It Was the Best of Vacations, It Was the Worst of Vacations

October 12, 2011
Best-laid plans often go astray and are most unwelcome when they happen on vacation.

Here is a brief synopsis of our September trip to France and England.

What we expected to see in France and on a river boat through six locks on the Seine:

The charming French village of Les Andelys, the city of Rouen and the harbor town of Honfleur.

The beaches of Normandy where Allied forces landed during WWII’s D-Day Invasion, and the site where Joan of Arc was martyred.

Monet’s home in his beloved village of Giverny, with the familiar Japanese bridge and water lily-covered pond that inspired his great works of art.

One of the world’s grandest cities, Paris, the “City of Light” — with its iconic Eiffel Tower, famed Champs-Élysées, grand Notre Dame Cathedral, and incomparable Moulin Rouge.

Normandy countryside along Eurostar chunnel train to London

What we saw in France:

We saw everything we expected to see.

Three quick impressions:

  1. The fashion for three out of five men, women and children is a scarf tied around the neck.
  2. Paris is thin! The overweight all appear to be tourists.
  3. They light the Eiffel tower at night with spotlights and bright lights. We thought the lights were was gilding the lily and detracted from the spectacle.

What we expected to see in England:

Countryside along chunnel train route from Paris to St. Pancras International Station

London City Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off Tour of Coventry Street, Piccadilly Circus, Baker Street by Madam Tussards, Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and wherever else the bus would take us

Thames river cruise

Windsor, Bath, and Stonehenge

Billy Elliot at Victoria Palace Theater with dinner beforehand

London Eye Millennium Wheel

HOWEVER, there was a slight glitch when I got a virus (possibly on the ship) that made its presence known when we arrived in London.

So what did we see in England?

Countryside from channel to St. Pancras train terminal

Streets along taxi ride from terminal to hotel

Ambulance ride from hotel to hospital.

Taxi ride from hospital to hotel

Taxi ride from hotel to Heathrow Airport

Three quick impressions:

  1. London has lots of wrought-iron fences.
  2. The menus at the airport restaurant gave us a chance to figure out what in the heck it meant when they offered something like “bangers and mash.” (Sausage and mashed potatoes)
  3. Had to ask the nurses several times what they said and agree with Churchill that we are two countries divided by a common language and a very big pond.

Unfortunately, according to the doctor, I will be laid low for several more weeks. Also, unfortunately, my husband developed pneumonia at the same time I got the virus, which has created a very slow-moving household.

Fortunately, he is getting better and now able to work. And I am managing to crawl out of bed for brief periods of time. Doing some reading just for fun while my body recoups its energy.

Actually, moving slowly from one day to the next is a nice change of pace. And it allows me to continue my experiment with time — in which I accept that whatever I do from day to day is, as I said in my newsletter of Sept. 12, “enough.”

Hope this post is enough to satisfy you until the end of November. By then I hope to have a brand new website and more energy.


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Have You Been to These “Superlative” Places?

August 3, 2011
How many of these places have you visited in the United States?

Stamp of largest natural bridgeOne of the challenges in writing a blog over a period of several years is that you tend to change styles and focus as you go along, meaning that revisiting your blog from time to time can be quite enlightening. You discover, for example, that you have misplaced a link to one of the older posts.

That is what has happened to a piece I wrote back in 2007. I had a post with questions about places in the United States that were “superlative,” according to a set of US stamps. However, when I changed the host of the blog and made changes to the website, I left out a page of answers to questions I asked four years ago.

So today I’m going to give you the answers  in case you have stumbled upon the May 7, 2007 post that asked you what you thought were the biggest, tallest, widest, windiest, etc. places in the United States and wanted to know the answers.

As you consider these places, remember, as my husband is always pointing out, that anything can be “superlative” if you add enough qualifications. For example, my house is the only house on the block that has a blue door with leaded windows on either side. I am the only one in my family who graduated from graduate school in 1984.

What qualifications can you give yourself to make you a “superlative” person?

Deepest Lake — Crater Lake Longest Cave — Mammoth Cave
Fastest Bird — Peregrin Falcon Longest Covered Bridge — Cornish-Windsor
Fastest Land Animal — Proghorn Longest Hiking Trail — Pacific Crest Trail
Highest Sea Cliffs — Molok’i Longest Mountain Chain — Rocky Mountains
Hottest Spot — Death Valley Longest Reef — Off the Florida Keys
Largest Canyon — Grand Canyon Longest River System — Mississippi-Missouri

Largest Cliff Dwelling — Cliff Palace in Colorado

Longest Span — Veranzo-Narrows Bridge

Largest Delta — Mississippi River Delta

Loudest Animal — Blue Whale

Largest Desert — Great Basin

Most Active Volcano — Kilauea

Largest Estuary — Chesapeake Bay

Rainiest Spot — Mount Wa’ale’ale

Largest Flower — American Lotus

Oldest Trees — Bristlecone Pine

Largest Freshwater Fish — White Sturgeon

Oldest Mountains — Appalacians

Largest Frog — American Bullfrog

Tallest Cactus — Saguaro

Largest Glacier — Bering Glacier

Tallest Dam — Oroville Dam

Largest Land Mammal — American Bison

Tallest Dunes — Great Sand Dunes

Largest Lake — Lake Superior

Tallest Geyser — Steamboat

Largest Natural Bridge — Rainbow Bridge

Tallest Man-made Monument — Gateway Arch in St. Louis

Largest Plant — Quaking Aspen

Tallest Trees — Coast Redwoods

Largest Reptile — American Alligator

Tallest Waterfall — Yosemite Falls

Largest Rodent — American Beaver

Windiest Place — Mount Washington


How a Hunter Changed My Mind

June 3, 2011
Opening your eyes to a new point of view requires willingness to listen and to see things from another person’s perspective.


Brief Note: Have you been checking out the Love Your Life Summit? It formally started yesterday and there is still time to view excellent interviews with some people who know a lot about becoming successful in adding love into your daily life.


On Saturday we returned from ten days in Montana to celebrate the wedding of our oldest grandson and now I want to share an experience from that trip in a different way than I usually do. I’m turning the illustration of the picture I took into a puzzle.

When you click on the arrow, it will take you to the Jigzone website, where you can solve it easily, since I have chosen the 20-piece classic cut. Or you can make it more difficult by going up to 247 piece triangles, in which case you are either super smart or have way too much time on your hands.

By the way, can you tell if this is a typical, semi-irregular, or irregular elk? Do you even know what those terms mean?  (The answer is at the end.)
Click to Mix and Solve

The picture was taken at the Elk Foundation exhibit in Missoula, Montana, last Saturday. We had a couple hours to kill before needing to return the rental car and catch our plane. So one of the places we decided to see was the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation exhibit.

It was a most interesting experience for me that began when we started to see a short film on elk. We had expected a typical nature movie about the life of elk, how long they live, their habits, etc. Instead, it extolled the value of hunting these majestic animals. Since I’m not a hunting enthusiast, I was put off by the movie and walked out to the lobby, where I got into a conversation with a hunter.

What he said completely changed my perspective. He spoke of the majesty of the animals and how hunting is needed to cull the herds and keep them healthy. With too many elk, their range becomes unsustainable. It is necessary to kill some of them in some way.

Also, as I thought about it, I’ve had venison, which is quite good tasting, and decided that perhaps this is a more authentic approach to eating meat. Buying a roast at the grocery store is a sanitized approach. We don’t see the slaughterhouse. We don’t see the steer being killed. With hunting for food, the hunter is intimately involved in putting meat on the table.

Of course, I am opposed to the useless slaughter of animals just for fun, which I realize is one reason many people are against hunting. But now I realize that keeping the environment healthy for animals is a reasonable approach to wildlife and habitat conservation.

What experience have you had in which a casual encounter with a stranger caused you to change your mind?

ANSWER: The more symmetrical an elks antlers are, the more regular he is.

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Getting Ready to Gather Memories

May 20, 2011
Looking forward to adding new experiences to my bank of pleasant memories.

A wedding cake with bride and groom made out of frostingTomorrow I am leaving for Montana, where my oldest grandson is getting married! Now if anything makes me feel old, that does.

But I have a plan for how to keep myself feeling as young and alive as possible.

The idea comes from an article that is no longer on the Support4Change website. In the article, I explained how I consciously take a “photograph” of experiences for my memory bank:

When recently flying to a conference on comprehensive cancer care, I had to sit next to the window, although I generally prefer an aisle seat. Taking advantage of the situation, however, I decided to see how well I could remember a scene below. Pressing my face to the window, I would pay particular attention to some aspect of the countryside, trying to “capture” that picture in as many details as possible, something like taking a Polaroid snapshot, and then close my eyes. When I’d open them a moment later, I would check to see how accurate my memory had been. (Of course, I couldn’t wait too long to open them or the scene would have changed.)

Since it takes about fifteen seconds for the brain to absorb an experience so that it can later be remembered — I was taking about that long to play my game, I can still see in my mind’s eye much of the countryside over which I traveled.

The idea for capturing a moment is to become consciously aware of as many of your senses as possible — seeing, smelling, touching, hearing, tasting, and noticing the sensations in your body — while you experience whatever you are doing.

So for the next ten days I will focus my attention on whatever I am doing, whether flying, driving in the mountains of Montana, or visiting with new people who will now be part of my life.

I’m very excited. And the more excited I feel, the less ancient I feel. In fact, thinking about the generations that preparing for the future brings peace to my heart. I know that something of me with go with them.

I’ll probably tell you about some of this adventure when I return. But in the meantime, I have other posts uploaded, so be sure to come back here in a couple days and see a new video that I made called How to Become Your Own Expert on Personal Growth.

By the way, in case you are wondering, the groom on the cake is Scotch and that is traditional wedding attire. I doubt my grandson will be wearing that outfit, but what he will wear is anybody’s guess. However, I found the picture at Wikimedia, which often has a royalty-free picture to illustrate a post, and just couldn’t resist using it.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
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Maintaining Sanity While Preparing for a Trip

March 14, 2011
If you often feel stressed when getting ready for a trip, try this eight-part plan to be calm and collected when you walk out the door.

Suitcase with words stress-free travel preparations on the sideAfter three days of non-stop news from Japan, whatever I might write on the topic is incredibly inconsequential when paired with images of huge waves throwing boats where cars should be and cars where boats should be. While I have some idea of what I want to eventually write on the topic, I need time for the events to settle into my soul and give me perspective.

Instead, for today’s post I’ll tell you what is going on in my life that might give you ideas for how to get ready for a trip if you tend to be a little overwhelmed when you leave, as I have often been.

You see, a week from tomorrow I leave for eight days in the Washington, DC, area and am determined that getting ready for it will be different this time.

Usually, as I am about to leave, I realize that something has been left undone that should have been done. I stay up late the night before to finish packing and run off the last of the handouts. Then I forget to bring some essential piece of information and need to call my husband to search for it.

Even though I enjoy my trips (business and otherwise), it’s the craziness of preparing for them that really gets to me.

I am determined that THIS time it will be different. Really. I swear to it.

So what is different this time? What makes me think that a week from today I will have the packing all done before nightfall and can get a good night’s rest before rising early to catch a plane?

What makes me think that I won’t discover at the last minute that I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning, or that what is clean may need mending?

What makes me think I will have all the handouts printed, a book formatted for my publisher, posts finished so visitors will find new comments three times a week, two videos completed, and another video begun?

I have a new plan.

New Plan Part One: Make a shorter to-do list.

I had a good talk with myself and decided the best way to have a calm and pressure-free flight was to simply not attempt to do the things that didn’t have to be done. In other words, I decided not to include on the list more than was absolutely essential.

This is a different approach than my usual attempt to complete six projects in the last week — when a person needing only five hours sleep at night couldn’t get more than three done.

Fortunately, as a recovering perfectionist, I am learning that I can refuse to put all the weight of the world on my shoulders and expect to have the problems solved by the end of the month.

New Plan Part Two: Use old articles, with a new introduction, for blog posts.

I have a list of more than 500 Support4Change articles lying on the desk to my left. When I finish this post, I will choose articles that you may have missed, unless you are a voracious reader of the website. I will give them a short introduction and a link to the article that I (and others)  may have written several years ago, because they are still good. That way I know you will have two posts a week and I don’t have to worry about you coming here and finding nothing new.

New Plan Part Three: Pack early.

I am going to be all packed (except for minor items like the phone charger) on Wednesday. Six days ahead of time! I already have some clothes on the guest bed and this alone is a major plan-shifter.

Usually I do the things that are needed for the business part of the trip first. Since I attempt to do more of those than absolutely necessary, I put off the packing and I’m dead tired when I fall in bed the night before the trip.

New Plan Part Four: Before I go, finish projects with target dates right after I return.

Ordinarily I might decide that I would finish formatting Healing Relationships is an Inside Job after I get back on March 29 because it isn’t due to the publisher until March 31. That would be a bad idea. Having it hang over my head while I am away would only add to the pressure and less sleep when I return. With less on the to-do list, I know I will have time to finish the formatting, which is 90% done, before I leave.

New Plan Part Five: Include time for appointments.

When I try to operate from ambitious tightly-scheduled plans, I tend to disregard time-eaters, like a doctor’s appointment and a hair cut, in the week before a trip. I will go to them, of course, but tend not to consider the time it takes to do them; a half-hour ride here and a half-hour ride home, plus a stop at the store somewhere along the line, and before I know it, the hours are whittled down.

This time I have those kinds of appointments written with dark ink and an explanation point.

New Plan Part Six: Don’t forget exercise and down time.

One of the easiest “jobs” to cut when I have too much on the schedule is exercise and relaxation. With less on the to-do list, I can continue these activities that are essential for balance and that actually help me get more done.

New Plan Part Seven: Watch out for attention grabbers that turn into time grabbers.

An example of this problem happened this morning before I began writing this post. Wanting to get through the email, I read one from a man who wanted to tell me about How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. It was so effusive that I wondered if he was a friend who hoped I would mention it.

When I checked it on Amazon, I was impressed with the author and wanted to read more by this young former Rhodes Scholar who writes for Wired Magazine. Before I knew it, I had not only read a couple of his posts, but also comments from readers who were obviously also intelligent.

Then I told myself to Stop! I reasoned, that unless the Internet was overtaken by a monstrous bug, his writings will be there for me when I return.

Unfortunately, the danger of the Internet and all this fast-moving technology is that we can get caught in a whirlpool of reading more and more (the image comes to mind of the boats caught in tsunami whirlpools) unable to stop and go where we need to go.

New Plan Part Eight: Expect the unexpected.

I am getting smarter about creating holes in my schedule. In the past, I would put too many unnecessary activities at the beginning of the week or so before a trip. Then when something happened — which it always did! — I would be left with important projects breathing down my neck. This time I have the more important things, like writing the blog and formatting the book, scheduled well before the last days. For example, I don’t plan to work on the videos, which are important but not essential to be done before I leave, before this weekend. So if something comes up, I will have the more important jobs finished.

What is your plan? How do you get ready for a trip with ease and comfort? How do you remember all the things you have to bring? What do you do to leave in serenity and return renewed?

Illustration credit: Wikimedia Commons, words added to graphic
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