Monday, May 30, 2005


I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s been more than a decade since I’ve visited my grandfather’s grave. Today, being Memorial Day, thought it would be appropriate to visit.

I was afraid I was going to get emotional pulling into the cemetery – after all, I cry at the drop of the hat during sappy card and grocery store commercials – but, the sign made me grin, “Ask About Our Memorial Day Specials.” The sign further bragged that space is now available, I likened it to all the condo advertisements I’ve been seeing.

Having been so long since I had visited, I wasn’t quite sure where his grave was. In the past 20 years, there have been a few more additions to the cemetery and I was lost. Found my way to the funeral home where a very kind woman took down my grandfather’s information and came back with a confusing map. I asked her just to point where we were located on the map, but she said she didn’t have her bearings either but would drive her car to the area and show me. After waving my thanks to her, I took out the map and carefully walked through the cemetery, looking for the numbered markers as I delicately stepped over stones and likely areas that had bodies underneath them.

When I travel to unfamiliar cities I try to be inconspicuous when pulling out the map. I was unsuccessful at doing this in the cemetery. It was obvious that I was lost – not just to myself but to a woman who was arranging gorgeous tulips on her mother’s stone. She tried to help and we both ended up sharing a laugh when I waved over a white area on the map and asked if she had any idea what it was, her answer was, “the cemetery.”

I eventually found his stone and began to cry. It’s been more than 20 years, I don’t know why I cried. Maybe it was because all of my memories of him are so vivid and I thought of what he’s missed, of what I haven’t been able to share with him. All those feelings rushed through me and out of me. Maybe it was simply the relief following frustration on where the stone was located. Maybe it was PMS. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I made the visit.

I placed a potted plant on his stone. I chose a living, drought-tolerant plant versus cut flowers to signify life (drought-tolerant because I have two brown thumbs!). I remembered how I felt when he died, that the world should stop and end, but it doesn't, life continues. We learn to move on.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

How to Feed a Gecko

One of the benefits of living in a multi-generational family is the exposure to new experiences. Last month for my cousin's 12th birthday, I enjoyed the giant water slide that was temporarily installed in the backyard. This week I learned how to feed a gecko.

My uncle and the boys left town this week, leaving me queen of the house. In addition to sitting on the couch with remote in one hand and bon bons in the other, I'm tasked at keeping the gecko alive.

Having lived in the Everglades for three years, I had a perception of what a gecko is. To my surprise, what's living in my cousin's room does not match my image. What's living up there is a little bigger than a baby's foot - short and squatty. It has shiny, dark eyes like swelled, black beans and wears a little smile. My uncle warned me that this little beast is mean, it bites.

The little beast eats crickets. This morning, I attempted to corral four crickets from their tank into a plastic cup. As you can imagine, after I got one in the cup, another would jump out. Maybe that's their distraction method - to cause chaos - maybe they know that if they disperse in multiple directions, there is a better chance at least one of them will survive.

Some how, I managed to capture three and decided the gecko (who is just called "Gecko.") would start a diet today. Up the stairs and into the bedroom, I then had to figure out how to remove the lid. I attempted to keep the crickets at bay in their cup while I fidgeted with the lid, but two escaped. They threw on camouflage to blend in with the desk and carpeting. I had to find these crickets! All I imagined was not being able to sleep tonight because the song of three angry crickets would keep me awake.

I pushed the magic button on the gecko's house and the top slid off. I successfully tossed in the day's sacrifice and secured the lid. I watched the crickets adjust to their new home and went to tend to those crickets left behind. To keep them comfortable and alive, I soak their sponge in water every other day. Interestingly, they suck on it. Now that's quite an image.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Life Investment

For some reason, I'm a bad investor. Not just financially, but with people. Not all people, but some. All of my life I learned that if you invest in something (or someone) you believe in, one day you will be rewarded. Isn't that why we are trained to hand over funds into a 401K? In my naive thinking, I believed this.

Guess I should have learned after 9/11 when people lost their life savings in the investment world. In some ways, 9/11 was a wake up call for me and I made life-altering decisions, not only for me but for others. I cut my losses.

But when bad habits aren't corrected, the pattern repeats itself. And this is where I am today. Needing to cut my investment losses - because I'm emotionally tapped and have been continually investing without any return. Logically, I know I need to, my head is telling me so. However, my heart and gut conflict with what my head is telling me. I've never followed my heart and I need to determine if now is the time that I do so.

Monday, May 23, 2005

What the Heck Am I Thinking???

I love road trips, especially when it's just me in the car. Not only do I get to practice my karaoke voice, but I get to think. (Note about karaoke in the car: the way to avoid strange looks by other drivers while singing is to utilize the earpiece of the cell phone's hands-free device . It gives the illusion that you are actually engaged in a conversation with someone else).

And when I think, I'm a better decision maker. Over the weekend, I gave a verbal commitment that I would write a guidebook. I hate guidebooks. I find them overwhelming with information I won't use because when traveling, I'm on a limited time schedule. But, I'm in the minority. The traveling public loves guidebooks.

So on the way home, I began to think about what I verbally committed to. Fear shot through me and I thought of the overwhelming task of putting the project together. Then I began to cry (Note: sunglasses help hide that from other drivers). But, unlike recent tears, these were tears of relief. Relief that I've found my passion. That I'm ready to take my desire to the next level. No matter how overwhelming it may seem, I know I can do it.

After all, how do you eat an elephant? Piece by piece. And this is how I will make it happen.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Simple Inspiration

Every profession and trade has a pioneer in their field who they try to aspire to. For me, that person is Arthur Frommer. The former GI who was stationed in Europe during WWII and took advantage of free Air Force flights once a week to travel and experience Europe. He was out to share what he learned with fellow GI's when he wrote and self-published "Europe on $5 Per Day." That was 1957.

This morning, I was one of 40 students of the Society of American Travel Writers Institute for Travel Writing and Photography listening and querying this low-key, inspirational person. I'll spare the details of his talk, but, it was energizing to see where good values and ethics can lead you. His presentation was followed by a full day of more delicious ideas and concepts, presented by experienced travel writing professionals.

This weekend has been the spark to the kindling that has been smoldering in me.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Breakfast with Eight Legs ~ Nothing Philosophical

I share my bathroom with an ugly, reddish-brown spider. Now, maybe in the spider world she’s pretty, but in my world, she’s scary. She makes appearances every so often but I never figured out where she lives. Sometimes, she greets me in the morning by peering out behind the door jam then darts away upon making eye contact. But most times, she’s lurking in the shower. I’m always concerned that she’ll show up in my towel or worse yet, embedded in my shower scrubby.

This morning, I witnessed her taking in breakfast. Her cobwebs glistened in the morning light from the dewiness of the shower. An innocent housefly ended up tangled in the delicately-deceiving web. It was as though his hairy little legs rang the dinner bell. She gracefully descended out of the window frame, quickly wrapped him in a cocoon and hoisted him up to the window frame where all but her lanky legs disappeared to. A few seconds later, she descended again to see how her victim was progressing into his untimely sleep, wrapping eight spindly legs around him, then disappearing again.

“Circle of life,” I thought. “Hmmm. Do I need to complete it by having spider for breakfast?” And with that thought, I finished getting ready for work.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Curse of a Big Chested Woman

Arggh!! Not more than 30 seconds after picking up my "coffee-something-ino" drink from Starbucks tonight, I get chocolate syrup on my sweater. I didn't order anything with chocolate (I'm a caramel gal), but, for some reason, my chest is a magnet for attention.

Being chest-endowed definitely helped out while in Japan. (And yes, I'm working on a story about being a Western woman in patriarchal Japan.) It prevented me from purchasing any clothing, however, it came in handy when asking directions or making conversation with the opposite sex. I was a bit self-conscious about it at first. Walking down sidewalks and watching men trying to sneak peaks, from businessmen in suits to on-duty police officers. Maybe I was a novelty, after all, we were in a part of Japan where not many Westerners travel to.

I even offered some entertainment for the Japanese women. As a team, we were treated to a tour of a kimono-fashion school then dressed in full, silk kimonos. My dressing gals giggled and smiled as they patted my breasts. I giggled along with them. Later in the day, I found myself in a sleeve-like a sleeping bag, but it constricted like a snake. A towel was wrapped around my top and my girl patted my chest and smiled. "Yes," I replied, "big." Of course, we shared a giggle.

Then there was the onsen experience. Japanese bathing. (Yet, another in depth story is in the wings to be written). It's done, well, "ne-ked." For many young Japanese girls, I was the first Westerner they've seen, none the less, naked. I found them coming up to me and checking me out like I was a newly discovered creature on display at the zoo. I had been warned by other Western woman that some Japanese women will check the Western women out to see if it's true whether the 'plumbing' runs the opposite way. I doubt these little girls knew about "plumbing," but they did recognize that I looked different.

And here I sit. Another evening at Starbucks, trying to pat out the chocolate sauce so not to attract attention to my bustiness.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Jenny's Lost Her Groove

I know what a bad day feels like. It's when nothing goes in my favor, including humid-hating, out of control hair. My bad day began sometime in January and hasn't gotten much better.

It feels as though my life has been out of sync. That I just can't get things coordinated, bills paid in a timely manner, on time to appointments. I've been rejected on so many levels and am struggling to cope with it all. The biggest rejection is from myself.

I'm being priced out of Sarasota, I can't afford to buy anything. "Coulda, woulda, shoulda" four years ago, but I didn't. But, being the trendsetter that I am, I'm living with my uncle and his two, pre-teen boys. Yes, I'm redefining the extended family, like the Mexican immigrants are doing. (Note: I have my own living quarters and entryway, so I'm basically renting an apartment; and, I do love our Mexican immigrants. They are the backbone of America, stepping up to jobs that lazy Americans won't take, similar to the Irish immigration of the early 1900's; who I'm a bit impartial to.).

JC Penney's has been my saving grace. Their clothing lines are the equivalent of adult Grr-Animals, easy to coordinate separates for the fashion-challenged like me. I put my hair up, throw on some groovy threads and look grrrreat.

So here I sit, a regular at the Starbucks in the local Barnes & Noble, sipping a Tazo something so I can access the Internet. I'm surrounded by anxious teenagers ready to grow up. My advice to them: slow down and "carpe diem".

And if you find my groove, can you send it my way? Much appreciated.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Friends Make My World Go 'Round

Friends are different from family in that friends have chosen to be your extended family. I didn't realize my strong network of friends, and what I mean to them, until last week. During my trip to New York, I did the City with my Sarasota friend Stephanie, reunited with high school friend Penny, caught up with friends from the National Parks and even spent time with Peter (the ex). I felt as though my different worlds have finally converged in harmony, something I've been missing for quite a while. I finally feel content and confident in myself. The best thing is, I met a new friend and we'll see if that friendship will grow.

Monday, May 09, 2005

"C" Is for Cancer

My aunt was about 35 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer so I shouldn't be surprised when my doctor told me today that I may have skin cancer. It was coincidence that I started removing one of the moles with a Bic Razor in the shower. The doctor finished the job with a scalpel by nicking off a piece of my ear and some suspicous moles under my arm, placed them in petite, little jars (which, by the way, would be perfect for storing glass beads) and sent them off to the lab. I'll know within 10 days the verdict. She also gave me the good news that a medication she gave me six months ago is now linked to lymphoma. I'm sure everything will be fine. In the mean time, I have a huge bandage on my ear and tell curious inquirers that I'm hiding a new piercing I acquired in New York this past weekend.

UPDATE: May 23, 2005~ For those wondering, I received word that my moles are cancer free.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

New York Minutes

Picture it. Thirty-something year old Florida girl (that would be me) comes bee-bopping out of NYC's LaGuardia Airport in the standard short skirt and sandals, only to be welcomed by everyone else dressed in long coats, scarves and gloves. Oops! Minor travel faux paux - I was so busy trying to get ready for the trip that I forgot to check the weather and just assumed, "it's May. Everywhere in the US is LOVELY this time of year." Guess I'll be going shopping tomorrow.

One of the aspects I love about New York are the people. There are not many other places in the world where you can have sweet nothings whispered in your ear by tall, dark, handsome and exotic (although, sometimes scary) men. Well, not exactly sweet nothings, but when I was here in January, it was "Gucci. Kate Spade. Coach." With my slight hearing problem, I quite didn't catch on and was about to belt one of the whisperers with my $9.99 Target purse, but I caught on that they wanted to sell me knock-off designer bags.

Today, it was "Town car. Limo. Taxi." Although I love sweet whispers and always up for an adventure, I was NOT up for an adventure in a gypsy cab. Instead, I stood in the cold line and caught a ride with Ramen Noodle - I mean, Ramen Mohamed. He whispered, too, but I realized he wasn't talking to me but on his cell phone. A little bit of advice I learned on the cab ride over tonight: When someone named Ramen or Mohamed sneezes, it's probably not wise to say, "god bless you."