Sunday, November 29, 2009

Traveling Alone

I have traveled alone since my first trip to Europe in my early 30's up till and including now at 59, spending six months away from home in a condo rental in Florida.  So this article resonates with me. 

Posted on November 8, 2009 - by Janice at Solo Traveler
For Those Afraid of Traveling Alone

In one evening I encountered two thoughts about fear. When ideas converge like that, I just have to write about them.

According to a recent post by Seth Godin, people are “afraid of anything with too many choices, too many opportunities, to look foolish or to waste time or money.” In Steven C. Lunden’s, CATS, The Nine Lives of Innovation, “The doubts and fears accumulated over a lifetime are there, in part, to keep us safe and secure. They can also serve as a straight jacket preventing innovation.”

Solo travel is full of choice, opportunity, occasions to look foolish and waste money. On the flip side, home is safe and secure. But is life in a straight jacket what you want? Personally, I think it’s important that fear doesn’t stop people from traveling alone.

I have met many, many people over the course of writing this blog who have come out and declared their inclination to travel alone. They have felt freed to speak about this choice as positive rather than a sad option. Unfortunately, there are also many people who are fearful of traveling alone.

One of the first steps in facing any fear is to name it. Break it down to see the source of the fear and determine whether it makes sense or not.

What do people fear about traveling alone?

So I put this question to my favourite crowd-sourcing forum, Twitter. Not everyone who follows me on Twitter actually travels solo so this is my best source of a random sample. It includes people who enjoy traveling alone and those who don’t. Here’s what I heard…

@HowdyFrom – 1) looking lonely to others 2) not being able to share the experience.

@20sTravel – safety would be number 1 for me. I should add that it’s really my mother’s fear about my traveling alone more than mine

@rtwDave – Serious illness.

@cultoftravel – Fear of being lonely

@Dtravelsround – Getting wallet/pport/etc. stolen w/no support

@Spitfirekixee – Greatest fear re traveling–getting scammed by crafty businessfolk who prey on “tourist-looking” peeps.

@jianantonic – My biggest (only?) solo travel fear is getting lost. Having to figure out an unfamiliar place on my own is nerve-wracking.

And, I love this one…

@vrdeals – 1 fear: having no one to back up all the stories you come home with!

Deconstructing my fears
I still get nervous when traveling alone. I’m not afraid but I am nervous. It’s not for my safety as I trust most people and I’m careful. I’m not anxious about getting lonely because I’m quite capable of starting conversations. I don’t worry about sharing the experience because I know that I will have to relate the stories too often for my liking when I return.

No, my worry is about me being clumsy with my documents and time. I worry about missing flights and misplacing tickets. I don’t think they’ll be stolen, I think I’ll place them down absentmindedly and lose them.

So, with this understanding, I use the appropriate tactics when traveling alone. I plan my time carefully. I use my project management skills and start with the deadline and back up each step of the way along a time line – with extra time built in for the unexpected – to know my starting time. I have also established a specific place for documents every time I travel and developed the habit of using it.

Deconstructing your fears
I invite you to break down your fears about traveling alone the way I have. Get to know them. Dismiss what isn’t real and develop tactics for what is. And watch the “How to Travel Alone” section of this blog for strategies to deal with many fears about traveling alone.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Just Because I Miss My Granddaughter

At the Chicago Botanic Garden on the tram ride...

And my grandson.....

Tomorrow I drive to Atlanta (6 hours away) for Thanksgiving and I'm so eager to see them!

Pompano Joe's

Finally made it back to Pompano Joe's (prior post) for dinner.  Love the "N'Awlin's" style screenless windows that open up to the ceiling....just like in the French Quarter.....(click to enlarge)

Sitting at my table before ordering...

I imagine these tables are filled during high season....

Sunset begins....

And intensifies....

The walk to the car after dinner....

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck.....

But man, I've never seen a duck like this!  Isn't she different?  And friendly!  I parked the car to get some photos about 30' from where she was drinking at a pond's edge, she immediately waddled over to my door!  Must be a lot of "feed-the-duck"ers she's used to.  (Sorry about the focus on the first shots....)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Flowers in Winter

One of the reasons I love Florida (in the winter, let's be perfectly clear about that...I don't "do" heat and humidity) is f-l-o-w-e-r-s!  I have to keep reminding myself here that it's winter, not spring or summer, when I come upon them.

And I feel blessed by their companionship now.   (Click to enlarge)

Parent Effectiveness

In Parent Effectiveness Training, Dr. Thomas Gordon says:

It puzzles me that those who reject the idea of parent training readily accept the logic that if they wanted to become effective or competent in any other endeavor or activity, they would take lessons, get coaching, or enroll in a training program.  Those who aspire to become good at tennis take tennis lessons from a pro...few persons would go out on the ski slopes until after they have had several lessons from a ski instructor....most people accept the idea of getting professional help when they learn how to a gourmet interior decorating...or fly an airplane.

With parenthood it's different.  People somehow assume they're going to be good parents when they get children.  Or perhaps they cannot accept that anyone knows enough to teach them what it takes to be an effective parent.  In fact, what we know about parent effectiveness has been learned rather recently. 

Behavioral scientists only about twenty-five years ago [this book was originally published in the 1970's] began acquiring knowledge about what it takes to foster and maintain good relationships.  By now much is known.  We know the skills required to bring about effective two-way communication in an interpersonal relationship; we know a method for resolving interpersonal conflicts so that no one loses and both win;  we know how a person can influence another to be considerate of his needs;  we know a method that will help another person work through his personal problems and find his own solutions;  we know how power and authority erode personal relationships.

Now that I'm a (fairly new) grandparent, I'm rereading some of these books I read, or partially read, when I was a parent with a son in my home.  I wish I'd read them more thoroughly and practiced more often what they teach.  I learned some valuable parenting skills from them, but wish I had had the opportunity to be a stay-at-home-mom (which I'd believed in) to practice them more.

Not having chosen single parenthood, the dilemma I had with trying to study these books thoroughly is that I was overwhelmed with what it takes to get through each day (teaching and grading, household chores and repair, grocery shopping, doctor's visits, helping with homework, car maintenance, everything it usually takes two parents to do) so I had little energy or time left to devote to it.  Yet, it is far more important than any of those other responsibilities.

That's another reason I believe in the idea of having mandatory classes within the school system to teach this.  Granted, teens are (hopefully) not thinking of having children when they are in high school, but they will be someday and to acquaint them with effective parenting methods might influence them to go back to those resources when they actually do become parents.  And who's to say they can't educate their own parents by sharing what they learn with them at home?  Moreover, the skills they learn for the parent-child relationship are applicable to other interpersonal relationships -- friend-friend, husband-wife, teacher-student, boss-subordinate.

I've spoken to some friends/colleagues in the field (social workers, psychologists) who recommend, in addition, other more current sources than Gordon's Parent Effectiveness Training (he also does Teacher Effectiveness Training books) but I can't recall the titles they advocate.  One of my goals for the near future is to reconnect with those people and get those books, too.

I'll always be a parent, am now also a grandparent, and have room for improvement, so I'm grateful for the time now in retirement to be able to revisit the information.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lemons or Oranges, Anyone?

Driving along a back street in Destin, I came upon this.  Not a soul in sight.  No one.  Just this little stand and sign, reminiscent of the "good, ole (1950's) days", in which I spent my childhood.  Sometimes I just love people.  (Click to enlarge to read the green sign!)

Air Shows

Sunset.  Cocktails at the beach.   Aqua waters, the sound of waves gently lapping the sugar white sand.  Music from my youth dancing from the speakers (60's stuff)......


Whoa!  What is that?!

The last two sunsets I've been at the beach, sipping a drink and chatting with the natives and tourists (few that there are this time of year), we have been witness to three aircraft in what appears to be a private performance just for us!  They turn and dive and skim along what seems only 10' above the water, whooshing past us in different formations.  No one I've talked to seems to know who they really are, but since Eglin AFB is here in Destin, we assume they are from the base.

I haven't gotten any good photos of them myself, and they probably aren't even these types of aircraft (some guy who recognizes these planes might be laughing his head off at me here).  But I downloaded them from Eglin's website, just to give you a visual.  Wish they'd had a picture of the planes close to the waves, like we saw!

(Nov. 21 update:  Saw them again this afternoon as I was driving along -- they were right above me and yep, there were five this time, all colorful like the two in the photo below!)

Eglin AFB, Florida is the former home of the 39th Bomb Wing and 4135th Strategic Wing. The Eglin range, managed by the 46th Test Wing, is the largest Air Force base in the free world. Located east of Pensacola, its 724 square miles of land range occupies much of the Northwest Florida panhandle. Its 101,000 square miles of air space extends over the eastern third of the Gulf of Mexico, an area extending from the panhandle to the Florida Keys. Seventeen miles of shoreline allow T&E in both a littoral environment and over a land-water interface.

Funky Florida

I know, I know, my last three posts have been "heavy-duty" and not real "fun". 

So, I've decided that whenever I get the urge to run around warning those I love about things I read, and thus usually effecting the opposite reaction that I'm hoping for (annoyance, fear, whatever...instead of concern and thanks for the heads-up) I'll just plunk them into my blog (oh, you lucky readers, you).  Get the mothering urge out here and move on.

We need something more lighthearted now.

So enjoy these shots of what I call "Funky Florida" --- the places and sites left over from what reminds me of 1950's Florida, whether they are that old or not!  (click photos to enlarge)

I think someone actually lived in this, as there was an ancient yellow jeep parked by it and bags of clothing inside the back door!

Oh yeah.  Baby alligators.  Lots of em.

A rare albino alligator...yep, alive....don't get me started on animal cruelty....actually, if memory serves, and it usually doesn't anymore, I think the curator told me that albinos are attacked and killed in the wild, so they were, in effect, protecting it here...just locked in that tank doesn't seem real humane to me.

Inside Fudpucker's restaurant (which has the alligators).  The beer can collection on the wall spreads all over the restaurant!

Err on the Side of Safety

From Dr. Oz's Website:

The Link Between Cell Phones and Cancer

The industry says there’s no connection, but experts are raising the alarm. Here’s how to play it safe. (Added to Articles on Mon 11/16/2009)

We rely on them to connect us to the people we love, to help us stay organized, and, in an emergency, to keep us safe. But more and more experts are saying that cell phones may pose a very serious health risk – increasing your chance of developing a brain tumor.

That means that over 270 million Americans may be playing Russian roulette with their cell phones every day. Each year, more than 21,000 adults and 1,500 children are diagnosed with brain tumors, and researchers believe some of them may have been caused by talking on a mobile phone.

A new study examined a decade’s worth of research and concluded that people who use cell phones for more than 10 years are up to 30% more likely to develop brain tumors than people who rarely use them.

What Cell Phones Do

Every time we call to say we’re late for a meeting or to ask if we can pick something up at the store, the cell phones we use are emitting radiofrequency radiation. While not as damaging as the radiation from X-rays, it can still affect our DNA. In fact, animal studies have shown that the radiation from cell phones can change the cells inside their brain. Whether those changes will cause serious damage is still up for debate. But because cell phone use is a relatively recent phenomenon, and brain cancer can take many years to develop, some scientists warn we will not see the results until it is too late.

What the New Research Found

A group of researchers from South Korea and California analyzed 23 studies that looked at the association between tumors and mobile phone use. As a group, the studies did not show an increased risk, but when the researchers focused on the higher quality studies and the longer-term use studies, they discovered about a 30 percent increased risk of tumors.

Who is Most at Risk

Children’s brains are thinner and contain more fluid than adult brains, which means they can more readily absorb electricity. Mathematical models show that when children hold a mobile phone up to their ears, the brain surface they expose to radiation is more than double that of adults. Some countries, including Finland and Israel, have already issued warnings that children not use cell phones, and Maine recently passed an emergency bill mandating warning labels about children and cell phones.

5 Steps to Staying Safe

1.Put it on speaker. Because your exposure drops exponentially as you move the phone away from your head, you don’t have to keep the phone very far away to reduce your exposure by 1,000 to 10,000 times.

2.Go wired. In crowded, noisy areas, use a wired headset instead. If you must use a wireless headset, turn it off when you’re not using it.

3.Store it. Unless you’re on it, stow the phone in your purse or bag. If you keep it on your waist, keep it turned off. Studies have shown that keeping a cell phone in your pocket can decrease sperm count.

4.Save it for a strong signal. When reception is bad (such as in a rural areas or when you’re driving) use your phone for emergencies only. The weaker the signal, the more the radio frequency has to boost itself to get connected, increasing your exposure.

5.Protect the kids. Do not let children use cell phones next to their heads. For older kids, it shouldn’t take much encouragement to get them to text more than they chat.

BB Epidemic

Beating the Bed Bug Epidemic

(This article is featured on Dr. Oz's website, the subject of one of his TV shows.  I've been reading about this for several years now and am glad someone influential like him has addressed the issue.  Everyone needs to beware of bed bugs -- reading this can inform and arm you!)

Bed bugs are back and could be coming to a bedroom near you. Here’s how to show them the door. 

Remember when “sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite” was just a cute bedtime expression that didn’t mean anything? Well, those days are over. After 6 decades of living largely bed bug-free, the US is facing a national infestation. In fact, the incidence of bed bug infestation has risen 500% in the last few years alone, and they’re not just in dirty hotels.

Outbreaks of these teeny, blood-sucking critters have been reported in every kind of neighborhood in every state across the country, and that means you’re at risk right now. Here’s what you need to know to truly sleep tight at night.

Things That Go Bite In The Night
Bed bugs are insects that rely on the blood of humans or animals to survive. As babies, they are tiny as pinheads. A full-grown adult that’s been making a nightly meal of you can balloon to the size of Lincoln’s head on the penny. These little parasites are nocturnal and hate light, so they wait until the dark to creep out for their meals, which is why it can take so long to discover you’ve been sharing your home with them.

Making A Meal Out Of You
Bed bugs hunt for a bare patch of skin and then hunker down to fill up before dawn. Someone who has a serious infestation could be bitten as many as 500 times per night. More often, you might see several bites clustered in one spot. Doctors call this “breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” because the bugs are cramming all their meals into a short span of time.

You will likely call it a very itchy rash, because the saliva of bed bugs causes an allergic reaction in many people. Though some people have no response, others can develop asthma, or in very rare cases, life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

Going On A Bed Bug Hunt
Bed bugs hide in dark spots where they’re unlikely to be disturbed. When you hunt for them, you may not see live bugs, so keep an eye out for their calling cards: rust-colored spots (that used to be your blood), eggs (pearly white and 1 millimeter long) and molted skins. Here’s where to look:

The boxspring: Lift it up and look underneath and along the seams. In some cases, professionals will slice open the cloth to look inside, because the bugs love the wood frame.

Nearby furniture: Inspect sofas, the undersides of bureau drawers, behind the headboard, and the backs and undersides of nightstands. Pay special attention to cracks, crevices, and seams.

On the wall: Peek under picture frames, wall hangings, peeling wallpaper or chipped paint.

Stay Calm And Get Help
If you find evidence of bed bugs, call a professional right away. Do not panic and toss your belongings in the street. Moving an infested mattress will just spread the infestation both to other parts of your house and to your neighbors. Bug bombs do not help, and, in some cases, make it much worse, dispersing live bugs to where they cannot be found.

Tossing Out The Welcome Mat
Even if you don’t have a rash or find bed bugs after reading this, there are several important steps you can take to make sure you don’t join the icky statistics.

Lock ‘em out: Buy a mattress encasement designed and tested for bed bugs. There’s no way these suckers can get into (or out of) an approved encasement. So, even if bed bugs are introduced to your home, they won’t be able to settle in and will be much easier to spot. Wash your linens weekly (in water at least 120 degrees.)

Trap ‘em: Bed bug interceptors are small plastic dishes that go under bed legs. The bugs can climb up them, but then they slide down into them and become trapped and easy to spot.

Don’t invite them home: As tempting as that comfy armchair at the yard sale may be, don’t buy it. Used furniture such as beds, sofas, and chairs can harbor hidden bugs and bring them right into your home. Keep clutter around your bed to a minimum and never store anything under the bed.

Don’t pick up hitchhikers: Hotels are one of the prime spots for bed bugs to branch out into new territory. Without even knowing it, you may be bringing home a little stowaway who can wreak havoc in your home. First inspect your hotel room as you did your home. Next, keep luggage on racks as far from the bed and sofas as possible. When you get home, wash anything that can be laundered in a hot wash of at least 120 degrees. Or dry on high heat. For items that cannot be exposed to high temperatures, seal them in plastic bags for travel. As for the luggage itself, there are PackTight portable units you can purchase that plug into the wall and heat your suitcase to destroy bugs and eggs or use a luggage spray specifically designed to kill bed bugs.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What's Your Philosophy?

When I was interviewing for a teaching job, I recall my (eventual) principal asking me what was my philosophy of education.  Oh gees, I was a recent college graduate with only student teaching as experience.  So I decided honesty really was the best policy and replied, "I don't know.  I haven't taught long enough to have a philosophy."  I guess he liked that answer, among others, as I was offered the job.  (I taught high school English, including writing, literature, communications and film for 32 years, but my first love was really psychology.)  Please don't critique my writing now, knowing what I taught.  My blogging is just my talking out loud to anyone who will listen -- and to myself, a kind of journaling.

But I do have a philosophy on everything I've learned about psychology.  When I was finally able to enroll in a Master's program for counseling, I began my journey to healing.  (My own mother, too, benefitted from those studies, as I passed on The Dance of Anger to her.  After reading it, she told me in a trembling voice, that she didn't realize she'd been angry most of her life.  She told me that my getting my Masters after my divorce turned out to be a good thing for her, too, as we discussed many of the things I learned in my training.  Being quite different in personality, we clashed in my youth.  This was the beginning of our healing.)  Learning to be introspective and honest with ourselves and others, identifying and dealing with our own "issues" (most of which come from our experiences in our family of origin), learning effective ways to communicate our feelings -- especially anger -- to strengthen our senses of "self" and our relationships, and finding healthy solutions to conflict are of such importance, my philosophy is that we should have classes all through school which speak to these topics, among others, and help kids develop skills related to them. 

I think it's safe to say that many of us struggle in these areas.  Healthy behaviors weren't always modeled for us, because our parents didn't always possess the skills.  In fairness, they didn't acquire all of the skills from their parents, either, because their parents didn't see them modeled, and so on and so on back in time.... We need to break the cycle of unhealthy behavior patterns somewhere.  Within the family is the best place, but that could take generations and generations.  Perhaps a more expedient way would be within the school system.

My idea is that the class would be mandatory like English or math and tailored to the age level of the students.  It might be called something like "Being Me" or "Making Friends" or "My Family, Friends and Me" throughout the grade school years and progress through junior high and high school with more appropriate titles.  But this on-going class would deal with the study of human behavior through appropriate topics for each age.  It would include personality, dealing with feelings, anger management skills, conflict resolution, assertiveness-training, active listening skills, relationship-building skills, parenting skills, anything and everything that comes under the topic of "understanding people and oneself."  And it would be taught through role-playing, art, music, reading and discussion, practice and evaluation, film and DVD or whatever method is most age-appropriate for the students.

I think the world would greatly benefit from that.

Just my two cents.

The Pier

There's a pier on the bay here from which you can take a water taxi to the village.  It's not operational now during low season, but you can still walk out and sit at the end of the pier and enjoy the water, birds, sun, peace and quiet.  And bird droppings.  But don't worry;  I didn't photograph any of the latter.  (Click photos to enlarge.)

The entrance is off one of the walking paths -- passed it on a cloudy day.

Walking out onto Choctawhatchee Bay another, sunnier day (the village in the distant on the right).

Marina, village and Sandestin Grand

One of the "locals" at the end of the pier

Guess who just applied morning deodorant?

Doncha just hate people who leave their trash all over?  Sheese.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Baby Don't You Cry

Baking pies is something I started doing with my granddaughter when she would spend the night at Nana's house.  She is now four and we've baked three pies together, but I hope there will be many more. (By the way, this is quite the feat for me, never having enjoyed cooking/baking all that much.  Now in retirement, I'm getting into it......a little.) To create the right atmosphere, I always put in my Waitress DVD (just the last scene where she's singing this song to her little daughter) and we sing as we bake.

It has become a funny game to see how many different (or silly) ingredients we can substitute for the word "strawberry" in these lyrics.  So far we've sung it with "chocolatey", "pumpkin-y","lemony", "gummy bear",  "bubble gum", and "poop-ity" (ah, that 3 year-old bathroom humor...)  Have a listen:

Baby Don't You Cry (The Pie Song)

When the world is gray and bleak
Baby don't you cry
I will give you every bit of love that is in my heart
I will bake it up… into a simple little pie

Baby don't you cry gonna make a pie
Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle
Baby don’t be blue
Gonna make for you
Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle

Gonna be a pie from the heaven above
Gonna be filled with strawberry love

Baby don’t you cry
Gonna make a pie
Hold you forever in the middle of my heart.

Baby here's the sun
Baby here's the sky
Baby I’m the light and I’m your shelter
Baby you are mine
I could freeze the time
Keep you in my kitchen with me forever

Gonna be a pie from the heaven above
Gonna be filled with strawberry love

Baby don’t you cry
Gonna make a pie
Hold you forever in the middle of my heart.

Gonna bake a pie from the heaven above
Gonna be filled with butterscotch love
Gonna be a pie from the heaven above
Gonna be filled with banana cream love

Baby don’t you cry
Gonna make a pie
Hold you forever
Hold you forever in the middle of my heart

The Little Ones at Our Feet

You only get them for a few years.  Ask someone who's already watched theirs grow up and leave the nest, and you'll find out in a hurry how fast the time flies.  They're eighteen, they're twenty-five, they've got children of their own, but in the mind's eye of a mom or a dad, they should still need a phone book to sit up tall at the table.

So big.  So fast.  Kind of chokes you up just thinking about it.

So now's your chance to lay the groundwork for a child God's depending on you to mold.  No matter how busy you are with the rest of your life, no matter how unaccustomed you are to talking spiritual things in front of your family, you're being counted on to model to your little girl or boy, to be the picture they get of loving authority, to be the safe place they can turn to for an honest answer, to be living evidence that all this church talk really does carry over into everyday life.

Help them learn to submit their will to yours today, so that when they're out there on their own, they'll be able to submit to God's.  (from the One Minute Bible)

Jolee Island

Sandestin has an island.  It's a peaceful piece of land where so far, I've not encountered another soul.  I'm sure that isn't the case in high season, so I'm taking advantage of it now.

In French, one of the few words I actually remember, "jolie" means "pretty" or "nice".  I'm guessing that might be what whoever named this island was aiming for.  Although, given the way they spelled it, possibly the last name of someone.

Let me take you on a tour, starting on a sunny day when I walked past the island entrance and ending with today's cloudy photo trip (click to enlarge):


Cross the wooden bridge over the bay

Choctawhatchee Bay

One of the walking paths on the island

Berries, foliage

Even a play area for the kids

A wooden pathway on the edge of the water circumnavigates the island

The bridge as viewed from the island

Leaving the island

There are also picnic tables and grills on the island (and "facilities") so it wouldn't be hard to spend a whole afernoon exploring, playing with the kids, cooking out, reading and listening to the birds.