Grief and Loss in Selling a Home After A Death: New Year’s Party; “Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?”

Selling a home

Saying goodbye can cause feelings of grief and loss.

Our last New Year’s Party and it’s reflection as our family moves forward after the death of my husband and we travel through new life experiences and sell a home where we had shared a life of laughter, love and fun.

Hopefully, it wasn’t our actual last New Year’s party but it was the last one we’d have in the home we’ve enjoyed over the last decade.

Home Sale

It took a year to decide we should sell and move on and honestly everyone tells you not to make major decisions in the year following a death.

I waited. I waited the year, and a month, following my husbands death to sell the house and accept the stage to move forward.

I never anticipated that selling the house would bring on feelings of both loss and grief.

It did. It is a loss.

It is the house my son has known since one-year of age, where I brought my daughter home from the hospital, where we spent many normal days and hosted numerous parties, where we had Friday night pizza and movie parties with neighborhood kids, where we changed endless diapers, became versed in potty-training, where there were first words, first steps, where we fought cancer and lost a life to cancer. The house has so many firsts… and lasts… including this last party.

Cancer, death, loss

Traveling for cancer care and learning the value of travel isn’t always to find joys, find yourself or to click that perfect photo… sometimes it’s for survival.

I offered our guest the perfect southern traditional new year’s good luck foods: black eyed peas, collard greens, corn bread and ham, plus some other familiar favorites, and our guests were all good sports and tried the southern fare that’s not traditional for Minnesotans. I’m not even sure if Minnesota has New Years food traditions to ring in the luck for the new year.

Once our guests said their goodbyes the kids and I took some time to say goodbye to this house that has been our home.

We sat in each of our bedrooms together and remembered. We laughed and we cried as we recalled stories of “Auld Lang Syne” which can commonly be described as days gone by.

We walked to the spaces the cribs had been, we stared out the windows at the trees, we stretched out in the bed and looked up as we recalled the nightly stories and we even pointed out the places of the vomit comets that came with a few stomach bugs along the way.

We were thankful for the memories and set out our wishes for the new owners to find a life of joy in their new home.

My son cried. My daughter smiled: One looked back as the other looked forward and my heart was stuck somewhere in the middle.

We walked around and talked together. I tried to stay focused on the adventures ahead but a nest is a nest and it’s hard sometimes, even when you’ve learned how to fly, to push your will to take that last step toward flight when you know you’ll never return.

It isn’t that you’re afraid to fly that makes you pause… it’s the knowledge that you can never go back.

memories, loss, grief, death

Memories that remain in our hearts.

It recalled the poem, “Gone from My Sight,” by Henry Van Dyke that describes the moment of death and yet it’s also fitting for loss and grief as there is the moment the loss turns into a rebirth of something new.

We’ve had many conversations in our family of loss and grief; we’re not alone. I always end such conversations with my children with these words…

We all experience loss and grief as it’s just a part of life. You can cry. It’s okay. Imagine you are sitting in a bathtub while you are crying and you can fill that tub with your tears; all the way to the top if you need. When the bathtub is full you must stop and wash yourself with those tears. Take your time and when you’re ready you must pull the drain and allow those tears that fell to serve their purpose and to wash away the spot of grief. And, you may need many, many baths and that’s okay too. But, each time you will need to pull the drain and release the grief to make room for joy.

I also explain to my children that pain felt from grief makes more room for the appreciation of joys and I recall the words written by Kahlil Gibran in “The Profit”:

“The deeper that sorrow carved into your being, the more joy you can contain.”

We took the step together as we turned out the lights and closed the doors to our rooms then silently walked downstairs and stood at the front door. It was time for us to go and keep our memories in our hearts.

So long, it’s been good to know you.”

Sometimes my son will say when he sees me crying, “Mom, if you stay in that bathtub too long you’ll get all pruny.”

Sage advice.

I’m going to add it to my advice… don’t linger too long in the bath of sorrow because joy is waiting on the other side and because you might get all pruny.

Cancer, loss, memories, grief

Still holding hands in our memories.

Cancer battle, memories, loss, grief

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Cultural Enrichment with Tasty Flaming Hot Brittle Cheetos and an Afternoon Visit to Whoville and Venezuela

Someone please dress up as the Grinch in the days before Christmas and drive around during rush hour with a Christmas tree on the roof. The stories that can be told with that little start…

Once a month I take the children to a theatre performance because I want them to understand and appreciate the culture of performing arts and how the arts in general enrich our lives and influence our well-being, health, education and broaden our cultural understanding and experience.

Children’s Theatre Company (click image for website) and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) which currently is featuring Egypt’s Sunken Cities.

Canvas for Our Lives

We are each born with a canvas and it’s up to us to use any medium to paint our life-portrait.

The Arts and Cultural Curation

The arts in any form help to develop our understanding of the world, society and ourselves. The arts remain an area that I don’t see being developed enough in the classrooms so I take over the role of cultural curator for my children and make the opportunities for them to grow.

The week before Christmas we attended the Minnesota Children’s Theatre Company production of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas and it was fantastic and by fantastic I mean it was extraordinary! The visual aspect of the production was brilliant in its own right as were the scenes, performances and the depth of the role of the Grinch.

My daughter was excited for the play to begin as she is always in the Christmas spirit. Visit my post: The Saddest House on the Street

The actor, Reed Sigmund , poured so much into the role of the Grinch I have to think after such a performance he would be drained to his core: every gesture, every word, every song and seeming his every fiber became the theatrical production and transformation into the Grinch.


During intermission my son and I were laughing and reciting lines from the play in a Grinch manner as my daughter danced in the aisle.

The second half was even more engaging, outstanding and a get-out-of-your seats clapping experience. It was moving not just from the message but from the passion the actors put into their roles as they took us to Whoville and beyond.

Theater arts can reach into your dreams to pull forward your personality and broaden your limits.

Visually stunning set!

Culinary Arts

After each monthly performance we go out for dinner to talk about what we enjoyed the most and what we learned from the production. My curation turns from the theatre arts to food; culinary arts presentation and we step across the threshold to a culture unlike our own.

Latin American Food

Last night we selected Latin American food and a restaurant platformed around Venezuelan street food. The restaurants success started as a food truck and expanded by demand into a beautiful space in downtown Minneapolis.

Hola Arepa in Minneapolis, MN

Hola Arepa, click image above for a link to their website, now welcomes customers with a decadent menu of freshly prepared food made from scratch in the Venezuelan street food tradition mixed with other Latin inspired dishes.

The blue truck parked in the front.


We took in our surroundings and looked over the menu while talking about arepas and how they are a simple bread of grilled cornmeal, water and salt.

I find it facilitating that seemingly every culture has a foundation of some type of bread. My daughter selected the cheese arepa commenting that it’s a Venezuelan version of a grilled cheese sandwich.

Many beautiful and fresh-made menu options.

We expanded out beyond the grilled cheese to try their chips and three house selected salsas, arepitas, esquites, plantains, a take on a Cuban sandwich with their house roasted pork and ham along with the traditional shredded beef and black beans arepa and finished it off with a slice of the S’mores cake and a funky version of a sweet and salty snack; Flaming Hot Cheetos Brittle that came out in a single serving Cheetos bag with a bowl.

I tried my hand at making these the next night and it was an easy brittle recipe of brown sugar (1/2 C), water (3 Tbs) and a pinch of salt heated in a saucepan for around three minutes until bubbly. Then I added a small bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos to the pan and tossed them in the sugar mixture for about three more minutes. Once coated and set I dumped them from the pan onto a piece of parchment paper to cool. Total time: Under 10 minutes.

Esquites is a Mexican Street corn salad. It was so good. Click image for an easy recipe.

Everything was fresh, well-prepared, visually engaging and delicious. My kids still enjoy the dessert portion of our meals to be the most relevant to their exploration into a culinary cultural visit.

My daughter can name the desserts that she feels belongs to a place: bread and chocolate anything; France, Black Forest cake; Germany, Tiramisu; Italy, Daifuku; Japan and she has a travel itinerary planned to travel to various places… just for the desserts.

It didn’t take long for her to finish her dessert.

We spent our evening enjoying the food, talking about the performance and my plan to write a letter to the actor who played the Grinch suggesting that he drive home in character some evening to bring some astonishment to the evening rush hour traffic around the Twin Cities. I can only imagine how many laughs it would bring to look over beside you as you creeped to get home and saw the Grinch driving a tree-topped car to your side.

We also talked about Venezuela and the tradition of the arepa and how Vensuela is one of the top megadiverse countries in the world along with some of the social history and political struggles of the region.

It was an enriching evening well-spent.

If you’re in the Twin Cities area it’s not to late to see How the Grinch Stole Christmas as the play runs through January 6, 2019.

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In The Year of Our Google: Big Ideas 2019


A Brave New World has taken us from The Year of Our Ford through the Silicon Valley tech advancements described as a brave new world to what is emerging in my opinion as: In The Year of Our Google and the need to reestablish privacy and building organic marketing and traffic-generating experiences while reestablishing human connections.

The advancements in growth-frameworks, traffic-acquisitions, conversion-optimization, content marketing, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), pay-per-click marketing (PPC), email marketing, affiliate marketing, SEO strategies, social media strategies and more grew so fast over the last decade that Big Brother was allowed into our homes when we never heard him knocking. The advancements with targeted online ads or cookies gathering information on you in order to get positive return on marketing investment dollars (ROI) is getting stronger and we’re losing to the battle of our online privacy and in some manners our organic thoughts that drive us to read, research or purchase from internet sources.

In my opinion we’re moving toward a decade of reclaiming word-of-mouth, experience related social content, public relations tactics, personal referrals, recommendations and reestablishing real-life social connections for marketing engagement with a holistic approach.

We are currently circling the drain with our human connections with more, and more, opportunities to work from home… which is fantastic and allows for more time working and more time playing, but what it also means is that connections between employees are getting lost and comorodery of shared-goals, work friends, team-building and group moral is getting lost and leaving people feeling disconnected.

While there is a brilliance to having employees working from home and the positive gains from having employees work more efficiently with their time by removing the stressors such as commute times or family scheduling issues along with other obvious benefits for employers the environment is also heavily laden with negatives including a disconnect between employees to employees and employees to employers and the lack of moral to keep the train on its tracks and steaming forward. Questions come to light:

As a business owner how will you facilitate the connections between employees that are working behind the home-centric veil and not behind the cubicle?

There is a need to reestablish connections between all aspects of society as we’re becoming buried at the bottom of the search results and seeking “likes” all while diminishing our individual sparks and contributions.

Mental health issues gained new terms due to the ever-changing nature of social media where no one is able to gain good-footing and find long-term connections. This disconnect and the mental health results of it will begin to bleed into the business world, our workforce, economy and beyond.

I doubt when Picasso was painting he had too many people standing behind him yelling at him that he needed to use more Impressionism or Post-Impressionism strokes and that he should erase those harsh corners and scrap the cubist ideas and multiple viewpoints over the previous movement of ‘singularity‘ and I use that term loosely and also with a point that we cannot move forward to a time of artificial intelligence surpassing the human experiences; the Matrix.

Big Ideas 2019, creating the human connections in social media marketing, marketing trends, Google, SEOGuernica, Picasso

Writers; artists, who create a change and fuel a trend must say, “C’est la vie” to the mainstream movement as they must move forward in their own visual word; trends may follow but when you cater or pander to recommends on how to get your business name, blog post, visibility or traffic on the upswing you automatically start to lose the uniqueness and organic nature of what made the work creative, impactful or potentially trend-setting and away from self-experience.

As I started out on my blogging path I researched and read countless articles about SEO optimization, generating traffic, cookies, banner ads and between those items and the rest I felt small and left out of a space for which I just wanted to share my experiences… share what I’d seen and enjoyed with others who might be looking for those same experiences; a global bond. But, how would I reach an audience without generating traffic?

I never liked traffic and here I am needing traffic for my blog. Enters: SEO and endless references explaining word selection, how to write long; frankly drawn-out titles, in order to get the search engines, more specifically Google, to recognize your presence in a global community already filled with so many words, photos and videos. I understand there is a need for SEO in order to find things in the World Wide Web endless container, but…

In the Year of Our Google is the new beginning for our brave new world and from industrialization to technologicalization the realities that what makes us unique and creative has a risk of being thrown to the bottom of the Google search because it lacks certain words and what has been defined within AI as required to generate traffic in order to even be found.

SEO platforming is described as search-engine friendly sites and creating websites that are better for people. I’ve read articles on what words to use and what topics to write about, how to devise a title and honestly it’s like having a very controlling, non-human editor telling me what words, what topics and how I should create my tiny piece of the internet world in order for anyone to find me buried underneath it.

I pondered what in this environment I should do because like Picasso I feel our written words are an art form. I believe written words should be organic from the thoughts and experiences that humanity drums and not contrived and created by an artificial form that then too could stray and decide the topics that become relevant and bury the new ideas, the dissension and the non-mainstream beliefs.

Is SEO a new form of internet censorship to the written word; word burning or simply just no method to be heard in the environment and thus the cubism that distorts an image and allows for self-interpretation and abstract ideas and thoughts to fall so deep that nothing will pull it forward for anyone to see it?

In the year ahead I think there is going to be more focus on regaining our privacy from sites that are collecting data in who we are, how we shop and what we read so that they can target us to read what is chosen, market what they think we want and get us to click.

I also believe that eventually there will be a common understanding that if you’re writing or advertising to artificial intelligence platforms you’re trusting it with your readers and your business opportunities and you will lose the organic draw that will motivate your readers, customers and the experiences behind them will become inert.

Companies hire “influencers” to draw in their customers and clicks, but I believe that there will be a growing trend to using real-life experiences and the power of human referrals and recommendations for products, places and various things which will in turn become the driving force behind marketing as then you wont need to knock on their servers doors because they will come knocking on yours.

2019: In the Year of Our Google.

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Fast Friends in Ski Town USA

Champagne Powder of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The Cattail plants peaking through the snow symbolizes peace and well-wishes of prosperity for its recipients.

Conversations are a funny thing.

I had the pleasure of speaking with many people as we rode the ski lifts, journeyed out on shuttles, waited in lines and relaxed at various eateries during our Christmas ski trip to Steamboat Resort in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Gondola Square has many fire pits to warm up next to as you take a stroll around the shops and eateries. Check out the Gondola Square cam.

Truffle Pig is centrally located in Gondola Square and has many excellent drink and menu selections.

Heading up Christie Peak Express for the first run of the trip. I didn’t travel with ski equipment as I wanted the opportunity to try out the demo shop rentals. They put me in an amazing pair of 2018 Head Super Joy skis. I loved them.

Of my favorite conversations was one with a young teenage girl from Chicago that we had the pleasure of sitting down next to at the lobby of the Steamboat Grand while waiting for our shuttle downtown. She told me she skis Steamboat every year with her brother as they spend the holidays here with her grandparents.

Steamboat Grand Hotel Lobby was decorated for Christmas with fresh flowers, poinsettia tree, wrapped presents and lights. Hotel.

Writing letters to Santa. Each afternoon Steamboat Grand offers complementary hot cocoa and cookies for hotel guests to enjoy.

I wonder if I can get my parents to relocate to Colorado so we can spend Christmas with them as well as on the slopes? My son met and chatted with Steamboat Realtor, Doug Labor on our flight and apparently they had a good discussion of market trends. I’m pretty sure my parents will never go for a move to Colorado as they’ve had enough cold weather and are well-settled with 25 years in the southern sunshine but, my tween son has a real estate connection in case they change their minds.

Back to the conversation in the lobby: Our conversation took us down the various runs and the challenges of Steamboat. It makes me smile whenever I see the cautionary statement “Degree of difficulty ratings and symbols are relative to Steamboat Ski Resort only,” and what that means is that the easy-going green circles of the Midwest are more closely related to the Midwest black diamond. It’s all relative! Einstein actually said, “Everything is relative” and vantage points are the point here as is understanding your skiing abilities and ego.

Vantage Point: Everything is relative.

Our new friend started talking about her early morning on the slopes following a long night of snowfall; first tracks.

First Tracks tickets must be purchased and they will earn you access to the Gondola between 8am and 8:15am.

First Tracks. Freshies: The first to hit the newly fallen snow and groomed slopes. AKA: Morning people. I spent my years as a competitive figure skater hitting the ice at 4:15am. I did my time. I’ve earned my mornings to sleep late and with that said there is still the draw to those early mornings that athletes know too well… there’s something in the air that’s a tangible excitement of what’s ahead in the day.

Low visibility on the Gondola during some heavy snowfall. As we skied we could hear the snow tapping on our helmets.

I digress: She said it was an amazing few hours with several inches of fresh champagne powder topping the packed powder and how her edges were precise and carving deep.

The quiet of a morning on the slopes with fresh snowfall; effortlessly leaning forward into your turns and carving your tracks. I know this feeling well…

Yes, we missed it. I told our new friend we decided to sleep late and order breakfast to the room. She had a look of sympathy for our ski-day loss.

Steamboat Grand has a great room service dining menu and the food was prompt and warm.

The way she articulated her morning on the slopes was incredible. We were right there with her sharing her stories of excitement over the fresh powder. We really should have set an early alarm for first tracks… next time.

A handful of Champagne Powder: Steamboat boasts their dendrite snowflake having only a 6% moisture level whereas most moisture levels of snow are around 15%. This allows for some of the best skiing snow in the nation and was originally described as feeling like champagne bubbles hitting your nose.

We spoke of various ski resorts and she shared with my two young skiers her path toward Steamboat black diamonds. She reminded me of my own teenage years and the fearless pursuit of conquering black diamond slopes.

My future black diamond girl. She carves the slopes and makes it look easy. Next up my daughter is planning to snowboard for which our new friend in the lobby said, “I’m not cool enough to snowboard,” which earned remarks from many around us adding “skiers are cooler.” I agree.

Steamboat black diamond runs: As I age the ground gets further away and hurts more when I unintentionally crash into it, so I keep it at intermediate skiing skills with my kids and maintain my vertical position. I did push myself and my alter-ego told me I could take a jump to catch up with my lightning-fast daughter and after I actually landed and pulled it off my cautious-side yelled “Let’s not do that again!” Truth be told… when my kids advance to being able to handle Steamboats black diamond runs I will be right there behind them.

When the shuttle arrived our new friend politely said, “It was a joy talking with you. Have a wonderful stay.” What an amazing way to end an enjoyable conversation. I’m going to start saying this when it’s time to leave. What a wonderful young girl.

Steamboat Grand saves you money on car rental needs as they provide a complementary shuttle service around town each afternoon through 10:15pm each evening. The drivers were all fantastic and very knowledgeable and saved us having to find parking at the resort or downtown which can be a battle of wits to get a spot or squeeze into one.

Whenever we find ourselves in Steamboat Springs we always visit Old Town Hot Springs. The springs are amazing and only get better when the snow falls. It’s breathtaking to see the mist hover above the springs and to feel the cold on your face as you soak in the healing hot waters. Getting out can be moderately traumatic and eventually you must get out; all good things come to an end. This end comes with a brisk walk to the locker room.

Old Town Hot Springs in downtown Steamboat Springs is a winter wonderland. It’s open 7 days a week until 10pm. Steamboat Grand Hotel offers free guest tickets and shuttle transportation. Advertising image: Old Town Hot Springs

After soaking in the various healing pools we made our dash inside to get out of our wet swimsuits. I struggled to get my daughter out of her wet suit and into dry clothing; she wasn’t completely dry and dressing a damp child is like trying to hand-stuff a sausage casing with a live pig.

I was officially tired from the day on the slopes and from soaking in the hot springs; just wanting to get back to the condo and into my bed for the evening and the war with her leggings was getting the best of me.

I’m not always a fan of the bedding or mattresses at some hotels but Steamboat Grand Hotel offers cozy and comfortable beds with amazing views.

The woman across from me on the benches in the locker room was a local and mentioned she had her entire family in town for the holidays. We laughed about how difficult it is to dress a wet child and how difficult it is to then get on our own clothes. This could possibly be one of those “put your oxygen mask on first and then help others around you” moments you hear on every in-flight instruction. Next time I get dressed first then battle my daughters leggings.

We talked about the hot springs and laughed about the joys and the struggles of motherhood. We both concluded we would have Christmas cookies and hot cocoa to finish up our evening. As we were finishing up the battles of getting into our dry clothing she asked my daughter, “Do you know why your mommy and I are talking like old friends?” Then she tells her, “because we’re both mothers and we share some of the same stories of parenthood.” We laughed and she agreed that so often strangers are friends you just haven’t met yet. I look forward to bumping into her again on our next trip around to the springs.

Truffle Pig had a dessert offering of cookies and milk. We loved the gingerbread pigs which were tasty and so much fun to put on Santa’s cookie plate on Christmas Eve. Christmas Pig!

There were many other conversations along the way during this trip and I’m always reminded how much we all have in common in the ski towns: It’s a collective experience.

As I sat in the hot springs I heard a gentleman talking to the man seated across from him about his summer biking, as in motorcycles, all around the west and how he joined a group that made him feel he belonged.

We all do so much on our own. We work to handle the loads but really the comorodery of shared life experiences, passions, parenthood, awesome slopes, injuries, heartaches and celebrations connect us together and make us feel connected to something larger than ourselves in small ski town USA and beyond. It’s always wonderful making new friends in passing and hearing another’s stories of life.

Steamboat Springs has a Winter Elk Habitat. Steamboat area offers many excursions from sleigh rides, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and horseback riding through the wildlife areas. Saddleback Ranch offers snow tubing, horseback riding and even a dinner sleigh ride pulled by two draft horses and luxury shuttle service from your hotel.

Listening to a conversation on the shuttle ride we started talking to a family who was recalling a conversation they had the previous year with a gentleman from Arkansas that shared many strange but true Arkansas facts including that it’s not permitted to transport a goat in the back of a truck on Sundays.

I didn’t know that tidbit.

Conversations are a funny thing because you never know where they’ll take you or what you’ll learn if you take the time to engage with those living their lives around you.

Take a stroll through downtown Steamboat Springs to find this prince. Hint: He can be found on Main Street USA.

Chain of Gossip, Norman Rockwell

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Holiday Traditions: Chronicle from Mistletoe to Christmas Elves

Elfred and Elfina sharing the holiday joys fresh from the North Pole.

The Christmas elves have been busy this year and it’s almost time for their final departure home to the North Pole on Christmas Eve.

They’ve done their job for the year and I even remembered to take a few photos of them for our holiday traditions book.

The Polar Express can come to life at various locations throughout the nation. We’ve always enjoyed St. Louis and our favorite is held in Middleton, Wisconson.

They stayed up late to make Christmas cookies and left a mess in the kitchen.

Do you want to build a snowman?

A marshmallow bubble bath sounds perfect.

A little ski accident required they rested for a few days.

Happy Holidays from our home to yours.

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Minnesota Winterland: Footsteps Toward the Silent Sounds

It was a brilliant sunset that cast its glow over the frozen water and recently fallen snow… the anticipation grew as we stepped onto the lake and it began to awaken the sounds of this space.

The beauty of a frozen Minnesota lake at sunset.

We stood quietly for a time to watch the sky change colors and to listen to the quiet sounds of the frozen lake as it settles in for deep winter; distant birds chirping as night was drawing near.

The warmth in the colors of the sky made the cold winds of winter just nibble at our faces as the bitter cold has yet to find our little spot.

We made our way over to our first skating rink on this frozen lake and laughed and slid around on the open ice. We didn’t have our skates with us because it was the setting sun that drew us out on the walk to our little square.

My daughter slid and spun around on the ice and it made the figure skater of my soul smile in quiet understanding that she displays the signs of the future mastery of ice and I could see my dreams of skating as a child on a frozen lake under an artful setting sky dawning as her own memories.

There’s such joy in the simplicity of skating on a frozen lake. The sound of the ice under your blade. The gentle rocking from natures rink that I never found on the smooth, indoor, professional ice of my training days in North Virginia. Now I can share these moments on a frozen Minnesota lake with my children and share a piece of the child that’s within my heart.

We laughed and played while making our plans to skate on warm winter days.

This lake is the view from our new home. It is our place to start again; minus one we loved and lost, plus all that we’ve gained.

Our hearts are full with the excitement of all that we will share in this new home on this lake that changes each day. The dreams of the loons that will land in spring and will wail their calls of love and their love will answer “I am here.”

We are here.

We will skate in the winter, kayak in the spring, watch for the birds, catch the falling leaves, we’ll swim and laugh and grow a day older as the sun rises and sets on our tomorrows that are too soon to be over.

This is the place for my children to grow and become who’ll they’ll be; seasons will show. I’m happy to stand here at the start of this journey and with all the changes to witness ahead… the silent sounds on this lake will forever withstand.

Our footsteps in the snow.

Travel Minnesota:

Minnesota has many outdoor winter activities and wintertime events including the St. Paul Winter Carnival which has drawn crowds since 1886 with elaborate ice sculptures, parades and more.

Take a trip further north to view the Northern Lights and stay in the quiet, quaint, solitude at Gunflint Lodge and Outfitters.

They offer a wide selection of rustic to modern cabins on Gunflint Lake that will satisfy any traveler. Enjoy their hearth-room restaurant lodge for amazing meals (we loved the breakfasts), pick up a complementary bag of bird seed to scatter around your cabin each morning, stop in for complementary hot cocoa or coffee at the lodge throughout the day, set out on hiking adventures, snowshoeing, snowmobiling or even dog sledding, which was the highlight of our last visit.

Snowmobiling on the Gunflint Trail Systems and a stop to fill up the tank in Grand Marais.

Gunflint Lodge offers many outdoor activities and educational programs from wintertime survival to the Northern Lights, or just take a trip to relax in your cabin and play family board games while sitting by the fire and watching the wildlife around the lake.

Minnesota has a lot for visitors to do, see, experience and taste and it boasts high rankings as one of the healthiest states in the nation for several years running.

For a fresh take on Venezuelan street food, Hola Arepa, has parked their original food truck startup near the trendy Uptown Minneapolis area on Nicollet Avenue.

The blue truck parked outside.

Minneapolis/St. Paul, known as the Twin Cities, has consistently ranked high and leads as one of the nations healthiest cities; having won America’s number one healthiest city award by

There are many parks throughout the city to take a walk and burn off some of the extra calories from enjoying some dessert offerings.

One. Two. Three… gone.

Don’t let the Minnesota winters keep you away. Visit Minnesota to experience a wintertime wonderland from the Northern Lights and ice sculptures to dog sledding, or snowshoeing and if you’re really brave jump on into a frozen lake to raise money for the Special Olympics Minnesota by joining the fun at the Polar Plunge… or just go to enjoy watching. Minnesota winters will warm your heart.

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The Saddest House on the Street

A simple gingerbread house by my daughter. Click image to read my post: A New Generation of Gingerbread Houses.

To be honest we’ve been traveling a lot and that mixed with our plans not to be home for Christmas had me feeling pretty good about not decorating the house for Christmas this year…

That was until the other night when we were driving home and my daughter was looking and commenting on all the holiday decorations on homes and in yards. She apparently took a brief survey of our own neighborhood and declared, “We have the saddest house on the street.” Her small little voice adding “Everyone else has decorated for Christmas except for us.”

Now this house means Christmas spirit. We had to stop to take some photos. The Grinch was there somewhere and a Christmas wiener dog sighting.

Dang it! How many days until Christmas?

I was close… super close to making it to our flight out of town and to a destination that would be decked to the halls of St. Nick and now, now, with only weeks to go before the big guy crams himself down chimneys around the world I was caught as the Grinch… and we had the saddest house on the street.

Bah humbug.

Really, I always decorate and pride myself on the perfect Christmas scene; not too much and not to little and yet this year I just wanted to be lazy and save myself the post-Christmas take down in the below 0, it’s something too-cold-degree, northern midwestern winter weather.

But… alas, I cannot look into the eyes of my own little Cindy Lou Who as they look at me to say “Why, no Christmas Mom?”

Currently, all the Christmas items are in storage crates packed up and moved out to a storage facility by the men I call “the cleaners” which are moving company packers who can make a home look as though no one had ever lived there… all in records time.

So, now… my Christmas decorations are joyfully decorating the inside of the crates which contain all the falalalalaing and jingle-belling and for which I have no access to until I have the crates delivered sometime next year.

I took a deep breath knowing I was going to need to purchase items I already owned to add the the ever growing collection of Christmas decorations. I grabbed a pen to make a short list; a very short list.

Just some of the Christmas decoration collection currently decorating the storage crates.

Of course shopping with the Queen of Christmas meant everything we passed by came with “oohs” and “aahs” and “we totally need this” as she held up a Christmas Dachshund in delight. When did wiener dogs join the ranks of Christmas dogs? I’m still thinking Scottish Terriers in plaid jackets rule the Christmas dog group.

Nope. I didn’t need a holiday wiener dog. And, after much debating, begging and crying on my part she let me out of the store with a few well-chosen items to make the front of our home festive.

Kid, you’ll move mountains.” -Dr. Seuss

While the kids were in school I decorated outside with lights, garland, a little Christmas light topiary thing placed next to the door, a wreath and a few other little items so that I didn’t stink, stank or stunk myself into the hall of Grinchhood with the saddest house on the street.

When my daughter came home I had redeemed myself as the house is now with some holiday spirit. She squealed in delight and told me how beautiful everything looked.

An afternoon holiday snack and toast to the season of joy.

My son said the moral of this story is that you should always decorate your home for the holidays or else you too might have a little Cindy Lou Who wondering why she must live in the saddest house in the street.

The real lesson may be more of what Dr. Seuss shared:

Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So, love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don’t and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get the chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.”

The holiday season is here and I will remind myself that it was totally worth it when I’m taking down the decorations on a warm January day; it might even get up to two degrees. Who knows? He didn’t say it would be easy.

House Beautiful has 50 inspiring outdoor ideas to make your home more festive this holiday season.

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Off We Go…Ho Ho Ho

Oh, what fun it is to ride on a two-horse open sleigh!

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The Mule Lobby and How the Camels Won the West before the Golden Spike

“The Last Spike” by Thomas Hill (1881)

Before that golden spike was driven establishing the Transcontinental Railroad in Promontory, Utah in 1869 there were some serious issues of traversing many parts of the dry and barren American Old West and Southwest that paved a path to camels in the Army and a mule lobby in Washington DC.

There were probably several stubborn old mules in Washington at the time and I’m not sure if it was the early beginning of the Democratic donkey.

Actually, Andrew Jackson’s opponents called him a “jackass” during the 1828 presidential campaigning and where the donkey originated… an odd little fact.

Click on the image for details.

Ten years before the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad a small boomtown in the Utah Territory was established as Virginia City as it was home to the first substantial silver deposit in the United States. The silver deposit; the Comstock Lode and Virginia City were both internationally known and the mining district was recognized as the Queen of the Comstock with a population that grew to 25,000 residents in the height of its mining history. Virginia City was booming.

Virginia City, Nevada is an excellent place to spend anywhere from a few hours to a day or two and is an easy day trip from Lake Tahoe or Reno. Check out some highlights from our trip to Virginia City, NV.

Virginia City was named as one of the “top 12 most distinctive destinations in America,” by The National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The growing population of the American Old West and Southwest along with military needs in the Southwestern territories, known in the times as the Great Desert, were in growing need of supplies without a method of transportation. The War Department was encouraged to purchase camels revered as the “beasts of burdens” to help shape a supply chain if Congress would appropriate monies for the acquisition of the animals. The idea suggested in some accounts came from a naval officer after an expedition made through Death Valley. The naval officer, “Ned” Beale came to national fame as being the person responsible for starting the gold rush after bringing back gold samples from California to the east coast in 1848… ten years prior to the discovery of the Comstock Lode.

The United States government funded the plan to use camels to move supplies through the dangerous and vast territories as an experiment and thus began the US Camel Corps. Apparently, a single camel could pack 600 pounds of supplies and Beale was known to say he’d rather have a single camel than a dozen mules.

Thirty-three camels of various origins were purchased by the US government and transported by the Navy on the USS Supply which was commissioned to acquire and bring the animals from the Mediterranean back to the United States.

Oh, give me a loan for the camels to roam… imagine if the mule lobby wasn’t so successful as the wild frontier might still have camels today. Instead of visiting the Wild Burros of Custer State Park you would instead journey along Wildlife Loop Road hoping to see camels and bison!

Begging Burros of Custer State Park is a good read if you’re considering a visit to South Dakota.

The US Camel Corps experiment was brought to an end in part due to the start of the Civil War but also due to the successful mule lobbying. Yet, the camels still had adventures ahead and people to terrorize.

One of the camels in its military retirement, meaning it was set free, did roam the southwest and earned the name, “Red Ghost”. Marshal Trimble, author of Arizoniana describes the folk tales that came from the feral red-haired camel whom traumatized citizens of Arizona from stories ranging from “Red Ghost” standing over 30 feet tall, trampling people to death, having the eyes of the devil, eating grizzly bears and the “Red Ghost” could vanish into thin air when cornered.

Click image for more details.

Interestingly, camels can eat cactus; thorns and all and have been known to chew on bones so this red-haired beast probably started a few of the ghost tales honestly.

“Red Ghost” met his end in an Arizona tomato patch where a rancher shot him down. An article was published about “Red Ghost” and his reign of terror in the New York Sun; word traveled far for the times.

Click on the image for the link.

With the end to “Red Ghost” you may be curious why the red-haired camel was roaming Arizona and where all the other camels went following the start of the Civil War.

I was also curious why at the end of the boardwalk in Virginia City, Nevada a photo board was painted with a camel and banner for Virginia City camel races?

Why camel races? And, this blog is the answer to my question.

Virginia City, Nevada holds camel and ostrich racing each year. How the ostrich racing became involved is another story to research.

Click on the image for link.

Where did camels from the Camel Corps end up and what is the connection to Virginia City?

When the Confederate forces seized Camp Verde they set some of the camels free. Some of these camels were later caught and used by Union forces, some caught by Confederate Forces and used by the Confederate Post Office, another camel was the mascot of a Mississippi infantry before being shot down in the battle of Vicksburg, a favorite white-haired camel named Said can be found in Washington DC at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Hall of Bones after having been killed along the supply route in 1861.

Other camels which were housed in California were ordered to be auctioned off by the War Department and were purchased by a frontier entrepreneur, Samuel McLaughlin, who shipped the camels to Virginia City, Nevada for use hauling mining supplies.

We now know why there were camels in Virginia City, Nevada but why camel races?

McLaughlin held camel races in Sacramento, California to large crowds in efforts to fund the animals transport to Nevada. Camel races became a profitable spectator sport and why Virginia City holds annual camel races to raise tourism dollars for the town.

For more information on the camel races check out a link to Virginia City Tourism Commissions website.

The rest of the Army’s camels were sold to zoos and circuses and even naval officer Beale who purchased several of the camels to keep for his own personal expeditions with his family.

As the needs grew for supplies along the building of the Transcontinental Railroad many of the camels were collected and purchased to once again work hauling supplies; this time they worked and solved the need for a supply chain along the building route of the Transcontinental Railroad and this is how the camels in a ten-year journey won the West before the Golden Spike.

Camels along the supply route for the Transcontinental Railroad
Article on the Transcontinental Railroad
An interesting article on the Mule Lobby

“Mule Power” by, Norman Rockwell

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The Call of Hygee this Holiday Season and Beyond

My daughter in the morning cozy with her favorite blanket wearing a beautiful cotton nightgown adorned with angels. She is in her space of hygee.

Often the simple things in life bring us the most comfort. As children we have these tokens of comforts everywhere from a cherished stuffed animal, a blanket, or a trinket to bedtime stories and yet as adults we sometimes find ourselves far from the simple comforts that bring us a sense of hygee.

Stories before bed in the holiday spirit. Reading: Yes, Virginia: There is a Santa Claus.

What is hygee?

Hygge, is a Danish and Norwegian word that is used within the culture to denote “a form of everyday togetherness” both in our physical environment but also within our mental environment. A sense of wellbeing, safety and comfort.

There’s a sense of well-being captured in this moment as my daughter reaches to catch the wind.

Every culture defines their life moments or the state of their homes within the influence and desire for the sense of hygge.

In Japan, where personal space is limited, home trends are more minimalistic to reduce the “things” in their space and create a sense of space and comfort.

In China the art of placement within the principals of Feng Shui can help to find and identify the positive and negative energies within a space.

The Danish hygee comes from the need within their lives to bring positive mental perspective to the cold, short days of winter; mentally preparing against winter blues.

Hygee in America would most simply relate to the holiday spirit. The feelings of comfort and safety, peaceful joys and quaintness in our homes and our hearts. We probably feel hygee the most during the holidays.

The dim lighting adding to the calm of the spirit.

Gingerbread cookies to decorate and the smells fill the home.

It’s a worthwhile pursuit for our everyday lives.

The simple pleasures, well-placed comfort items and sense of calm and peace all fall within the descriptions of what it is to have or feel hygee.

As a parent I try to make our home a place of comfort for my children and myself and living in a northern midwestern town makes the winters long, dark and very cold. Seasonal affective disorders (SAD) are part of the challenges faced in this region.

Sometimes in life we have our own “seasonal affective disorders ” from the hardships we face, or the struggles along the paths, and we can easily fall into a routine of having the “blues” over the routine of honoring hygee.

As children when we started to feel a tug at our emotions we often reached for that favorite comfort token: that baby blanket or our favorite stuffed animal and it restored our sense of hygee.

My daughters Teddy Blanket and powdered sugar on her nose.

Falling asleep in a pile of friends for an afternoon nap.

His “Big Red Dog” is still on his bed every night. Photo taken at a beautiful Forbes Five-Star resort outside of Pittsburgh, PA.

As adults we have to recognize when our life has moved away from the sense of well-being and to notice when we are struggling to keep our everyday togetherness in good order.

How can we make purposeful choices in our environments and our mind to attain the feelings of hygee or to get us back into the Holiday Spirit?

Sweetie Pies in Door County has the charm and an air of hygee.

Flowers in the bedroom bring a contrast to the white outside.

That answer is different for everyone. The hygee interior philosophy would be to use deep, rich colors, soft textures, extra pillows and blankets, candles, flowers, dim-lighting and well-placed comfort items; positive mementoes. To take an evening and have a cup of tea while sitting next to a fire or filling the house with the smells of foods that offer comfort… soul food.

Entertaining family and friends.

Decorating the Christmas tree.

Making jam from the berries we picked as a family.

What stands out for you? What food smells or tastes takes you to a place of comfort? Do you light a candle with a glass of wine or cup of tea? Do you put on a familiar movie? Does your space and environment offer a space of hygee to restore your balance.

Surrounded in beauty and with a candle she made at the Sedona Summit kids activities program through Diamond Resorts.

Capturing the Holiday Spirit.

The joys at the holiday table and the wonderful smells that fill the house.

An afternoon tea for little friends.

It’s the holiday season and a time to re-evaluate your mental space and your home and to purge out the clutter that keeps you from feeling that sense of cozy comfort and welcome in what the Danish describe as hygee.

Norman Rockwell was able to capture these idealized moments within many of his works. It is a reminder that we can find these moments and share it in our hearts, minds and our homes.

Freedom from Want by Norman Rockwell

If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy:

Family Bonding on the Slopes

Running on Empty

Beach Days for the Soul

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Family Bonding on the Slopes

As a family we travel quite often and enjoy our time together. We mix up the activities and interest so that everyone has a good time and that my children also learn how to find joy through the joy of another.

I’m always looking for ways to broaden our gifts of compassion, time and the understanding for others in the face of acceptance that our own desires for some moments are often placed second; a much harder lesson to teach children in this instant society. The raging Freudian ID yelling “me, me, me” gets quieted as we take turns, find joy in another’s interest and learn new things that might not have been on our personal must-do list while also reinforcing the lessons of patience.

I found this article on Psychoanalytic Theory by Ocampo and Valleeser on that has educational slides on the id, ego and superego.

Yet, when we head out to ski it’s the one thing we all love equally. It’s on each of our lists. It’s even a collective pull to get things moving toward getting out the door and to the slopes. While we all have varying skill levels we ski together as a family and bond over the time in the lines, on the lifts and when we take a break to warm up with hot cocoa, a snack, lunch or dinner. Everything tastes better after you have a few hours on the slopes.

She’s ready and excited to head out for our ski day in her favorite, pink, warm and cozy Koolaburra boots by UGG.

Happy to be getting on his ski boots. It feels so good to pull your feet from you ski boots at the end of the day and slide them into a soft pair of boots.

That’s love and snack time with hot cocoa and popcorn.

We spend our time warming up with laughter, retelling our stories of what we saw on the slopes, our challenges of the day, wipeouts, our wins and improvements and what runs we’re hitting next.

Our brain bucket collection.

We make jokes about my daughter who flies down the slopes at the speed of heat; that girl can go! We talk about body mechanics and the snow conditions. We throw in the ski lingo and laugh about “chocolate chip cookies” or “death cookies” which are the worst, or “bombers” skiing out of control who weren’t wearing a “brain bucket” or hoping for a “bluebird day” or “Champagne Powder” that term is a trademark of Steamboat in Colorado and where we will be skiing later this year with what hopefully will be some “ego snow”. We all need a day of “ego snow”.

In the days of so many new words the kids come home using it’s nice to have this language we can share and share with a larger population of skiers ranging from five on up!

Beautiful views and fresh air just knocks the death cookies from your mind especially on a bluebird day.

At the end of the ski day we are charged with the excitement that comes from working as team and we are ready to wind down for our own family-themed version of Après Ski.

When in Steamboat Springs we’ll head downtown to Old Town Hot Springs and soak in the restorative waters or head out for dinner at La Fiesta Grill and Cantina; my number two Mexican restaurant anywhere and only number two because I haven’t been to number my number one yet.

Old Town Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs or visit Strawberry Park for a natural setting (evenings are adults only)

When we ski locally we head home and watch a movie with some popcorn to wind down, or play a family board game.

At Lutsen Mountain on Lake Superior we would play giant checkers in our pajamas at the Lutsen Lodge hotel lobby next to the giant old fireplace and take breaks to make S’mores and read from the book, “Just So Stories” because it’s our tradition, “O, Best Beloved.” Thank you Kipling for so many great nights.

Lutsen Lodge offers complementary makings for S’mores and keeps the fires burning. We stay at Eagle Ridge Resort on Lutsen when we want the comforts of our own kitchen to prepare meals and the ease of ski-in/ski-out accommodations.

Heavenly Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe, California has an amazing little donut hut; Heavenly Donuts in the Village and a fun shop Rocket Fizz for candy and pop… soda for the east coasters, or we head over to our favorite restaurant to warm up with hot pot at Lake Tahoe Hot Pot and then close our evening with a swim in the outdoor heated pool at Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort which is a perfect stay option for skiing Heavenly or Squaw.

Heavenly donuts at Heavenly Donuts at the Village.

Hot Pot at Lake Tahoe Hot Pot was excellent.

The young coconut was outstanding and they even gave her a drink umbrella which is only the greatest addition ever to any drink.

Arizona Snowbowl offers some great skiing… in fact the city of Flagstaff boasts record numbers in annual snowfall ranking it at number eight nationally. It has remained one of our favorite skiing destinations because of their excellent slopes, fantastic ski school and many affordable ticket and stay options. Tickets as low as $29 and FREE Season Passes for kids 10 and under make Arizona Snowbowl a budget friendly option.

We always stay a bit south in Sedona, Arizona and take the 40 minute drive out to Snowbowl each day but make sure you check out their Ski and Stay Free packages for great deals staying on the mountain.

When we return to Sedona in the evening our favorite spot to stop is Javelina Cantina with great chips, food, kids meal options, atmosphere and views, plus anything Javelina is number one in my book.

Heading out from Sedona to Snowbowl.

Wherever we are it seems the evenings following a day on the slopes are filled with laughter and a sense of calm, peace and joy. Our ski days are magical. They are family… wrapped with a perfect red bow and a side of hot cocoa with whipped cream. I don’t know how the future ski days will be as the kids become teenagers but I’m thinking ski days for us means family bonding and will always be the days we grow closer together and make lasting family memories on and off the slopes.

“Ski Skills” by Norman Rockwell

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There’s Silver In Them Thar Hills

If there are past lives I was definitely one of those people making a mad dash West in the Gold Rush and probably yelling “GOLD!” I would have been a gold prospector.

An Old Prospector and His Little Friend – Alfredo Rodriguez

When we’ve visited gold mines on past trips I’ve had to contain the part of my personality that wants to pull out a little pick from my pocket and start digging away at the gold veins. When we’ve gone panning for gold I’ve become crazed in the pursuit of gold. You can see me swish every last piece of sand for gold flecks and start checking the kids pans as well; people standing next to me at the sluice might have me looking over their shoulders, too. I own it; gold fever!

If there’s a mine or a place to pan for gold… I’m there. It began and ended with gold until…

While we were visiting Lake Tahoe we ventured out to take a tour of Virginia City, Nevada. I looked ahead at travel sites to see what the area offered for visitors with kids and found the Comstock Mine.

Comstock Mine. Comstock Lode. SILVER!

The gold rush in my head turned to silver and I was fascinated by the history of this city and the silver deposits in the hills. Unfortunately, the mine was closed for the season and I didn’t get to tour and fantasize about being a silver miner.

It wouldn’t have been a good life back in the day as apparently it was hotter than the dickens in the mine due to hot springs.

Sadly, miners from the Comstock Mine were called Hot Water Plugs and they didn’t have a long life span. I suppose it would have been much better to have been Henry Comstock but I learned that he never made a fortune from the silver deposits as he sold early. He was eccentric which always is of interest and they called him “Old Pancake.” The reason for that wasn’t so interesting. More interesting was that Henry Comstock wouldn’t leave his house without several belts around his waist.

I wonder if Henry Comstock participated in the camel races? Virginia City also has ostrich racing and that’s on my must-do list!

Back to the silver. We weren’t able to tour the mine but we did go in search of an old Morgan silver dollar minted in Carson City. Why? Because it’s silver, because the silver was mined there in Virginia City and the coin would have a story to tell if it could talk. We wandered into an old smoky bar and asked some of the locals where we could find one of these treasures. Turns out pretty much every other store had a small collection at various prices to sell. No secrets to be found there. Maybe some ghosts.

The stairs down to the bar below the street level.

We headed back down the wavy boardwalk which was a feat of engineering or built by someone after a very long night at the bar: Up and down, side to moderate side the wooden boardwalk stretched down the storefronts of the old town. Picturesque: A photo out of the Wild West. We even came upon a man and his donkey. He took tips. I gave him $5 dollars and asked if we could take a photo with his donkey. He let us.

The old man, the boy and the donkey with a little girl to tell them what to do!

We moved on down the street to many interesting storefronts and then came upon the Silver Queen; walking in to find the only wedding chapel in Virginia City and very large painting of a woman dressed in a gown made of 3,261 Morgan silver dollars minted in Carson City. Bingo! Where was my little pocket pick? The SILVER rush hit me. There’s silver in these hills!

This artwork was amazing. There were Double eagles, which are twenty-dollar gold pieces, and dimes adorning her attire. Now that was a dress.

The Silver Queen was a saloon, wedding chapel, hotel and ghost-sighting-space all in one. My mission was still to find an old Carson City Morgan silver dollar of my own. I knew nothing about them but I knew I needed to find one. It would be our family token of our trip to Virginia City.

I quickly researched and found warnings that there are many fake Morgan silver dollars floating around Ebay and other internet sales sites so I quickly watched a video on how to spot a fake. Internet expertise at its finest! We strolled down to a vintage jewelry store and found what we were looking for along with a very knowledgeable store owner. He showed us the coins he had available and he happened to have an 1879 Morgan silver dollar minted in Carson City that was in very good condition.

1879. The Gilded Age. The end of the “Long Depression” also known as the first Great Depression. Mark Twain was a reporter in need of money working at a Virginia City newspaper just years earlier. It was the year Thomas Edison demonstrated the first incandescent light bulb, Deadwood South Dakota burned to the ground and Vanderbilt named Madison Square Garden.

Where had this coin traveled over the last 139 years? What could it tell if it could talk? A piece of history. A connection to a time long passed.

This coin made its way back to the region and found itself on a shelf in Virginia City where it’s silver was mined from the Comstock Lode and where I was holding it admiring everything about it. I looked for signs of its authenticity. The shop owner offered his guarantee and a discount because they were going into their low season without many visitors.

Summer is the busy time in Virginia City he shared and told us how busy the boardwalk gets and that many visitors want their own Carson City Morgan silver dollar. That dress at the Silver Queen sold me!

I happily purchased my first old coin that will offer a memory of our trip to Virginia City for our lifetimes. I’m just thinking now I should have purchased two because I’m sure both of my children will want the coin for memories sake.

My daughter enjoying the boardwalk.

She’s holding a donkey finger puppet of course.

I don’t know where that coin traveled or whose pocket it may have jingled in before it became a collectors piece but the coin has a story now and an owner to tell it.

Funny what you’ll find on an adventure with no particular plans, that turned into a quest then turned into a piece of living history. The mule, the boardwalk, the dress the saloons, the chapel and the Morgan silver dollar.

The wavy boardwalk.

Virginia City, Nevada should be on everyone’s list of places to visit any time of the year. It was fascinating. We even finished up at St. Mary’s in the Mountains which was rebuilt after a fire swept the town a few years before my silver dollar was minted. We lit a candle.

If you’re visiting Lake Tahoe take a drive to Virginia City, Nevada and take a walk down the boardwalk and see what you find.

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Running On Empty

There are those days that nothing seems to go right and you’re chasing down a hopeless battle. We all have them. Those days can start to suck the life-force from your soul… like in the movie ‘Cocoon’ when all the retirees jumped into the pool and sucked the life-force from the aliens in the cocoons. Life-draining moments live within us all.

Photo from the movie ‘Cocoon ‘.

Did you know the movie reference?

Great movie.

Thursday was Thanksgiving and it was a busy day traveling out to Lake Tahoe for a celebration of thanks, a celebration of life for my sons’ eleventh birthday and a celebration of life’s memory for my husband who passed away after a three-year cancer battle one year ago. What a combination of celebrations.

My husband a few years before his cancer diagnosis.

We had reservations at the Lone Eagle Grill at Incline Village in Lake Tahoe for our Thanksgiving dinner. The weather turned from clear skies to snow as it fell and flocked the massive pine trees that lined the road and made our first views of Lake Tahoe a moving and breathtaking experience. We were in awe of the views; mesmerized and quieted at the stunning beauty that enveloped us. What a magnificent time and place.

We enjoyed our dinner, the conversations with strangers soon to be friends, the views, the food, the ambiance and the character of the decadent surroundings. It was amazing.

View from Lone Eagle Grill Incline Village

Thanksgiving Dinner: Make Your Own Cookie Bar

We were thankful. Thanksgiving is for gratitude and we honored our annual tradition to each offer what we were most grateful for in the year. My son spoke last and he said, “I’m am thankful for everything because that’s what it is to be truly grateful. Even the challenges.”

Words of an eleven-year-old so excited to be a tween yet viewing the world in a once-around, old-soul fashion.

It’s true.

We sat at the door of the new and the memories of the past next to this great, big, crystal blue lake.

To find gratitude for the good and the difficult: It’s so easy to be thankful when everything is going our way and it takes a moment in the heart of heartbreak, despair and sorrow to find the beauty and the lesson the struggles share within the journey.

I was running on empty. I was struggling against the life-draining experiences. I was hiding in my cocoon hoping time would distance myself from the pain of the loss while keeping a smile for my children.

My son was right… you have to be thankful… for everything.

We got to say goodbye.

I was there celebrating Thanksgiving, celebrating a birthday and celebrating life but I wasn’t celebrating the lessons we’ve learned as a family from our losses until that moment my son said, “you have to be thankful for everything.”

Within the loss; gains. Within the loss; lessons. Within the loss; growth. Without the loss my son may have never learned how to be truly thankful and to teach his mother exactly what it means to be thankful.

Up hundreds of steps we took a rest on a bench and looked to see my husbands name carved in the wood of the handrail.

We all have those days that get us down and challenge us to the depths of our existence. It can go a long way down.

Now in those depths I think of sitting by the shore of Lake Tahoe. Sitting by a lake that I think is the third deepest lake in the world… but, that lake is crystal clear and there’s beauty at the bottom.

When you’re running on empty take a moment and remind yourself there are things to be grateful for within the hardships. The gratitude doesn’t offer a cure but the change in perspective just might. And, at the very least… it might take you from running on empty to feeding your soul.

I’m thankful. I wrote this post with a cat purring on my lap, my dog snoring in her bed and my kids tucked in bed. They are healthy. They are happy. We have hope in this journey.

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Happy Thanksgiving

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Can you Say Procrastination…

I sure can! I’m the queen of procrastination and if I said it three times my wish to be one of those non-procrastination-type people still wouldn’t come true! Why?Because who would be there to mind the Procrastination Kingdom without me there on the throne? Anyone…. anyone?

Queen of England, on the throne, who packs for the queen

I’m pretty sure the Queen of England has people to pack for her. My Kingdom isn’t so fortunate.

However, packing is where I seem to earn high honors for the topic at hand as even with all my pre-packing self-talk and pre-planning packing daydreams ie., delusions, I still wait to the very, very last moment possible to pack for any trip. Any trip. Maybe if it was just me I was packing for it wouldn’t be such a hustle and tear jerker of a story, but since I pack for myself and the two kids it becomes an all out war against time and my sanity!

Gone are the days of gracefully packing needed items as those days are turned into the day of mass laundry, running around the house half-naked, errands, crying, rocking in the corner and the self-talk “I can do this” all because I’m a procrastinator!

Kardashian’s still seem to be pretty while they cry. Me… not so much! I was going to insert a video clip here of myself crying but my son offered the advice “Do you want people to read your blog?” Okay, it was more a warning than advice.

Yes, I am a procrastinator and for good reason! If it wasn’t for procrastination I’d never get anything done. You like coffee in the morning? Why? Does it get you up and going… start your day off right? Starbucks offers that pep in your cup and for me procrastination is my elixir to accomplishments of my tasks.

Yet, from my dance of mayhem comes nicely packed bags with the items we need. Maybe, I should start wearing the queen of multitasking crown. Hello, to my new Kingdom!

Packed bags, packing for kids, packing procrastinators packing list, suitcases packed

“Mom, I HAVE to have my pink-kitty ski helmet” even though I’m packing all carry-on items is the caption for that photo! I think my crown for my kingdom is going to be that pink-kitty ski helmet.

The reality is that as moms we are all wearing the multi-tasking crown and we can always get the luggage packed even when it’s a mad-dash; procrastination or not. It’s part of our charm. That being said… I’m not the mom who does it while looking to the nine. I’m going to need to take points away and give myself a messy-bun, no makeup and frazzled demeanor big number ONE! But, I’m good with that!

Perfectly packed suitcase, packing for kids, procrastinators suitcase

Procrastinator’s Travel-Packing Tips:

1. Take a moment to look at the weather ahead for your trip. That one is easy.

2. Write up a quick list of what each person needs and if you need anything extra for special events.

3. Don’t check off items as you go but instead check it off with a stack of items per person packed. Then pack it.

4. Get a big suitcase and just pack everything you can! Wait… airlines now say we have to keep those bags under a certain weight. Bummer!

5. Okay, since we can’t take everything plan your wardrobe around a central theme of color and repeat items that won’t get dirty if you wear them for two days. Often times we have washer and dryers at the destinations and one quick load during the trip helps ease up on items needing to be packed.

6. Keep a change of clothes, night clothes toothbrush and medicine in a carry-on bag for quick turn around the next day or in case you’re child pukes, pees or has an accident, for cases of whomever loses your luggage or in case you have your own spill or are holding an infant.

7. When air-traveling with babies and young children: Utilize a large orange travel sack that you’ll check for free with the airline but also throw in those other baby items you won’t need until the other side. If your young kids are walking that stroller works wonders to load on your carry-on items and give your toddler or young child the time to exercise before being asked to sit still on a flight. Gate check your stroller and it will be at the door on your way off. Pack a small backpack of kids toys, books, crayons, electronics, stickers and a few snacks for the flight. Give them something to do and don’t expect they’ll fall asleep.

8. Keep everything folded nicely as it packs smaller. When you can use a backpack and keep it simple.

9. Repeat to yourself as needed: “I can do it! It will fit! I can sleep on the plane!” Omit the third mantra if you have kids. You’re not sleeping!

10. Smile. When you’ve waited to pack right before you need to leave you’re working more efficiently with your time!

Until the other side… pack happy!

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Beach Days for the Soul

I heard it said somewhere years ago that sand between your toes does something positive for the brain and our own feelings of contentment. It’s one of nature’s cures for the blues.

Slip your toes in the sand to renew your spirits and improve your mental health as sand between the toes offers a positive perspective for your brain. Florida Guif coast beaches, Sanibel Island, Clearwater beach, Destin Florida

Now some will say it’s the time in the sun and the shot of Vitamin D… that too might be true or the calming sounds of the waves or the salty air; all good things for my soul but the sand between my toes is like a direct connection to my early childhood spent on the beaches in Hawaii.

The feel of the sand still takes me back and brings a smile to my face. Whenever we get to the beach I announce to my kids, “Shoes off! We need a dose of positivity for our minds!” Off go those shoes as we walk to claim our spot on the beach. It’s something I hope my kids always remember me saying and recall if they’re ever feeling a bit blue, overwhelmed or anxious; a trip to the beach may be in order. I can actually see my daughter getting into the sandbox and standing there as an adult with a glass of wine or sweet tea and telling herself, her future children, future husband or friends, “mom told me when I’m stressed the sand between my toes is the cure!”

Shelling on Sanibel Island, Florida, Sand Key, Florida beaches, sand, positivity, beach days, family fun under the sun.

Digging up the shells from the surf and finding the ones to keep.

I will smile for that! It will bring a smile to someone’s face and then her own for sure.

Clearwater Beach, Subset Festival, Frenchy’s Bar and Grill, Grouper, white sand beaches, Florida beaches travel tips

Clearwater Beach and the powder-fine sand.

We always have a sandbox on hand but whenever we can we take a break and a beach vacation with nothing on the schedule except to stretch out next to the ocean and dig our toes into the sand. Florida Gulf coast beaches are my favorite: Sand Key, Clearwater Beach, Sanibel Island and Destin win top billing on my list: The white sand beaches and emerald waters are just so perfect.

Sand Key State Park is a quiet alternative to more crowded beaches.

A sandcastle is a must. My son built this castle with the help of a little girl his age from Italy. They had not a word in common and worked together with smiles.

We end up with a lot of sand in our suits and a lot of joy in our hearts. There’s always time for sand between our toes and a place in our hearts and minds where the sand moves the mountains in our thoughts and leaves us with a fresh outlook.

Travel Tips for the Florida Beaches Mentioned…

Destin, Florida and their emerald waters are beautiful year around but they do have seasons on this northern part of the panhandle so winters are too cold for swimming. Early spring is still a bit chilly but you will find lessor crowds as with winter travel. Summer and fall are warm and beautiful. If you’re looking to walk on endless quiet beaches visit Destin in their low season and enjoy the privacy and retreat it affords.

Clearwater Beach, is know for their white sand powder beaches. The sand is truly magnificent and the parking and crowds can be quite astonishing as well. Plan ahead for parking and take your patience along… the looping for a parking spot will be worth it. The best location is all the way down at the northern end where you’ll find Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill and perfect pay parking area for the beach with beach bathrooms, changing rooms and showers. It’s a small lot so timing is everything in finding an opening. For lunch or dinner Frency’s has the very popular “she-crab” soup and early winter the restaurant brings in Stone Crab claws from down off of Miami. If you’ve never had Grouper than you need to give it a try.

Sunset Festival Clearwater Beach, About midway upon entering the Clearwater beach area is the pier that hosts Sunset festivals each evening just like down in Key West. Vendors, entertainment and a beautiful view of the sunset are offered. It’s a great budget friendly evening for romance or a family evening.

Sand Key Park, If you drive a little south of Clearwater Beach you’ll go across another bridge and on your right you’ll see a sign for Sand Key State Park. The sand isn’t quite as powder-white as its sister Clearwater Beach but here you’ll find a slower pace. Early in the mornings you can experience several chartreuse green small parrots eating at the sea oats. Parking is ample and easy pay and they have beach huts with bathrooms, changing area and outdoor showers. Beach umbrellas and chairs are available for a fee just as you’ll find on Clearwater Beach.

Sanibel and Captiva Island, are known for their shelling and nature preserves. Located off the coast of Ft. Myers, Florida. The island can get very congested both in getting on and off the island but also at the public beaches but again this area is worth your patience. Sanibel offers some of the best shelling in Florida and beautiful waters. There are a variety of fun on the island things to do including a fairly unknown little zoo that’s free over at the RV Park off of Periwinkle Way. Many ice cream shops and other island treasures shopping and our personal favorite is Jerry’s grocery store to pick up some tasty snacks or prepared meals. Bicycle and surrey rentals are as easy as taking a ride down the paved paths. Each Easter a wonderful egg-hunt is sponsored on the island along with a Easter bunny meet-n-greet, crafts and inflatables.

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To those days we can become a mermaid and may they fill our hearts with peace.

A link to a great article offering a great perspective on the mental health benefits of spending time at the ocean:

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Mickey Invites you for Christmas

Who wouldn’t want to be invited to Mickey’s place for Christmas?

The adventures await…

It’s Mickey Mouse and he just had a birthday! Yes, sign me up and you can sign yourself up to ring in the holiday season alongside everything Mickey, everything Disney and everything pumped up on the holiday spirit with tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom at Disney World Florida.

Pick up your guide to all the festivities as you enter the Magic Kingdom.

There is hardly a better way to ring in the holiday season than spending your evening enjoying everything the Magic Kingdom has to offer along with blowing snow on Main Street, rides, parades, princesses, balloons, amazing Disney character inspired treats and even FREE treats, snacks and drinks at specially marked signs that happen to look like a giant candy canes.

She must get a balloon. Always a balloon.

The bouquet of balloons are so magical. To fly up and touch the castle with a handful of Disney characters.

Cast members hand you holiday cookies, soft pretzels, eggnog, hot cocoa, apple cider, snow cones and various other drinks and treats; it’s so much fun to have your kids get to the front of the line and get a handful of treats along the route you’ve planned to enjoy, ride and see everything in the Magic Kingdom.

Holiday-themed pretzels and blue snow cones.

She won’t share.

Each year Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is on our must-do list as well as taking a ride through It’s A Small World Ride, flying with Dumbo, hanging on at Barnstormer, soaring on Aladdin’s Magic Carpet, always the carousel, every parade and definitely some Christmas shopping. We keep it mild!

Dumbo is a must.

It’s A Small World to relax and enjoy the sights.

Carousel moments.

Your tickets show the party begins at 7pm but you can get in to enjoy the festivities as early at 4pm to enjoy the extra time on the rides but keep in mind the party, the blowing snow and all the complementary extras don’t start until 7pm when, as a bonus, the crowds will lesson as well.

After 7pm everyone who was at the Magic Kingdom during the day will have to have on a party wristband to stay in the park and if you already have park tickets for this day you will need to purchase the event tickets extra, so plan ahead if you’ll be visiting the parks for several days so that you spend the morning and afternoon at Animal Kingdom which closes earlier than some of the other parks and then head over to the Magic Kingdom with your Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party event tickets and enjoy the party until 1am.

Everything Disney is bigger and better and more Christmas during the event and it is sure to become a tradition and part of your Disney vacations or a holiday treat to welcome the holiday season.

Each year it’s our family tradition to fly-in for a fun-filled, action-packed Disney weekend and enjoy the excitement and nice weather and everything the parks have to offer!

The holiday parades are amazing and every year we look forward to the nutcrackers march.

You’re invited to the most magical Christmas event of the season! Get your tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and dance with Goofy, see Santa, meet Disney characters and be amazed by truly awesome parades with GIANT dancing nutcrackers all while the castle glows in its holiday glory. You and your family will have an evening filled with all the joys and magic of Disney and sweet dreams to you as you anticipate next year!

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Family Travel

Walt Disney World


Holiday Travel

Weekend Getaways

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Twitter @chasingrockwell

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My husband was buried on our wedding anniversary one-year ago. This week marked what would have been 19 years of marriage.

His heart was big and his love still touches our lives every day.

“If we remembered every day that we could lose someone at any moment, we would love them more fiercely and freely, and without fear – not because there is nothing to lose, but because everything can always be lost.”

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