Hurled Into the Extraordinary World of Food

At A Ripe Early Age

I have a confession to make. I’m not proud of it. I wish I hadn’t done it, but it was over 50 years ago and it’s time to let it go. There were eleven children from two different wombs in my family; that’s a story for another day. I was born to please. I learned early on that if I did the “right” thing, I would get the food that I wanted and liked. If I played my cards right, I could count on privileges my siblings were unaware of, and further, it was not my place to tell them. At the ripe old age of 12, I volunteered to do the weekly grocery shopping. With a family as large as mine, door-to-door delivery was necessary and fortunately for us, free. My neighborhood grocery store knew my family; I’m certain they were grateful we were catholic (usually an absence of birth control) and big eaters. You may be thinking that I was a good kid to relieve my mother of this cumbersome chore, but alas, I had an ulterior motive. Each week I would purchase cake and sweets which I did not send home with the delivery boy (always boys — I later became one myself). I coveted these ill-gotten goods and devoured them on the way home. This would explain my pudgy teenage physique. What I couldn’t eat I hid for later consumption. I committed this heinous crime for quite some time; my parish priest was never told at confessional (also for a later blog). Finally, a combination of guilt and excess pounds forced me to give up my criminal behavior. Lighten up, I’m no George Santos.

I’m afraid this was not my only crime. As the eldest son of divorced parents, I was charged with the task of taking the Brooklyn N train to Coney Island. I would meet my father at Carolina Restaurant for family meal (when restaurant staff sit down to eat before service); we spent ten quick minutes eating peasant Italian food and sharing not-so-pleasant stories about my mother and stepfather. Toward the end of our weekly ritual, I’d stick out my hand for the cash I made the trip to secure. Collecting and doling out our weekly allowance was solely my responsibility. I did not take this task lightly, in fact, I saw this as a huge burden. A burden deserving of compensation. Confession #2, I paid myself a salary for my hard work getting each of them their cash on time each every Tuesday, and me, worse for the wear. My earned bonus went toward the purchase of Coney Island confections at the sweets counter under The El: taffy, chocolate covered peanuts, huge colorful jawbreakers, and jellies. I had 20 minutes on the train home to hide the evidence in my belly.

I’m ashamed of these deceptions; however, they mark the beginning of my fascination with all things culinary. My desire to have all kinds of foods led me to a lifelong struggle with guilt, weight loss, and
the avoidance of food related lies. It feels good to report that most of these issues are under control. Although this is my first time publicly admitting my egregious wrongdoings, I have come to terms with my past and I forgiven myself. After all, we were dirt poor and my entrepreneurial spirit just needed channeling in a more positive direction. It it my hope that my siblings do not read this blog (I’m certain they won’t actually). I’m positive several of them would hold me accountable and might even go so far as to seek retribution — I imagine years of skimming off the top of their allowance, added up. My parents are long gone; they probably would have laughed about it and patted me on the back–afterall, it was their DNA that got me into that mess in the first place.

“I know once people get connected to real food, they never change back.”

– Alice Waters

Fast forward to college and beyond. As a college student, my school loans went toward buying food and eating out. I borrowed books and used the reference section of the library in order to spend less money on books for school and more money on good food. My father cooking was sublime; his knowledge of food extensive, and so, he consequently, spoiled me for life. I can’t be happy with MacDonald’s or canned beans. Like most incurable illnesses, I cannot be blamed for this affliction. Food has taken me to places I never imagined I would go. Dinners with Julia Child, business trips with Jacques Pépin, curriculum meetings with José Andrés, a lifelong friendship with the former editor of Bon Appetit, Barbara Fairchild, who is one special human. I realize it all started from a series of lies, but they were miniscule lies in the scheme of things. I have fond memories of discussions with Anthony Bourdain, although I never ate his food. My friendship with André Soltner will always be cherished (owner of Lutece in NYC). And 16 years at The French Culinary Institute was the single greatest gift of my life; the marriage of education and incredible foods doesn’t get any better. And as an added bonus, I met a few people there who have become lifelong friends. Not just foodie friends, they’d take a bullet for me friends.

“My weaknesses have always been food and men – in that order.”

– Dolly Parton

The FCI, eating at the #1 restaurant Francescana, cooking without recipes

Why I love Food

My father gets 100% credit for my love of good food. In addition to being a fabulous cook, he also loved food from all around the world. On his day off from work, he often took us to restaurants in our very diverse neighborhood. But I do have a story to share:

I was visiting him in Florida after he retired there. I told him I was taking him out for Chinese food; however under one condition: I would be ordering the food for us (I was a precocious twenty year old). He insisted on knowing why. I was quite frustrated with his resistance; he always ordered the same three dishes and I wanted him to try some Chinese food he’s never eaten. After a couple of hours of telling me I was ridiculous and stubborn, he gave up the fight. I ordered five or six exotic Chinese dishes: shark fin soup, abalone in garlic sauce, fried mashi; to name a few; I ordered a lot.

My dad was open minded, but he liked what he liked and he did not like dinner that night. He didn’t complain during the meal; however, after I paid the check he said, “From now on I’ll pay for my own meal and order whatever the hell I want.” He was right of course; I was an SOB.

It’s a Blessing and a Curse
Have you ever gone into a restaurant and found a dish so sublime you couldn’t get it out of your head? Two weeks later you return to said restaurant only to find out the chef left or he’s away for a few weeks or they’ve taken the dish off the menu and they’re not sure if it will ever return or the purveyor no longer carries that cut of beef or it just doesn’t taste the same and you don’t know why? This is the story of my life. Whenever any of the aforementioned happens, I am devastated and ruined for the day.

On the flip side, there are foods and dishes that I love that will never go away for the following reasons:

  • I cook them.
  • Many food brands have been around for 100 years.
  • Brooklyn and all of it’s wonderful ethnic restaurants is here to stay.
  • It comes from the ocean.
  • People would revolt if pizza and/or hamburgers went away.
  • They’ve been around for many centuries (e.g., nuts, rice, vegetables, bread, pasta).
  • Salt & pepper will be here long after we’re gone.

Fine dining is nice on occasion. I ate at high end, expensive, popular, talented chef restaurants, for so long it became tedious; if I’m going to be honest, I prefer either my own cooking or a neighborhood restaurant with good food. I can’t do super rich anymore; my digestive system just can’t handle it. I’d rather have a nice meal at a good price and take home the leftovers. When I really want to eat well: fresh, simple, and delicious . . . I cook. Cooking is my Zen place.

Then there is the wine — I’ll leave it at that.

Future Travel

Fort Lauderdale (Deerfield Beach) in two weeks, then Nantes and Pornic, France, Liverpool, England, and Marseilles, France — Nantes and Pornic are happening on the same trip, over a four day period. Other holidays planned later in the year. Biggest trip of 2023 will be Dubai, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Hong Kong — end of October to mid-November. This will be an adventure of a lifetime that has been postponed three times due to COVID.


I am over two months into a co-coaching experiment I will write about soon. There are two things I want to tease you with:

  1. We sometimes limit ourselves in what is possible due to financial situations. This is unfortunate; I’ve learned there are many constructive things you can do with your life that cost nothing or next to nothing.
  2. Doing a deep dive into what emotionally and psychologically ails you is not easy, but it can be the most rewarding thing you will ever do.


I commissioned Lori Owens Kostiuk, a very talented artist friend, to do a watercolor portrait of Paco. She truly captured the essence of Paco in his Sweet Pea harness. Thank you Lori. If you’re interested in a portrait of your pet, private message me for her details or find her on FB, LOK Studio 6.

“I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.”

– W.C. Fields

This was a fun blog to write. Thank you for reading.

What Strength Looks Like

Strength of character is what I will be be discussing in this piece. Inner strength; strength that comes from resolve, survival, wisdom and experience. We are all warriors; your authentic self is where your strength thrives.

“True strength is the courage to admit our weaknesses.”

— Simon Sinek


For a change, this is not about me. Not that I’m unwilling to admit my weaknesses; I have many and I often reminded of them; sometimes by friends and family. Weaknesses are difficult to come to terms with if you are hard driving and highly motivated.

I am referring to weaknesses such as embellishing the truth, self-esteem struggles, needing others to validate you, lacking empathy, shying away from reality, surrendering control, allowing people to push you around, and a few more I cannot think of right now.

Apologizing for everything is seen as a weakness. As human beings we all make mistakes. Most of us are forgiving and willing to overlook unintentional blunders. When you constantly apologize, people see you as fragile and weak. Forgive yourself and move on. Not so easy sometimes.


Strengths may be easier to identify than weaknesses. What makes you proud and prideful? What fills you with self-esteem and a feeling of self-worth? What do others admire about you? What do you admire in and about others? Do you stand up for yourself and what you believe in?

Ask yourself these questions, be honest with your answers, and then make notes about what you’re pleased about or changes you’d like to make. You’re in control of a great deal more than you may believe.

What is Appropriate

Being authentic comes at a cost. Unfortunately, strength of character can be intimidating. You have to keep in mind that there are haters and jealous individuals everywhere. These people do not want you to succeed because they know they do not have the wherewithal to succeed themselves. They will work hard to bring you down or stop you from being fully empowered or realizing your full potential. These individuals are insecure and often in a great deal of emotional pain. Unfortunately, there is little you can do to help them, they have to want to help themselves. Do you know people who fit this description?

Weak and insecure individuals know that once you find your power, they will no longer be relevant. As difficult as it may be at times, the best way to disarm these individuals is to disengage. My resolve was tested this week and I am pleased to report that I walked away — practice, practice, practice. The lift you receive from taking the high road is incredibly rewarding.

Standing Up for Yourself

As difficult as standing up for yourself might be, it’s the only way you will achieve empowerment. Empowering yourself to live life with determination, reflection, action, and authenticity. Never allowing someone else to make you do something you do not want to do or be someone you do not want to be. This is one of the key principles in personal fulfillment.

I have watched so many people allow others to control them. It’s a difficult thing to witness because there is very little you can do about it. This kind of growth has to come from the desire for freedom and pride.

I not only have the right to stand up for myself, but I have the responsibility. I can’t ask somebody else to stand up for me if I won’t stand up for myself. And once you stand up for yourself, you’d be surprised that people say ‘Can I be of help? — Maya Angelou

Future Travel

Fort Lauderdale (Deerfield Beach) in three weeks, then Nantes and Pornic, France, Liverpool, England, and Marseilles, France — Nantes and Pornic are happening on the same trip, over a four day period. Other holidays planned later in the year. Biggest trip of the year will be Dubai, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Hong Kong — end of October to mid-November. This is an adventure of a lifetime that has been postponed three times due to COVID. The extra time has given me the opportunity to truly consider how I want to spend my time in Asia. I do not like long flights; therefore, Asia will not be a frequent destination.

Status Of My Hybrid

Although I’m enjoying my tiny Fiat 500C, a hybrid will not save you as much on gas as you might have thought. I think I might be getting about 10 additional miles per gallon — if that. I guess it has more to do with the psychological benefit; I am after all, helping to save the planet (tongue in cheek).

I am learning to laugh at myself. When you take yourself less seriously, others around you will ease up on you and consequently, themselves.

Never be afraid to stand with the minority when the minority is right, for the minority which is right will one day be the majority. — William Jennings Bryan


Coping With and Managing Empathy

What We’re all Dealing With

Everyone tends to believe that circumstances are worse now than they’ve ever been. The truth is that this is just not the case. The Holocaust was a great deal worse; WWI or WWII were terrible times, Hiroshima, plagues in history when millions perished — yes there were worse times. Some of us tend to forget the suffering, horrors, and chaos humankind has endured in the past. Some, understandably, will never forget.

Still, the current status of the world is challenging: climate change, mass shootings, pandemics, cancer, war, the economy, the list goes on and on. But human beings are survivors; we are built to come up with solutions and cope with whatever lands in our laps. Positive thinking and a good attitude goes a long way — I’m not saying it’s easy.

Internalizing the Pain Others Are Feeling

No doubt empathy is a double edged sword. Without empathy we are without care or feeling, while with it, we carry the burden of pain. Still, it should not be forgotten that it is usually a lot worse for those experiencing pain or loss first hand. Being supportive of the person(s) in pain by being by their side or letting them know you are there for them, is more productive and healing for all parties. Letting others know how sorry you are by displaying your emotions publicly is usually not helpful.

When my brother passed, my mother could not support the woman who walked out on him. Even if her grief was real and justified, my mother had lost her son and it was my mother I needed to support. Sometimes we forget that empathy means prioritizing your emotional and physical support.

You can also be empathetic toward someone you are not terribly fond of; this is called being compassionate and a good human.

The Lack of Empathy Around Us

The term “thoughts and prayers” has been troubling me lately. To tell grieving parents that your thoughts and prayers are with them is hypocritical in some situations and most can see right through hypocrites. How could someone who supports the purchasing of firearms without a background check, be empathetic? There are so many clear examples of the use of religion or laws to justify a lack of empathy for others.

This idea of showing strength and keeping your emotions hidden, is nonsense. Being strong when others need you is essential; however, being stoic and without emotion makes those around you skeptical of your ability to understand their pain. As with all things balance is key.

Unfortunately, some people lack the ability to feel empathy; these individuals are broken and in need of therapy or some other means of awakening their emotions.

Coping Mechanisms

  • I hate to suggest this, but I firmly believe that sometimes the only way to deal with something is to turn it off (not deal with it).
  • Thinking about the worst case scenario. Not always, but sometimes, reality is less harsh.
  • Be good to yourself — do something nice for yourself.
  • Extend your sympathy to the person who is most affected.
  • Guilt is a horrible thing to feel and it is usually unwarranted. Survivor remorse or guilt is a very real feeling and for some, it is just as hard to deal with as if the tragedy happened directly to them. One way to deal with guilt is to talk it out with a friend. An objective point of view can be helpful. Knowing that the passing of time often makes things a bit easier, is useful knowledge to be aware of.
  • Find peace in knowing that empathy is so much more positive than a lack thereof.
  • Putting your thoughts and feelings in writing.

Do you have ways of coping with empathy on steroids? Please share.

How do you tell someone that they lack empathy? The $10,000 question.

Future Travel

This three month break from travel has been exactly what I needed. Too much of a good thing and all that jazz. No need for further explanation.

South Florida in four weeks, then Nantes and Pornic, France, Liverpool, England, and Marseilles, France (first time). Other trips planned for later in the year. More next blog. I’m learning to spread my trips apart and appreciate them more.


Many things help us to cope as we navigate the day-to-day. I find two things very useful. The first is gratitude; thanking the universe for the many things we have to be grateful for: good health, friends, family, travel, having means, the weather, etc. The second thing that helps me prepare for the day and keeps me physically and mentally healthy, is exercise. For me it’s a trip to the gym five or six days a week. I’ve been participating in this daily routine for over 40 years; although it is not a cure-all, it sure does check a lot of good health boxes. Just be grateful that you have a heart and the ability to feel.

How to Be More Empathetic, NY Times, “A Year of Better Living,” Claire Cain Miller.

A question, I thought I should address, came up this week: How do you choose your topics? I do not spend a lot of time thinking about what to write. I usually open up my laptop when it’s quiet and I have no plans. I look at a blank blog page, click “write” and I begin to type. My guess is that the topic has been swirling around my brain the night or day before I write, but I’m not fully conscious of it.

Occasionally, a topic will come up at a table of friends during a meal.

I mostly write to sort things out in my head. I’ve learned that a combination or journaling and blogging clears my mind so that I can enjoy the moments that matter.

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”

— Isaac Asimov

Tools For Survival In the Modern World

Situations I’ve Discovered Require Tools

  • Navigating difficult people
  • Stress from work
  • Aging
  • Coping with medical issues
  • Sorting through stuff in order to determine what matters most
  • Discovering how to talk to people (all people)
  • Managing dark and dangerous thoughts
  • The unexpected, the reimagined, and the unintended

Tools For Living

The best tool is a good friend; a friend whom you can trust and call upon. This friend will not judge or question your loyalty. A friend can get you through some pretty rough stuff. Be sure to nurture good friendships, they’re hard to come by.

Food & beverage of your choice, are another great tool. It doesn’t have to be a gorging session or drinking your way into a drunken stupor. I’m talking a nice meal with someone you care about, a dinner party, a destination meal, fresh veggies from your garden, a nice glass of red or white . . . you get my point. Something to look forward to; something to take your mind off whatever it is that is troubling you. Escaping for the moment isn’t bad as long as you eventually deal with whatever it is you need to deal with. Stepping away helps you put things in perspective.

Learning how to be a good communicator is a tool that will pay off in spades. I know I have repeated this repeatedly, however, it’s worth repeating again: learn how to be a good listener. It’s an invaluable tool. Listen intently with your entire being. In addition, validate, repeat back key thoughts, share, confide, show interest, be objective, be generous, provide feedback when asked, and lean in. Authenticity is key when communicating; people will see right through you otherwise.

Developing a thick skin is essential for survival. There was a time when people kept most of their thoughts, feelings of contempt, resentment, rage, etc. to themselves; then along came social media. Now someone thinks a sideways glance to their ex was salacious and suddenly it’s all over Facebook or worse, Tik Tok. You need to be able to let it roll off your back and ignore it. Not easy, but if you spend the time to cultivate this practice, you will be a whole lot better off.

The ability to walk away when you are exposed to toxicity. A healthy self-esteem comes from looking out for your own well-being. Part of survival is having the ability to say “no more” or “I’m done.” It may be difficult while you’re in the thick of it, but you’ll be glad you did it when you discover how much better off you are or how much better you feel.

Laughter is a tool I often forget to use. Humor and the ability to lighten things up is part of living a happy and healthy life. I (we) take life far too seriously. Do not apologize for injecting levity into a situation or conversation. I told a joke at lunch with about 15 people last week. I noticed many were laughing, but two or three people had a very serious look on their faces. I immediately thought, oh no, I should apologize. The thing is, if they’re uncomfortable with your sense of humor, it’s more than likely a reflection of them and their biases than you. Don’t apologize, if they can’t handle your humor they can either tune you out or confront you; most people will never have the nerve to do the latter and that’s not your problem. I’m still learning this lesson.

Being authentic and true to yourself is less a tool and more a way of being. It’s necessary for success with relationships and real happiness. I truly admire people who are comfortable in their own skin.

Talking about reaching into your toolbox has become cliché. That’s unfortunate, because in fact, if you have worked hard to come up with healthy and useful ways of dealing with difficulties in your life, you should be able to call upon these “tools” without feeling that your methods are being discounted by others. If this works for you, by all means use it. “Whatever works” is cliché as well, but truth is truth. At the end of the day you want to feel good about yourself and sleep well; you will awake a stronger, healthier, more optimistic you.

What makes me equipped to share these thoughts with you? The answer is simple: life experience, hard work, and the desire to pay it forward. I took an elective course at University entitled: Living Skills; the best three credits of my educational career.

My Inspiration

I am working on a life coaching project — two individuals coaching one another. It’s early days, but eventually I’ll be writing about it. Our recent conversations inspired this blog. My coaching partner shall remain nameless. Peaked your interest . . . hmmm, you’ll never find out who it is.

“The only person you should strive to be better than, is the person you were yesterday.”

— Matty Mullins


Of all the varieties of modern pollution, noise is the most insidious.

~ Robert Lacey

Familiar feeling?

Good Sounds

  • Rain hitting a tin roof
  • Paco’s breathing while he sleeps
  • Music that I choose to listen to
  • Small children laughing
  • A waterfall
  • Thunder when I’m inside and safe
  • Someone speaking softly. It’s a bonus if they are saying something that matters
  • Waves crashing against rocks
  • Paco’s barking and howling when we’re playing
  • The shaking of a martini
  • A breeze gentling rustling tree branches and leaves
  • The sound of silence

I’m so glad I made this list because until today, I have been thinking that all I wanted to hear was silence.

Noise Gets Worse As My Day Progresses

Ambulance sirens sounding, jack hammers hammering, motorcycles revving, revving and revving their motors, car alarms, banging, smashing, and clanging; after awhile you’re almost certain you are losing your mind.

Having grown up in a big city, I am accustomed to having a great deal of background noise in my everyday life. When I moved to North Carolina to attend college, the sound of silence made me extremely uneasy. I recall turning on a fan, just to hear some sort of sound. I’m long over that. Now, whenever and wherever possible, I prefer quiet. The kind of quiet where you listen for a sound and hear only your own breathing. To be perfectly honest, I rarely get to experience this level of quiet.

I can’t help thinking noise follows me. Here’s an average weekday:

Lately I wake at about 4:15 a.m. It’s the quiet of the early morning that gets me up at this hour. I’m like the Eveready battery, I go, go, go and I stop abruptly when I run out of energy — this tends to happen at around 8:00 p.m.; I stopped fighting it a long time ago. When I wake at 4:15ish, fully recharged, I take Paco for a leashless walk. It’s the only time my neighborhood is quiet. It’s fantastic and I never take this time of the day for granted. There is sometimes a very obnoxious and strange sounding bird singing his morning song, but I pay him no mind (he must move around). Cars occasionally speed by at this hour, going way too fast. I often see a patrol car sitting across from my building, but they don’t seem to mind the speeding. I was once the driver speeding past; now I’m just waking rather than returning home from the club.

A few minutes of this outdoor time and we return to my peaceful apartment. The 90 or so minutes before my gym visit, is the quietest time of the day for me; I savor every second. Add a rare thunderstorm to this mix and I’m happier than I deserve to be.

My walk to the gym is pleasant: stray cats in heat, manual window shutters opening, an occasional clothing line squeaking — none of these sounds are disturbing to me. The gym is almost always a symphony of harsh sounds: weights dropping to the floor, macho men sharing football stories, women laughing about the same men, and shower hollering meant to rise above the running of water. These are sounds I expect to hear; I embrace them because they allow me to exist in the quiet of my thoughts.

When I arrive home after the gym, this is when it all changes. By now, construction workers have arrived at work, trucks dumping stone in the park being renovated are beeping as they back up, four schools filling with boisterous students — ages three to twenty-two, cars stopping and going in traffic, angry horns beeping; all as if to wake us from a restless slumber and they do wake us.

This assault lasts about an hour, followed by several hours of normal traffic and constant construction noise — hammers, saws, generators, the chipping away of wall plaster, working me being way to loud; none of it pleasant.

When the school let out, it gets quite noisy once again. At 7:00 p.m. dog walkers chat outside, but this I don’t mind. At 8:00 p.m., when my neighbors are eating dinner or watching television it is almost as quiet as the morning; not quite, but tolerable and considerate. Weekends in my neighborhood are a different animal altogether; most weekends are luxuriously peaceful.

Avoiding Noise

There are several things I do to avoid or tune out noise: earbuds are fantastic, I close windows and doors to drown it out, I do my outdoor chores during the worst of it, I stay home all day on holidays when it’s peaceful for 24 hours straight, and my bedroom is nearly soundproof when everything is closed. I work hard at keeping noise at bay.

Here’s what I don’t do: yell at the kids from the high school when they gather in front of my building, honk my horn, yell in public unless I have no choice, talk on speaker phone while on public transportation or in a restaurant, screech my car tires, encourage Paco to bark outside, slam down the top of the trash bin, and I never force others to listen to my music.


I have stuck to my recent commitment to hold off on travel for a few months and it has been fantastic. I feel rested, grounded, and I have more money in my pocket. I’m certain Paco is pleased as well. Yes that is Paco wearing his red Sweet Pea harness.

A Compromised Environmental Goal

When I left Maine five years ago, I made a decision to work a little harder on a, rest-of-my-life goal, to reduce my carbon footprint. I’m a climate change believer; although I am only one among billions, I believe all of us, working together, can make a difference. Using public transportation has been challenging here in Portugal lately; therefore, I have been forced to purchase a vehicle. Without outlets anywhere near my condo building, electric was not an option. I’ve opted for a hybrid Fiat; a satisfactory compromise. I will continue to use public transportation whenever possible. And I will fly when it is my only option.


The World Health Organization … estimated that 1.6 million years of healthy living are lost every year in Europe because of noise pollution.

~ A. J. Jacobs

After Thoughts

I know that some of my writing has been negative lately; however, putting my thoughts and feelings in writing has helped to sort out many of my recent struggles. Thank you for listening.

Also, please forgive spelling or proofing errors — reading back my writing is a painful task.

10 Things I Love to Hate

From What I Hate Most to What I Hate Most

  1. Cigarette smoking, if it’s anywhere near me. I am aware that nicotine is a strong addiction.
  2. Men doused in cheap cologne. I have never experienced this issue with woman. It seems to be a European male thing (obviously not all men).
  3. People who lie (not including white lies to prevent bad feelings or pain).
  4. When a business fails to deliver a service and then does not own their mistake and/or compensate adequately.
  5. When someone knows they did something wrong, however, refuses to apologize.
  6. Cheaters. Not the same as liars.
  7. People who do something egregious and then refuse to own the consequences.
  8. Vanity.
  9. When people use religion as a reason to strip away the rights of others.
  10. People who abuse children in any way. People who parent children, but put themselves first. People who murder children. I like to think I can forgive anything, but, I’m not sure I can forgive murdering a child.

Honorable mention: when people do not pick up their dog’s poop or when they throw trash on the ground, when people talk about money incessantly, and certain political leaders.

I could have kept going.

The Good News

I’ve sort of worked all of this hate out of my system over the last five years; pretty much since I arrived in Portugal. Yes, I still get angry, frustrated, and pissed off, but not nearly as often and for shorter periods of time.

Smoking Gets Its Own Heading

I have a couple of friends who smoke cigarettes. I hope they don’t get angry with me when they read this. I love them; because of my affection, I’m willing to deal with the smoke — just being honest here. I am absolutely certain there are things about me that annoy them. There are degrees of hate (like most things in life); this is the kind of hate that I feel because I know what smoking does to one’s health — I watched my mother die from lung cancer. She smoked days before she died, knowing it was killing her. Hard for me to wrap my head around that.

I’m fairly certain we all have a “hate” list. Putting it in writing helps to keep things in perspective. My “love” list is a lot longer.

The Frequency of Travel

Or Staying Put

Not my window

Recently, a few people very close to me expressed their concern about my travel habits this past year. No one said as much, but I got the feeling that some may have thought I was running away from something. Damn it to hell when people who love me are right. It’s true, I was running away; I’ve been running for a long time, and . . .

Not running from any one particular person, place or thing, but I do run. When you become aware of something and you own it, you’re more likely to make change happen. Change is happening for me now.

Arguments for Staying Home More

  • Save money
  • Spend more time with your pet.
  • Enjoy and appreciate your home.
  • If you like routine, it’s easier to keep up with it at home.
  • Your food won’t go stale.
  • Commitment to create a nest you’re happy to nest in.
  • Becoming a regular at neighborhood eateries is extremely satisfying on so many levels.

Making Travel A Treat

If you’re like me, too much of a good thing gets old fast. I’ve learned that I need time between travel. Travel is exhausting these days; you need time to fully recover before you venture out again. If you space it out, it gives you time to anticipate your next adventure.

The joy of discovery is the single most important thing in life. Don’t forget it.

— The Common Wanderer

2023 Travel (scheduled)

No travel until March 1st!

Florida, Liverpool, Nantes, Pornic, Oban (Scotland), Dubai, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Hong Kong. My very first trip to Asia. I believe this will be more than enough travel for one year. I’ll be in my own bed a lot more in 2023.

Just an Aside

Two amazing things happened in 2022: I reconciled with a family member that I have been estranged from for too long. I love this person very much, therefore, it was a difficult estrangement. The other is that I have come closer to being a whole person who truly believes that I am enough. I know it’s a big deal.


I don’t want my blogs to become boring or irrelevant. Please share your honest thoughts with me; I promise not to cry or block you. You can only send me a private message. I appreciate the ability to put my twisted thoughts in writing and share them with you — always with the intention of helping someone, somewhere, who may relate in some way.

Dealing With Division

Keeping Your Friendships/Family Ties Intact

A difference of opinion, politicians/political parties, immigration, abortion, racism, the royals, religion, gay marriage, gender identities; you name the issue and everyone around you is on a different side. It’s important to stay true to yourself, but the truth is, we need one another. If you began eliminating people in your life because their values or beliefs were different, you’d end up with your principals and many lonely nights. We have to find a way to be with one another despite our convictions and predilections.

What It’s Like These Days

It so often feels as if no matter what you say, you will either offend someone or clash with them on some issue. The last thing I want is to be surrounded by people who always agree with me or vice versa. I am fascinated by what people think and feel. Of course there are red lines. For example, there are people out there today who proudly state their hate against Jews. For me, if you hate an entire population of people and wish them ill, we cannot be friends, family, or acquaintances. That sort of toxicity has no place in my life. These people may have some wonderful qualities, but annihilation, extremism, and hate overshadows all else as far as I’m concerned.

Navigating Differences

I was having dinner with a friend last night and we got into a conversation about marriage — who should be able to marry whom, that sort of discussion. I could tell from the start that she was going to say some things I fundamentally disagreed with. She went on to explain where her values came from; clearly she was taught from a very early age that there are things good christians should do or not do. I asked her if she intellectually believed that what she was taught was right and she emphatically said, “No!” For me, that makes all the difference. I have prejudices that I believe are wrong and unfair, but I know they are wrong and I’m working to change a position(s)/belief(s) that has been embedded in my consciousness for many years. We need to accept our differing beliefs, knowing that the foundation of these beliefs were deeply laid. And that most people are inherently good.

Listening to a different point of view is necessary and helpful. It helps me to formulate an informed, stronger, more absolute opinion or thought. Challenging someone is also good; provided the individual being challenged is open to what you have to say.

Love Conquers All

If that isn’t a load of horseshit, I don’t know what is. In fact, when I love, I expect the best in people. My expectations have always been too high; however, altering or lowering my expectations seems wrong on so many levels. So this is what I do lately: I accept people for who they are, but . . . if their thinking is radical and fundamentally flawed (in my opinion), I put a bit of distance between us and focus more on relationships where the people I spend time with are kind, empathetic, thoughtful, and reasonable.

Love can be tarnished or erased by hate and/or hurtful acts.

I realize some of what I write seems contradictory — human beings are one huge contradiction . . . aren’t we?

If you have found a way to cope with differences that can be divisive, please share your thoughts. Thank you.

I’m not poetically inspired very often these days; certainly not the activist I was in my early 20s. The number of issues which tear us apart concerns me. I find that it’s much too easy to just push away someone who doesn’t think the way you do. Stephen Fry was an outstanding debater and an awe inspiring intellect. If you have some time, check him out on Youtube.

Peace of Mind

When mercury's gone retrograde for what seems like eternity
Voices inside your head keeps interrupting your thoughts
Arguing about who said what to whom on the radio
And planes fly in and out of your personal air space

Breathe the quiet you long for
A moment to survey your power
Learn from tomorrow's mistakes; yes that's right (and left)
Be the child whose innocence kept you in slumber

Technically you're only temporary
You can delete, revise, redraw or backspace
Allow your emotional intelligence to rule your intellect
Eliminate the static before it eliminates you

There is a place they call nirvana
Tickets to and fro are gratis
Try too hard and you'll end up in limbo
Having peace of mind is yours for the asking



Looking At Yourself

No One is Harder on You Than Yourself (mostly true)

Note: Not sure what went wrong, but I have lost a couple of hours of work on this blog. I typed out the questions below and then answered them truthfully. I thought about my answers all day the following day; if I’m going to be honest with myself, the answers were disturbing — lots of self-loathing. My computer failed to save my answers; divinely intervention? I’m going to complete the same exercise again, being kinder to myself this time. It will be interesting to read back my responses in order to determine if my current state of mind influenced my answers. I will report on this assessment. I should also note that I abandoned this blog three times. I obviously did not want to write it . . . or did I?

An Honest Conversation With Myself

Putting the above photo collage together was difficult. I usually hate photos of myself. Today I am asking myself why I have such a hard time looking at my photos:

  • Are you unhappy with the way you look in the photos (in general)?
  • Is any reminder of your looks repulsive?
  • Do you think it’s vain to post photos of yourself?
  • Do you ever attempt to alter your image?
  • Would you like to look different? How different?
  • Are you obsessed with the way you look?

These are tough questions; answering them honestly will be even more difficult.


Are you unhappy with the way you look in the photos (in general)? I am, yes. I was never happy with photos of myself, even when I was in my 20s and 30s.

Is any reminder of your looks repulsive? Not repulsive; however, it’s rare when I am not disgusted with the way I look in a photo. Of all the photos at the top, the bottom right is the only one I like. I was very relaxed and at peace that day (in the Azores).

Do you think it’s vain to post photos of yourself? I do. I think people who post pictures of themselves on a daily basis may be dealing with some sort of issue — I don’t necessarily think they are vain, they might need positive feedback or praise (just one possibility). I feel sort of righteous stating this; I don’t like it.

Do you ever attempt to alter your image? I rarely do. I usually consider that I should have thought about it, but by then, it’s too late.

Would you like to look different? How different? I would. I don’t mind my age; however, the bald, pasty, sagging neck look is unattractive. I would not mind for all of that to go away. I realize two things: First, I’m not alone in how I feel about myself, and second, I won’t ever do anything to alter the way I look. I am disgusted by dramatic plastic surgery. There I go being righteous again. People should be able to enhance/alter/change their looks, without judgment from others.

Are you obsessed with the way you look? I think the word is more “reoccupied.”

Reading back my answers makes me sad. I’d like to be happy with my looks. No, no, I’d settle for satisfied actually. I don’t like that I care so much. When I ask people in their 80s about this, they tell me that they no longer give a shit. What that tells me is, I just need to be patient. I also need to be a whole less judgmental.


I’m not going to go into this in any great detail; however, I do think people prefer pretty/handsome people. I’m not sure how conscious we are of this.

Are you influenced by societal expectations or the expectations of others? I’d like to think that I am not, but that would be lying to myself.

The first comment when you see people you know is often, “You look great! Or, you’ve lost weight. Or, you have changed a bit.” It’s all very superficial and only reinforces the importance of how we are supposed to look. I wonder if that will ever change?

Trusting Myself

I go to the gym five or six times a week, I watch what I eat, I give myself a facial a few times a year, I shave more than I’d like to, and I try to dress well (not stylishly, but I like looking neat and feeling comfortable). I’d like to trust that I’m doing enough for my self-image.

Detaching Versus Fully Embracing

There are times when living in denial seems a whole lot easier. Is it completely necessary to examine certain aspects of who you are? I ask myself this question often. For now, I’m going to say the answer is yes.

Middle Ground

This isn’t about my looks necessarily; however, it is about self-esteem. The older I get the more I realize that compromise and placating myself is key when dealing with major life questions and issues. I’m talking about negotiating with yourself. Here’s how an internal conversation might go:

What’s bothering you today? I’m pissed off that blank ignored me at the restaurant last night. In what way did you feel ignored? Blank didn’t ask me a single question about myself and blank didn’t listen to anything I said. This person is not a friend, it’s someone you know from an expat group; why does what they think matter? It doesn’t matter, it shouldn’t matter.

Oddly enough I do feel better after this back and forth with myself.

The End Goal

A very simple end goal for me is: I want to be so secure with myself that any notion of how I am perceived by others would be meaningless and quickly dismissed. Well, fat chance it could ever be that easy. I’m thinking there is a place I can settle into. For example, a place where the people I trust and love matter a great deal and others matter less. I want to be so comfortable with myself, that I can just be me. Period, end of story. I’m laughing out loud because I have a long, long way to go.

Soul Searching Is a Scary Business

But the Alternative Is Worse

How It Began

When things went sideways for me back in Brooklyn 10 years ago, I decided there was only one solution to getting back on track. I was determined to start taking better care of my emotional well-being with the hope that all else would fall into place.

There are a few things to consider when you decide to turn it all upside down for the sake of survival. For instance, will there be casualties; people in your life who want you only as you were – – even if that person wasn’t you at all. The fallout can be pretty ugly and may even set you back a bit.

A xanax prescription, numerous years of therapy, too much eating, drinking, a life coach, the advice of friends, and a couple of failed relationships, got me thinking: something had to change.

My Story

I was having lunch with someone I liked and respected in my new hometown of Portland, Maine. I had given up quite a bit in order to settle in Maine, however, in my mind it was either stay in Brooklyn and give up on being true to myself or leave a career behind for the unknown. There is a reason they say, “Never look back.” “They” being the people who always know better.

Once you make the decision to start anew, lamenting about the old is like picking a scab. You have to ignore the scab and let new skin grow.

Back to my lunch with the devil.

This person had been supportive of my new life until I questioned the life she decided I should live. A reality I didn’t realize at the moment was a life that would benefit and suit her. It took me some time to realize the lamb was a tiger in disguise. One of the fallouts of an unguarded perception of new people in my life.

I confronted the beast expecting to be bitten; instead, she did everything she could to convince me that her intentions were noble. I assure you, they were not. I got burned a couple of times as I slowly learned not to play with fire. I’ve since proceeded with caution, as I wait a bit for one’s true character to show itself.

Ways to Dig-In

There are a few housekeeping matters to attend to before you can embrace the business of assessing who you want to be versus who you are. Also, some matters to keep in mind:

  • Changing everything is probably not a wise move. There are many aspects of our lives we just need to learn to accept (e.g., aging).
  • Just saying I want to change won’t cut it.
  • You have to really want it. Being only partially committed means probable failure.
  • Have people around you who know about the change you want to make and will support you.
  • Celebrate the smallest achievements toward your goal.
  • Practice the change and forgive yourself if you fail.
  • If you can see it, you can have it. Before I moved to Portugal, I would envision my self-decorated apartment. In my mind, I could see myself slowly sipping coffee on my terrace. I wasn’t surprised when it happened.
  • Always be good to yourself. It’s an “I love you” and “you matter.” There is no one in the world more worthy of your love.

How Well Do You Know Yourself?

I have learned that objectivity is difficult when applied to oneself. It’s natural to want to think the best of yourself; however, the lens you see yourself through might not be clear or accurate. I have been known to ask friends questions with a preface they might be surprised to hear:

“I’m going to ask you a serious question and I need an unfiltered, honest reply. Donna, I’ve been wondering about my anger level lately, I think I might be overreacting at times and I imagine it could be off-putting; have you experienced this with me?” You will more than likely get a very direct and illuminating response. This is what you need from people you trust. At times, you may even get some suggestions for change.

Another method might be through therapy. My therapists conveyed thoughts in a gentle and helpful way. There have been many.

You could write a blog and ask for feedback. Just know that putting your truth in a blog can be brutal. I’ve has a couple of people tell me that they think I overshare. What you hear may not always be constructive.

Concentrate on self-awareness. Take notes and consider setting goals. Evaluate how well you are doing from time-to-time. Be honest with yourself, but forgive yourself for any transgression(s).

People tell me I was brave for packing up and moving abroad; I can tell you it wasn’t bravery at all, it was a decision that I am fairly certain, saved my life.


I promised myself that I’d stay put until my trip to Florida in March; I am keeping my word! It feels great to be grounded for a long stretch. A little like lockdown without having to stay in my apartment or wear a mask. It is my understanding that due to increased COVID cases, we may return to mask mandates. I think that would be the wrong way to go.

Sorry about the cheesy quotes, I can’t help myself.