That dream came true in October with the publication of my play, The House of Evil.

It is available in print and digital formats through Amazon and a number of retailers. You can purchase it by clicking here for print or here for digital.

Version 2The House of Evil is also available for production throughout the world.

Though I’ve had the satisfaction of completing a number works– this finally allows me to claim the title of published author. Which is pretty exciting.

I have written a number of things over the years that I also hope to eventually have published. I’m currently in the preliminary stage, planning a book on Christmas decorating; and I have a new novel in the works.

My play, September’s Heroes will be published early in 2016.




Eighteen Days in Southeast Asia. Traveling to Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore was the biggest thing of the year for many reasons.

It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The people, the history, the cultural differences– were all enlightening and overwhelming. It was a whirlwind stimulation of the senses.

Michael & I riding an elephant in Thailand.

Michael & I riding an elephant in Thailand.

We spent many hours over the months leading up to our adventure- planning and researching, to make the most of our trip. Hours very well spent. All the pre-planning and anticipation were half the fun but certainly didn’t come close to the amazing experience itself.

If you haven’t already, you can read my day-to-day blog posts starting here. I’m really glad I have the blog as record of our trip. Along with the thousands of pictures I took, it helps trigger many memories I might otherwise forget.

Next stop? Italy in 2016.


Happy New Year, Everyone!