Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Essential Non-Essential Vacation

Sipping on a chilled margarita while relaxing on a beach in Maui. Wondering through the Acropolis in Athens. Gliding on a Gondala through the Swiss Alps. All things I want to do but never have. They're called vacations--an escape from the reality of routine and stress to a destination that offers relaxation, adventure and renewal.

For me, vacations are an essential non-essential. Do I need them like food and shelter?


Do I need them for mental health and excitement?


And, I must admit, I do vacations so well. Yes, they are expensive, but I've learned how to travel like a Hollywood star (well...maybe like an off Broadway star) on a thin wallet. I could actually write a blog about how to do this, but one blog is enough, thank you very much. A few strategies I have used to make sure vacations are part of my life are:

I use my Hilton Honors credit card for everything I purchase from that dark chocolate candy bar that my nagging sweet tooth demands to a dining room set for ten. The points I accumulate pay for luxury stays at plush resorts and quick stop hotels near an airport. I pay off my debt at the end of every month and have record of all my expenses. A win-win for me. Shhhh! Don't tell Mr. Hilton.

I also research the prime seasons for vacation spots and go the week before. Again a win-win. The crowds and costs are reduced, but the weather and accommadtions are ready for tourists. I could go on, but this post is not about cheap travel. It's about sending you a digital post card of the vacation I'm taking with husband, Keith, in the Pacific Northwest, USA--and it's a winner.

Here is why I love vacations:

      I get to pretend I'm in the movies:

Here, I'm Meg Ryan (or was it Tom Hanks) cruising on a ferry
in the Pugent Sound, Seattle, WA

Here, I'm Julie Andrews singing The Sound of Music. It's not
Austria but Mt. Olympic National Park, WA is a fine substitute.
(Always wanted to do that!)

      I get to see natural wonders:

       Wild flower growing next to snow, Mt. Olympic
National Park

Wildlife in its natural habitat.

     I learn things:

     I get to see what I learn about:

Awesome Mt. Rainier

     I get to experience what I learn about:

  Keith and I at Panoramic Point, Mt. Rainier

     I have fun:

Snow Beach,  Mt. Rainier
It was 75 degrees and sunny. The 700+ inches of
snow that fell this past winter hasn't come close
to melting yet.

Keith wants his skis.

     You may learn something new about your spouse:

Keith gets his hiking energy from candy and chips while
I munch on dry shredded wheat and mushy hotel apples.
My husband has the metabolism of a 15-year-old athlete.

You take in sights like this:

Mt. St. Helen's seen from the trail to Mt. Rainier

Hurricane Ridge, Mt. Olympic National Park

How do I feel as I experience this incredible vacation:
      A deep sense of awe at the natural wonders that surround me. Michael Stolis, main character in my soon to be released novel, A Stop in the Park, says it best when he describes how he feels when standing on a mountain top or in front of an ocean:
"Besides their magnificence, they’re where God lives, for me anyway. When I’m in the mountains or a forest, I sense an incredible energy, like I’m safe and cared for. The sounds of a stream flowing over rocks, birds chattering and leaves rustling are symphonic. Even I can unwind in the gentleness of the woods. But when I stand before the ocean, I feel God’s power and strength. The mountains are still, but the ocean is vigorous and its roar is thunderous. I feel like a grain of sand in its presence. No matter how important I think I am, when I’m face to face with the sea, all arrogance washes away."
I also feel gratitude because I am blessed to have the opportunity to experience such grandeur as I journey through this trip called life.

I'd love to hear about your favorite vacation spot whether it's a park close to home or someplace far, far away.
     Since we're talking about traveling, let's go to Ireland. I've never been, but when I visit, I'll be certain to bring along Extraordinary Dreams of  an Ireland Traveler by Rosemary "Mamie' Adkins. The descriptions in this book make me want to hop on a plane to a land of green, quaint town and castles. 

Here's the beginning of the description from Amazon:
Find romance in Ireland while you move back in time learning about a history so compelling.
Learn the locations you should not miss in Ireland and which ones you may want to think about twice.
There are many tours available so come learn which ones are the best for your dollar - Come travel to Ireland with us!


Patsy Cline sings one of my favorite travel love songs, You Belong to Me:


Advice From a Mountain:
 Reach for the sky.
Stay firm and resolute.
Stand straight and tall.
Aspire to your highest dream.
                                      Author Unknown


Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Peaceful Flower Garden

Many of you know that I will be releasing my novel, A Stop in the Park, in late summer. It is a story about a disillusioned married couple that yearn to escape the trap of the modern American dream. Jamie Stolis is married to Michael, a powerful DC attorney whose hectic days have turned him into an explosive tyrant. Jamie deals with his wrath by binging on peanut butter cups, shopping impulsively and fostering illicit Internet relationships. Although she has lost the incredible love she once felt for Michael, Jamie shuns divorce. Her daughters will not be shuttled between two homes, never knowing where they belong. She'd grown up like that and hated it. The only place Jamie finds solace is in the palm of her diminutive urban flower garden. During one scene Jamie is asked how she feels while nurturing her garden. She replies, "Like love is pouring out of me. The earth graciously accepts it and returns my gift with beauty."

At this point, I was going to share Micki Peluso's inspirational garden composition, as a way to help introduce you to Jamie. The article, however, may be published in a magazine, and they have some kind of "rights" to it for a while. Neither Micki or I were aware of this and I had to remove it. Sorry!!! If it does become available again, I will post.

That being said, I'm going to kick back and make this an easy blog post because of the glitch. First some garden flowers for you::

Second, this gives me an opportunity to share one of my favorite Mr. Rodgers videos, "The Garden of the Mind." You have to see this if you haven't already:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mr. Holland Lives On

My workday routine generally begins like this: out the door, crawl through traffic, traipse into the office, fire up the computer, browse over my school district's web page. Two weeks ago the following article popped up at that moment, and it captured my interest:

Schuyler students receive $20,000 gift of music from Fidelity Investments 
The gift was music to the eyes and ears of students at Philip J. Schuyler Achievement Academy. Fidelity Investments provided $20,000 worth of new instruments to the school, marching in with the shiny donations to the surprise and delight of students who thought they had gathered simply for a preview of Tuesday night's spring concert. The gift was part of Fidelity's ongoing effort to support music in public schools nationwide.

I was thrilled to see that Fidelity was supporting creative arts in education. Music, drama, photography, painting are being cut from school budgets nationally due to dwindling government funds. It saddens me because it's like taking the heart and imagination out of schools and kids' lives.
The article reported that, Fidelity Investments partnered with The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation. I hadn't heard about this organization, and needed to learn more so did a Google search. Here's some of what I found:
"The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation was inspired by the acclaimed motion picture, Mr. Holland's Opus, the story of the profound effect a dedicated music teacher had on generations of students. The film's composer, Michael Kamen, started the foundation in 1996 as his commitment to the future of music education. We believe that kids thrive when given the chance to learn and play music. Putting an instrument into their hands improves the quality of their education and their lives. The window is brief and all kids deserve a chance to play music in school."

Wow, I thought.

You see, as a parent, I saw how music kept my teenage sons away from too much TV and too much mischief. It activated their imaginations and improved their ability to focus. As a speech-language pathologist who works for a public school, I see the positive impact music has on students all the time.

Does the research agree?

Yes. In a nutshell, here's the consensus:

Schools have fewer discipline problems, higher attendance and more kids graduate when they are involved in the music program. Kids learn a skill and  positive behaviors that will last well into their lives. 

I investigated The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation further, and fell in love with their mission: "...helping youngsters to be better students and inspiring creativity and expression through playing music." Since the main character in my soon to be released novel, A Stop in the Park, yearns to be part of a music initiative at a Boys and Girls Club, I decided to ask the foundation if I could put the following notation on the back cover of my book:

Ten per cent of profits from this novel will go to The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, an organization that keeps music alive in schools by donating musical instruments to under-funded music programs. To learn more, visit

They said, "Yes." What a kick back moment it was to see that blurb below my bio. Stop by next week and I'll share the cover with you. Can't wait to get your opinion. Giving feels so good, and what a great way to add to the joy of releasing a novel.


Of course, it's a book with music as its main theme, and I chose one that will make you laugh too:

From Amazon:

"It had been said often enough that baby boomers are a television generation, but the very funny novel High Fidelity reminds that in a way they are the record-album generation as well. This novel is obsessed with music; Hornby's narrator is a thirty something English guy who runs a London record store. He sells albums recorded the old-fashioned way—on vinyl—and is having a tough time making other transitions as well, specifically adulthood. The book is in one sense a love story, sweet and interesting; most entertaining as are the hilarious arguments over arcane matters of pop music."


Jam-A-Ditty performed by Roosevelt High School Jazz Band (Seattle); Originally performed by Louis Armstrong. These young people are amazing!


If you haven't seen Mr. Holland's Opus, check out this trailer. You can borrow the DVD from most libraries.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Message from Ludima

Thank You From Ludima:

HI, thank you so much for the blog. It was a thrill to read 21 comments. They were such a joy. I did reply to one and hope it went through.
Please explain to your readers that I can't reply to everyone as I get everything wrong! Computers and I do not get along. I will read and re-read the comments.
Also, I wish to say that I am an ordinary woman who is a Taurus so I just work, work, work. None of my books are ever going to be best sellers or get a Pulitzer prize but they do make the reader feel good and happy. That's good enough for me!
Have a GREAT day.
Love, Ludima.

Answer to Question About Publish America:

Someone asked about PublishAmerica in the comment section. I do not recommend them. They did print my book with no cost to me but they do no promoting and your book doesn't go to any stores, etc. THEY make money on the books you buy from them. You only make money on the books you sell. Since I'm no salesman I made no money. I have my rights back and will be pitching the book elsewhere.
Please tell those who made comments that I appreciate them very much and wish them to plug along until they are successful.
Thanks for the blog.
Love, Ludima

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dreams and Excuses or Dreams and Persistence?

Dreams and excuses go together. For example:

     I want to spend a summer in the Swiss Alps...I can't leave my job for two months.
    I want to begin a new career...I'd have to take a pay cut.
   I want a body like Angelina Jolie...I like to eat bagels and cream cheese.  

Then there comes a day when we ask:

A big dream for me was writing a novel and oh the excuses I used not to pursue it: I don't know how; It would take too long; I don't have time; I'm too old to break into the publishing world...

And then I met Ludima Gus Burton at a Saratoga Romance Writers of America meeting and in a moment my excuses were gone:

In her own words, here is how Ludima became a published author:

"If I can do it so can you. When I was 71 years old, in 1991, I wrote my first novel in pencil and long hand in six weeks. What triggered this fantastic accomplishment? I was too lazy to go to the Amsterdam, NY library for my usual bag of books. I said to myself, 'I'll write my own book.' —which I did.

I thought it was perfect.

Alas, editors didn't and Lessons in Love became my first rejection. In the following nine years I wrote five more books. The rejections kept coming until my folder was four inches thick. These simple, easy romances were the hardest thing in the world to get published.

Did that deter me? Hell, no. (Please excuse the language from an older woman!)

I realized I had to learn the craft. I joined Romance Writers of America and Saratoga Romance Writers, went to many conferences, attended workshops and read how-to books.

Finally, in 1999, Avalon bought my first book, Only For a Year, followed quickly by The Tycoon and the School Teacher (2000), The Love Potion (2001), and the  Wedding Cake (2005). PublishAmerica published my fifth book, A Surgeon's Miracle when I was 87. At age 88, I sold my sixth book, The Christmas Ball, to Write Words, 2008.

Never a Cougar, published by Write Words, 2010, was my 90th birthday present to me! I intend to make more dreams come true.

I never give up.

And don't you either."

Ludima Gus Burton is now 93 and in the process of writing her eighth novel. She lives in upstate New York with her daughter. Ludima was born in Farrell, PA in 1920. She married Guy Burton in 1945 (died in 1981), has two daughters, and taught English and social studies for thirty years.

By the way, I'm just waiting for some reviews, and then my first novel, A Stop in the Park, will be released (late summer).

Ludima is right. Dreams really do come true. It just takes persistence and passion. 

What do you think? Do dreams and excuses go together...or dreams and persistence? I guess it all depends on how badly you want that dream.   


Nothing like reading a good romance novel on a lazy summer day. Ludima Gus Burton's latest novel, Never a Cougar, is a perfect beach read. From the back cover:

Love knows no age limits. Kay Holland, a fifty year-old widow, doesn't want to be called a cougar. Although fifteen years separate them, thirty-five year-old Drew Lawrence, isn't her cub. She must, however, overcome her own doubts of age difference, his son and her daughter's opposition and social prejudice to have any hope of a happy ending.


In honor of the romance, we'll add a little drama to the song this week. In this scene from My Best Friend's Wedding, Dermont Mulroney sings The Way You Look Tonight to Julia Roberts. 


"Dreams do come true. Go for it!"

Ludima Gus Burton

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Wow! I've been invited to another blogging party. Never one to refuse a call to have some fun, I gladly accepted. Come along.

What's the celebration all about?

Barbara Conelli has released her book, Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore. She's celebrating by blasting the blogosphere with posts about, "The Art of Loving Your Life." Those attending the party have to answer one of three questions. I choose:

How do you find beauty in every day?

My answer:  Quiet

Each day when I get out of bed, before brewing my coffee; before firing up my computer; before checking my e-mail, I take a few minutes to focus on the sounds of morning.

What do I hear?

The humming of nothing. It really does have a sound, like what you hear when you put a conch seashell to your ear.

The cawing, tweeting, crying, warbling of the bird's magical morning symphony.

The kicking on of the refrigerator doing its incessant job of keeping food crisp and cold.

An occasional car passing by.

Sometimes the patter of rain on the sidewalk.

Sometimes a boom of thunder.

Sometimes a gust of wind.

Sometimes I even eavesdrop on the leaves as they chatter.

Always, I hear the start of a new day.

I hear hope.

I hear gratitude.

I hear courage.

No matter what happened yesterday,

the quiet of the morning whispers:



What do you hear in the morning?


I wrote today’s post as part of the WOW-Women on Writing’s “The Art of Loving Your Life” Blanket Tour celebrating the release of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore by Barbara Conelli (

Barbara Conelli is an internationally published bestselling author, seasoned travel writer specializing in Italy. In her charming, delightful and humorous Chique Books filled with Italian passion, Barb invites women to explore Italy from the comfort of their home with elegance, grace and style, encouraging them to live their own Dolce Vita no matter where they are in the world.

Her latest book, Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore offers an intimate view into the unpredictable and extravagant city of Milan, its glamorous feminine secrets, the everyday magic of its dreamy streets, the passionate romance of its elegant hideaways, and the sweet Italian art of delightfully falling in love with your life wherever you go.

If you comment on today’s post on this blog or any of the others participating in The Art of Loving Your Life tour, you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore!

To read Barbara’s post about loving life and view a list of other blogs participating in The Art of Loving Your Life tour please visit The Muffin.


Beautiful Day by U2 - Bono sings,  "It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away," A powerful reminder to get up and make the most of the day. 

Love Bono!!!