Tag Archives: Travel

Same Dilemmas, Bigger Price Tags

When I first made the decision to move back to California, into the house that I had left behind five long years ago, there were so many emotions to face. How long until the walls closed in on me? Would I be able to stick it out long enough to get my book written? Who was I when I wasn’t a Peregrine – wandering from place to place collecting stories and life experiences? Would I be ordinary?

After a mad dash from Colorado, where all of our belongings were stored for two years, to California in record time to meet the over-caffeinated driver of the moving truck,  Stewart and I arrived in Walnut Creek, exhausted on a Thursday night.  We realized that our garage, which was built in the early 1970’s, was too low for us to park 7’3″ Peregrine inside. The homeowners association doesn’t allow any campers or trailer to be parked on the street – and makes no exceptions for celebrities – we had nowhere to sleep, and nowhere to park. Fortunately, Stewart was thinking faster than me, and dragged the cushions and memory foam into the empty house. A quick call to the local police department, and we found a street where we could park Peregrine for three days undisturbed.

When the guys were unloading the truck, all I kept thinking was, “What is in all those boxes?”, and “Where is all my furniture?”. When we made the decision to hit the open road, I gave away or sold most of my furniture. The only things that I kept were things with sentimental and collectible value. Beds, gone. Kitchen table and chairs, gone. Living room sofa, gone. Desk and book shelves, gone. The main problem with my method was with no furniture, there is nowhere to actually put anything. Those several dozen books that I just couldn’t let go of, are now stuck in their boxes until I once again accumulate a piece of furniture to house them. It’s a vicious circle.  This was not my first time doing this, so I write from experience. In the ’90s  I did the same thing with all of my belongings when I moved to Ireland. This purging of personal belongings is cathartic, but can also be quite expensive.

While I was unpacking a box marked “Mara’s Bathroom”, I came across a lovely green and black alabaster round canister.  I love interesting boxes, so in the past, whenever a loved one was faced with that inevitable question, “What should I get Mara for her birthday?” it was easily answered by searching for a unique box. When I removed the lid and looked inside, there were a pile of cotton balls squeezed together. Cotton balls. My first reaction was, “Do I have any polish remover?”. While living in Peregrine, space was at such a high premium that I had to decide early on which it was going to be – cotton swabs or cotton balls. Cotton swabs have more practical applications, and take up less space, so it was au revoir little puffy clouds of softness.

Now I have been back in my house for two months. Stewart and I welcomed a horde of darling trick o’ treaters. We have entertained two sets of out of town guests (I hope more will come soon). We celebrated Thanksgiving dinner complete with all the accompanying fanfare. The house is looking more like a home each day thanks to the hard work that both of us have put into it nonstop since we have been back. Much of my time each day has been spent replacing items previously given away or sold at bargain-basement prices.

With each chair, each rug I add to my home, it feels as though the tether tightens. How did this happen when I worked so hard to free myself from this just two short years ago? My favorite purchase of all is an old farmhouse table that looks like it has so many stories of its own to tell. This will be my desk while I write. As long as I keep focused on why I am here, I can breathe. Please pass the cotton balls.

One Year Later – There’s Still Hope

Today, there will appear in print places to read accounts of how President Barack Obama has done in his first 365 days in office. How his accomplishments – or lack thereof have measured up to the people’s expectations. Health care still is not a reality for countless Americans.  With the election of Scott Brown as the new Republican Senator from Massachusetts, there are 41 votes against it. Afghanistan has escalated, with more of our men and women fighting – and greater numbers dying. The strategy to get us out of there is not clear to the average American, and we can only hope it is clear to our leaders. As I said, there are countless places to read what President Obama has accomplished, and what he still has left to do.  But, none of this addresses why I am writing this post today.

I cannot help but think about where I was last year at this time. On 20 January 2009, Stewart and I were at the Staybridge Suites in Addison, TX. Addison is a northern suburb of Dallas. Back when I was growing up, Addison was not much more than a field. Now, it is a bustling town filled with life, and the headquarters of companies as diverse as Mary Kay Cosmetics, Dresser and Pizza Hut. Its airport is one of the busiest in the nation. If you can’t find what you’re looking for to eat along its Restaurant Row, then you mustn’t be very hungry.

This is what I wrote last year about the inauguration:

Today is a momentous day for all Americans, and for the world. For the 44th time, after a contemptuous election season, the transfer of power from one administration to the other, occurred without incident. Granted, Cheney went screaming and kicking, and had to be confined to a wheelchair, but he still went. That is what makes this country stand out as a beacon for so many other nations of the world whose elections are not transparent, and whose rightfully elected officials are blocked from assuming their rightful offices. It’s you, Mugabe, I’m talking to! It is a wonderful thing to witness. Even when we don’t agree with the election results, our candidate doesn’t win, we have an expectation, as Americans, that January 21st we will wake up to a peaceful nation with a new leader.

What I failed to include was the company with whom I shared this momentous event. Sadly, I failed to get their names, or take their pictures. However, our shared experience is indelibly imprinted in my memory forever. Sitting with me and Stewart that Tuesday morning last January were a housekeeper, a maintenance man, the woman who set out the breakfast each morning, a front desk clerk, and the hotel manager. At first reluctantly, then with palpable excitement they joined us around the table in the lobby clustered under the flat screen to watch the pomp and circumstance that surrounded the swearing in of Obama. My eyes shifted back and forth between the screen and them, observing the smiles on their faces, and hope in their eyes.

The maintenance man was originally from the West Indies. He was from a very poor country, and had come to the US looking for opportunities to improve his life, and that of his family. “Seeing a black man become president”, he told me, “shows me I made the right decision leaving my people and coming here.”

The woman I saw each morning, who smiled so kindly as I as I asked for tea, while everyone around me had coffee, spoke for herself and the housekeeper, who spoke no English. For them, it was very much the same thing. Having Obama as president meant the door was now wide open to people of colour. This led to a discussion among all of us about the next census and how the white males in this country were about to have their eyes open to the reality of who exactly is the average American these days. A few words were spoken, tongue in cheek, about how Wasilla, AK represents the Average American.

The additional perspective these women brought up was immigration. The way they saw it was the US was building a wall to separate them from their families. Their hope was that Obama would see that the America was better than that. That there was a way to help our neighbors to the south without creating a Berlin on our border. These were not their words, but this was certainly their sentiment.

Then there was the desk clerk and hotel manager. Both what would now be considered moving towards a minority of the population. The manager was a blonde woman, native of Texas, and the clerk, a man of the Heinz 57 variety so common in this country.  They stood back initially from our little menagerie, but as the obvious excitement at our table grew, they moved closer, and even interjected some comments about how they hoped Obama could actually deliver on some of the promises he made. Also, the manager admitted to not being a big fan of McCain. Not exactly an endorsement of Obama, but a step. Baby steps. The desk clerk added that he hoped no one tried to take Obama out because he couldn’t stand Biden.

There were countless places I could have gone last January to watch the swearing in of our 44th President. With my lifestyle, I could have gone to Washington, DC. When Bill Clinton was sworn in, I was right up there in front. Great memories. But for this particular president, in this time in history, I will be forever grateful that I got to watch it with the six people that I did. The maintenance man, the housekeeper, the woman who serves breakfast, the front desk clerk, the hotel manager, and last but not least, my husband, Stewart.

Chasing Good Weather

Last time I did an actual travel blog was way back at the end of May. It seems like forever. Since then, Stewart and I have slept in so many states I have to look at my credit card bill to recall them all. Instead of listing a bunch of places, I will do a few quick travelogues with an explanation of how this quick exodus came to pass, and publish it in a few separate posts. Sorry Uncle Rex.

We were HOT! That’s right. It was HOT in Texas in June. Who knew? As we were packing up to leave for Austin then San Antonio, Stewart took a look at the Weather Channel, and it showed temperatures over 100 degrees for the week. We looked at each other, and immediately reached the same conclusion. We don’t have to endure oppressive weather EVER AGAIN. We sat down at Nancy McClellan’s kitchen table and figured out where the weather was cool and rainy. Cape Cod beckoned, but first a few stops along the way. The next day we turned our wheels towards Hot Springs, AR.

An important note that I need to mention is that I have lost almost a years worth of notes, and will be recreating the summer from above mentioned credit card records, the pictures that I was able to retrieve, and Stewart’s and my middle-aged memories. The big lesson here for me is not to let so much time go between posts so that I’m called upon for such super-human feats.

Ever since Stewart and I met, I’ve been telling him stories about my many huge crystals of varying shapes that were scattered throughout our homes, teasing him with the possibilities, the hidden treasures buried in the red clay earth. For days after we arrived in Hot Springs, Stewart scoured the local brochures and Internet sites looking for information and tips as to the best place to go for the primo crystal specimen. When he finally decided upon the perfect place to go, stocked up on the right equipment, was rubbed down with SPF 70, and on the road, he couldn’t find it. By the time we got there, they were closing in an hour, so we made plans to return the following day. At least we knew where it was. That night it rained. For those of you who are not familiar with the particular quality of Arkansas summer humidity, I’ll try my best to describe it. It’s somewhere between a swamp and well, a swamp. Having experienced a crystal dig in an Arkansas summer during my 20’s and 30’s, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy the day after a downpour at 50, but off I went to support Stewart on his quest. The heavily tie-dyed couple with the matching waist-length ponytails who showed us where to dig explained to us that the clay-like dirt had the consistency of peanut butter. What they failed to add was peanut butter that had been left out in the blazing sun after a thunderstorm. Oh, what fun! Within minutes, no, seconds we were filthy. I hung in there about an hour, and went and interviewed hippie couple, while Stewart lasted about six.

After all the cuts were washed and tended, the crystals soaked, and clothes disposed of properly, we had a handful of decent crystals. None are museum quality, but a lot has changed in the years since I dug the hills around Jessieville.  Mine owners have gotten greedy, fewer mines are still active, and it’s important that customers read the fine print before handing over their money. You may dig all day just to find out at days end that you have to hand it all over to the mine! Fortunately, we knew what to avoid.

After leaving Hot Springs, we headed over to Nashville, TN for a few days in Music City. There is so much to do in this beautiful place. We spent one entire afternoon until they kicked us out at closing at the Country Music Hall of Fame. There was so much history, so many facts we didn’t know.  For example neither of us knew that country music came out of the immigrant populations from Europe as a way of keeping story telling alive. Also the slaves made enormous contributions to country music. The term hillbilly was used favorably for a long time, and was only replaced with folk after being seen as derogatory. So, does that make Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell hillbilly singers?

One evening, we ventured over to B.B. Kings for some live blues. Bart Walker and the Blues Revival were awesome! They played “Why”, and it was clear they are going to be huge. Listen for yourself. Bart Walker and the Blues Revival \”Why\”

After closing down B.B. Kings, we headed over to Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar for some late night blues. It was open mike night for some up and coming talent. We got there on the tail end, but still caught some promising acts before heading back to our hotel for a few hours of sleep.

There are a few places that are must stops in Nashville for good old fashioned eats. We were determined to do our best to hit as many of these while there, as always. This time, we had the added challenge of Nashville’s infamous cupcake locations (I don’t know why I even bother to buy clothes anymore. I may as well just say the hell with it and buy muu muu’s!) to fit into our adventure. One place we made a point of hitting was Loveless Cafe’ (Fran Dean @TravelTweetie and Darren Reeves @SuperDad_08). Loveless started out as a stop for travelers on Hwy 100 back in the early 1950’s serving fried chicken and biscuits off picnic tables next to the small motel. Not a lot has changed, except they have added mail order, catering, and a store. I should also add they sell bacon soaked popcorn. Don’t ask! The menu is also quite a bit more extensive. The caramel sweet potatoes should have a warning sign, “EAT AT YOUR OWN RISK”, as they are addictive. Stewart and I started out sharing the veggies, and ended up with a fork fight over who really ordered which ones. I got the sweet potatoes; he got the fried okra!

The must breakfast stop in Nashville is Pancake Pantry. Hop Hopkins raved so highly about this place, Stewart and I delayed our plans to leave town in order to try their pancakes. The only hitch was we were, well, hitched. Peregrine was all ready to go, and Jeffrey and Emma were in the back seat ready to hit the open road. Pancake Pantry is in the middle of the college area, which means in a heavily trafficked, no parking area. After driving around in the sweltering summer heat and humidity, we decided the only logical option was to eat in shifts. First, I went in and ordered both of our food along with a large cup of coffee to go for Stewart, while he stayed outside in the shade with the dogs. I quickly ate, while they made his food. Just about the time I finished eating, his food was ready. Only glitch was, I couldn’t find Stewart. He was nowhere to be found. Gone. Finally, just as they finished boxing up his food, in walks the Prodigal Husband. Since we already had the makings of a picnic, we decided to move out to the trees nearby, where he ate his pancakes alfresco.

The only cupcake place we were able to make was GiGi’s Cupcakes, and sadly (gratefully?) it was only mediocre. It turns out wasn’t even on the cupcake tour. The shop specialty, Apple Spice & Everything Nice, was delicious, but the other flavours were really nothing special – certainly not worth the added calories. As we headed northwest towards Cape Cod we meandered through Virginia, and I saw a sign for the Natural Bridge. It looked interesting, and since this adventure is all about being spontaneous, we took the exit off the interstate, and couldn’t for the life of us find the turnoff for the attraction. When we finally did find it, it was just in time to see it in the
rear view mirror. I saw the building leading into it, though. Does that count? Here’s a picture I found on the Internet of what we would have seen if we hadn’t missed it. Never ones to be bummed for more than split second, we decided to explore the surrounding countryside, and skip the interstate for the rest of the trip northeast. Why hurry through generic roads when there was so much of America to be seen on its back roads? Who knew that what we had in store for us was one of the most beautiful drives this country has to offer – the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP), followed by the Skyline Drive. The BRP connects Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It actually stretches much further than we drove it, but can be entered at several spots en route. Skyline Drive took us through the remainder of Shenandoah National Park, and surprisingly we ended up in Virginia right outside of Washington, D.C. This was some of the most pristine park lands we had encountered on our journey to date. We stopped in the road as we watched a young bear cub walk leisurely across the road only to stop at the edge of the woods to observe us. We saw so many deer that day it would have been easy to have grown blase’ if they weren’t so magnificent. The four-legged creatures we encountered clearly outnumbered the two-legged variety. The Parks Service makes it inexpensive to camp overnight, but not easy, so it is not for the casual RV crowd. It is more suited to the hiker who carries his bedroll on his back. We stopped along the way shortly before reaching the end to watch the sunset over the valley below us. We met a hiker from the area who told us about a group of local musicians who met weekly at a little coffee shop. He said we were welcome to come. He’d be there with his banjo and there would be a mandolin, plus other assorted instruments making up the little bluegrass ensemble. As good as the offer sounded, we decided to keep moving.

Most people are not aware that the US capital was designed by a Frenchman named Pierre Charles L’Enfant.  The reason I mention this at this particular juncture is that we made the decision to briefly detour through Washington, DC so that we could see our friend, Ali Holden, who was recovering from a serious car accident.  We had already been traveling all day, pulling Peregrine, and now were faced with a rendezvous at an Irish pub in Arlington, VA. L’Enfant was a brilliant civil engineer, but the capital has grown around his design in a way that is not easily navigated by a wide-eyed rubber-necking country boy from Lodi, CA who’s never seen the Pentagon or the Washington Monument or the White House or the Capitol… you get my point. We drove those circles round and round and round until I safely talked him to a safe spot and took over the driving.  We drove into Arlington and met up for fish and chips, with Jeffrey and Emma the stars of the Capital Hill crowd for the night.

I promise to write more soon. Promise.

Welcome to My Twitterverse

This post has been brewing in my mind since early March. Had I written it then it would read very differently than it will today, or even yesterday or tomorrow. You see, my Twitterverse is fluid, ever changing. At times fun is abundant, with cleverness the most valued attribute. Other days are about sharing ways to make the world a better place. Days when I open link after link learning things I didn’t even know I didn’t know. And of course, there are those days when I can rant to the world at large, free to express my ire 140 spaces at a time.

For those of you who are not familiar with Twitter, let me take a a few lines here to try and explain. If you ever entered a chat room the concept will be fairly simple to grasp. If not, let’s give it a try, and if it still makes no sense, post a comment and I’ll address your specific questions the best I am able. Frankly, trying to explain it here is forcing me to articulate what has been an abstract up until now.

OK, I have tried writing this section five different ways, and have decided to seek out the best explanation already written by someone else. Why reinvent the wheel, right?

Here are what a couple of ‘authorities’ write about Twitter:According to Wikipedia, Twitter is a “free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send updates (otherwise known as “tweets”) which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.” Right off the bat I must correct this definition.

Many complain about the 140 characters allowed in each tweet, when in reality it is 140 SPACES that are allowed. So if you tend towards the verbose (like me), you’re going to learn an entirely new form of abbreviation. Thus the proliferation of sentences that read like this: “it wld be SO GR8 2 have mark/color on @replies 2show U have replied back(like email) dont always rembr!” (source Sharon L Corsaro, aka @growinggold). I cannot tell you how many times since becoming a Twitter participant I have found myself writing just that sort of sentence IRL (in real life).

Pictured here is the dreaded and much blamed Fail Whale which appears whenever Twitter is down, loses our tweets or otherwise reeks havoc with our stream

I think this next explanation may be a bit more helpful for those who find even email challenging. How to Explain Twitter to Your Grandma: “Twitter is a free online service that allows you to send messages to hundreds of your friends all at the same time. Your Twitter friends receive an alert each time you send a new message either on their mobile phones and/or on their computer.”

Here is a short YouTube video that demonstrates even more clearly.

Now that I have done my best to explain Twitter, I will get back to what it has meant to me since joining 6 March. It is hard to believe it has been such a short time. My life is forever different because of this – no exaggeration! When I was flat on my back in the Florida Keys, I joined Twitter so I had something to do on my iPhone other than play solitaire. Little did I know that I was opening myself up to an entirely new world. It shouldn’t have surprised me, really. Stewart and I met on Match.com over seven years ago. I met one of my dearest friends back in 1995 while doing research for an article in an AOL chat room. My cousin, Alyson met her husband, Vopni in a chat room. It’s all around us. The primary difference with Twitter for me is the control I have over who is in my Twitter universe, or Twitterverse. If someone is offensive, I simply block them. That way their negativity no longer shows up in my stream, and I don’t show up in theirs. Unlike chat rooms, I don’t have to leave to get away from negative people. Instead, I tighten the net around my stream.

While we were in Florida, I decided I wanted to start a book club. Living on the road as we are does not lend itself to a traditional book club where we meet in each others living rooms once a week or once a month, but I knew that with the millions of people on Twitter I would find at least one other person who wished to read a book and discuss it. Danna Furnace-Grim (@_DANNA_) was the first to respond to my tweet asking if anyone was interested. She helped to research online bookclubs, and we publicized for others to join us. After we had a handful of interested peop le, we put out a few suggested books. Unfortunately, Danna was unable to participate as her boss does not understand the business potential of Twitter. He will soon enough, but for now we are able to continue to connect via Facebook (another story!). The most important criterion for me was that book was available as an eBook and it was free. There are over 28,000 eBooks available through Project Gutenberg, plus many authors have PDF versions of their books on their web pages. An eBook is available for anyone with a computer, so there is no carbon footprint (trees cut down, fossil fuels burned in production and transportation), and with money tight for many of us these days, free is something we can all appreciate and afford.

The book we decided upon was Wishcraft by Barbara Sher. Ms. Sher was generous enough to make her book available free as an eBook on her website. It is celebrating its 30th anniversary in print. The first time I read Wishcraft was in 1984. I was working a power job wearing a power suit. After reading and doing the lessons in each chapter it became clear to me I was not living my ideal life. I quit my job and went back to university to study my passion, political science. I was able to chart a path through life that worked for me because of this book. Thank you, Barbara Sher. Oh, and did I mention @BarbaraSher is participating in our Twitter book club, #booktweet? My lessons are now being reviewed by the author herself! Just another joy of Twitter. Six degrees of separation are reduced to one! For those of you who are interested, #booktweet meets Saturdays at 12 EDT.

Another influential author in my life is Paulo Coelho. I have read and re-read The Alchemist so many times I can practically quote passages by heart. When I had reached the point in politics where my rose colored glasses had been shattered along with my heart, I knew it was time for a change. A friend and I took a short trip to New Orleans, and walking through the French Quarter, I was drawn towards a bookstore small bookstore cramped full of wonderful books of every sort. The sort of bookstore of my dreams – a bit chaotic that requires real exploration. A small book with a purple cover caught my eye. As soon as I picked it up and began flipping through the pages I knew this was no ordinary book. I realized my friend was giving me a bit of a strange look, so after paying tucked the book into my pocket to be enjoyed in solitude later. Though a simple story, a parable really, its lesson was what I needed. I once again heeded the message in a book and moved to California to begin again. Since then, I have given away countless copies of The Alchemist, and have continued to be a devoted fan of Mr. Coelho. Imagine my excitement when I checkout my new followers on Twitter, and there among them was @PauloCoelho! By the way, there are several eBook available exclusively on his website, and we will likely be reading one of his books soon on #booktweet. Also, I was introduced to other fans/followers of Paulo Coelho, such as Maybelline Te (@maybellinete), who is an actual Santiago de Compostela pilgrim

Since Stewart and I are traveling full time we have been able to meet several people in person who we first met on Twitter. I’ve already told you about Tom Morris (@TomVMorris), Sandi McKenna (@McMedia) and James Johnson (@JamesIslander). Since then we have met Darren and Judy Reeves (@SuperDad_08 and @Judes_08), Mark Lesser (@DrMarkLesser), Mark and Vanessa Hundley (@MarkHundley), and Randell and Julie Hiltbrunner (@NikeStix and @SilverSmyth). Stewart and I had so much fun with these folks, we have now gotten together twice, and are meeting for a third time Sunday afternoon at Julie’s art show in Ft Worth. We are staying with our dear friend, Dr. Nancy McClellan while we are in Dallas. Nancy will from now on be known as @Nancy_Dallas. She and I will be having massages and body wraps at Sedona Spa by Zane Aveton (@Zaneology), and this week, Stewart and I are going down to San Antonio for a guitar jam session with Jeff Schechter (@ReallyShecky). And I must not forget my thrice weekly phone calls with Ponet (@Ponet), the Queen of CAPS!

Speaking of music, as I have previously written about, Stewart (@StewartRaven) is creating some amazing music on this journey. He has allowed me to publish a couple of his pieces on Twitter using an application named Twiturm that allows musicians to share their mus ic with the Twitterverse in real time. No need to create any fancy videos or negotiate with iTunes. One of the pieces I uploaded for Stewart was “Shades of Gloria in E”. Previously, I had contacted Rabbi Specht (@RabbiShaiSpecht) about Stewart’s music as he is a wonderful vocalist and lyricist. From time to time over the past three months Rabbi has “dropped by” to ask me if I had anything to share with him. When I tweeted him the link to Stewart’s new song, the sparks flew, and within 24 hours the vocals were sent back to me. Stewart and I worked together to mix the vocals and instrumental tracks, and within another 24 hours, “Shades of Gloria with vocals by Rabbi Specht was up on Twiturm. The first collaboration by The Raven and the Reb.
Shades of Gloria in E

My experience on Twitter has not been all rosy. As in the real world, there are flakes who are disingenuous and inauthentic. Though I am having difficulty getting an accurate count, it is fair to say there are around 10 million Twitter accounts. In a small town of five thousand there are jerks who first appear great. Why would the Twitterverse be any different!? For example, there is the Lothario who is in love with someone new each week. And the opportunists who care more about promoting themselves and their businesses than being authentic.

Then, there are the Celebrity Twitters led by Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and his wife, Demi Moore (@mrskutcher), Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) and John Mayer (@johncmayer) who have thousands, even millions of followers, but only tweet to each other, and rarely follow any one back. And others hire people to tweet for them (@britneyspears). For example, John Mayer has as of this moment 1,241,175 followers, yet only deems 47 people worthy of following back. The arrogance of this is astounding to me. The beauty of Twitter is the back and forth exchange of ideas and information. If someone only tweets without ever jumping in and actually interacting with others, they completely miss the point. Go look in the mirror and talk to yourself, John.

There was one celebrity who was following me (he shall remain nameless), but would only interact with me in DM’s. After a few separate instances, I finally asked him flat out if he was embarrassed to be seen tweeting with a non-celebrity. His reply was to list me among his five top fans of the week. After I stopped laughing, I blocked him. I had never seen his show, and only followed him because he followed me first! I left him to Speidi.

A small group of us have become regulars in what we refer to as the #ENB club. One night we all happened to begin tweeting together and Jay Koch (@JayKoch) shared a YouTube video with us entitled “Ed Needs Bob

For some reason, this little video hit us all as hilarious. Stewart and I had tears rolling down our faces and pain in our sides as we watched it for the 19th time. He remarked that there needed to be an acronym for when something is so funny LOL and ROFL just doesn’t cut it. Jay shot back with ENB! So now whenever something is especially funny, we tag it with #ENB. We have learned since this started that this is either something that you get or not – a bit like gefilte fish. Either you love it or you don’t.

When I was heading to Kenner, LA for my appointment with the Neuroendocrine doctors at Oschner, I felt first hand the power of prayer. The folks whom I had grown surprisingly close to on Twitter acted as a support group for me in preparatio
n and during my ordeal. Each time I would log into my Twitter account, there would be multiple tweets folks had left me encouraging me, making me laugh, and teaching me new ways to cope with the results if they were less than stellar. It seemed that the entire Twitterverse knew when I was meeting with the doctors for the diagnosis. When I shared my good news, it was like a virtual wildfire with support and cheers tweeted and retweeted (RT). Stewart and I felt as though we were sharing our good news with a group of people who sincerely cared. In fact, one man asked for my telephone number so he could ring me. When he called, he told me he was completely taken by surprise by how much he cared. These are real people out there. It’s fairly obvious who is for real and who is not.

I know this is getting long, but bear with me (there ya’ go, Frank Feigert!) – are the products and resources I have learned about from others. For example, I was kidding around with Jane Johnson (@JaneEJohnson), Amy Kaster-Heath (@newmanzoo) and a few others about the unfair advantage men have when it comes to relieving themselves while traveling. Up pops a tweet in my stream (no pun intended) from Go Girl (@Go_Girls) about their product d esigned specifically for women to, well, go on the go. After as few tweets back and forth, I let them know where I would be that I could receive a package, and they sent me a couple of samples to try. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go through with it, but my word is my bond so I went for it. I stepped into the shower and gave it a try. It was simple to use, easily washed for reuse and worked exactly as promised. A few days later we were on our way through Orange, TX when nature called. I stepped into the restroom at a small gas station, and was immediately grossed out. But then I remembered I had my Go Girl with me, and I was good to go. Granted, I still needed to touch the faucet handle to rinse it out, but I had a tissue in my purse, so cooties were avoided. The only thing that would make

it better is if they included a small case for storage similar to the old cigarette cases women used to carry. Something discreet without Go Girl written all over it for those times when my purse inevitably spills all over the floor. Thank you, Go Girl for making my odyssey that much better. Now, I just have to find an opportunity to write my name in the dirt!

It would be impossible to share all the ways Twitter has changed my life. When I mentioned to Mark Hundley I was covering this topic on my blog, he emailed this to me. I am including Mark’s words unedited:

If I were to answer the question as to how Twitter has changed my life . . . well, I’d start with YOU! Meeting you has been one of the most powerful blessing I’ve ever experienced! Without Twitter, our friendship would likely never have happened. Then there is Ponet . . . nuff said!
Twitter has given me chances to meet people from all over the world without ever having to leave my home! And when I say “meet,” I mean “get to know!”

How else would I have been invited to be the mental health expert for one of Dr. Mommy’s websites; or interviewed on ReclaimU radio program; or be able to send free copies of the CD to folks who either needed the information or have access to folks who need it; or find people like Susan Heim and Dr. Mia Rose to provide pertinent and appropriate endorsements for the Second Edition of Awaken to Good Mourning; or have a gentleman take on the challenge to single-handedly raise awareness about my Birthday wish withing his circle of influence as well as that of his wife; or meet fellow therapists for coffee to exchange ideas; or have tweetups in Dallas with the best people in the world; or have invitations from other writers/thinkers to collaborate on future projects; or . . . you get my drift?

I believe firmly in the Law of the Harvest — You harvest WHAT you plant, MORE than you plant and LATER than you plant — in relationships, business endeavors, humanitarian causes, attitudes, beliefs, actions . . . My participation in Twitter and my commitment to myself to be as honest, transparent and real as possible has made this experience one of the best in my life!

I look forward to continued participation as it evolves as well!

Jay Koch and Jamie Inman (@ibeatcancrtwice) are collaborating on a radio program. Kathy Ireland (@kathyireland) has started a movement to get Elizabeth Taylor (@DameElizabeth) the Presidential Medal of Honor. Twitter is an incubator for ideas and creativity in real time. I’m just happy I finally joined. By the way, the first person I followed was NPR’s Daniel Schorr (@DanielSchorr), who will be 93 years old in August. For all of you who think you are too old to jump in, think again. Look me up in the Twitterverse. As my TGDG (Twin Granddaughters, Different Grandmother) Jane often writes, “ttfn”.

@MaraBG

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style=”font-size:100%;”>This post has been brewing in my mind since early March. Had I written it then it would read very differently than it will today, or even yesterday or tomorrow. You see, my Twitterverse is fluid, ever changing. At times fun is abundant, with cleverness the most valued attribute. Other days are about sharing ways to make the world a better place. Days when I open link after link learning things I didn’t even know I didn’t know. And of course, there are those days when I can rant to the world at large, free to express my ire 140 spaces at a time.

style=”font-size:100%;”>For those of you who are not familiar with Twitter, let me
take a a few lines here to try and explain. If you ever entered a chat room the concept will be fairly simple to grasp. If not, let’s give it a try, and if it still makes no sense, post a comment and I’ll address your specific question the best I am able. Frankly, trying to explain it here is forcing me to articulate what has been an abstract up until now.

OK, I have tried writing this section five different ways, and have decided to seek out the best explanation already written by someone else. Why reinvent the wheel, right? Here are what a couple of ‘authorities’ write about Twitter:

According to Wikipedia, Twitter is a “free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send updates (otherwise known as “tweets”) which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.”

Right off the bat I must correct this definition. Many speak about the 140 characters allowed in each tweet, when in reality it is 140 SPACES that are allowed. So if you are tend towards the verbose (like me), you’re going to learn an entirely new form of abbreviation. Thus the proliferation of sentences that read like this: “it wld be SO GR8 2 have mark/color on @replies 2show U have replied back(like email) dont always rembr!” (source Sharon L Corsaro, aka @growinggold). I cannot tell you how many times since becoming a Twitter participant I have found myself writing just that sort of sentence IRL (in real life).

style=”color: rgb(255, 153, 0);font-size:85%;”>(pictured here is the dreaded and much blamed Fail Whale which appears whenever Twitter is down, loses our tweets or otherwise reeks havoc with our stream)

I

think this next explanation may be a bit more helpful for those who find email challenging.

How to Explain Twitter to Your Grandma: “ style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>Twitter is a free online service that allows you to send messages to hundreds of your friends all at the same time. Your Twitter friends receive an alert each time you send a new message either on their mobile phones and/or on their computer.” Here is a short YouTube video In Plain English that demonstrates even more style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”> clearly.

style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>Now that I have done my best to explain Twitter, I will get back to what it has meant to me since joining 6 March. It is hard to believe it has been such a short time. My life is forever d style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>ifferent because of this – no exaggeration! When I was flat on my back in the Florida Keys, I joined Twitter so I had something to do on my iPhone other than play solitaire. Little did I know that I was opening myself up to an entirel style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>y new world. It shouldn’t have surprised me, really. Stewart and I met on Match.com over seven years ago. I met one of my dearest friends back in 1995 while doing research for an article in an AOL chat room. My cousin, Alyson met her husband, Vopni in a chat room. It’s all around us. The primary difference with Twitter for me is the control I have over who is in my Twitter universe, or Twitterverse. If someone is offensive, I simply block them. That way their negativity no longer shows up in my stream, and I don’t show up in theirs. Unlike chat rooms, I don’t have to leave to get away from negative people. Instead, I ti style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>ghten the net around my stream.

style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>While we were in Florida, I decided I wanted to start a book club. Living on the road does not lend itself to such and idea, but I knew that with the millions of people on Twitter I would find at least one other person who wished to read a book and discuss it. Danna Furnace-Grimes (_DANNA_) was the first to respond to my tweet asking if anyone was interested. She did research on online bookclubs, and we pu style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>blicized for others to join us. After we had a handful of interested people, w style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>e put out a few suggested books. Unfortunately, Danna was unable to participate as her boss does not understand the bu style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>siness potential of Twitter. He will soon enough, but for now we are able to continue to connect via Facebook (another story!) style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>. The most important criterion for me was that book was available as an eBook and it was free. There are over 28,000 eBooks available through Project Gutenberg, plus many authors have PDF versions of their books on their web pa style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>ges. An eBook is available for anyone with a computer, so there is no carbon footprint (trees cut down, fo style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>ssil fuels burned in production and transportation), and with money tig style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>ht for many of us these days, free is something we can all appreciate and afford.

style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>The book we decided upon was Wishcraft by Barbara Sher. Ms. Sher was generous to make her book available style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”> free style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”> to all on her website. It is celebrating its 30 style=”font-weight: normal;”>th style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”> anniversary in print. The first time I read Wishcraft was in 1984. I was working a power job wearing a power suit. After reading and d style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>oing the lessons in each chapter it became clear to me I was not living my ideal life. I quit my job and went back to university to study my p style=”font-weight: normal;font-size:100%;”>assion, political science. I was able to chart a path through life that worked for me because of this book. Thank you, Barbara Sher. Oh, and did I mention @BarbaraSher is participating in our Twitter book club, #booktweet? Just another joy of Twitter. Six degrees of separation are reduced to one! For those of you w
ho are interested, #booktweet meets Saturdays at 12 EDT.

Another influential author in my life is Paulo Coelho. I have read and re-read The Alchemist so many times I can practically quote passages by heart. When I had reached the point in politics where my rose colored glasses had been shattered along with my heart, I knew it was time for a change. A friend and I took a short trip to New Orleans, and walking through the French Quarter, I was drawn towards a bookstore small bookstore cramped full of wonderful books of every sort. The sort of bookstore of my dreams – a bit chaotic that requires real exploration. A small book with a purple cover caught my eye. As soon as I picked it up and began flipping through the pages I knew this was no ordinary book. I realized my friend was giving me a bit of a strange look, so after paying tucked the book into my pocket to be enjoyed in solitude later. Though a simple story, a parable really, its lesson was what I needed. I once again heeded the message in a book and moved to California to begin again. Since then, I have given away countless copies of The Alchemist, and have continued to be a devoted fan of Mr. Coelho. Imagine my excitement when I checkout my new followers on Twitter, and there among them was @PauloCoelho! By the way, there are several eBook available exclusively on his website, and we will likely be reading one of his books soon on #booktweet.

Since Stewart and I are traveling full time we have been able to meet several people in person who we first met on Twitter. I’ve already told you about Tom Morris (@TomVMorris), Sandi McKenna (@McMedia) and Ja mes Johnson (@JamesIslander). Since then we have met Darren and Judy Reeves (@SuperDad_08 and @Judes_08), Mark Lesser (@DrMarkLesser), Mark and Vanessa Hundley (@MarkHundley), and Randell and Julie Hiltbrunner (@NikeStix and @SilverSmyth). Stewart and I had so much fun with these folks, we have now gotten

together twice, and are meeting for a third time Sunday afternoon at Julie’s art show in Ft Worth. We are staying with our dear friend, Dr. Nancy McClellan while we are in Dallas. Nancy will from now on be known as @Nancy_Dallas. She and I will be having massages and body wraps at Sedona Spa by Zane Aveton (@Zaneology), and this week, Stewart and I are going down to San Antonio for a guitar jam session with Jeff Schechter (@ReallyShecky). And I must not forget my thrice weekly phone calls with Ponet (@Ponet), the Queen of CAPS!

Speaking of music, as I have previously written about, Stewart (@StewartRaven) is creating some amazing music on this journey. He has allowed me to publish a couple of his pieces on Twitter using an application named Twiturm that allows musicians to share their music with the Twitterverse in real time. No need to create any fancy videos or negotiate with iTunes. One of the pieces I uploaded for Stewart was “Shades of Gloria in E”. Previously, I had contacted Rabbi Specht (@RabbiShaiSpecht) about Stewart’s music as he is a wonderful vocalist and lyricist. From time to time over the past three months Rabbi has “dropped by” to ask me if I had anything to share with him. When I tweeted him the link to Stewart’s new song, the sparks flew, and within 24 hours the vocals were sent back to me. Stewart and I worked together to mix the vocals and instrumental tracks, and within another 24 hours, “Shades of Gloria with vocals by Rabbi Specht was up on Twiturm. The first collaboration by style=”font-style: italic;”>The Raven and the Reb.

My experience on Twitter has not been all rosy. As in the real world, there are flakes who are disingenuous and inauthentic. Though I am having difficulty getting an accurate count, it is fair to say there are around 10 million Twitter accounts. In a small town of five thousand there are jerks who first appear great. Why would the Twitterverse be any different!? For example, there is the Lothario who is in love with someone different every week. Reading his tweets will leave the average person a bit nauseated as he tweets his love and devotion into the public stream instead of in Direct Messages (DM is a tweet sent directly to a friend that only they will see). No one really wants to read about what he wants to do to her when they eventually meet. If I were a betting woman, my money is on that never happening.

Then, there are the Celebrity Twitters led by Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and his wife, Demi Moore (@mrskutcher), Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) and John Mayer (@johncmayer) who have thousands, even millions of followers, but only tweet to each other, and rarely follow any one back. And others hire people to tweet for them (@britneyspears). For example, John Mayer has as of this moment 1,241,175 followers, yet only deems 47 people worthy of following back. The arrogance of this is astounding to me. The beauty of Twitter is the back and forth exchange of ideas and information. If someone only tweets without ever jumping in and actually interacting with others, they completely miss the point. Go look in the mirror and talk to yourself, John.

There was one celebrity who was following me (he shall remain nameless), but would only interact with me in DM’s. After a few separate instances, I finally asked him flat out if he was embarrassed to be seen tweeting with a non-celebrity. His reply was to list me among his five top fans of the week. After I stopped laughing, I blocked him. I had never seen his show, and only followed him because he followed me first! I left him to Speidi.

A small group of us have become regulars in what we refer to as the #ENB club. One night we all happened to begin tweeting together and Jay Koch (@JayKoch) shared a YouTube video with us entitled “Ed Needs Bob”.

For some reason, this
little video hit us all as hilarious. Stewart and I had tears rolling down our faces and pain in our sides as we watched it for the 19th time. He remarked that there needed to be an acronym for when something is so funny LOL and ROFL just doesn’t cut it. Jay shot back with ENB! So now whenever something is especially funny, we tag it with #ENB. We have learned since this started that this is either something that you get or not – a bit like gefilte fish. Either you love it or you don’t.

When I was heading to Kenner, LA for my appointment with the Neuroendocrine doctors at Oschner, I felt first hand the power of prayer. The folks whom I had grown surprisingly close to on Twitter acted as a support group for me in preparation and during my ordeal. Each time I would log into my Twitter account, there would be multiple tweets folks had left me encouraging me, making me laugh, and teaching me new ways to cope with the results if they were less than stellar. It seemed that the entire Twitterverse knew when I was meeting with the doctors for the diagnosis. When I shared my good news, it was like a virtual wildfire with support and cheers tweeted and retweeted (RT). Stewart and I felt as though we were sharing our good news with a group of people who sincerely cared. In fact, one man asked for my telephone number so he could ring me. When he called, he told me he was completely taken by surprise by how much he cared. These are real people out there. It’s fairly obvious who is for real and who is not.

I know this is getting long, but bear with me (there ya’ go, Frank Feigert!) – are the products and resources I have learned about from others. For example, I was kidding around with Jane Johnson (@JaneEJohnson), Amy Kaster-Heath (@newmanzoo) and a few others about the unfair advantage men have when it comes to relieving themselves while traveling. Up pops a tweet in my stream (no pun intended) from Go Girl (@Go_Girls) about their product designed specifically for women to, well, go on the go. After as few tweets back and forth, I let them know where I would be that I could receive a package, and they sent me a couple of samples to try. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go through with it, but my word is my bond so I went for it. I stepped into the shower and gave it a try. It was simple to use, easily washed for reuse and worked exactly as promised. A few days later we were on our way through Orange, TX when nature called. I stepped into the restroom at a small gas station, and was immediately grossed out. But then I remembered I had my Go Girl with me, and I was good to go. Granted, I still needed to touch the faucet handle to rinse it out, but I had a tissue in my purse, so cooties were avoided. The only thing that would make it better is if they included a small case for storage similar to the old cigarette cases women used to carry. Something discreet without Go Girl written all over it for those times when my purse inevitably spills all over the floor. Thank you, Go Girl for making my odyssey that much better. Now, I just have to find an opportunity to write my name in the dirt!

style=”font-size:100%;”>It would be impossible to share all the ways Twitter has changed my life. When I mentioned to Mark Hundley I was covering this topic on my blog, he emailed this to me. I am including Mark’s words unedited:

style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”> style=”font-size:100%;”>

style=”font-size:100%;”>If I were to answer the question as to how Twitter has changed my life . . . well, I’d start with YOU! Meeting you has been one of the most powerful blessing I’ve ever experienced! Without Twitter, our friendship would likely never have happened. Then there is Ponet . . . nuff said!

Twitter has given me chances to meet people from all over the world without ever having to leave my home! And when I say “meet,” I mean “get to know!”

How else would I have been invited to be the mental health expert for one of Dr. Mommy’s websites; or interviewed on ReclaimU radio program; or be able to send free copies of the CD to folks who either needed the information or have access to folks who need it; or find people like Susan Heim and Dr. Mia Rose to provide pertinent and appropriate endorsements for the Second Edition of Awaken to Good Mourning; or have a gentleman take on the challenge to single-handedly raise awareness about my Birthday wish withing his circle of influence as well as that of his wife; or meet fellow therapists for coffee to exchange ideas; or have tweetups in Dallas with the best people in the world; or have invitations from other writers/thinkers to collaborate on future projects; or . . . you get my drift?

I believe firmly in the Law of the Harvest — You harvest WHAT you plant, MORE than you plant and LATER than you plant — in relationships, business endeavors, humanitarian causes, attitudes, beliefs, actions . . . My participation in Twitter and my commitment to myself to be as honest, transparent and real as possible has made this experience one of the best in my life!

I look forward to continued participation as it evolves as well!
Jay Koch and Jamie Inman (@ibeatcancrtwice) are collaborating on a radio program. Kathy Ireland (@kathyireland) has started a movement to get Elizabeth Taylor (@DameElizabeth) the Presidential Medal of Honor. Twitter is an incubator for ideas and creativity in real time. I’m just happy I finally joined. By the way, the first person I followed was NPR’s Daniel Schorr (@DanielSchorr), who will be 93 years old in August. For all of you who think you are too old to jump in, think again. Look me up in the Twitterverse. Goodbye for now.

<@MaraBG

I would love you to share your experiences with Twitter. How has it changed your life?