Tuesday, June 27, 2017


                            Who Knew? Ever heard of Doane Robinson or Gutzon Borglum?

     One day, a man, Doane Robinson, got an idea. He shared that idea with a few people. The next thing you know, something great was started. Little did that man know that his one small thought would mushroom into a monument that would dazzle millions of people for years.

     One of the fascinating things about the construction of Mount Rushmore's incredible sculpture is
that when interviewed about their work on the stone façade as they hung over the rocks, sometimes in horrific weather conditions, is the workmen said, "That was our job." They didn't think what they were doing was anything more than that. They were paid by the hour, and when they had to haul their lunch boxes and equipement up several flights to get to their work sites, they weren't paid until they got to the top. Their boss, Gutzon Borglum, an artist and sculptor, a man most people have never heard of, was all business. There were no pats on the back or bonuses in those days. As a matter of fact, some of the workers didn't particularly care for "the boss." He could be pretty snarky, apparently, but they respected his mission, and they saw it through to the end.

     So what's the point? The point is, that all successes begin with an idea. Have you ever had an idea, and thought to yourself, "Someone should invent. . . . " only to find a few years later that some guy in a remote city in Oklahoma invented it and is now a billionaire? Tends to tick you off, right?

     What idea do you have today? It doesn't have to create a legendary monument, but it might make someone else's life easier, or it might spark an idea in someone else who could create something to make the world a better place. Who ever heard of Doane Robinson or Gutzon Borglum? Maybe one day they'll say that about you.

     This monument is definitely worth visiting. Awe-inspiring and colossal, it makes you proud to be an American. The countryside around the monument is as beautiful and breath-taking. Put it on your bucket list.

Monday, June 26, 2017

     “When you don’t care what people think about you, you lose the capacity for connection.” Brené Brown

     According to author, researcher, motivator, Brené Brown, “connection” is a basic human need. Whether we want to believe it or not, it is what we are all seeking. If you are one of those who says, “I don’t really give a damn what people think of me,” then you are telling yourself you don’t need connection. I am one who humbly admits that I do need connection, but we all need it in different degrees. It took many years for me to realize that I needed time with loved ones, time with colleagues, time with friends, but I also needed time with me. Not rewarding myself with the latter caused some unrecognized issues in my life. Now, I know when I need “alone” time, and I take it. “Alone” time is really not alone; it is time with yourself, with your thoughts, with your dark side, with your favorite read, your favorite tree—it’s time to regroup, regenerate, relax. 

     In his editorial, “Being perceived as you want to be,” author and executive communication coach, Robert Parkinson says, “The primary factor by which people form conclusions and perceptions about others usually happens in two quick steps—by how a person looks and then by how that person sounds when he or she speaks. It includes how a person stands, moves, walks, gestures.” Most of us probably don’t even think about any of those things unless we’re interviewing for a job or getting ready for a blind date. Call it “first impression,” “quick judgment,” whatever you wish, but it’s no secret that we all do the mental tally when we first meet someone.

     Do you know people who just make the room light up when they walk in? Do you know people who cast a black cloud when they enter a room? Do you know people who just seem to fade into the woodwork, and you even forget they were there? They are all humans with their own attributes, flaws and needs. Some of us are in touch with our needs; others, no to much.

     A good friend, a life coach, once said, “You are very self-aware.” I said, “Isn’t everyone?” She said, “Not at all.” Being self-aware, to me, means being sensitive to others, considerate of their feelings and behaviors and, most importantly, showing my good side to the world. After all, who wakes up in the morning and says, “Hmm. Let’s see how people will react to my bad side?”

     Parkinson continues, “People will assume many things about you. Help them make the correct ones.” For those who don’t give a damn what others think, go right ahead and give us whatever side you choose. For those of us who care, we might want to stand taller today, feel and mean our smiles, look others in the eye when we speak and weigh our words a little more carefully. When I leave a room, I always hope those left behind feel better about themselves somehow. If I’m the only one feeling better, then there’s definitely something wrong.  

Saturday, June 24, 2017

     When planning a trip, the process can be overwhelming. The dictionary’s definition of “overwhelm” is to “feel inadequate” in approaching a project or issue. I don’t completely agree with this definition. “Overwhelm” to me, is to feel like the project has too many parts, and the thought of doing what’s necessary requires too much thinking or energy. The “inadequate” part only applies in certain situations. 

     We love planning trips, and we’ve learned that like any other project that has multiple parts, we just take one step at a time. Now that we have returned from a 34-day trip, having left all responsibilities and obligations, we are feeling somewhat “overwhelmed” with the catch-up process. This doesn’t mean we feel inadequate; it means, wow, there’s a lot to do. What’s step one?

     Today, I am thinking about how I felt every morning of our trip. “What will we explore today? What new experiences will we have, and how will I feel about them? But first, let’s just have breakfast and relax.” When we return from a big trip, always a bit let down after all the excitement, we forget the peace and relaxed state we left instead of trying to transfer those feelings and behaviors into our daily lives.

    Family is expected tomorrow afternoon. This arrival date gives us very little down time to catch up before entertaining our kids who have never seen our new home or visited our wonderful town. So, at 4:53 a.m. when my eyes popped open, I said to myself “Small steps.” 

    Does the entire house have to be cleaned from top to bottom for our kids? Does the lanai have to be scrubbed down and all the plants trimmed to perfection? Do the floors have to shine and the porcelain have to sparkle? If none of these tasks are completed, what will our kids think? Probably, “Well, they’re old. What can you expect?” Right now, it would be just fine with me if they thought that, as it’s partially true.

     People visit to spend quality time with you not to judge your housekeeping expertise. Somewhere in my upbringing, I was taught that guests secretly run their fingers along your baseboards and peak into your cupboards to see how neat and clean you are. Who would teach a child such rubbish? Someone whose parents taught that to them, undoubtedly.

     Today, I will take time to do things for myself. I will call a friend. I will send a gift. I will make a difference to someone, and whatever time is left, I will clean. On my bucket list:  hire someone to clean the house. Deadline:  before I don’t recognize it needs it. The only “overwhelm” I want to experience is to be overwhelmed by how good I feel doing kind things for those I care about. (about whom I care, for those grammar nuts out there)

Friday, June 23, 2017

                                      The Joys of Extended Travel and the Fallout

     One of the many nerve wracking things about being gone from your home for an extended time is not just the stress of driving in heavy traffic, or in our case, maneuvering a tiny sports car through a tropical storm at night, it is what may greet you when you return. 

     I am always a bit anxious when walking through the door as to what may await. Has the electricity been on the whole time? Are the cupboards warped? Did the few things we left in the fridge spoil and are now creating whole-house-stench? Are the plants dead? Do the toilets work? Is the internet back on? Has the pool overflowed? Is the house smaller than I remembered it? (It is very small). Did someone steal my stuffed bear?

     Fortunately, our dear neighbor friend, Jim, walked through the house a few times and watered the outdoor plants weekly. Bless his heart. He has no idea what peace of mind that gave us. We only had to deal with a few of these issues, with a few pending, so we consider ourselves very lucky.

     Long-term travel is not for the faint of heart, particularly when you plan it yourself. We prefer doing that, as we are not followers, and we don’t like crowds. (Our definition of “crowd” is “more than six people within a 20’ space at one time). We don’t mind the ins and outs of hotels, as we have our system perfected. I have a little one-nighter backpack that weighs about two ounces, and I just throw the basics into it if we’re only staying as a pass-through. No one knows us, so if my hair isn’t perfect, and I’m wearing down-to-earth shoes, no one will know unless I’m stupid enough to post a photo on fb. It really works well. We stay in Hilton properties which offer free breakfast, so we don’t have to search for restaurants. It’s perfect. They also have fitness centers, so if we want to stay fit, the equipment is right down the hall.

      Driving through twelve states and staying in ten, we needed to know exactly how long it would take and where the pit and provision stops would be. The Cracker Barrel brochure is our go-to reference. I used to say I wouldn’t be caught dead in that place, as it only catered to old farts. Well, we are old farts, but the theory is incorrect, anyway. There are families, college kids, and even an occasional dog there, so I have changed my attitude. I only eat breakfast there, as I can’t bring myself to having a regular meal there. Mr. Wonderful has whatever he wishes, but the choice of 16-hour breakfasts is always a good option for me. They also have audio books that help pass the time when you are traveling for days through the scrub and nothing of Montana or New Mexico. It’s all good.

      Last night, after driving through a half hour of blinding rain thirty minutes from home, poor Mr. Wonderful discovered that the internet, phone and TV was not re-activated as the nice lady had promised. Fortunately, we had taken the confirmation number on our way through Pensacola. Apparently, he was up until midnight talking to another nice lady who pulled many strings to finally get our life back. I only found out this morning, as I was long gone by 10:00 p.m.

     Now we brace ourselves for the reality of responsible adults and prepare for the arrival of more family two days from now. Hmm. Do we have sheets? food? I don’t think so. 

     Bottom line:  Would we be gone for more than a month again? Absolutely. I’m already thinking about the itinerary!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

     One of the ways Mr. Wonderful and I survived the long hours of driving was to listen to Audio books. The second one, Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight, founder of Nike, was excellent. This memoir was riveting. The story of a self-made man who turned a $500 loan from his reluctant father into a multi-billion-dollar business is both fascinating and inspiring. If you ever thought you couldn’t do something you really wanted to do, this is the book to read.

     We both listened intently—Mark intrigued because of his business background and me inspired by the author's “never give up!” philosophy. He said, “You can stop, but don’t ever give up!” As I have been trying to decide what is next on my performance list, clarity came as a result
of listening to this man’s story. He was rejected, in deep debt, scorned, scolded, mocked and shamed, but he never gave up on his passion and principles. It wasn’t about the money; it was about leaving a legacy, and, Lord knows, Nike sure did that.

     Wherever I focus, it’s amazing what I see. With my mind spinning from reading about  the determination and resilience of this young man (now older than me), I saw Nike everywhere we went. I was in the Ladies Room, and the woman at the sink next to me had on Nike flip flops. I was reading the paper this morning, and I saw the update for Nike stocks. I dreamed I met a god named Nike while traveling on another planet (not really, but I thought I’d throw that in there to be sure you were paying attention).

     Books are so wonderful. If you remember one sentence that moves you, inspires you, resonates, it was worth the read or time listening. We love the fact that our favorite breakfast spot, Cracker Barrel (I don’t wear my mask in there anymore) rents audio books. You simply pay for the book ($42.95), listen to it, and return it to any Cracker Barrel in any state. They charge you five bucks or so for the use, and return the balance to your account. It’s genius! Besides I love the French toast. Just think, you can get inspired and fall into carb coma all in the same day:)


Monday, June 19, 2017

I post this photo today to motivate myself. I am quickly approaching my 74th birthday. I’ve been retired for 12 years and since then have had at least four mini-careers. Is it time to stop? Kick back, forget having a purpose or accomplishing anything? Is it time to say, “Been there, done that, I’m done?” 

After a 35-day trek out west in our sports car hiking the National Parks, eating gourmet dinners and fattening breakfasts, visiting family and exclaiming at the wonder of our vast and beautiful country, I am feeling very small, and maybe a tiny bit insignificant. 

As a 40+year teacher, I always assess my life in the summer in order to “retool” for fall. I know summer has barely begun, but the conversation has already begun in my “inside-me voice.” What to do next? Yes, it would be awesome to have enough money to keep traveling indefinitely, but that’s not going to happen. Yes, it would be nice to just kick back and “be” not “do” for a change. Yeahbut, yeahbut, yeahbut. . . . 

That’s not me. No matter how I direct the inner conversation, the dominating voice says, “How much quality time do you have left?” “What will you do all bored everyday?” “What will you talk about?” “Will you be so boring, no one will want to listen?” “How will you be different than everyone else your age?” “What will you do without an identity?” “After all, on your tombstone, do you want it to say, “She was really nice?” 

Does anyone else go through this process? Do you live a purpose-driven life? If so, what is your purpose? Do you like reinventing yourself? Some people think that’s insane—just “go with the flow.” Well, I don’t flow; I thunder. I don’t wait; I create. I don’t let it evolve; I make it happen. 

Watch out, August, here I come! 

Sunday, June 18, 2017


Happy Father’s Day to Hilda

Today I write a letter to the mother of my father, my dear beloved grandmother, Hilda. It’s because of her that I was blessed with the most wonderful father I could ever have imagined.

Dear Grandma:

First, on this Father’s Day, eight years after losing your beloved son, I want to thank you for giving him to me. He was my first and best male gift before I found the love of my life to whom I have been married for almost 24 years. Why am I thanking you instead of him? Because you raised him with the values which he impressed on me and which ground me and keep me whole.

Secondly, I want to tell you how what your son taught me has resonated even into my 70s. Your son was loyal, loving, hard-working, ambitious, talented, humble, successful, funny and extremely creative. Thanks to you, through him, I am all those things. Up until a few months before he died, he was still acting silly and still harmonizing with me to our favorite father/daughter songs, “Until We Meet Again” and “Now Is The Hour.” At the “home,” we were having cookies together. They were tiny gingerbread cookies, the size of a saltine. We were both laughing at how small they were, but he was breaking them apart and putting them together the wrong way on purpose. We both laughed and inhaled those gingerbread men. I’m not sure he even knew what he was doing then, but he was my silly Dad, and I loved him so.

Finally, I thank you for the greatest gift you gave him, your daughter, my wonderful surrogate- Mom aunt and me. You taught us to listen and be interested, genuinely interested in others. You were always there to listen to me, as was Aunt Dorothy and, of course, Daddy. They were active listeners; they asked questioned, responded to the answers and listened some more. This is a dying art these days when people talk more and listen less. I am grateful you taught this to all of us, and it came naturally for you.

I miss you still after the almost 50 years since you’ve been gone, dear Grandma, and, of course, I miss Daddy whose spirit and silly still puts a smile and a determined grin on my face daily. 

Happy Father’s Day, Grandma.