Are family vacations during summer break still a thing or have we all become too used to spending time apart with our noses stuck in an electronic device?

Those of us of a certain age and generation more likely than not have fond memories of the summer family vacation. Whether mimicking the movie Family Vacation or not, those vacations of my youth were full of memories I will cherish forever. But here’s the thing. In a family with 4-5 kids depending on what year it was, and a father who owned his own small business where he worked six days a week year round, family vacations were few and far between in my family and thus, all the more cherished.

There was only one true family vacation where the entire clan loaded into our trusty station wagon (paneling on the side of course) and headed to the Black Hills of South Dakota. It seemed like a major trip since it was in another state, but these days it would be a weekend jaunt. Nevertheless, my Mom must have been crazy to agree to it as the full responsibility of planning how to fit into the car all those kids, their suitcases, and all the food we were taking with to save money on the trip, fell on her shoulders.

Dad’s sole responsibility was paying for everything (something I am sure took them months and months to save up for) and navigating to all the tourist attractions while trying not to lose his mind with the constant chatter of all those small kids. For a man used to the solitude of his truck all day, it must have been agonizing!

Back in those days, when we were all slightly smaller than we are now, three kids easily fit on the bench backseat, but it was the one who got to sit up front between Mom and Dad, that was really lucky. There was no brother or sister poking and punching and encroaching on your space and you had Mom and Dad virtually to yourself. That spot included a special perch too in the form of a hard blue makeup case with cream colored trim that allowed us little kids to sit up high enough to see over the long expanse of hood of one of the 1960’s super long cars onto the road ahead. As a child prone to car sickness, that perch was often claimed by me, sometimes with only the threat of throwing up, and it was pure magic if only to get away from the activity in the back seat.

There are so many different memories from that trip starting with our stop at Wall Drug where we kids had the first chance to spend the few coins we had saved pre-trip on all sorts of worthless junk simply because it said “Wall Drug” on it. I remember wandering through the packed store desperate to buy something, but loathe to spend all my money. In the end I purchased a beaded, deerskin (or so I thought) pouch that became my purse for the rest of the trip. That’s also were we discovered an Indian teepee (full size if I remember correctly) where you could put on an Indian ceremonial headdress and have your photo taken. My sister and I did so and it was one of my very favorite photos from my childhood until learning just how offensive it was for us to stand in front of the teepee wearing an Indian relic with our hands up in front of us just like we saw all the actors on TV do.

Then came the badlands, Mount Rushmore where even back then the Crazy Horse sculpture was underway, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, and someplace along the trip came the one place that scarred me for the rest of my life….Reptile Gardens!  Sure the guy putting his hand in an alligators mouth was cool and him lulling the alligator to sleep was even cooler, but then came the snakes and I was done. 

It started with a demonstration of a man in a pit with live rattlesnakes; lots and lots of rattlesnakes. He was a snake wrangler and my Dad assured us he would be fine; after all, he did the exhibition every day. Next thing we knew, he was laying on a stretcher as they whisked him off somewhere to try and save his life after being bitten by several of the snakes!

But the snake fun didn’t end there. Reptile Gardens had an enclosed room full of life size trees and plants which, as visitors walked through, gave a feeling of being in a jungle. The sign (I was 8 and fully capable of reading), said that the room contained non-poisonous snakes. After watching the rattlesnake wrangler, I didn’t care if they were non-poisonous or not. I wasn’t going in. Dad, statesman that he was, offered to let to me ride on his shoulders where no snakes could get up his 6’4” body. I trusted my Dad to keep me safe up there, so I climbed on and we headed in. It was fine – at first. Then, as Dad was turning this way and that to see things, my face became a plaything for a snake that was hanging from the tree we were under. At first, having long hair, I brushed what I thought was just a stray hair away from my face. My scream when I realized I had a live snake in my hand probably woke the dead! My parents, bless their hearts, had no clue what was going on and so, with Dad turning back and forth, the agony continued. It’s a wonder I ever left the house again after that encounter!

Luckily the rest of the trip was fun.  Picnics at highway rest stops and kids too tired at the end of long days to do much more than say our prayers and slide between the motel sheets were all part of the memories we made during that very long hot summer trip. 

That was the only full family trip due to my dad’s business, but it wasn’t the only vacation we had each summer. We were fortunate enough to spend a week at church camp up north each summer which was, in fact, a vacation as much for my parents as us kids. My parents also took advantage of the many lakes in Minnesota to find a week to go fishing – sometimes on their own and sometimes with one or two kids in tow.

During these trips, we stayed in an ultra rustic (meaning no running water or toilet facilities) cabin on a small little lake up north that the family had been going to for years. Kids who didn’t go to the lake, spent the week with grandparents (that’s a whole other story), but one of my most memorable times at the lake was the time it was just my Dad, Mom, older brother and I.

My Dad, used to getting up at 3:00 a.m. to go to work, never liked to waste daylight when we were going somewhere. We were out of the house by 5 a.m. which is much too early for little kids and while my brother slept on the back seat, I curled up under a yellow blanket in the far back of the station wagon between all the provisions we would need for a week at the lake. That yellow blanket was an important detail because long before we stopped for our first travel break, that blanket became covered with chocolate frosting from the freshly baked chocolate cake my Mom had packed, unfortunately, her packing skills proved to be sorely lacking and at some point as I slept the cake flipped on to me. Luckily the blanket got the majority of the frosting, but I spent a few hours covered in it also!

One of my Mom and I’s favorite shared memories happened when we stopped in one of the towns along the way for a picnic lunch. My parents were big on picnic lunches as a way to save money when traveling, but this one came with a surprise in the form of a water fountain. While Mom and I headed to the park restroom and the boys headed over to a drinking fountain in the middle of the park, we somehow realized that we were standing by the controls for the drinking fountain.

Each time my Dad or brother leaned down to take a drink, we turned the water on full force and they were bathed in the spray. It happened over and over again and each time one of them got a face full, they were sure the other was doing something to cause it. My Dad was getting mad while Mom and I held our hands over our faces so they wouldn’t hear us laughing about it. It was hysterical!

The cabin, tucked back in the woods at lakeside, was nothing special, but for two kids who loved being at the lake, it was everything. There was no air conditioning yet always a good breeze to keep the bugs away, and plenty of woods around the shore in which to play when we weren’t on the lake.

One day we needed to go into town for something and we decided to walk even though it was a couple miles or more. Mom and Dad talked and held hands (something I rarely saw them do) while my brother and I would race ahead and then race back. Oh, to have that sort of energy today!

My attention soon went to a field where horses were grazing.  Like many little girls I grew up loving horses and wanting one of my own someday….something that trust me, was never going to happen.  I stood at the fence line waiting for the rest of the group to catch up, watching those horses and wishing that I could take them home with me.  Then, as my dad encouraged us to move along, I let loose with the best horse whinny I could manage.

Imagine our surprise, when the first horse head went up and then the next and the next and suddenly the entire herd was racing over to the fence line at a full gallop, stopping just moments before they would have crashed into the fence.  It was the single best moment of my childhood!  I was the horse whisperer in real life even before I knew what that was!  I told everyone about that moment and while I never could replicate it, I beamed with pride when any of us at that fence line told the story in the years that followed.

While we didn’t have many family vacations growing up, those we did share created such vivid memories and stories that they are still shared among us today.  It makes me sad that families that hop on a plane will never have an opportunity to make those same memories that come from being crammed into a small car with nothing to occupy your time except conversations, laughter and everything else that comes from being with family.

In the end, it was the little things, the mishaps and insignificant shared experiences that became my lasting memories of road trips with the family. Will generations of kids grow up with the same opportunity to make those types of memories, or are they just another example of bygone eras?

If you have an opportunity to do so, I encourage you to load up the family in the car and head off for a roadtrip vacation. Whether just for a weekend or longer, the memories you make, especially when things don’t always go as planned, may just be the memories of a lifetime for your children.

As you head off on a memory making adventure, I wish you safe travels and much laughter and love my friends!



We’ve reached that time of the year when colleges and high schools across the country are celebrating commencement with lengthy ceremonies featuring student speakers, choirs, dignitaries and more. As these graduates gather together with family and friends, more likely than not a special speaker will be invited to address the students before they go out into the world as adults. This week I learned that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise appearance as the commencement speaker at John Hopkins University.

I can’t imagine what the crowd must have thought when it was announced that he was the surprise speaker. In the middle of an unjust war, his country fighting for its very life and identity, someone at Johns Hopkins had enough forethought to reach out to the man who has earned the respect and admiration of millions of people across the globe for his steady and determined leadership during these troubling times. What a wonderful idea!

That he was able to actually speak to the graduating class when threats on his life are a daily concern speaks volumes for how determined President Zelensky is to get his message out to all corners of the world. If I had been sitting in that audience, I would have leapt to my feet and given him a standing ovation while tears rolled down my face!

That left me thinking back to my high school graduation. I remember that it was an unexpectedly mild summer night in Minnesota with enough wind to keep the mosquitoes away and turn the tassel of my mortarboard into a nuisance as it whipped around my face. Clouds were building in the sky above us as our families gathered in the bleachers of the football field and my classmates and I readied for the trek up the long staircase from the halls of the high school to the nearby football field.

Mr. Harvey, one of my favorite teachers and the teacher our class had personally selected to give the faculty address, stood at the front of the line, giving every graduate a hearty handshake before we moved on to find our seats. He couldn’t help but also comment to me that “Miss Barbara” still had not collected her 9th grade mythology thesis from him, but he assured me would hold it for me until I did.

I remember what I wore, who was there from my family, the blue and white roses given to each graduate and even the songs the choir sang during the ceremony, but I don’t remember the name of the commencement speaker. He was a local politician of some sort I think, but what I do remember vividly is the small gift he gave to each of us; a round metal pin about the size of a quarter, white in color with the capital letters TUIT printed in the middle. It seemed an odd gift until the man began to speak.

As we left one chapter of our lives behind us and headed into the world of what seemed at the time to be adulthood, the speaker encouraged us to always go for what we wanted. To never give in to the concept of doing things “when we got around to it” so as to never have regrets in life.

That small round pin with TUIT emblazoned on it was his reminder to us that we must always find a way to get “A-ROUND-TUIT”. It’s been decades since that night and while it’s pretty likely that pin disappeared long ago, the message it represented has never left my mind. Would that be the same for my other 200+ classmates? I’m not sure, but as with so many things in life, if you can positively change just one person’s life, then you have made an impact. The nameless, faceless man who spoke that night so many years ago, had a lasting impact on my life all thanks to a small little pin and the message he felt passionately enough about to share with a group of kids.

Decades from now how many of the Johns Hopkins class of 2023 will remember President Zelensky addressing them and his message of grit and determination, perseverance and love of country? I’m willing to bet it will be more than just one. What those students learned during that commencement ceremony may have been more valuable than anything else they learned during their time at school – a belief that together, we can conquer evil and prevail.

If you are a new newly minted graduate, I wish you nothing but the best and a lifetime of success, happiness, personal accomplishment, and an opportunity to get around to it for everything you desire. And if you are well past graduation, please use this gentle reminder that now is the time for you get around to it!

Be well my friends,



This past weekend was Easter in the Christian faith and 2023 is one of those rare occasions when a special time in different religions corresponds with Easter.  If I remember correctly, Ramadan and Passover are also being celebrated.

No matter what observance you and your family recognized, you most likely had several traditions, both secular and non, that your family honored. Tradition, much like the famous song from Fiddler on the Roof, is based on generations of history and while traditions may evolve over the years, the basic tenet of that tradition tends to pass from one generation to the next.

In my family, church services on Easter Sunday are the core tradition to Easter. Dressed in our new spring bits and bobs, families parade to church where sanctuaries are adorned with Easter lily’s and the colors of spring and rebirth. Children fidget in their pews waiting for the service to be over so they can race home and partake in a family easter egg hunt while nervous parents, concerned with the dozens of family members soon to descend on their home, wonder if the ham will be done in time and the choir prepares for a majestic rendering of the Hallelujah Chorus.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Churches aren’t built for Easter Sunday?” It’s an old adage that implies churches are only truly full to the brim on Easter and over the years it has certainly proven to be true in my church. But what is it that brings people to church that morning? Is it the promise of life ever lasting exhibited by the man on the cross? Is it being able to flaunt our finest church clothes after a winter bundled up in fleece? Or is it simply tradition? We grew up going to church on Easter and while we hope to make it every other Sunday as well, Easter is special not only in the secular world, but in the world of many families.

As a child, the biggest concern we had at Easter was whether Grandma had yet figured out that no one liked the big candy eggs coated in what seemed like an inch of hard sugar.  For the record, she never did, but receiving that bag of candy from Grandma was just another tradition that we grew up with. 

In our family another tradition occurred the Saturday night before Easter. It was a time to gather round the kitchen table with little cups of vinegar infused water to dye hard boiled eggs pastel blues, yellows and pinks so that the Easter bunny had something to hide for the next morning. It was a messy tradition that has in many families been replaced with hard plastic eggs stuffed with candy to be scattered around the yard. Neither one is a better tradition, but I can’t help but have a fondness for those times spent as a family coloring eggs.

Traditions during COVID changed out of necessity and while families couldn’t gather together in person, virtual celebrations emerged to still provide that sense of shared belonging. Our computer screens were a Brady Bunch hodgepodge of faces all brought together for that moment in time as one big extended family. We adapted so we could continue our traditions.

That is what makes a tradition more than just fun. Tradition is what binds us together as families. It is developing memories that span generations to make a day or a special event more special. It’s what sets my family apart from yours and my religion apart from another, even while it binds us all together. Tradition develops over generations and ties my generation to my ancestors; shared events and times that span centuries making us and our beliefs unique and yet making us part of a worldwide celebration.

How have the traditions evolved in your family? Are you like me and can’t wait to see what the next generation has in store for us? Only time will tell and that in itself is part of what makes each tradition so uniquely ours.

Until next time, be well my friends…


A Loss

Everyone experiences the loss of someone they love. It’s inevitable. Funny thing though, it sometimes seems easier than it should to move past it and go on with your life. Maybe that’s the way our minds allow us to cope with our grief for if not, every loss would compound until the sorrow became overwhelming.

My extended family suffered a loss recently and what made this even more tragic was that no one really had the chance to say goodbye. When my dad died we had forewarning. We had time to say what we wanted and to tell him we loved him. This week’s death didn’t offer that opportunity. The one family member who made it to the hospital wasn’t allowed to see the loved one before she was gone. Other’s who rushed to the hospital arrived too late. I was lucky with my dad because I could say goodbye.

This morning I woke up and thought about what those family members must be thinking and feeling. Many of us, me included, go about our daily lives not thinking that in the next moment someone we love could be gone with no warning. This family woke up the next morning thinking of how lonely life would be without their loved one and how their lives will change now that she is gone. Those sobering thoughts have to be pushed aside because they now have a list as along as my arm of things that must be done…funeral home, church, calling people, ordering flowers, notices to the local paper, travel arrangements, ordering food, legal documents, and more. These are all things they will try to complete in between moments of grief and tears.

Here’s something to remember though. Those things are important, but nothing is an important as taking the time to grieve and remember the soul that is gone. Those left behind have suffered life’s greatest loss and there is no going back. The “if only” thoughts come too late and not only are they grieving, but they may also feel guilt for those “if only’s”. It’s a merry go round of emotions and regrets interspersed with true grief and in order to get past it, we have to allow ourselves to go through it, no matter how difficult that may be.

It’s hard to be in the grieving process as life moves unabated around you. When my dad passed, I remember how often I would look at people around me who were laughing and smiling and going about their daily lives without a care in the world. I also remember how much I wanted to scream at them for being happy. My life had forever changed while theirs went on. They did nothing wrong and yet I resented the heck out of them for it.

This loss reminded me that what happened to that family yesterday could easily have been me.  As I said at the beginning of this blog, it’s inevitable.  My mom, my brothers, my sister.  Any of us could go at any time and yet I know that when the funeral is over and life is back to some semblance of normal, I will once again forget to say “I love you” and pull those I love in for a hug. 

But get through it all we must. Whatever higher power you believe in makes us strong because life is tough and full of sadness. We are made strong because even when someone we love leaves us, there are so many more still here with us that need us. But we should never forget that the pain we feel when we love someone is there because we have also been created with the ability to love and that is what gets us through each loss.

Losing someone we love is never easy. If you know someone going through the process, remember that the sorrow lasts much longer than the end of the funeral. Be there for them without them asking, and….most importantly…remember to tell the people closest to you that they are loved.

Be well my friends.


Great Mysteries Of Life

There are great mysteries in life, as we all know, but none more devastating than losing someone we love who simply vanishes seemingly into thin air. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly common occurrence that has gone on for centuries. Only now, in this day and age, when news travels faster than you can say the words, we are more keenly aware of just how often it happens.

I am of course speaking of the hundreds of people who go missing each year leaving family and friends alike grieving, hoping, and praying that their loved one will come home again. It may have been the high-profile case of Jacob Wetterling that spurred my realization that people can just vanish and even highly skilled law enforcement personnel can’t find them. Jacob, the 11-year-old boy kidnapped from a small Minnesota town while on a summer night’s bike ride with his brother and a friend, wasn’t found for 27 years. Rather than the miracle people around the globe had prayed for, the end result was devastating.

Another high-profile disappearance in the upper Midwest was that of Jodi Huisentruit, a television news anchor for a local station in Mason City, Iowa. She disappeared in the early morning hours of June 27, 1995, without a trace.

It has been years since I have seen photos of Jacob and Jodi, and yet the images from their missing persons posters are seared into my brain. We followed along on the desperate search for these missing people until they faded from our memories, only to resurface on the anniversary of their disappearance each year. That is how it happens when the missing person is a stranger, but for the families, it’s another story.

As I write this, just twelve miles away is an adult daughter who prays that someone has information that will lead her family to their mother, who disappeared in 2018. Wendy Lynn Khan simply vanished and try as hard as everyone did to find her, there is still no clue to her whereabouts or well-being. Posts on social media about Khan’s disappearance still pop up every few months and I faithfully share those posts hoping to bring closure to this heartbroken family until I, too, move on to other things in life.

Certainly, the highest profile mystery happened on March 8, 2014, when Malaysia Airlines MH370 disappeared from radar somewhere over the dark waters of the South China Sea. 227 passengers and 12 crew members never came home. Weeks and months of searching went for naught as no signs of a crash or even debris were discovered. Multiple countries provided search help, and the world waited with bated breath for some news of the souls that appeared lost, but even now, almost a decade later, loved ones are left with no answers for what caused that plane to go missing. Full disclosure? Pieces of debris washed up on shores in Malaysia, so they now know the plane did crash, but no one knows why.

How do you cope with the realization that someone you offered a quick “I love you” to before they left for the airport will never return? How do you cope with knowing that the husband that should be walking through the door at the end of the day never opens the door? How do you say goodbye to someone and move on with your life when you can’t let go of the hope that the person you loved so much may still be alive and well, even if that life is no longer being lived with you?

Can you imagine how all-consuming such a loss would be for those left behind? As the wait stretches out to days, weeks, months and even years, their families, torn between wanting their loved ones to come home and simply wanting the nightmare to be over, must be filled with unimaginable guilt. The Wetterling family, who I had the great pleasure to meet after Jacob’s disappearance, wouldn’t move after Jacob disappeared. They wouldn’t move because there was still the chance that Jacob would find his way home and they needed to be there when he did. They left porch lights on as a beacon of hope and strength in the power of love to make their family whole again. I don’t know for sure, but now that Jacob’s remains have been found, I imagine that porch light has gone dark.

For those whose loved ones vanished without a trace, there are no answers. Only hope, prayers, and tears. For those of us who watch from afar, there may be the same hope and prayers before we move on with our lives and forget that people still grieve and people still go missing. When it happens, it’s a not so gentle reminder to hold tight to our loved ones and never miss a chance to tell them how much you love them.

To those who still search for missing loved ones, my heart is with you.

Be well my friends….


Code Switching

Recently I heard an unfamiliar phrase that caused me to do some research. It was “code-switching”. Maybe you have heard of it before, but in this day and age when people refer to homeless as “unhoused” and when teachers are now called “educators”, I wasn’t sure if it was something I already knew about or a catch phrase developed by someone trying to be politically correct.

Anyway, I researched it and discovered that code-switching is changing your speech, behavior and expression to optimize the way others see you, most especially while at work. The article I was reading was from the perspective of a younger person of color who worked diligently to change her manner of speaking (aka accent) and other things that make her most decidedly her, in order to obtain acceptance at her place of employment.

Coming from a female perspective, I can kind of see that happening since I know many females who work in male-dominated fields who have felt the need to modify their behavior to fit in with a bunch of men, but the lengths this young woman felt she had to go to in order to be accepted at her job astounded me. I failed to notice what the woman’s profession was, other than that she worked in a professional office, but it doesn’t matter what job she had. It’s horrible that she felt the need to change who she was to be accepted.

The more I thought about it though, I realized that while it isn’t a conscious thing; I do the same. At work my manner of speaking is more professional and I am more serious. Is that done to ensure I am more respected or accepted by doing so? I don’t think so, but honestly? I’m not sure. Growing up, I assumed that being more professional and serious at work was just the norm, but is it?

When you are with your family, the people who know you best and, hopefully, love you, you can show all your faults and foibles, so you do. When you are with your friends, you can show some of those faults, but even with friends, many of us have some behavior or deep-seated belief that others would find off-putting and we don’t show it to non-family because we want to be accepted. Family is stuck with you, while those at work or elsewhere in the outside world can walk away and that’s why we hide what some would perceive as the worst part of ourselves.

Then I realized that I have actually told people this…. people are different with their families than they are with friends or co-workers. In fact, I can’t tell you how many times I have said some version of that and I believe it.

Does this only happen to me? I doubt it and here’s the reason. In the last four-five years, a lot of what I call whack-a-doodle behavior is being exhibited by people all across this country. These are people who previously were seen by their co-workers as being stable, intelligent and well mannered. I am not pointing to anything in particular, but I think most people will pinpoint on their own what caused the family only side of these folks to be unleashed. People from every walk of life have started spouting damaging rhetoric that a mere few years ago would never have been uttered in public.

I don’t for a minute believe people become hateful overnight. Many, if not most of those who were suddenly unleashed on an unprepared public, may have harbored those hurtful behaviors and opinions for a very long time. Political violence, mass shootings, and even violence in the name of one’s religion tend to lead to copycats. One person doing a bad thing becomes a swarm of lemmings, all jumping off the cliff to unleash anarchy and mayhem.

While I wish everyone could be themselves at all times, I am not sure I am ready for a free for all of boorish or downright illegal behavior that, like those lemmings jumping off the cliff, would be near impossible to stop. So how do we put a stop to the downward spiral our society finds itself in? If only I knew.

But what I do know, is that it’s time for each of us, myself included, to work harder on learning to accept the differences between us. Whether it is an accent, the color of our skin, the religion we live by, or liking cats more than dogs, we have to learn to live in peace and harmony knowing that while we may be different, deep down we all want to be accepted for who we truly are.

The world will be a better place if we all just try, don’t you think?

Be well my friends…


A Balloon

It started with a simple balloon.  Well, not so simple really as the balloon in question was the size of two full-size school buses and, depending on which side you believe, either a simple weather balloon or a spy tool being used to gather intel on the United States’ defense systems and communications.

In a perfect world, one totally the antithesis of the world we live in today, I would love to believe the weather balloon gone awry story, but of course I don’t.  We no longer have the luxury of living in a fairy tale world where our neighbors are Mr. Rogers and the concept of evil can be disavowed.

This world of innocence where we believed nothing nefarious happens in our government, where the world of spying and CIA agents live mostly in fiction novels, went away during the Vietnam War. The time, which was partly due to my age and mostly due to the expansion of news coverage into a world America had never been forced to face before, opened my eyes to the underworld of espionage and the technology that countries and even individuals use to conduct clandestine spying and treachery.

During World War II, news reels airing prior to an in-theater movie depicted the horror of war while being designed to show the heroics and patriotism of America and our fighting men. Same thing during Korea, although by then the news reels were shown on televisions as TV’s were becoming more common in private homes.

It was during the Vietnam War that Americans saw, many for the first time in their lives, the horrible cost of war. As technology advanced and more secrets were leaked, we also learned more about the business of spying and the technology our government and governments around the globe used to conduct their clandestine operations. It was a world of intrigue and drama that most of us couldn’t comprehend. From listening devices to jamming tools, James Bond’s arsenal of technology was impressive and beyond our understanding.

It wasn’t until the internet and personal computers that we as individuals also learned of how technology is used to hack into and steal a part of our daily lives.  Click on the wrong link or like the wrong post and suddenly someone half-way around the world has control of the computer on your desk.  The world of spying is like that, but on a massively large, and globally threatening scale.

I’m aware of all that, yet when news broke of the Chinese balloon floating calmly in the skies above the northern part of the United States, I was shocked; not by the fact that they were brazen enough to do it, but by the massive amount of data our government said they may be gathering.  Not only did they fly across sensitive nuclear weapons areas, but apparently it was suspected they were also gathering communications from our government and maybe even our businesses and industry. 

Putting aside my belief that there is no reason for the Chinese to gather intel on the USA, my rather simple brain struggles to comprehend how someone could learn to do that.  Who is smart enough, and evil enough, to come up with designs for such technology?  Everyone who sees the USA as a threat of course.

In hindsight, that the Chinese were spying on us and countries to our south should never have been a surprise, but it is a lesson that people – both foreign and domestic – plot against the United States and threaten our peace and security. We need the best and brightest minds to keep us safe and we need the support of our government through the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to let the people who are experts in their field do their jobs. We need our government officials to stop their infighting and concentrate on fighting threats from both foreign and domestic – the very oath they take.

Few of us grew up in the time when nuclear bomb drills were part of the school day. Fewer still grew up when the draft was mandatory and preparing to go to war, or worse yet, living during a war, was part of everyday life. We live in an imagined bubble of safety; untouchable by foreign threats until, like Pearl Harbor and 9-11, we are. We count on our government to protect us behind the scenes and let us live our lives unaware and untouched by the danger or cost of doing so.

The world is a dangerous place and yet something as seemingly innocent as a large balloon, shows we can never let our guard down. The balloon has been shot down, finally, and now we work to figure out what the Chinese were after while the charade that is the game of diplomacy carries on.

Will you sleep better after this week or will this just be a passing blip on your radar? Or will the balloon, like it is for me, be a reminder that the world is a dangerous place?

Be well my friends as we pray for peace.


A Book Series Idea

Last night I saw 1980s band Air Supply in concert. Lead singers Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell are older, grayer, and moving a slower, but for singing chops, man they still have it. The audience, made up of mostly people even older than me, took a while to get to their feet, but the sound we made as all of us sang along on every single song was deafening!

My reason for sharing this with you is not to extol the virtues of 80s bands that still can put on a show, but to share with you a book idea that came to me as I was listening to Air Supply belt out one hit after another. Air Supply is a soft rock band that found outstanding success with ballads…stories of love and loneliness that are perfect fodder for a romance writer. Me, a writer of love stories that are not your typical boy meets girl, they fall in love and are married, listened carefully to the words of each song. And I had a thought.

Wouldn’t it be something to write a series of novels based on Air Supply ballads? Lost In Love, The One That You Love, Making Love Out Of Nothing At All, Goodbye, All Out of Love, and, of course, Two Less Lonely People In The World. It’s a virtual bonanza of angst and heart break and heart-warming affirmation. Only problem is, every title, lyric and melody is copyrighted. Would Air Supply, give me permission to use a few lines of their work? Therein lies the conundrum

I’m not a best-selling author, yet, but if I were, I suspect I could work a deal with the owners to offer a cut of the profits in exchange for letting me use the ideas. But would anyone buy the series if I was successful in writing the books and marketing them to a publisher?

Series are a wonderful way to get readers coming back book after book. The first series I ever read was the “All Creatures Great and Small” series by James Herriot. As a child with an affinity for animals, this wonderful series about a small town vet in 1930’s England and the trials he went through dealing not only with the animals, but the mostly rural animal owners, was captivating.

The most recent series I have loved for many years are the “Mitch Rapp” books. The story of a CIA operative is timely, thought provoking, incredibly well written. St.Paul author Vince Flynn who unfortunately passed away much too early in life, would reference a local newspaper reporter named Mr. Schoucheray. Joe Schoucheray was/is a reporter for the Star Tribune newspaper and he’s always a big deal. I bought my first Flynn book intent on finding Joes name in the book. It was Mr. Schoucheray walking his dog. It was cool but was soon eclipsed by the excitement of reading such a wonderful novel.

Sure, the subject material, CIA and terrorism, is not something everyone prefers, but the amount of research and knowledge that goes into the Mitch Rapp books is astounding. At one time Vince was the best-selling author in the country and I have no doubt he would have been even bigger if he had lived. An author named Kyle Mills has taken over the series now and even though those books are wonderful and I buy each one of them, he’s not Vince Flynn. In the case of Mitch Rapp, for me at least, the legend truly was the man.

Anyway, I digress. A well-written and well-received series can become a built-in audience for a writer. Hook a reader with one book and odds are pretty good that the reader will buy your next book. In fact, some publishers, mine included, ask that question of every new author. So, I have been considering a series. Don’t be surprised if somewhere down the road, you find me making love out of nothing at all!

Be well my friends….


Another Lottery Jackpot – Another Life Changed?

As much as my friends, family and I prayed, we did not purchase our recent Mega Millions tickets in Maine.  By now everyone probably knows that the winning ticket of over $1.3 billion was purchased at a small little store in a probably small little town in Maine. 

If you are like me, you experienced a moment of disappointment when discovering the winner was someone else, but could it be that I am the only one who was secretly happy that it wasn’t me?  While the dream of winning a lottery jackpot big enough to change our lives is shared by millions, for some of us, that dream could easily become a nightmare.  Why?  Well, I’m glad you asked.

Even though Minnesota recently changed the law so that lottery winners may remain anonymous, winning life changing amounts of cash would be difficult to keep a secret.  What’s the first thing most people do after getting their winnings?  Quit their job, buy a new vehicle, shower cash on people they love?  Yup, yup and yup from me.  I’m close enough to retirement that quitting my job might not be a red flag…maybe just a pink one.  My car is beginning to rust out which throughout my life has been the trigger for buying a new one so another pink flag.  Showering cash….whatever way I look at it, that would be a red flag. Not because I’m not generous, but more so because a “shower” as opposed to a “trickle” would more likely cause family members to think I am dying and giving away everything I own!

But the biggest reason why it would never be kept secret has to do with human nature.  That’s big news.  Massive in fact and someone in my family, whether it be immediate or extended, would be sure to blab and suddenly the nice life changing experience would turn into a nightmare.

Money changes people and not always in a good way.  Scammers would be locked on a lottery winner like white on rice.  People would knock on the door or blow up the winner’s phone with requests for money.  Even the most generous of winners would struggle to sort out the people who really need and deserve help with grifters who just want a handout.  Friends may suddenly consider themselves deserving of a share of the money and when not given, those friends may turn into jealous spiteful people.  Relatives you never heard of may come out of the woodwork and suddenly even a simple trip to the grocery store would make the winner fair game for someone with a hand out.  But, here’s a statistic that is frightening…many lottery winners end up bankrupt within a few years.

My Dad, wise man that he was, always prayed equally hard for us to NOT win on our tickets for he knew that as careful as we might be, winning the lottery was dangerous especially for people who had no experience managing large amounts of money. Some of you may remember a man named Jack Whittaker. Back in 2002 he won about $315 million in the Powerball lottery; certainly cause for excitement and happiness, but he ended up being robbed several times and his family experienced multiple tragedies many of which seemed related directly to his sudden wealth.

Winning the lottery, especially the astronomically high jackpots we have seen recently, is not for the faint of heart.  I hope that the billion dollar winners in 2022 and 2023 were won by large groups of people and not just a single person.  I hope that all of those winners take their time to collect their winnings and get their house, and personal safety, in order.  And I hope that they will be kind and generous with their fortune.

Money changes everything and when you go from having little to having more than you will ever need, life changes in ways you may never expect or wish for.

The dream of winning will always be there, but when the money is astronomical, I hope to be sharing that winning ticket.

Be well my friends…


Every Day Is A Good Day

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me and I’m feeling good.

I woke up this morning thinking of the line and as it is the first day of a new year, a day many of us choose feeble attempts to fix what’s wrong in our lives, I suppose it is to be expected. After all, I’m one of those who have made, and broken, more resolutions than I can count only to resort to old habits by the end of the month.

Considering the daily bombardment that tells us what we should or shouldn’t be and how we should or shouldn’t act, wanting to be better is embedded in us, for by improving ourselves, the chance of being accepted by those we perceive as somehow being better than us will increase, right?

If there is any lesson to be learned in our yearly self-improvement resolutions, might it be that resolutions should be made for ourselves? My past has shown repeatedly that resolutions made to improve conditions or behaviors that others may find objectionable are the ones that fail first and lead to further self-condemnation.

Consider someone who loses weight. Socially unacceptable to be overweight, losing enough weight for others to notice becomes fair game to comment on the weight loss. The now slimmer person feels great about themselves until their resolve slips and the pounds creep back. Suddenly everyone who had provided such comments is watching what the person is eating and, behind their backs to be polite, commenting about how fat they are getting again. The Yo-Yo dieter is themselves consumed with disappointment, anger and self-loathing at their lack of willpower to maintain the weight loss.

Or consider a smoker who takes their last puff at 11:59 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. It might be a few days before those in the smoker’s world notice the lack of tobacco, but when it happens and they comment on it–they all do you know–their comments lead the ex-smoker to non-stop thoughts about how much they want a cigarette which increases the odds they will smoke again. Like the dieter, the minute they pick up a cigarette, people will watch and comment. Once again, the smoker is left with self-hatred and disappointment for succumbing to their addiction once more.

Alcohol abuse, drug addiction… it’s all the same. Changes made because of others are doomed to fail, leading to a spiral of disappointment.

Self-improvement doesn’t happen just because it’s January 1st. There is nothing magical about that date. Whether your resolution is to stop swearing or to lose fifty pounds, a lifetime of bad habits and behaviors may take the rest of your lifetime to control.

What is magical about January 1st is that we believe a new year is a new chance to be better. It’s a reminder that we have the power to change what makes us feel not so good. We, not family, friends or society, can choose to be happy and we have the power to do what it takes to make that happen.

Why should my thoughts matter? Because I have lived it every January 1st for most of my adult life with resolutions made at the new year only to fail soon after. Yes, there has been success on occasion, but looking back, I realize those successes happened because whatever unacceptable behavior I sought to change, I changed for myself. Which leads me to this year’s resolution and my resolve to feel good about myself even though I am far from perfect.

January 1, 2023. It’s a good time to feel good about yourself. January 2, 2023. It’s a good time to feel good about yourself. January 3, 2023. It’s a good time to feel good about yourself. Every day is a good time to feel good about yourself and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

May 2023 be filled with happiness, love, and contentment for you and your family, my friends!