15 Random Things I Learned in Italy

Just a few choice memories from my recent trip to Rome and Florence, Italy, with a couple of my travel photos. There are also a few tips for travelers included.

  1. I will no longer skip over the Italian wine section at home. I have a much better appreciation for Italian wines than I did before this visit.
  2. Many key museums here are far less expensive than in the US. Why don’t we let children go free here in the US? Note that it often helps to buy tickets ahead with a set entry time. And skip all of the obnoxious hawkers at the front of every tourist destination.IMGP6087
  3. Limoncello is considered a digestive aid. It is often given freely at the end of the meal. I had it served as a shot, on the rocks, and sipped. Room temperature or iced, it all tasted splendid.
  4. Using a printed map can be challenging in older cities that are not set up on grids. (Ie. like Chicago or New York). Having some phone data can help you find your way.
  5. Keys were my nemesis before this visit.–no longer! I worked a lot of very fussy keys in the two flats I stayed.
  6. Wash cloths and tissues can be hard to find. Bring your own.
  7. Renting a “first floor flat” often means walking 1 to 2 flights of stairs before you reach that flat.
  8. The doors. Huge. Heavy. A presence.IMGP6145
  9. I can get a lot accomplished working remotely, as long as I don’t need phone calls. No distractions wherever my office was.
  10. The many “cuts” of the meat in the window is appealing to shoppers, but that I can do without.
  11. For the cheapest meal in Florence, grab an aperitivo. It’s a flat fee for one drink (make it a special one!) and unlimited buffet of delicious food.
  12. Gelato can be eaten at any time of day. And found on every corner.
  13. Churches abound around every bend. It is NOT obligatory to visit every one, but pick a few. They are inspiring, humbling, surprising, awe-inspiring, or forgotten.
  14. Wear comfortable shoes. There are a lot of uneven steps and many sites to see.
  15. Finally, if I wasn’t a pushy bitch before this trip, I am now! You have to be, with all the groups clogging sidewalks, tour and tchotchke hawkers, people trying to sell, sell, beggars, distracted walkers, and potential pickpockets.

The journey continues.  Cindy


Solving My Hunger at the Food Pantry

Last January, I marched. The Woman’s March in Chicago was an uplifting, exhilarating experience that you can read about here. This year, with my arm in a sling, the inability to zip any jacket, and intimidation of being jostled in big crowds, I had to forgo it. I still stand in solidarity with those walking, and I was both envious and invigorated seeing photos of my friends and family who participated in different cities around the country.

Instead, I spent last Saturday morning volunteering registering participants at a local food pantry.  Those who come to this local mobile food pantry are so diverse–many ethnicities, families, individuals, neighbors, regulars, first timers, shy, welcoming, speaking many languages.

They came for the groceries to feed their families, a hot meal, book giveaways, free health clinic screenings and flu shots by Franklin-Rosalind medical students, companionship. I saw some people who volunteered and then collected their food donations the end of their shift.

There is hunger in every community.  1 in 8 people in the US struggle with hunger—a pretty staggering statistic—according to Feeding America.

One of the things that hit me hard was how many elderly people came out on a snowy morning to accept a donation. Some of Eastern European descent reminded me so much of my grandparents. If they were alive, would they have food in their house? And if there were this many here, how many hungry senior citizens are sitting at home, housebound or ill? I wanted to ask them their stories.

So please give food, time, money to your local food banks. There is need all year round—not just at holiday time. Feeding America lists a network of food banks across the country.

And here are few local organizations that can use your help:

Greater Chicago Food Pantry

Northern II Food Bank

St. Vincent de Paul, Lake Zurich IL

After my morning of giving back, it warmed up enough that I could go for a walk in my neighborhood. And I wore my pink knitted hat, sending my energy to my fellow humans marching around the globe.

IMG_8998 The journey continues. Cindy

5 Reasons Why I Should Never Read a Mystery Novel

When I visit my local ELA Library, I usually do a quick pass through the New Mystery section. If the latest Alex Delaware (by Jonathan Kellerman) or Kinsey Milhone (by Sue Grafton) novel is available….YES. Mine, grabbing it like a child and holding it close.

I then put aside whatever I am reading and delve into those books.

Most genres I can set aside at the appropriate times. But, when I get engrossed in a mystery, forget it. The details, the short section breaks, the quickening pace, keep the pages turning long after they should.

Here are a few of the reasons why I should not even start a mystery, unless I have a day to focus on it:

  1. Dinner -what dinner? Are you really hungry tonight?
  2. These woeful eyes staring when their walks are delayed.IMG_4713
  3. Pages might get warped near the shower.
  4. At 11 pm I will resolve to read “one more chapter”; suddenly it is 2 am. And I have to be up in 4 hours for work!
  5. Can’t read it when at the gym. So postpone the workouts, right?

The same often happens with the latest Stephen King or a few other authors, but it always happens with a tight mystery.

The journey continues.


Note: feel free to substitute “binge watch the latest HOT series”, “start a puzzle”, “search online for cheap airfares” in the title, depending on your tastes.

2017 Direction of My Blog Decided

Love the remnants of this sign I saw on the highway. 

I am choosing action and positivity, despite the ugly, misogynistic, racist, ranting posts, emails, and behavior this election has spurred. I have un-friended, defended, commented, ignored, and now decided it is time to engage, influence the change in direction of the conversation.

On my last post, I wasn’t sure what to do with this blog. But, now I have a plan for 2017. Each week my posts will focus on something to get us through these turbulent times.

I asked my family and friends on Facebook for some ideas of what to write about. The initial suggestions I threw out were: family, inclusion, action, exercise, technology, activism.

Here were some wildly varied and unexpected ideas inspired by people who read that post, in no particular order:

  • Nature and my photography
  • Reasonably prices wines and champagnes (there were a couple suggestions for this topic. You know me well, my friends!)
  • Exercise and healthy eating during the holiday season
  • The art of a civil conversation when there is disagreement
  • Favorite places to travel and why
  • Choose a word (like ‘peace’, ‘inclusion’ ‘determination’) and tell a story around it
  • Find an inspiring person and tell how they have moved me
  • Research my past and find a lasting impact a relative has had
  • Good books to read
  • Gift ideas for 20-something aged children
  • Favorite holiday traditions – how and when they came to be
  • Acts of Kindness that I see in the world
  • Charities and groups that need attention and help

What creative ideas, many that I would not have thought of! A couple people also volunteered to help guide some of the posts (ie. a friend who is a nutritionist/trainer).

Now I need to decide if I should use this blog as the forum for 2017, or if I should start a totally new one. Feel free to add other ideas below! I welcome other ideas, since I have 52 weeks to fill.

A new direction, a changed journey.  How exciting.


Where Does this Blog Go Next and other New Year’s Resolution Conundrums

I resurrected my blog this year as part of my New Year’s resolution to spent 10 minutes a day (10MaD) to “explore the arts” in 2016. The idea came from an article by Eric Zorn in the Chicago Tribune. 
My resolution included writing in this blog, my work blog, and taking photographs. You can read about my first blog post about my 2016 plans here. I wanted to also start on a novel, but the time is too fragmented to do much more than flush out characters.
What have I enjoyed? 

  • Verbalizing my opinions and ideas
  • Sharing my essays
  • Writing poetry again
  • Taking personal photo assignment days to improve my work
  • “Meeting” other bloggers
  • Keeping my business site, along with the personal site, current
  • Coming up with new ideas to write about
  • That 10 minutes often turns into 30-60 minutes of creativity.

What has been stressful?

  • Carving out that 10MaD during travel or very crazy days
  • Coming up with new ideas to write about
  • Sharing my ideas and thoughts with friends and strangers, opening myself up for criticism

The next month I will be reviewing the type of content I have added to both my sites this year. What topics resonated? what formats? Interestingly, many more people post comments an my Facebook and Twitter links. Should I keep this site active in 2017? Start something new that focuses on one topic?

 I will certainly keep posting on my business site. I often share those posts with clients, prospects can learn from it, other industry sites have shared some posts, and I get feedback from other database marketing industry professionals. 

If you have any ideas or feedback, I would love to hear from you.

Updating My Blog Design

I didn’t think it would be this stressful, updating the design for my blog. The old look was outdated, with clashing colors and hard for people to share. Time for a new attitude! For the past couple weeks, I checked out other blogs, tested different formats.

What image was I trying to evoke?

Which had a clean design? Uncluttered?

Where could I best highlight some of my photographs?

Which allowed easy and obvious sharing?

Which said ME?

Which formats would best show the work I have already shared?

After searching a variety of sites, I can say that there certainly are a wide variety of WordPress formats to fit many personalities, uses, and goals.

I selected a handful I thought I might like, then ignored that list for a couple days. After a final review, I whittled that list down to 2 I liked. Time to test! I tried one, and it was way too in-your-face. I changed it to the one you see here: Hemingway Rewritten. Spare, lots of white space, like his writing, of which I have become a huge fan over the last couple years.

Once I finalized the theme,  I added the widgets, cover shot, re-organized the columns.

Would anyone but me notice? Would anyone care? And is this representative of who I am, today? tomorrow?

Personally, I like the updated design. I think it easily shows who I am.

Now I wonder–do I like my content? My posts are simple, honest, emotional, reminders. There are short articles, photos, poems, rants, feelings, growth.   Too much? Too little? For now, like Goldilocks, I say just right. Or write.


P.S.  The day after I wrote this, I noticed that People.com updated their design.  I wonder how many people and how much time went into their changes?

P.P.S  Feel free to share your feedback or suggestions on the new look.


Sunday Night Blues

Sunday, during the daylight hours, has that “weekend” feel. We enjoy some free time, pursue hobbies, run errands, start or complete projects, or just chill. But by dinnertime, it whispers in our conscious that the Week is starting soon.

Sunday, after our evening meal, that voice is hammering in my head: time to start the Monday-morning-prep. Mentally and physically, it can tarnish the end of a stellar weekend.  During the school year and with fewer daylight hours, time seems to compress further. And it is the whole family who feels the end of the weekend, not just me.

The minutia starts to over power my restless mind—the upcoming week’s work and family schedule overlaps. I set priorities now so we can start Monday by doing, not necessarily thinking. We are not all morning people, especially on Mondays!

I keep trying to think of ways to extend the weekend feelings until Monday morning. But, I think it would exhaust me out more to wake up Monday and not be ready to jump into the week.

I wondered, do similar feelings reverberate through our neighbors homes?   Asking a couple friends, they confirmed that similar routines and emotions run through their households. After writing most this piece, I found a 2015 Monster.com poll that showed a whopping 78% of American workers have these “Sunday Night Blues”. Wow, I had no idea!

How can we extend that weekend feeling a little longer? Most weekends we try to have a family dinner on Sunday night, which brings us together to relax, catch up, and plan for the week. We recently took a spontaneous drive to the beautiful Lake Geneva WI to wander and eat alongside the lake, which was a great change of pace. Maybe we should tweak our Sunday schedules, allow for a little more flexibility and surprise. Keep the weekend feeling alive just a few hours longer, leaving us just a smidge of time to gear up for Monday’s alarm clock ring.

If you have found successful tactics for easing into Monday morning, let me know!