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How To Do Memphis In Three Days (If You’re Me)

Well Memphis, it’s been fun.

I think it’s safe to say that I used up every available moment enjoying what this city has to offer, except for the two hours yesterday afternoon when my back and the blister on my foot indicated that laying on my hotel room bed watching “Friends” would be a better option than sightseeing.

Memphis is incredible. It might be my new favorite town in Tennessee, and I lived in Knoxville for five years! (Shhh, sorry Knoxville.) There is no shortage of things to do (or places to eat), and if I had a few more days (and more travel money!) I could have easily filled them up with more fun.

I toured the legendary Sun Studio, the “birthplace of rock and roll”. It’s most famous for being the place where Elvis Presley launched his career but many, many other notable artists recorded there too, including U2 (swoon), who recorded several tracks off of their “Rattle and Hum” album. The tour was fantastically interesting and educational. As I’ve said about just about every Memphis experience, I’m so glad I went!

Sun Studio Memphis

During the tour I got to hold the actual microphone Elvis used.

Sun Studio Elvis' Microphone

Speaking of music, I also took the Gibson Guitar Factory Tour. I was terribly disappointed that they didn’t allow photographs for security reasons, because I was hoping to be able to show J what the factory looked like. I’ll have to bring him back because it was one of the best factory tours I’ve ever been on. It was cool to see thousands of guitars in every stage of formation, and now that I’ve seen the work and care put into these quality musical instruments I’ll never question why they’re so expensive again. A couple of things I learned at Gibson:

1. “Sunburst” is their most popular finish, followed by Cherry Red and then Ebony.
2. While it takes about a week to complete each guitar from nothing, the factory workers finish about sixty-four of them each day.
3. At the last station after the electronics are installed, a quality check is done on every guitar, and it’s either pass or fail. About four percent fail due to things as small as a blemish on the finish, and failed instruments are stripped of parts that can be saved and then the rest DESTROYED. (oh my gosh, ack.)

I got this great picture of two guitars in the gift shop…

Gibson guitars

The best view of Memphis can be found at the Lookout in the Bass Pro Shops Pyramid. No, I’m not kidding.

Memphis Bass Pro Shops Pyramid

I wasn’t too excited about visiting a Bass Pro Shops because I’m no sportswoman but I have to say, the store was incredible. I actually browsed after visiting the Lookout.

The elevator up is a free-standing one, right in the middle of the pyramid. At the top there are two observation decks and a restaurant/bar.

Memphis Pyramid elevator

Mississippi River Memphis

I briefly visited the Memphis Farmer’s Market. I didn’t come away with anything other than pictures but it was still fun.

Memphis Farmer's Market

Memphis Farmer's Market

I visited the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel. I can’t recommend this enough (to everyone) and wish I had been able to spend more time there. Ninety minutes was not nearly enough. I took pictures in color and black and white but wanted to share the black and white ones because the colorful ones of the outside were a little too colorful for what is sacred ground in our nation’s history.

Lorraine Motel

National Civil Rights Museum

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I enjoyed the brief spectacle of the Peabody Hotel ducks: every day at 11:00 am they come out of the elevator and walk (run!) up the red carpet to the lobby fountain, where they stay and swim until 5:00 pm when they go back to their quarters. It’s a Memphis tradition.

Peabody Memphis Ducks

This Duckmaster is only the fifth one since the tradition started almost 90 years ago.

Peabody Memphis Duckmaster

The National Ornamental Metal Museum was fascinating and I found a bench I’d love to have. (It wasn’t for sale and I’m certain I wouldn’t have been able to afford it if it had been.)

Memphis Metal Museum Bench

Exploring the South Main area, I came across a beautiful sign for what used to be the Frank James Hotel. I couldn’t find much information on it when I returned to my room but will be researching it soon.

Frank James Hotel Memphis

Just like all great trips, I’m sad to be leaving but happy to be going home. I did a lot of reflecting in the land of the Delta Blues, and had an important revelation. I mentioned in my last post that I kept alternating between being thrilled to be a solo explorer and wishing that I had someone with me. What I realized is, I’m never really alone. I “saw” my friends and family everywhere I turned. Sometimes I took pictures of things that reminded me of loved ones and sometimes I picked up souvenirs that I thought would be appreciated by someone in particular. I shared my experiences not only online by by text and phone call. New memories reminded me of older memories, and to sum it up I am just so lucky to have a wide network of loved ones who can travel virtually with me when they can’t actually be by my side. I’m counting my blessings again and again, which is one of my favorite (and highly recommended) habits.

A couple of you, including my mom (hi mom!), asked me to make a list of the places I enjoyed in Memphis for future reference. So, here’s what I did in the three full days I spent in Memphis, in no particular order (and much of it on foot, from my downtown hotel).

*deep breath*

National Civil Rights Museum
Gibson Guitar Factory Tour
B.B. Kings Blues Club
Club 152
Memphis Farmer’s Market
Pottery Barn/Williams Sonoma/West Elm Outlets
Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken (okay twice)
Gibson’s Donuts
Makeda’s Homemade Butter Cookies
Sun Studio
Charles Vergos’ Rendezvouz
Love Pop Soda Shop
Ghost River Brewing
Peabody Hotel Ducks
Bass Pro Shops Pyramid
National Ornamental Metal Museum
Silky O’Sullivan’s
Beale Street
A. Schwab
Tater Red’s Lucky Mojos and Voodoo Healings
South Main

Thanks again, Memphis. I’ll be back.

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Walking In Memphis


I’m in Memphis for a few days while D is attending a design conference. While I did my normal level of research on activities and places to eat ahead of time, I didn’t plan everything out by the hour like I typically do. I dumped everything into a list on my Wunderlist app and have been flying by the seat of my pants, truly.

My favorite part of this trip, as usual, is the time I’m spending just walking around and taking photos.

I’ve spent a lot of quality time on Beale Street.

Beale Street

Blues Hall

The neon signs are ridiculously fun.

Rum Boogie Cafe


Love and happiness basically sums it up around here.

Downtown Memphis

I made a pilgrimage to Graceland and saw that Jungle Room, but I think the living room was my favorite.

Graceland Living Room

I left my mark.

Graceland Glad I Came

I’ve eaten barbecued brisket, fried chicken, grits, fried green tomatoes, and a few non-southern specialties (donuts).

I’ve alternated between feeling exhilarated from the experience of exploring on my own and wishing I had someone next to me, sharing it all.

Beale Street

I’m having a blast. Wish you were here.


Netflix #StreamTeam September: Help Yourself!

Netflix Stream Team

I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam and will be happily sharing monthly tips and stories about how my family uses Netflix on a regular basis. (Okay, that’s an understatement. I should say CONSTANTLY. We use Netflix CONSTANTLY.) This post is sponsored by Netflix, of course!

I’ll admit it: I’m slightly obsessed with “makeover my life/business/family/home” reality shows. I’ve watched many of them over the years, and while they vary widely in presentation, they’re all the same when you take them down to bare bones.

On the nanny shows, usually the parents aren’t doing what they need to do to properly discipline their kids and that’s why they’re having issues. On the dog training shows, the pet owners aren’t doing what they need to do to properly discipline and train their dogs. On the home makeover shows, they’re usually stuck in the past and/or not getting rid of stuff when they bring in the new and/or need some organizational skills. On the business makeover shows, they’re typically not paying enough attention to the business and there is a mutual disrespect between owners and staff. On the body makeover shows they’re typically eating too much and not moving enough. You get the idea.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that nine times out of ten, the solutions are right there under the noses of the subjects in question, and nearly always there is a person (or people) close to the subjects who know the exact source of the problems…yet a “professional” is called in to facilitate change. The truth is, most people find it a lot easier to listen to someone with whom they’re not emotionally connected.

Another truth is, most people who need some type of life improvement aren’t going to get selected for a reality makeover show–even though there are seemingly thousands of show opportunities.

That means one thing: people who are seeking improvement in their lives/businesses/families/homes can do it themselves if they really open up their minds, eyes, and ears and utilize the support they have right in front of them, as hard as that can be. Me too, and you too. Have you ever watched one of these shows and thought, “Wow, I could really use that guy/girl around here to show me what I’m doing wrong”? Try thinking about it differently. The solution–or the people who can assist you with seeing it–are likely on the other end of a phone call, email, or Facebook message. Help them help you to help yourself, and you’ll get those changes made!

In the meantime, help yourself to a few makeover reality shows on Netflix! Here’s a list to get you started:

Kitchen Nightmares
Restaurant: Impossible Collection
Nanny 911
Marriage Bootcamp: Bridezillas
Love It Or List It Collection
Hoarders Collection
Hotel Impossible

And as an added bonus that I’m throwing at you from left field, watch “Jerry Maguire” because while it’s not a reality show, it’s a great example of listening to those who are in our circle, in order to inspire change:

More Netflix #StreamTeam viewing tips next month!

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The $250 Neiman Marcus Mrs. Fields Cookie Recipe

chocolate chip cookies

I have a thing for chocolate chips. It’s a big joke around here that I get nervous when I discover that I’ve run out of them.

Actually, it’s no joke.

My go-to recipes when I feel like baking are chocolate chip banana bread and chocolate chip cookies.
I was raised on chocolate chip pancakes, and I raised my kids on chocolate chip pancakes.
Homemade chocolate chip ice cream? Yum. Adding chocolate chips to store-bought vanilla ice cream? Nearly as good because chocolate chips.
After dinner I’ll occasionally grab a little handful of chocolate chips to satisfy a sweet tooth.
One of my favorite episodes of “Friends”? The one where Monica tries to figure out Phoebe’s grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe.


I have spent twenty six bajillion dollars on about forty nine million bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips. At least.

When it’s cookie time, I don’t exclusively make the Nestle Toll House cookie recipe. I have a recipe that’s a little more involved that’s been hanging out in my cookbook since around 1987. The title I wrote in was “Mrs. Fields’ Cookies”, but that’s not entirely accurate.

Back in the 80s there was a rumor that Mrs. Fields had sold her recipe for $250. The rumor was so rampant that her stores had a notice posted publicly, to deny it. Around that time the rumor changed a bit, to a story about how someone asked for a cookie recipe from Neiman Marcus and she was charged $250 for it. The whole urban legend can be found on Snopes.

I don’t remember exactly where I acquired the recipe, and whether it’s Mrs. Fields’ or Neiman Marcus’ or someone else’s recipe isn’t as important as its deliciousness. If your family enjoys chocolate chip cookies, you need to make these. Instant superhero status.

Speaking of superheroes, start pumping iron a few weeks before making these cookies. I nearly broke an arm mixing all the chocolate into the dough. Another note? A hand mixer is not ideal for this recipe; I’m not sure I’d try it without a stand mixer.

chocolate chip cookie dough

Now that I’ve issued the warnings, are you ready to take this recipe on? Do it. It’s a game-changer.

Mrs. Fields' Cookies (Or Neiman Marcus Cookies)
Yields 100
Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, these cookies will make you a hero. This recipe is exactly as I wrote it in my cookbook and seems to be a double recipe. It can be halved, of course, but I recommend that you go big or go home.
Write a review
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
35 min
  1. 2 c. butter
  2. 2 c. white sugar
  3. 2 c. brown sugar
  4. 4 eggs
  5. 2 tsp. vanilla
  6. 4 c. flour
  7. 5 c. oatmeal (powderized in Cuisinart)
  8. 2 tsp. baking powder
  9. 2 tsp. baking soda
  10. 24 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  11. 8 oz. milk chocolate chips, finely shredded/chopped
  12. 3 c. chopped nuts (optional)
  1. Cream together butter and sugars; add eggs and vanilla.
  2. In separate bowl, mix flour, oatmeal, baking powder and baking soda, then add to first mixture.
  3. Add chocolate and nuts by hand.
  4. Make golf ball-sized balls and bake on a greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
  1. DO NOT OVERBAKE. They'll look underdone when you pull them out of the oven but will firm up as they cool.
Suburban Scrawl http://suburbanscrawl.com/

Enthusiasm is Contagious. Let’s Spread It Around.

I cried this morning. It was a good cry, though: my favorite. I was actually on the phone with a close (close close) friend and she was telling me about something in her life that had been looking pretty grim for a while but just had a huge turnaround. She started crying and then I started crying, and it was just the best. I kept saying, “I’m just so happy to hear you sounding happy!!” I felt such joy and wished I could bottle it.

Then I took Roxie for a walk, and since that’s where I do a lot of good thinking, my brain wandered from this morning’s conversation to an article that was going around early this week about Taraji P. Henson openly celebrating the successes of her friends at the Emmys on Sunday night. The best part of the article was this:

Everyone wants to snag the role and to be the star, but very few want to be a on the sidelines rooting for others. In a dog-eat-dog world, Taraji P. Henson showed us that support is as support does and when one wins, we all win.

What my friend and I cried happy tears over this morning was personal and not professional, but just go with me; there’s a connection. I saw over time the sadness, frustration, anger, exhaustion, and countless other emotions she experienced along the way. This great thing that happened was a HUGE reward.

Professionally speaking, someone could go through all of those emotions (and more!) as she works towards a goal. Each person has her own strategies and work habits but typically in the case of an achievement, there is simply a huge amount of effort and intention behind it. The majority of the time, people are not rewarded just because the wind is blowing in their direction or because they are having a good hair day.

When I see friends achieve something professionally, I celebrate with them. If I don’t know the details of how much work they put forth, I can certainly imagine because I know what my own path has been like.

I don’t understand others who can’t muster enough energy and true happiness to high five, hug, or otherwise congratulate loved ones when something good happens. What does it say about a relationship if you can’t be happy when something exciting happens for somebody you care about? Allowing jealousy or unhappiness with one’s own situation get in the way doesn’t cause anything but bad feelings all around. Even if a friend gets an award or position for which you were also being considered, be happy for her. Be disappointed for a minute because you didn’t get chosen, yes, but keep that inside as you feel it and then move on to hug her. It will mean more to her than you realize.

I have a unique perspective on this: having cast four Chicago LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER shows, I know firsthand that there are tough decisions when choosing people for parts/spots/positions/awards/honors. There aren’t enough spots in life for everybody to get everything for which they apply or audition or work towards. If Tracey and I could select everybody who submits a gorgeously written-and-auditioned essay for our show, our show would be days long.

Not getting selected doesn’t mean one isn’t qualified or that her work is substandard. When we don’t get selected for something, it might not be our time. It might not ever be our time for that particular reward. We will likely get selected for something else down the road, and it might be something we never imagined. When that happens, don’t we want our friends to be genuinely happy for us? I know I do. I bet you do, too.

I know that women like the idea of supporting each other. When I shared that article on my Facebook page, it got nearly 50 likes and was shared 14 times (big numbers for something I post!). I hope that Taraji’s display of professionalism, support, and love on Sunday night is an inspiration to women all over the country. I hope we start seeing more enthusiasm, especially up close and personal in our own relationships.

It all goes back to one of my favorite sayings (which I’ve written about at least once before), “A rising tide lifts all boats”.

Enthusiasm is contagious. Let’s rise up together, shall we?

A rising tide lifts all boats.


Go Float! (Part 1)

Disclosure: I am writing this post in exchange for flotation therapy at Anicca Float Club, which I can’t wait to tell you about. As usual, all opinions are mine.

Go Float

I had no idea that floating was a thing.

Well, maybe I did. I can’t imagine that it has been a thing since the 1970’s and I could never have heard of it. Maybe I had gotten wind of it at some point but if so, I stuffed it into the recesses of my brain. I have too many other things to think about/obsess over…which is probably why I ended up floating. Confused? Let me explain.

I am in a constant quest to find ways to force myself to relax/stress less/take care of myself. As much as I thrive on being a Type A stress ball who has a thousand things going at once (sad but true!), I also know that it’s important for me to pull back every now and then.

Well, I know that at least in theory.
I kid. I know that, all the time.
I just don’t practice it as much as I should.

When a friend told me that there was this super cool place right near my house–two miles from my house–where I could go and float in ten inches of water all by myself in a darkened tank for a whole hour, I was intrigued and excited. It sounded like sensory deprivation to me, and while I never could have been excited about that as recently as five or six years ago, I absolutely love the idea of it now.

I’m connected all the time. ALL! THE! TIME!
My brain doesn’t shut off. Ever.
I have perpetually tight shoulders.

I went in to meet with the owners, Lindsay and Paul, just to get an idea of what the experience would be like. I was there for more than an hour, just chatting. I adore being around people who are passionate about what they’re doing, and these two are. They’re not only providing this great service, this awesome place where you can go and release some stress, relax a little bit, and recharge; they’re interested in building community. I love that, too!

Anicca Float Club

When I went back for my scheduled float, I was so excited for my hour of peace. Lindsay went over everything with me again, and then left me in my own personal float room, which consists of a changing area, a shower, and the float tank. After putting in ear plugs and showering I got right into the tank (carefully!) and closed the clear glass door. Although it was an option to leave the little blue light on, I wanted to experience everything full throttle, so I shut it off and left myself in complete and total darkness.

Floatation Tank

The water is ten inches deep and has around 800 pounds of salt in it, so there is no effort involved in floating at all, which is part of the joy of it. The water is body temperature so within minutes, you feel like you’re just…a part of it. (That sounds totally new age-y, I know. Sorry.)

I tried different arm positions at Lindsay’s suggestion and found that I was most comfortable floating with my arms over my head. And guess what? Once I got through the first couple of minutes obsessing about the sound of my breathing, I slept. While floating. I woke myself up snoring a couple of times. At times I was wide awake and then, WHOOP, sleeping again. I knew from reading about floating beforehand that my brain was just cycling through the various brain wave stages.

To pre-emptively answer a couple of questions I bet some of you will have:

~The flotation rooms are thoroughly cleaned after each and every use. The water itself is full of salt and can’t harbor bacteria but here’s how Lindsay and Paul explain it on their website: “The extreme salt concentration in our rooms is incredibly prohibitive to bacterial growth. The rooms are filtered continuously when no one is floating. Additionally, the float solution is filtered a minimum of 3 times between each float cycling 99.9% of the water through our filtration system. The solution passes through a 5 micron filter, UV light chamber and an Ozonator. We also use the hydrogen peroxide (the best oxidizer available) and we monitor its residual daily. Our float rooms are cleaner than any public pool facility.”

~Lindsay and Paul told me that they have had people who consider themselves to be claustrophobic try it out and the vast majority have no problem with it. You have so much control in the situation, from leaving the lights on to leaving the tank door (that leads to the shower area) open.

~You cannot drown while floating due to the salt in the water, which is more concentrated than the Dead Sea. And I SLEPT WHILE FLOATING, which should tell you that it’s safe.

Being there all alone in that tank, completely relaxed for an hour, was heavenly. I could imagine that, like when I’m ironing (only way more comfortably!), I could get a lot of great thinking done in there with no other distractions. I’ll be floating two more times (at different times of day so I can see if there’s a difference) and will report back. I’m so curious about how my third float will be different from the first one.

In the meantime, I found this great article called “Flotation Therapy is Seen As a Refuge from your Technology”, which may well have been called “Flotation Therapy is Seen As a Refuge from your Technology, MELISA”. Read it here to learn more.

Anicca Float Club is located in Naperville at 4S100 N. IL-59. They sell single floats, a three-pack for new floaters, and monthly “club” options. I encourage you to check it out, and bring a friend: there are four flotation rooms!

Thanks so much to my new friends Lindsay and Paul for this experience. I’ll see you again tomorrow!


Always A Mummy.

Disclaimer: This post is probably going to come out like one of those bittersweet ones and some of you will probably say that I should have given an advance Kleenex warning. On the contrary; this is just an observation. I don’t intend for it to be sad. I’m not sitting here crying. I’m smiling. See?

*This is where I would have inserted a picture of me smiling but I’m too lazy so you’ll have to imagine it, and trust me.*

Being the mom of grown kids is weird. At twenty-three and twenty, D and J are old enough to have all kinds of information stored away in their brains about being productive and successful adults. That said, there’s also a ton of information they don’t know. Sometimes Jim and I forget that certain things can only be learned “on the job” or in real time via life experience; there’s absolutely no way for us to teach or help them with every single life skill until a situation comes up that warrants a lesson, so we make sure we’re prepared to lend a hand when needed.

Those lessons don’t present themselves as often as they used to. Obviously as kids grow, their dependence on parents decreases if the parents are doing it right. They also aren’t under parental “supervision” like they were before.

As our boys grew up, we gave them more leeway and more opportunities to make their own choices on everything from what they wanted to eat for lunch to what they would do in their free time to, well, an infinite number of other things. I have never been that mom who mourns the passing of each age and stage for more than a minute; I’ve always been excited to see them soar, and soar they have.

Now they’re adults. J has just started his junior year in college (What? I know: crazy!) and is looking into taking a Birthright trip all the way across the globe to Israel. Without us. D moved home a month ago and in what seems like record time, found a great new full time job that he will begin Monday. He’ll be a city commuter. They’re doing so well, and we’re so proud. We’ve all adjusted to this “sometimes Jim and I are empty nesters and sometimes we aren’t because sometimes the boys are home for a while and sometimes they aren’t” thing.

So you can imagine my surprise when, earlier this afternoon, I saw a television commercial for Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and how it’s super cool to make Mummy Dogs with them (a twist on “pigs in blankets”) for Halloween and got a little teary because it made me think of this:

Halloween 1997

That led to thinking about carving pumpkins. THAT led to thinking about decorating for Halloween, which I abhor doing and in fact hardly do (or have ever done) at all. THAT led to thinking about taking them trick-or-treating and being the lucky recipient of all the fun sized Almond Joys because they’re my favorite and nobody else in this house eats them. And THAT led to thinking about how time flies. It really does.

I don’t know how we got here so quickly. While I don’t want to go back (except in my memories), I just sit here thinking about it all in amazement: how much we did, how much we didn’t do, how all of that stuff contributed to who we all are today, and how no matter how much involvement I have in their day-to-day lives, I’ll always be their mom.

And maybe, just maybe, I’m planning on making those Mummy Dogs on Halloween.


Control Freaks Shouldn’t Take Train Trips.

I have always enjoyed riding the train.

While I live thirty miles west of Chicago’s city center, driving there can take anywhere from forty-five minutes in no traffic to more than two hours on an especially congested day.

On the other hand, if I take the train, I’m at Union Station in about forty minutes if I catch an Express, and I can be productive along the way since I’m not driving. A non-Express train is about an hour and twenty minutes but still, no stress, no road rage. For me, the train ride to downtown is peaceful, just like the state of my brain when I took this picture a while back:

Ticket to ride

So when Jim brought up the idea of taking a cross-country train trip to the Grand Canyon–after reiterating how much he loved traveling by train with the Boy Scouts to Philmont High Adventure Ranch in New Mexico, twice!–I thought, “Huh, that’s different. Why not? I love the train! It’ll be so peaceful!”

Oh my, that conversation seems like decades ago.

We chose to purchase regular seats rather than a sleeping car mainly because of cost. Our seats, which were similar to First Class seats on an airplane, only cost about $150 round trip per person. A cabinette/sleeper would have come at a much greater expense; honestly, much more than flying. That choice was a “misstep” that several of my train-loving friends brought up throughout my trip as I complained to the high heavens (i.e. Facebook). I still stand by the fact that rather than spend more money on a sleeper, I would rather have flown and arrived in a fraction of the time.

We saw America, though, and it was beautiful! I loved riding through Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas (even “boring” Kansas!), Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. The scenery was the best part, by far.

The landscapes of our beautiful country we enjoyed on the way out West warmed us up nicely for the beauty of the Grand Canyon which, now that I’ve seen it up close and personal I highly recommend for everyone. You NEED to see it for yourself.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Anyway, the worst part about the train ride, BY FAR, was the sheer length of the trip. Jim’s Boy Scout trips had been 24 hours each way; this trip was about 33 hours each way. (Even HE started losing it after the 24-hour mark.) We left on a Friday at 3:30 p.m. and returned to our home station on Wednesday around 2:30 p.m. We were on the train for nearly half of the time we were gone, not including the two hour train ride back and forth from Williams, Arizona (where we stayed on Saturday and Monday nights) to the Grand Canyon itself. As my dad would say, “That’s a lot of training!” (insert rim shot here.)

It’s enough to make a person (me) go crazy, honestly. Control freaks shouldn’t go on (long) train trips, period. Here’s what else I learned along the way.

1. What might have completely humiliated me as a teenager actually made for a couple of funny moments on the train. Thanks Dad, you goofy son-of-a-gun.


2. When you’re on a cross-country train ride, the slightest hint of scandal can be exciting, even if you have no idea who did what or why.

someone was removed!

3. A lot about the human spirit can change in a matter of an hour and twelve minutes. AN HOUR AND TWELVE MINUTES. Exhibit A:

are we there yet

mentally irrational

4. Did I mention how control freaks shouldn’t take train trips?

I will drive the train myself


5. Perhaps social media professionals/addicts shouldn’t take train trips, either.

no service

6. It’s really important, in order to survive the extreme conditions on long-distance train trips, to find things to productively occupy your time.

Fitness Tracker

let it go

7. By “productively occupy your time”, I don’t mean baiting your spouse, who is already out of her mind. Unless you’re super cute and have every confidence she’ll consider your comment to be a product of your co-insanity and subsequently let you get away with it.

we still won't be home

8. We’re all in this together.

Never do this again

9. There’s really nothing like coming home.

coming home

Until you start dreaming about the next trip–on a plane or in a car, of course, because those long-distance, “America the Beautiful” train trips? CHECK. You’re done.


National September 11 Memorial

In 2012, I started a new personal tradition for the National Day of Remembrance. I had visited the National September 11 Memorial when I was in Manhattan for BlogHer ’12, and was extremely moved by the experience (massive understatement). It occurred to me that, rather than passively watch the televised tributes and read what the rest of the internet had to say about 9/11, each year I would involve myself by actively remembering and learning about a couple of the victims of that terrible day.

Patrick Currivan, 52, was a passenger on Flight 11. He was a Vice President at Atos-Euronext and an avid traveler who also loved opera and art. He was born in Dublin, Ireland. His sister (Helen Redden) is quoted as saying, “He was a very generous person, and very clever. He would frequently arrive in Ireland with his suitcase bulging with gifts of wine, champagne and chocolates. We are all going to miss him terribly. It’s incomprehensible.”

Donald Arthur Peterson and Jean Hoadley Peterson of Spring Lake, New Jersey were on Flight 93, on their way to a vacation at Yosemite National Park. He was the retired President of Continental Electric Company in New Jersey, and she had worked as a Registered Nurse and nursing instructor, and was a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician. They kept busy in retirement by doing lots of volunteering and crisis counseling.

David Ortiz was a locksmith at the World Trade Center. He was a First Responder who was missing after he stayed behind to make sure people didn’t go back into 4 World Trade Center. In his spare time he enjoyed fishing with his fourteen-year-old son and renovating his new home in Rockland County, New York. In addition to their son, he and his wife Lillian had a six-year-old daughter.

If you would like to do some learning and remembering today, here’s how. All you have to do is go to the September 11 Memorial website’s Memorial Guide and scroll down a little bit. On the bottom left of the screen you can click on North Pool or South Pool for a name listing. After that, pick a couple out and Google them. That’s it. It’s such a small task but so important, and the families appreciate any interest in their lost loved ones. THIS is something anyone can do.

If you would like to read about my visit to the September 11 Memorial in 2012, click here.

Hug your loved ones today. Always Remember, Never Forget.


Blue Man Group Questions and Answers? Got ‘Em!

Remember how, the last time I saw Blue Man Group Chicago (just a month ago!), I said that I won’t ever get sick of the show? TRUTH. In fact, I just went back last week.

I KNOW!! Crazy, right?

I was invited to come and see the show and stick around afterwards for a Q&A session with a band member and a Blue Man, and why the heck would I ever pass THAT up?

Answer: I would not.

Sidenote: Jim wondered how a Blue Man was going to answer questions, since Blue Men don’t talk. Huh. He’s always thinking.

Disclosure: we received complimentary tickets to the show as a part of a blogger event and while there was no requirement to write about it, naturally I am because I love Blue Man Group. Pictures courtesy of Blue Man Group.

Blue Man Group band

The show, of course, was great. Once again, the finale was my favorite. It always always will be. SO much fun. In fact, just last night at dinner I told my family that if I could be a part of that finale on repeat for hours, I totally would. TOTALLY.

Blue Man Group finale

After the show, we bloggers and our guests stuck around at the back of the theater and chatted with the stage manager while a band member and a Blue Man got cleaned up (and out of character, so he could talk! There you go, Jim!), and they joined us after a few minutes. There were so many questions and answers flying around that there’s no way I could cover it all but some really cool things I learned were:

1. The Blue Man who spent time with us (apologies; I didn’t write down his name but he was terrific!) said that after so many years of being a Blue Man, he is able to get all of his makeup off in ten minutes. That blew my mind.
2. He said that Blue Man training is very much like the show: it has a lot to do with sinking or swimming. Those who “swim” through training from the very beginning are going to be just fine.
3. Blue Men learn more than one role, which makes it easier to sub in when others go on vacation or are gone for other reasons.
4. The first skill set outside of music that new Blue Men work to master is throwing and catching.
5. Someone asked how they keep from laughing, and he responded that it’s all about perspective. Blue Men are logical and childlike and innocent and don’t find the same things funny as the rest of us.
6. D asked “Has the show ruined bananas, Twinkies & Cap’n Crunch for ya?” and our Blue Man said, “ABSOLUTELY.” If you haven’t seen the show, sorry. That’s all you’re getting.

While we were there, I was mesmerized by the stage crew, who was furiously cleaning up the entire time. The stage manager reminded me that they typically have 25 minutes between shows to make everything new again, and once again my mind was blown. They do an incredible job with that mess.

It was such a cool experience, to sit there for thirty minutes and listen to all of the questions being rattled off. Thank you so much to the folks at Blue Man Group; we were thrilled to be there and will remember the evening for a long time to come!

One more thing: I want to put another reminder out about the special Autism show that Blue Man Group Chicago is doing. It’s on Sunday October 4 at 4:00 p.m. (Chicago was the first city to stage an autism show, last year!) Blue Man Group shows nationwide are working with Autism Speaks this year to provide special experiences for this special community and will donate a minimum of $25,000 towards autism awareness and research to benefit families affected by autism.

Blue Man Group Chicago is staged at Briar Street Theatre, 3133 N. Halsted (in Lakeview). There are restaurants all over the place so you can really make an evening out of it. In fact, I highly recommend doing just that!

You can find more information about Blue Man Group (and of course, purchase tickets) on their website. Thanks again, Blue Man Group! See you soon!

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