02 April 2011

live every day

How often do you go out and do those things that make you happy?  How often do you stop to think how lucky your are.. or be thankful about your life?  All of our lives can change in an instant.  I was driving home today and heard this story on NPR's Radio Lab.  I actually remained in the my car once pulled into the garage listening to the entire story.

You can listen to this heartfelt and heartbreaking story here.   Emilie was run over in NYC by an 18 wheeler as she waited on the sidewalk for a light to change, one foot down as she steadied the bike she was riding to work.  The truck driven by an unlicensed man turned the corner incorrectly allowing the trailer to jump the curb and roll over her.

Here's here story as listed from her website:

On the morning of Friday, October 8, 2010 Emilie Louise Gossiaux was struck by an 18-wheel semi-truck while riding her bike in Brooklyn, NY. She was rushed to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan where trauma doctors performed emergency surgery to save her life. In addition to stroke, traumatic brain injury, and resuscitated cardiac arrest, she suffered multiple fractures in her head, pelvis, and left leg. She emerged from the ER in severely critical condition with a pessimistic assessment of her brain function. A “grim” prognosis was made of her chance for survival.

Born August 4, 1989 in New Orleans, LA, Emilie was diagnosed with moderate hearing loss at a young age due to an untreatable disorder. Her hearing deteriorated rapidly throughout her teens; a deficit that Emilie filled with a passion for visual art. She pursued her art education in high school at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and, after evacuating from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, FL. Emilie arrived at The Cooper Union School of Art in Manhattan, NY in 2007 for her undergraduate studies. Upon completion of her junior year in May 2010, she received cochlear implant surgery in her left ear to partially address her hearing impairment.

A month and a half after the Oct. 8 incident, Emilie's friends and family waited diligently at her bedside; she showed very few signs of mental functioning or response. Due to facial fractures, Emilie's mouth had been wired shut, a tracheostomy prevented her from speaking, and the integrity of her vision was in question. Finally in stable condition after multiple surgeries, doctors determined that Emilie was not cognitively ready for rehabilitative treatment, and should instead be transfered to a long-term nursing home facility. Although she was deaf and unable to communicate without assistive hearing devices, Emilie's boyfriend was still certain of her mental acuity and fought the hospital for her admission to rehab. By writing on her palm with his index-finger, he was able to communicate with her, proving her high-level cognitive function, and eventually coaxing her into allowing her hearing aid to be inserted. Once switched on, Emilie bounced back immediately, but not without recoil. Her memory and cognitive functioning were completely intact, but she awoke to discover that the trauma had left her blind.

Emilie was then admitted to the neurorehabilitation program at the Rusk Institute in Manhattan on Thanksgiving, where she remains today. Her outlook on recovery was set from day one. Simply happy to be living, Emilie approaches each day with positivity and thanks for the support from everyone around her. Despite her vision loss, Emilie is certain she will complete her final year at The Cooper Union, and is determined to help others by joining The Peace Corps as soon as she is able. She has many more surgeries and extensive physical therapy ahead of her. Please help Emilie begin her life again.

Emilie Louise Gossiaux is an artist, student, and survivor currently alive in New York, NY.

She needs help to cope with the medical bills too. Simply go to http://www.emiliegossiaux.com/ for more information and to Donate.

  See also news article from "The New York Times," here.

Please never give up on me.
Never give up on those you love.

04 October 2010

Korean food

It's true that you can find adventure in your own backyard. On our last trip to Chicago, I was surprised by an unusual dinner in a hidden but well known Korean restaurant, San Soo Gab San at 5247 North Western Avenue, Chicago, IL

I was in for a treat as we ate a traditional BBQ!

Look at all those little side dishes! Who knows what each is called and for sure there were several that were not recognizable! If you like something, you have to leave a little bit in the dish so you can ask that more be brought to you as it would be impossible to explain what it was.

This is not any barbecue you've experienced.. the fire is brought to your table and they use actual wood charcoal. If it burns low, they bring you another fire! It was cold I remember and it was great having a little fire to keep us warm. I would not have had any idea on what to order, but my friend knew exactly. It's hard to tell from the menu, but you'll want the BBQ at your table.

If you're ever in Chicago and are feeling adventurous, here is a short video of the place to tempt you more :)` parking is difficult, just so you know! ..and the area so-so, leave no valuables in sight, or in the car at all really.

11 September 2010

the next place

Great acoustic version of Outsiders by Needtobreath, found on Walter Naeslund's blog.

Lately I've been thinking about my next travel adventure. It's time. I follow four marketers on line, Seth Godin, Naomi from IttyBiz, Chris Goegan, and Walter Naeslund from Stockholm, Sweden. Every time I visit Walter's blog it makes me think of visiting Sweden and well, that whole northern territory. Visions of Stockholm -as googled below -remind me of Amsterdam with their tall narrow old buildings and water throughout the city. It's so vibrant and progressive in photos and in the words of Walter's blogging. I've also been watching several films from Sweden lately via Netflix. Goofy to be sure, but an interesting cue to their culture and what's funny.

I've also long desired to kayak in the fjord's of Norway's waters taking in the grand quiet and gorgeous mountains exploring small old towns. Does this not look like a piece of heaven to you?

As autumn grasps a firm hold in the northern midwest, I'm sure it must be equally if not colder in these regions I'm dreaming of. Perhaps these are vacations better left for July 2011. Stay tuned :)~

26 February 2010

up the river without a paddle

It started simply enough. We were going to test the new engine and see if the boat would float. It was an older boat purchased for the simple pleasures of fishing and sunsets then to reap the reward of rebuilding and restoring at the end of the season.

Of course you've already guessed the end of the story lest you'd never be reading this at the moment, though less confidence was had in the thick of it.

We launched the boat into the water at the city dock as easily as one could without a rope and were delighted it didn't sink to the bottom. "It floats!" we chided each other.

holding the boat to the dock, we turned the key, but the engine didn't turn. The battery was not charged enough. Not to be discouraged, we swapped the battery with our car and it fired right up.

If you've already thought about it, yes, this did make for a rather tricky departure from the dock as both the boat and the car needed a battery then..

Out into the bay we motored, the engine while not completely trouble free provided reasonable speeds and acceleration. We ventured to the gulf to witness a most amazing sunset and toured through the mangrove maze endless with thickets, small islands, and passage ways.

We had only a tourist map of the mangrove but loved the old signs faded and overgrown with thicket announcing our unknown location. We recognized easily the tall buildings on Marco Island as we grew close.

It was getting late though and the light was fading fast.

We sped into a large bay only to circle a small island covered with many birds likely roosting for the night before we decided to turn home.

As the boat was steered a little too close to the shore, I became concerned for the shallow water and fading light. Sure enough, the muffled struggle of our propeller hitting the bottom was heard then verified by the churning of mud to the surface. Turning back to the middle of the bay offered no relief as even gunning the engine provided no progress in moving forward more than an three inches. We were in water less then three feet deep the tide going out likely upon our entrance to this bay.

We had no paddles on board and darkness was closing in. It was even more chilly since the sun had disappeared, my bathing suit never exposed but hiding under jeans, a sweater, and a light down jacket since our start. Philippe jumped in the water and pushed the boat at least 1/8 of a mile until it was just deep enough to clear the propeller.

It wasn't until after Philippe jumped back into the boat that I remembered reading about crocodiles in southwest Florida.. and became especially grateful that my offers of helping to push the boat were refused.

Thinking the worst was over, we picked our way back through the mangrove finding our way through memorized turns and trees avoiding running into the many channel markers. Closer to civilization however, we saw smoke coming out from under the engine cover!

Luckily it was just steam, the engine gauge showing too hot for our liking.

We stopped the boat every few hundred yards to let it cool, the yardage getting shorter and shorter with each jaunt, the engine growing hotter faster which each turn.

Conserving our battery while letting the engine cool and trying to avoid the current from pushing us onto a rocky shore, into a channel marker, or grounding us in shallow water, made our stalls a little stressful. Of course, at least I wasn't the one trying to fix the engine in this darkness and cold.

Two screws.

Two loose screws were the culprit of our overheating engine allowing water to stream at will outside of the engine. I'm simply amazed that these were discovered.

Clearly I was boating with a genius; albeit two smarty pants without a GPS, map, floodlight, paddles, blanket, radio, rope, nor tide charts!

Adventures don't always come to the most prepared!

25 January 2010

away from home for the holidays


My image of a perfect holiday is that of dining at home with your closest or favorite family then relaxing in the living room all together with a drink in hand concocted ideally of egg nog and dark rum complimented perhaps with a few pfeffernusse cookies or special cakes sipping and laughing the evening away with no rush to escape.

I am lucky to spend my Christmases mostly this way. Thanksgivings too.

Sometimes they can get a little stressful though. If I am hosting the dinner, I worry about getting everything just perfect. I am usually trying out new recipes for all my dinner parties actually and I’m quite sure this adds to my madness. I also tend to wait and finish special gifts on the day and also wait to wrap them. I like to look at the gift and savor how perfect I think it is and think about how much they might like it. Although not as elaborate as I used to be, I like to pick out wrapping paper and detail the present exteriors to heighten the delight of receiving them.

Why are the holidays so stressful for most? For sure I bring upon myself the stress of gift giving, dinner preparation, and the like. There have been a few holidays where I joined my extended family without my parents and I think about the boyfriend that I’ve taken to my parents. It’s not comfortable. You are a guest and stranger to their customs as well as not a part of their intimacy. In these cases, I felt like an outsider and not welcome in spite of their efforts.

I like to include friends in my holiday celebrations because I know how it feels to be alone on a holiday and not to be invited for those special days. Of course having invitations and being able to turn them down for the comfortable solace in your own space feels just as good!

This holiday season I was away from home. I was invited by a special aunt for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. I brought with me my boyfriend and a friend of ours both far away from their own families. I know they weren’t happy to join me feeling perhaps an obligatory invite only because of me. Still, we had a lovely dinner in a very comfortable home, and my extended family poured out the love and giggles making it a very special day.

And like always, I finished their gifts in the minutes before we departed for their home.

20 November 2009


I watched 'Outsourced' recently and found it to be an incredibly endearing film.

Have you lost your job in the last few months? In the last few years?

For Americans, corporate outsourcing has caused a lot of grief. If you were with a company when they first brought on Indian and Chinese offices, you remember well the frustration coming from these new well meaning employees that simply didn't have your training and whom you knew would ultimately be taking over your job.

Ayesha makes a good point in the film about how Americans support outsourcing: We make decisions in how we spend our money.

Are you deliberate in buying American made goods?

Granted, these days, not much is left to be manufactured in the US. Our decisions and those of corporations have driven much production outside of our borders.

Back to the movie.

Jeffcoat does a great job of plucking a less-traveled man from the comfort of American city life to the reality that is India. Granted, it is the only India I know from other movies I have watched as I have not visited personally, though it matches accounts from friends who have traveled there.

My experience leaving the Phnom Phen airport is not dissimilar to that of character, "Toad" as he peers from his tuk-tuk to the poverty and daily life a part of India's culture. His arrogance in training his new offshore office obvious and hilarious as you quickly figure out -if not before watching the film, that he would learn to appreciate and respect this new culture.

28 October 2009

birthday get away

There is a place that I love to visit, that I used to speak much about. The tourism has grown significantly because of others like me, and now I’ve decided not to reveal the place of such divine beauty and calm in that I might preserve its current state.

So it was my birthday and I not expecting too much in this state of the economy, was very surprised to be whisked away to this favorite area. It would be a new place to my boyfriend and I couldn’t wait to visit all my favorite locations. We left our computers at home and only had our cell phones for any business that would arise during our escape.

I only know the way to arrive by narrow tree lined roads whose names are surely printed on a map but none that I am aware. It takes a bit of time to reach by car and you could be tempted to stop at any beautiful place along the way. I knew right where our first stop would be. I packed a lunch from our left over goat cheese and roasted beet salad from the night before along with a bottle of wine and good bread. While it rained the entire time of our visit, my happiness and freedom would not be deterred.

We continued driving around this crystal blue green lake stopping at a place I normally put in my kayak. I insisted we walk along a riverside trail to reach the other side of a dam placed in the small river that runs to the big lake. I remember all too well of a paddle trip prior this time of year when the salmon were running; running, splashing, and slapping the sides and bottom of my kayak! If Alfred Hitchcock thought to write about fish as he did the birds, this would be his stage. We marveled at the crystal clear water and the 3 foot salmons swimming. There were so many.

After checking into the cutest bed and breakfast I know there, we drove further north to another one of my favorite secret spots. This one takes a bit of walking, but the view never disappoints. I’ve seen three shifts in the face of the dune since my first visit some eighteen years ago.

The favorite things tour was not yet over however, and we continued our drive to go wine tasting and to visit a small fishing town. There is gallery whose sculpture I adore and I love to walk on the old docks in the converted shacks shopping for sweets and savory alike. We took home smoked fish for family and a week of remembrance eating.

Of course, one cannot say their trip is complete without a drink at the famous Tavern in town. It is nothing special and perhaps the food worse, but its casual nature and memories of drinks with friends make it all it is.

The next day was spent touring some other favorite places and trying to catch the attention of the salmon. They wanted nothing to do with us.

When the rain was too heavy for fishing, I combed the beach for Petoskey stones, though only found pretty mineral pieces to burden my pockets. That my boyfriend would have the patience for this gathering and delight in my giddy rock finding was precious in itself.

19 September 2009

VBS in Biloxi

I once talked to God about becoming a nun. At the time I wasn’t Catholic but the idea didn’t sound too bad at the time. Of course, it was not to be so, and so it is ironic that I found myself sleeping in an old convent kept uncomfortably cold to ward off the grueling heat of the Mississippi summer.

I had traveled twenty hours with other women and teenagers to put on a full week of vacation bible school for this community. I know that I attended such programs as a child, though I remember none of them.

The planning had started weeks before by a friend of mine I’d met when she and her husband started organizing rebuilding trips to Biloxi immediately after hurricane Katrina. I learned not only how to drywall on one of those trips, but also how easy it is for a stranger to help another. As a stranger you aren’t stressed by the situation nor over- whelmed by everything there is to fix; you simply take on a task and then move on.

It’s terribly hot in southern Mississippi come mid July. The heat saps the energy out of your soul ex- ponentially by the minute that you’re exposed. Inside, the locals compensate by setting the air-conditioning so low that one requires a different wardrobe for each environment; not unlike a northern Midwest winter.

Children came ages four to sixteen and were divided accordingly, their maturity not always aligning with their assigned groups. The patience of our teenage volunteers – strangers not stressed by the daily lives of each child, overcame lovingly.

Both times that I’ve been a part of this program I’ve chosen to host the bible study portion of the week. It’s more black and white in preparation and allows space during the class for the kids to ask questions that might normally be brushed aside.

“What is heaven like?”

“Will I get to see my grandma in heaven?”

“Is there really a devil?”

“Are the saints like ghosts walking around?”

“How do I know my mom went to heaven?”

“What’s an atheist?”

“Why are there so many religions?”

“How do I treat people who aren’t Christians?”

The kids play games, eat food, pal around with teenagers they look to as mentors, make crafts, and giggle a lot. I don’t know what they’ll remember from the experience, but I hope they felt confidence, respect, and love for others that are different from them in addition to pondering new information for their life’s difficult questions.

20 August 2009

big cars in small spaces

There's just something about finding your own way and taking to the open road traveling cross country. I did just this in Italy one year not too long ago.

I rented by European standards a huge car: a Mercedes third row minivan. This is not an American minivan though, think half the size, but still large enough in case some won ton Italian driver side swiped me. Off I went.

I drove to the Almalfi Coast in search of the quaint mountainous towns I had seen in guide books. I was not disappointed. As I drove cautiously around hairpin turns overhanging the Mediterranean Sea, I understood: here the mountains meet the sea with surprise and I surely would as well if I was not careful. I would see a road sign often depicting a bugle circled with a red line through it. "No bugling." This wouldn't be a problem for me.

I settled into a sea view room at a tiny family run hotel in Positano with tiled floors and stucco terraces where over the course of the week, I was confided in by every member of the family including the fiance to the son about all their private matters. My favorite "meetings" of confidence held as I often crept home from being out and provided shots of cold Limoncello by the mother.

It was the day I drove down the coast exploring the towns of Almalfi, specifally Ravello that offer the most embarrassing part of my trip. Almafi went smoothly enough touring on foot their black and white cathedral, snacking on raisens wrapped in lemon leaves and buying my own bottles of Limoncello. My lunch target was Ravello as I made my way south. I saw many cars parking along the winding road leading up to the city center but as my visit would be short, I was seeking a closer spot to park. It was all going to plan until I had turn a hard right and found myself staring down a one way building lined road where an old woman on a bicycle pedaled alone turning a corner and out of site ahead. Now, I know these European villages and their one way streets. I'd be fine, I told myself.

I went forward slowly. After ten feet, the building to the left bumped out another foot narrowing this road even further. I played it safe and folded in the side mirrors. I hesitated a few seconds before pressing the accelorator. It was still a road for Pete's sake. I nudged the car a little further, but it resisted after only 10 inches. My front end was now wedged in between the buildings.

I sighed.

Face flush, I turned my head to look behind me. All I could see were four heads peeking around the corner from which I had just come, totem pole style.

In writing this story for you, I came across another traveler who experienced a similar day! Check out her post and more pictures from Almalfi!

25 July 2009

Sierra Leone

This is sort of a different post as I was inspired to write not from a travel experience, but from a film I watched recently. I attended several films at the Waterfront Film Festival this year and was deeply touched by one particular film born from tourist footage of a man's travels to Sierra Leone.

Through my travels and meeting people from all over the world I'm always reminded that while we may have different views, we are still very much the same. We love, we give, we laugh, we pray, we reach out.

My trip to Cambodia was first organized by someone else who is making a concerted effort to improve the lives of those he meets. It takes a lot of work to start something. It takes a lot of collaboration to start something that lasts.

Let's go back to Sierra Leone. Two siblings pieced together a dramatic documentary introducing us to the people of Sierra Leone, how they were impacted by their country's civil war, and how they are trying to overcome today. The film was also able to illustrate that while strangers have good intentions, they often don't follow through.

If you were to visit a third or second world country and witness their life, you would surely feel called to action. Once home however, your routine would swallow you and while your mind will drift back to the faces and daily struggles you witnessed, they will seem smaller, your guilt for haggling 50 cents for a handbag that meant $10 in their currency stinging.

Another good friend of mine took a leave of absence so to travel to Nepal and found his mission there: to help farmers unite and commercialize their much sought after herbs for teas and homeopathic medicine.

I'm so privelidged to know these people and so inspired. I encourage you to seek out the film, Pride of Lions and to check out the farmer's coalition website. Below, you can also find a few posts about my visit to the Wat Opot Orphanage. While you're at it, perhaps consider a cash donation directly to a charity that tugs at your heart. Small amounts go so far when everybody gives.

15 June 2009


I took a little sabbatical from posting on my blogs this past month. I'm looking forward to sharing more experiences when I return. I hope you're having a great summer!

01 June 2009

The one that got away

We had been preparing for weeks gathering just the right fly rod, a light weight standard reel, and specific lures along with trying to under- stand the complex fishing regu- lations of the state. We had been walking several rivers to pick good spots for access and to spy any unsus- pecting fish. We knew right where we wanted to go.

It was to be our first real warm weekend of the year and so that Friday night we got our all species season fishing licenses. It might as well have been our first driving license because we were so giddy about it.

Early Saturday we packed a lunch of homemade hummus, spicy tortilla chips, pulled BBQ pork, and fresh bakery bread into the cooler we would surely be bringing home fish inside. We included a few Heinekens and were good to go.

The weatherman did not disappoint and soon we were casting freely into a nice pool at a river’s bend on an empty river bank basking in the sun. Forty minutes had passed with no nibbles but we were having a great time none the less.

Then it was over.

“Scott” was outfitted in full fisherman garb: chest high waders, special vest, baseball cap, and tackle box. I notice him walking down the trail sans rod. He talks a little bit to my friend before approaching and tells me that my whole set up is wrong but that he can help. He also says he’s been fishing this hole for five years. The guy is surely 20 years our senior so we allow his sage advice out of politeness.

He is giving us instructions when our other rod gets snagged on a small limb in the bottom of the river. Scott immediately reaches for it and starts to yank while calling back to us orders on how to change my lure arrangement. He tells us to never leave a line in the water and how he’d been fishing that hole for five years.

&*$#^* C R A C K !

My friend’s rod is in two pieces; Scott with a dumbfounded surprised look on his face, now apologizing profusely. My friend goes to the water’s edge to inspect the damage and Scott pulls only on the line now to snap off the snagged portion. (Note that in our following fishing expeditions while we have infrequently snagged a limb, we’ve always been able to retrieve our line and rods intact.)

One pole down.

We’re not sure what to do next. It was an accident surely but the rod is destroyed, our fishing weekend over. Scott spies the ORVIS stamp and starts apologizing more realizing the damage to us was more than to just a $20 dollar rod. He insists on helping with the set up of my lure and we allow this as a way for him to save face. He chats away the whole time respacing my weights, moving the bobber, tying on a smaller hook, poo-pooing the orange fish egg sack we had just purchased the day prior, and telling us he’s fished this hole for five years.

Handed the pole, I am instructed to cast into a pool on the opposite river bank –where we’d been casting initially. My first two tries fall short and Scott’s impatience leads him to insist that he take my rod and do himself. I allow this out of politeness slowly passing him the rod glancing to my friend. Within a few tries Scott has landed in the pool though is allowing the lure to float too close to a downed tree and brush.

“Bring it in, bring it in, you’ll snag,” I say quickly. “Bring it closer.”

I am ignored. Within seconds he is snagged. He mumbles to himself and starts to yank on the rod to release the lure. I see second thoughts cross his face as he thinks better handing the rod to me and then yanks only on the line. He snaps the line and our lure set-up remains caught in the river.

Two poles down.

Scott insists on setting my pole back together with goods from his tackle box, but now we decline and pack up our small camp. Only ten minutes have transpired since Scott came on the scene; Scott from Pontiac wearing a red Doug’s Tree Service sweatshirt. Fishermen be weary.