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Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Many of us witnessed on TV the recent spectacle of thousands of honorable American veterans tearing down metal barricades in Washington D.C. and heaving them into a scrap pile in front of the White House. They did it because they wanted access to the open-air war memorials which were closed because of the Government Shutdown. The vets and their supporters removed those barricades because they felt the government had no right to block the entrance to hollowed ground consecrated by their own sacrifices and the bloodshed of their fellow veterans who fought and died for our beloved country. My husband and I were with them in spirit. We actually would have been there in person for our very first protest since the sixties but we heard about it too late.

The veterans' barricade incident got me thinking about how human beings construct their own mental barriers...psychological barricades....and how these can be even more impenetrable than any 20 ton concrete abutment used to thwart terrorists from ramming a federal building.

We create psychological barricades in our minds to keep us emotionally safe. We build mental defense mechanisms out of FEAR. I think that the greatest commonality among all humans is fear. We tell ourselves that we're afraid of certain individuals or groups or beliefs or nationalities or political organizations because they will harm us....physically or emotionally or financially or spiritually. Of course, we all have a right to be afraid at times. It's a healthy, intelligent, natural instinct. However, I think that in some circumstances, we are not really afraid of each other. We're afraid of ourselves.

We're afraid we cannot stand up to the challenge of those who are not simpatico to our way of thinking. So we establish internal barricades. Many of us have self-limiting beliefs that we will feel more secure, more comfortable, even happier if we can hide behind psychological walls. Squirreled away behind our self-imposed, internal walls, we don't have to deal with specific people, conflicting emotions or difficult situations. It's a means to avoid rejection and conflict. It's a way to maintain control of our own lives, to make ourselves less vulnerable and to avoid taking risks. By barricading ourselves psychologically from the real world, it's not that we are keeping others out. We are actually burying ourselves....from experiencing life to the fullest. An emotional barricade prevents us from effective communication, reasonable discussion and open mindedness. 

To me, psychological barricades are what lie at the heart of most conflicts, resentments and hatreds. They are the stumbling blocks, the logjams, the emotional fortifications that stop us from reaching out, from carefully listening and from acknowledging others because we are afraid. We fear taking the risk.

Of course, we will never always agree with everybody. But wouldn't it be to our advantage if we tried to understand another point of view?  Listening is a lost art. We scream. We yell. We express our anger with vitriolic name calling and lies. We are indignant. Arrogant. We are rude. Obnoxious. And these are just the jackasses on Capitol Hill.  Oops....there I go name-calling.

Ironically, we often build the biggest psychological barricades to shut out or protect ourselves from our very own families.....people who are our loved ones....our blood kin. Typically family members either create outrageous drama because they demand to be in control or they hold back and won't voice an opinion because they don't want conflict. I'm not sure which is worse. Most families probably consist of both the control freaks and the "whatevers". I wish all relationships could be happy. But as Shakespeare may have said: "Life doth lack perfection."  Resentments build. Lies overcome truth. Egos erupt. We all know some people who get a perverse satisfaction from being negative and miserable. They seem to wallow in their unhappiness. Misery truly loves company. And try as hard as we might, sometimes the psychological barricades of others are too rigid and fraught with misconceptions to reach an understanding. So we move on. Over all these years, I've learned the importance of breaking down my own emotional barricades. I'll admit, a few still remain to be sledge-hammered down. I'm working on it. But I know how significant the power of communication is in resolving most conflicts. Not just talking "words" but effective LISTENING. Understanding. Compassion. Compromise. Knowing when to choose our battles and knowing when to concede. Obviously, the best outcome is when everybody wins. But that doesn't always happen. And sadly relationships dissolve. Families disintegrate and countries run amuck. All because of barricades.

The American people (and the entire world for that matter) witness the unimaginable chaos in the United States Congress, the lack of true and skillful leadership on the part of all the elected officials in Washington, D.C., including the president in my opinion. And we wonder HOW can they behave so irresponsibly? How can they be so incompetent? How can they be so unyielding, so contemptuous of each other, so egotistical, so unwilling to communicate? Maybe we only have to look at ourselves to understand.


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Monday, August 12, 2013


Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. U.P. MI

They say be careful what you wish for. We longed for peace and quiet. We ended up with a generous dose of it and something even better. Recently, my husband and I went on a summer sojourne to the Upper Peninsula of get away from it all. If you know anything about the'll know that it's ruggedly remote, surrounded by thick forests and three of the five great lakes and inhabited by very few people....mostly fierce, independent folk who proudly call themselves "yoopers" and seem to enjoy hard living and even harsher winters. Yoopers refer to us wimps who live in the lower peninsula, below the Mackinack Bridge, as "trolls". Many yoopers would like to secede from Michigan and form their own country....which they'd call "Superior". They probably wouldn't allow us trolls back across the Bridge.

We'd driven across the U.P. several times before....which is in itself, not exactly a walk in the park....considering the wide peninsula grips the farthest north edges of Michigan and runs horizontally from Wisconsin to Canada with a bit of Minnesota border (Duluth), tossed in for good measure. It takes a good, solid day to traverse from east coast to west coast of the Upper Peninsula on long, winding, monotonous, two lane roads where you see nothing but trees and sky and a smattering of quirky eateries with names like "Bear Trap Bar" (which happens to be a memorable place to eat.)

To me the U.P. is like hopping in a time capsule and heading back to the 1950s. No flashy, upscale hotels, fancy restaurants or glitzy shopping districts. Mostly two lane roads; lots of bears, moose and rustic simplicity. All spring and summer long, millions of flies (black fly, deer fly, stable fly) dive-bomb tourists and natives alike. With teeth sharp as razor blades, these flying killer machines inflict vicious bites and welts that could make even Wrestlemania-type bruisers scream for mercy. Obviously I don't work for the U.P. Chamber of Commerce. But hold on....there's positive news to come.

Admittedly, we were rather harsh on the U.P. during some previous, quick, drive-by visits. As much as we enjoy on-the-grid civilization, we decided to give the U.P. another chance. Oh so glad we did! On previous visits, we had glimpsed some of it's startling, raw beauty and knew there was more to the U.P. besides killer flies and pasties.(beef and potato stew wrapped up in pastry like a burrito.)  We said a boatload of prayers that the horrid swarms of flies would not be present.

Our prayers were answered tenfold. No flies. Alleluia! No flies! Instead we discovered dozens of scenic lighthouses, cool, cascading waterfalls, pristine primevil forests and the breathtaking Lake Superior shoreline. The largest fresh water lake in the world, Lake Superior makes you want to weep in pure, joyful gratitude for the privilege of standing on its glorious craggy, rocky coastline; walking along its abundant, sandy, isolated beaches, viewing the magical vistas of sheer cliffs and high dunes, being astonished at the clarity of its Caribbean-like blue and green waters and understanding the vastness, grandeur and awesome power this enormous, wild and unpredictable lake commands of anyone who dares enter its waters.

We found our peace and quiet. Solitude. Relaxation. Daily picnics overlooking the mighty Lake. Simple food. Amazing coastal panoramas. We did miles of hiking and exploring. No crowds. Often we were the only two people in the woods or on the shoreline for as far as the eye could see. But more than that, for me, I was inspired by the care free nature of the enduring people who live there year round in bone-chilling winters and short-lived summers. I was awed by Lake Superior's spectacular, world class vistas. I was humbled by the lush, reverential, verdant forests carpeted in millions of giant, wild ferns, birch trees and sturdy hard deep and dense that one could become lost for a long time.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is not a place I would like to live permanently. Too severe. Too rustic. Too isolated. But to visit the U.P. every so often, renews my sense of spirituality, frees me from the madness of the outside world and embraces me with coveted peace and quiet. Priceless.

I snapped 500 photos of our trip to U.P.  Here are just a few to inspire you to visit this incredible northern region of pure Michigan

Silver River Falls, Keweenaw Peninsula (U.P.)

Copper Harbor Lighthouse at most northern tip of Michigan on Lake Superior.

Primevil forest tree roots have a life of their own.

Wrecked boat...Casualty of Lake Superior's fury.

Drift wood floats along pink sand beach.

Isolated beaches lure a lone black bird.

Scarlet cliffs of Grand Sable Dunes.

Grand Sable Cliffs loom over Lake Superior.
Majestic "Pictured Rocks" glow at sunset.

You can walk for miles and miles and never see another soul. Lake Superior.

Munising Falls

Lone Sailboat plies the vast waters of Lake Superior.

 Marquette Harbor Lighthouse is enchanting in a sunset glow.

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Monday, July 29, 2013


Be careful where you spend the night.

Travelers beware! If you're not careful, an innocent stay in a hotel/motel room, in any big city or any small town....could turn into a horror-filled, fright night straight out of a hair-raising Dracula tale. Vampire parasites. Blood sucking monsters. Malevolent creatures lusting for human blood. Ghastly red welts all over your body. And that's just while you're curled up in bed....under those pasty white motel sheets.

The fearsome culprits? Vampire Bedbugs! From the dank caves of our ancient ancestors to posh modern hotel rooms...this common parasitic insect has returned from a long hibernation to prey upon mankind with a blood-thirsty vengeance. What you don't see, can hurt you.

No doubt you've heard about the bedbug bedlam infesting hotels (upscale and otherwise), motels, apartment buildings, movie theaters, college dorms, airplanes, buses, office buildings, public libraries and hospitals. They've even been found at.....the Mall. (Cue high pitched screams) your favorite clothing stores. Noooooo!

Resurgence of the vicious vermin is partly due to an increase of international travel and the ban of DDT ....a chemical that virtually wiped out most bed bugs by the 1950s. An effective, highly toxic insecticide, DDT nearly  eradicated U.S. bedbugs back in the 1940s. But because of it's controversial components, DDT is banned for use in the United States. As a result, the insidious little bedbugs are scrambling back to their blood sucking glory days faster than a pack of crazed fans rushing the stage at a Justin Beiber concert.

For travelers, the bugs creep into luggage and backpacks and hitch-hike home with unsuspecting victims. Once bed bugs infest your home, they are notoriously difficult to remove. There has been such a rampant surge of bed bug infestations across the United States and around the world in recent years, that dogs are now being used to detect them. Bed-bug-busting canines are specially trained to sniff out infestations. Apparently the dogs can be highly effective.

Worst bed bug cities? In July 2013, Terminex issued its annual list of cities experiencing the largest increase in bed bug calls. Sacramento, CA, Milwaukee, Las Vegas and Columbus, Ohio were the unfortunate front runners. From New York to Los Angeles, Detroit to Denver and in thousands of places in between, bed bugs are stalking us. In 2012, Orkin pest control company said it did more business in Chicago than any other major city. According to Orkin, Chicago had the inglorious distinction of having the most treatments for bed bug infestations. I'm going to a reunion near Chicago very soon and staying at a hotel. I wonder if I should bring a bed-bug-buster dog with me.

My husband and I travel often and frequently stay at hotels and motels. I try not to get panicky about the blood-thirsty little monsters. But as a cautionary measure, once we're inside our room, before we even unpack, we ALWAYS pull up the mattress and inspect for brown, tell-tale, bed bug spots on the box spring, the top mattress, the sheets and pillowcases.  We never put our luggage on the floor. We try to keep our suitcases closed after we use them. So far, in all our limited inspections, we have not seen any bedbugs or their eggs. Yuck, I'm getting grossed out even as I write this. For the safety of those who travel: heed fair warning in your hotel room. The vampire bugs are waiting for you. Beware. Sleep tight and don't let the.....well, you know....

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Friday, May 31, 2013

Who Screwed Up the Travel Channel?

Sometimes on a rainy day, I like to sit and ponder the deeper meanings of life. 

  • Who screwed up the Travel Channel? Why are there no "travel" shows on the Travel Channel? Slimey poker games and other silly non-travel fluff have replaced interesting and colorful travel programs for years now. And whatever happened to Samantha Brown? I always enjoyed her perky travel get-aways.
  •  When it's pouring rain outside, why don't my outdoor potted plants get wet? It can be raining more furious than a monsoon in Mexico and yet my container flowers remain dry as a Baptist revival in southern Georgia. As a result, I have to hand-water the potted plants sometimes as much as twice a day....even on a wet, soppy, rainy afternoon.
  •  And speaking of flowers. Why do my neighbor's flowers across the street ALWAYS look bigger, healthier and more colorful than mine? We both planted similar type flowers the very same week. But after two weeks, hers are huge and mine are....wishing they could join the garden party across the street.
  • Why don't I ever win a beauty make-over? Could it be I'm already too beautiful...or is it because my name is never submitted?
  • Why does my husband, after unloading groceries into the car, push the shopping cart half mile back to inside the store, in the snow and yet NEVER unload our dishwasher in the morning?
  •  Why am I the only nitwit who cannot figure out Pinterest?
  • Why am I so jealous of that female voice on our GPS (who sounds exactly like  former news anchor Connie Chung)...that I insist my husband turn down the volume when he's driving? Seriously!  What is wrong with me?
  •  Why can't I figure out how to secure my own grandson safely into his car seat when he can strap himself into it in less than a minute?
  • Why does my bucket list have a hole in it? No wonder I haven't accomplished anything.
  • Why does the thought of a D.Q Peanut Buster Parfait torment me all summer long?
  •  If 60 is the new an afternoon nap the new foreplay?

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Saturday, March 23, 2013


Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets
 to the end...the faster it goes.

As our own lives roll on, is it time for a change? Or are we too set in our ways? Do we fear change? Some people dread change. Others find it a challenge.  Personally, I embrace change. I always have. My husband and I have been married for over 41 years. During that time, we've lived in over 20 different homes in multiple cities. I have packed, unpacked, set up and dismantled households countless number of times. And that doesn't include the hundreds of times, I've rearranged furniture...just for the fun of it. I am a glutton for change. I thoroughly enjoy it. I get bored with the humdrum staleness of things. I seek something new and different by way of big or little challenges.

Change is scary. No doubt about it. Even for me. I've made many career moves....all by choice. My entrepreneurial spirit has led me to discover new things about myself. It's given me confidence to spread my wings, take calculated risks and make life-changing choices...mostly to benefit my family. It's frightening to leave behind safe, secure employment and leap into the unknown. But I never wanted to just "put in my time" at a boring job until retirement. Occasionally, along the way, I made some wrong turns. But I learned from my mistakes and used them as opportunities to redirect and reinvent myself. I truly believe if you don't stretch yourself, you will never ever reach your true potential.

You can make life changes all on your own. But it helps significantly if you have a positive sounding board. I've had support and encouragement from my husband. Even though he is very conservative, he was always willing to go along with my wild schemes and creative dreams. In the end, things worked out. Sometimes not in the way I expected but still a positive experience. I never wanted to go through life wondering..."What if I'd done that..." 

On the other hand, I don't equate change with "thrill seeking". I don't free fall out of airplanes. I don't even like flying in airplanes all that much. I don't bungee jump off sky-high bridges over raging rivers. I have never zipped-lined above the treetops of an Amazon jungle. I am thinking of learning how to paddle board this summer but even that gives me some trepidation.

Changing things about your life does not necessarily involve daredevil, death-defying pursuits. I know some people who have lived in the same home, on the same street, in the same town for their entire lives. They are some of the happiest people, you'd ever want to meet. Why? Because they did not remain stagnant. They faced complicated changes and challenges in their own way and emotionally moved on with no resentments.They survived and thrived without fanfare. They learned that the secret to changing oneself inwardly or outwardly is to give of yourself to others. As a result, they changed lives for the better without ever having to leave home. 

Yet some folks have wallowed in their status quo or "stagnant quo" and paid a hefty, lifetime price of discontent and unhappiness for not moving forward. Why? Because they are afraid. Fear is the greatest obstacle to transforming our lives. Think of all we could do if we weren't afraid. Fear is the monster wall of resistance that keeps people stuck in unhappy situations. Fear keeps us from exploring and discovering options that could better our lives and the lives of our families. Transition is not always about moving to a different town or redefining a career. Transition or change is adjusting and accepting new possibilities. Conquering negative fears produces positive changes. Overcoming "analysis paralysis" leads to amazing transformations.

Lately, I've been mindful of the spiritual and healing powers of an "open heart". We all know certain people who have closed off their heart to others for a long time. As a result, their imprisoned heart is encrusted with rust and hardened from years of negativity and decay. They have not allowed love to flow from their own heart and they have shut off any chance of love from those around them, to penetrate their closed heart. They are steeped in misery and blame others for their unhappiness.

For me, change is about moving forward. Nobody's perfect, especially me. I'm an imperfect, intense, exasperating, impatient, annoying, old woman who likes to buy houses and move around a lot. But even in my own life, I've come full circle and moved back to the city of my birth. My husband and I both like the community where we live and maybe we'll stay put for a "change". I do believe we can redeem ourselves through positive changes, kindness, humility and forgiveness. I cannot force others to change. But I can create a loving change of heart within myself if I'm willing to overcome my fears. I am deeply grateful beyond measure for all my blessings and my "blisters'. Like that dwindling roll of toilet paper, my life is spinning faster to the end. I try not to look backwards. I'm not going that way.

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