Escape from O’Hare – or the Long Layover


Chicago’s O’Hare airport is an interesting place, but not for seven hours.  My mother and I came to this conclusion ten minutes into our long layover there.  We were en-route to Shannon Ireland, and while not excited about our down time, we were also uneasy about leaving the airport. What if we got lost or mugged, and didn’t make it back in time to catch our flight?   But the alternative of playing solitaire and wandering aimlessly for seven hours was unthinkable.  We decided to throw caution to the wind and set out for the City of Chicago.


Millennium Park

Our first stop was the tourist information booth at the airport.  We asked the attendant what she would do in our situation and without hesitation she said, “Go to Millennium Park”.  It sounded good to us, and best of all, it was easy.  We got on the blue line and stayed put until we reached Forest Park, (a 35 to 40-minute ride).

Typical Tourists

When we emerged from the underground train station it took a minute to get our bearings. After much discussion and consulting of maps, a young couple approached and asked if we were from out of town. Now how, we asked, did they know that?  Was it the assortment of cameras my mother was sporting?  Perhaps it was the maps, or the carry-on luggage we towed along behind us.  We had a good laugh as they pointed us in the right direction, and we quickly covered the remaining two blocks to the park.

Millennium Park was first conceived in 1977, as an alternative to the unsightly railroad tracks and parking lots that lined the riverfront.   As luck would have it, we arrived on the weekend of a music festival.  We could tell we were in the right place long before we saw it. The percolating tunes of a jazz band filled the air, along with the hum of a genial crowd enjoying a day in the sun.


Gotta Love the Fountain

Entering from Michigan Avenue, the first thing that caught our attention was the Crown Fountain.  Two fifty-foot glass and block towers face each other over a reflecting pool, and routinely come alive with video images swimming under cascades of water.  This can be a serene place as people marvel at the beauty of the fountains, but the quiet is often punctuated by shouts of laughter as local faces appear on the tower screens and seem to spit water at the crowd.

The Bean

Another striking feature is the Kapoor Sculpture, (more commonly referred to as the Bean).  The sculpture was inspired by liquid mercury, and that is exactly what it looks like.  An elliptical shape, it is formed of plates of highly polished steel that reflect everything within its scope.  The fun house mirror reflection of the Cityscape with its backdrop of blue sky is breathtaking on a sunny day. You can also walk inside and see a reverse image of yourself along with your fellow sightseers who are crowded cheek to jowl in there with you.  Trust me, it’s fun.


Great Concert Venue

Chicago is particularly proud of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, which is also located in the Park.  This outdoor concert venue has seating for 4,000 people and room on the grass for another 7,000.  The sound is electronically distributed to the farthest corners, and the acoustics are amazing. From there, we took a stroll through the Lurie Gardens.  A gorgeous combination of perennial plants, cherry trees and water features make this area the focus of many a photograph.


After wandering contentedly for a couple of hours, we were feeling rather proud of ourselves.  We had not gotten lost, we had not gotten mugged, (unless you count the highway robbery at the lunch wagon on the corner, ($10.00 for a hot dog and a coke?), but we finally decided it was time to retrace our steps to the station.  We boarded the train, enjoyed the changing scenes of Chicago outside our windows, and made it back to the airport with plenty of time to spare.

Don’t Cut it too Close

Speaking of time, it’s a major consideration in an excursion like this. Having seven hours worked well for us, but I wouldn’t attempt this side trip in anything less.  Always have a back-up plan of cab or bus, just in case there’s a problem returning to the airport by train, and don’t cut it too close. Leave plenty of time for checking in and getting re-situated.

For us, this was a great way to spend the afternoon and a perfect antidote for the long flight ahead. So, whether you’re escaping from O’Hare, or just spending a day in Chicago, I’d recommend Millennium Park

For more information on Millennium Park, go to:


For fellow travel aficionados I’ve included a link to a great travel site – GoNOMAD . Here you’ll find plenty of ideas for your next vacation. I’ve also included their submission guidelines for travel writers. Check it out.


Promoting Your Freelance Writing Business Face to Face


Tell Them What You Do!

Well, that was embarrassing.  I shake my head as I contemplate my failed attempt at describing my writing business. I had just bumped into a long-lost friend at the mall and she asked what I what I was doing these days.

“I’m a freelance writer,” I replied with confidence.
“Really, so what do you write?”
Here’s where I dropped the ball.  “I um, write articles . . . and blog posts.”
“Oh,” she said. “What’s a blog?” (I know; my friend needs to get out more.)

Don’t Miss Opportunities

Luckily, in this case, my lackluster response wasn’t a big deal, but it could have been. What if my acquaintance had been a potential employer, or the friend of someone who was looking for a freelancer. I’d have missed the boat. Here’s the thing about being a writer – word of mouth is important. And that day, my mouth wasn’t working.

So why did I stumble over my job description? Because I usually rely on my resume – that perfectly choreographed depiction of my best writing self.  Ideally, I don’t have to describe what I do, I simply link potential clients to my website, and shining examples of my craft pop up on the screen.

Unfortunately, we can’t always rely on a remote interaction, or a written version of our abilities. Occasionally, even in this high-tech world, we need to talk to real people and promote ourselves face to face. Fortunately, this is not as frightening as it sounds if you give it some thought ahead of time.

Write the Script

I once attended a writing conference where novice writers could sign up to pitch their book ideas to an agent. We were advised to come up with a brief summation of the plot, along with an explanation of why this book would change the world.  We each had two minutes to sell our idea. In retrospect, this seems like good advice for freelance writers as well.

If you had one minute to describe what you do and how you stand out in a crowd, what would you say? Do you write novels or business plans, maybe you host a website on bit coin?  Are you a technical writer or a home and family blogger?  Take a few minutes to think of a short and snappy answer, then commit it to memory.

Here’s How it Works

Needless to say, I’ve done some repenting for my previous lack of preparation, and the next time someone asks me what kind of writing I do, I’ll say something like this.
“I write web content for personal blogs and businesses. I also do product descriptions and newsletters, but I specialize in real estate copy.”


“Well since you ask, I‘m currently working on a neighborhood review for a real estate agent, I’m creating web content for a friend’s business blog,  I’m writing a travel article for a vacation site and I also host a couple of blogs of my own.”
“Wow, you stay pretty busy.”
“I know, I like it that way. If you know anyone who needs a writer send them my way.”

And there you have it. The next time anyone asks what you’re up to, you’ll know exactly what to say. Promoting your business is a snap when you’re prepared, and now you have another way to get the word out – face to face.


Night of the Tarantula or, The Spider Transport Theory

My son believes all creatures have the right to a long and happy life, and that even spiders who have wandered into the house should be gently transported back to the yard or garden from whence they came.

While I don’t always agree with this theory, I’m not entirely hard-hearted either. Largely due to repeated readings of Charlotte’s Web as a child, I’m willing to do my part to for the insect world and am happy to alert my son if a spider needs rescuing. I don’t intentionally step on ants, and I’ve been known to hold the door open and shoe flying things outside rather than resorting to more violent methods of dispatch. But even I have my limits, and these were sorely tested on the night of the tarantula.

It was late, and in a pleasantly dozey state I ambled upstairs in anticipation of a good nights sleep.  I flipped on the light switch and was jolted awake by the sight of a spider hanging on the wall just inches from my fingertips.  It was huge and black, with creepy jointed legs, obviously a man-eater.

Now, at times like this my sense of fair play evaporates and instinct kicks in; I whipped off my shoe and slammed it against the wall, entirely missing the spider in my haste.  The spider, offended by my assassination attempt leapt from the wall and flung itself at me. (There are two schools of thought concerning this sequence of events.  Some would say that the force of my shoe hitting the wall actually bounced the spider from it’s perch, and that it was not in fact attacking me, but it sure looked that way.) My husband, knight in shining armor that he is, came running at the sound of the bloodcurdling shriek that echoed through the house.

“What’s wrong,” he gasped, out of breath from sprinting up two flights of stairs.

“There’s a Tarantula in here,” I said pointing to the spider, which was scurrying up the opposite wall.

He spotted it, not hard to do considering its size.

“It’s just a garden spider,” he said, “but it’s sure a big one. Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”

He picked up a magazine, strode across the room and swatted at the spider, which sailed gracefully through the air and landed smack in the middle of my underwear drawer. When will I learn to close my drawers?

Mute with horror, I stared at my husband.

“Oops,” was all he could say and . . . wait a minute, was there a hint of laughter in his voice?

“It’s not funny!” I said, verging on hysteria. Even as we spoke a giant arachnid was lurking in my lingerie. “What do we do now?”

“Well,” he tapped his finger on his chin, “we could dump out the drawer.”

“And watch the spider run under the bed?”

“Right.  O.K. What if we leave  the drawer in the backyard, and let the spider crawl out on its own.”

“Maybe, but what about all the other stuff that will crawl in?”

We finally decided to take the drawer out side and shake everything piece by piece until the spider fell out.  It never did. Apparently it wasn’t in there anymore.  Somehow it must have crawled back into the dresser while we were jiggling the drawer loose.  We slept in the guest room that night.

When I walked into our room the next morning, the spider, seemingly none the worse for its adventure, was happily sunning itself by the window. If it had a tail it would have wagged it like a friendly puppy waiting to greet me at the door. This time I took a deep breath and called the transporter.  My son carefully placed a fruit jar over the spider, and slid a piece of paper under the opening.  Then I supervised as he carried it to the farthest corner of the yard, and dumped it in the grass.

In retrospect, I’ve decided there’s some merit to the Spider Transport Theory.  Namely, the Charlottes of the world get to go on living, and Spider phobics like myself, enjoy the peace of mind, which comes from knowing that a spider is no longer in the bedroom.  In fact, at last sighting, our spider was merrily skittering off in the direction of my neighbor’s house.


Cutting Cable



We recently cancelled our cable T.V. subscription, and now get a wide variety of local stations with our rabbit ears antenna. Our favorite, “Grit”, features old westerns and lots of infomercials. We love the westerns, the infomercials not so much, but have found them to be exceedingly funny.

“Hurry!” my husband called from down the hall. “They’re selling a flashlight that works even when it’s frozen in a block of ice. I bought two!”

Thankfully he was kidding, about the purchase, but not the product.

Remember Al Borland form the 90’s sitcom Tool Time? He’s hawking a hose that magically rewinds itself when not in use. Not only that but it won’t break, even when stretched between two large pickups pulling in the opposite direction!

There’s a cooler that folds down into a compact, easily portable form. In fact it’s so  lightweight that Grandma is shown dancing with one of these in each hand. Trucks are also featured here. This cooler won’t break even when RUN OVER by a large pickup.

Then there’s a handy-dandy egg cooker which makes the perfect hard-boiled egg. So easy, “Just Crack, Boil and Pop”. I was actually kind of tempted by this one, until I realized that I can already make the perfect hard-boiled egg with a pot of boiling water, which is free.

Don’t forget the copper thing you  lay on your barbecue to keep your grill from getting dirty. It also comes with a handy Flip and Grip spatula which is free except for a separate shipping fee. Watch out for those shipping fees.

PENTAX ImageYou can also purchase this amazingly awesome glue, which will patch the giant hole you cut in the bottom of your boat.  There’s an atomic lighter,  dancing Tiki lights and the same sunglasses used by fighter pilots and super heroes.


Trumpy Bear?

But my personal favorite, the funniest, the craziest of them all, is Trumpy Bear! Honestly, I’m not  even sure  I can do this one justice.  Trumpy  is a cute little teddy bear with a patriotic tie and a wild thatch of bleach blond hair. Not only that, but when you unzip the secret compartment in his back you find an American flag style blanket.

As we watched with increasing alarm, several tough looking customers – a construction worker, an ex-marine biker, and  variety of first responders appeared on the screen, each bearing testimony that they would never go anywhere without their Trumpy bear. (The ex-marine is shown gravely attaching Trumpy to the windshield of his motorcycle.)

We thought Trumpy was a joke at first, but two payments of $19.99 plus shipping and handling charges are no laughing matter. Honestly, did we really need this product? I know I didn’t, but I told my son about it and now he’s getting me one for Christmas. Ha-ha. Very funny.

In the meantime,  my husband and I  will continue to watch old westerns and save money on our cable T.V. bill. And I will keep you posted on the latest and the greatest of  the infomercial world.  By the way, I was out in the garden this morning trying to water my plants with a tangled hose. If you’re still there Tool-Time-Al, I think I’ll order two.




Gardener’s Remorse



There’s a term for people who buy things then wish they hadn’t. It’s called buyer’s remorse. I believe there is a similar phenomenon associated with gardening. For want of a better term we’ll call it Gardener’s Remorse. This is the direct result of spending too many winter evenings drooling over sumptuous gardening books and technicolor seed catalogs.

The most basic manifestation of this malady is complete and utter loss of self-control upon entering a gardening store. All those frost-fueled dreams of picture perfect gardens rise up and rob you of common sense. Before you know it your arms are full of impulse-buy exotics, which while breathtaking in the South Pacific, instantly perish in their new home of say – Utah.

Alas, this is but one of the many symptoms of Gardener’s Remorse. Read on for cautionary tales which may prevent you from falling victim to:

1. Vegetable Remorse

Have you ever brought home a six pack of tomatoes and planted them ALL because you knew that most would die. Then you plant a few more just to insure you have at least a few tomatoes when most of them die . . . but ALL of them survive? You end up eating and canning tomatoes from dawn till dusk, until your family rebels and refuses to touch anything that even resembles a tomato.

This is easily accomplished with Zucchini plants as well. In the blink of an eye your Zucchini have taken over the yard, and neighbors run away screaming when they see you trundling loads of Zucchini – and possibly tomatoes – to their front door. Admittedly, most people are wise enough not to plant too many zucchini, but you never know – what if none of them survive?

2. Shrubbery Remorse

It is not uncommon for bushes to become so huge they are no longer shrubs but small Redwoods. I have a “Rose of Sharon” which began its life as a 2-inch start from my neighbor’s yard. Now it’s so tall I can’t reach the top – even on a ladder. As a result I have a bush that is neatly trimmed and rounded except for a dozen tall branches sticking up in the middle. It looks like something out of a Dr. Suess book.

3. Placement Remorse

I planted a cute little willow tree in our flower bed when we first moved to this house. Sixteen years later its trunk is 10 inches around and it’s crammed up against the house with its weepy branches filling the rain gutters and scraping off shingles. We know we need to cut it down, but we’re afraid. What if it takes out the house in revenge for our attempted murder? (Wait, did Stephen King already write this story?)

In closing, plants are glorious and gardening is fun, as long as you don’t succumb to the spring fever known as Gardener’s Remorse. Hopefully this peek into the life of a sometimes remorseful planter will guide you when you’re bitten by the gardening bug.

Have a great summer and a happy garden!





YouTube University


I’ve been playing around with a new photo editing  system and have discovered you can teach an old dog new tricks. (I’m referring to myself, my dog Lucy would be offended if I alluded to her age). This first picture is an ad I created for a writing business I’ve lately been involved in.  I’ve also been making similir  promos for other people, and am having a lot of fun with it.PENTAX Image

Dr Mike 3

Now, the reason for this post is that I’ve recently discovered the wonders of youtube.  As I mentioned, I downloaded a photo editing system and  was really excited about what it could do, unfortunately I had no idea how to make it do those things. There was an instruction manual with the program but it was hopelessly complicated and over my head.  What to do?  Someone suggested you tube.

Hellooo, that was a very good suggestion.  As it turns out many people have created how-to videos about every detail of this photo program.  I love it!  I’m terrible with written instructions but when someone shows me how to do something it usually clicks.  Also, with a video you can hit replay a hundred times until you finally get it – without annoying the instructor.

After a little experimenting I’ve discovered I can find how-to video’s on just about anything anyone would ever want to do.  Want to know how to knit a scarf, change a car headlight bulb, or dance the tango?  Check out youtube – it’s amazing and no, I’m really not on their PR staff – I’m just a new convert, and you know how those people are.  Anyway, now I can do all kinds of fun photo editing things, and for now am focusing on helping people promote their websites, products and blogs. New tricks? This old dog is still learning.

For your own animal ad go to

For tips on good sites for freelancers:

Women Dancing

music-594955_640 What brings people of different cultures together? How does a roomful of strangers from countries as diverse as India, England, Ghana, Spain, and the US form a bond? Would your first guess be, women dancing? Not mine, but let me tell you why it’s true.

International Cruise

I recently had the opportunity to go on an international cruise and was fascinated by the variety of dress, language, and culture on board. I’ve always been a people person, but while I love making new friends, I’m a little hesitant to reach out when the cultural differences are so strong. Thanks to the language barrier, conversation isn’t always an option and you never know how this person with completely different life experiences might react to your overtures of friendship. So I continued to enjoy the diversity from afar.

Then one morning as my friend and I were sitting in the lobby, one of the crew members put on some catchy dance music. I noticed one woman at a table in the corner start clapping and nodding her head to the beat and before long she stood and began to dance in her little space. Others applauded and, encouraged, she moved out to the main floor and began to dance in earnest.

A beautiful black woman, she wore robes that suggested Africa, and danced in a flowing, almost ballet style. When the music ended everyone cheered. She grinned and motioned for her elderly mother to join her. This lovely senior citizen rose and made her slow but dignified way towards the front. And, though somewhat bent and arthritic, when the music started . . . she  busted some moves! The crowd went wild and more women joined them on the dance floor.

The Congo Line

The clincher was the Congo line.  When that started most of the women in the room joined in, and you’ve never so many glowing faces and smiling eyes. As the line wove it’s way into a circle, people took turns dancing through the middle, encouraged by the applause and support of the entire group. Even those who would ordinarily never dream of dancing in public found themselves having the time of their lives. We laughed and cheered each other on for almost an hour, until exhaustion set in and the crowd finally began to disperse.

After that, whenever we’d see each other on the ship we’d high five and grin. No words were necessary. It was, as my friend so aptly put it, a magical experience. What brings people of different cultures together? I think I know – music, dance, smiles, a shared love of connection, and the fact that we have a lot more in common than we realize. My new motto? Get up and dance!

Great Dance Music!

Dog Toy Delimma

dog-560148_1280As I wandered the aisles of Walmart today, I happened upon the pet section and was intrigued by what passes for dog toys these days.  An entire row of sweet  cuddly stuffed animals sat awaiting their fate as shoppers considered whether or not  to take them home to their pets.

I warily eyed  the stuffed lamb which made cute giggling sounds when handled, and pictured what would happen if I turned her over to my dog Lucy.(Readers may want to refer to the before and after of a supposedly indestructible tennis ball –  Lucy would make short work of the poor little lamby, quickly reducing it to a tattered pile of fabric and stuffing, with one dangling eye and shredded extremities. This was the case in the recent annihilation of a fluffy bunny toy. It was gruesome sight, one I’m not eager to experience again.

Durable Dogs Toys

After learning the hard way, we’ve opted for more durable toys, Kongs have managed to hold up under duress, as have a couple of varieties of basically plasticine bones. As mentioned, tennis balls are immediately toast but there is one that comes wrapped in rings of hard foam which is worth investing in.  One of our favorite dog toys is a hard, clear plastic ball which lights up when you bounce it. So far its proved tough enough, and is great fun for an after dark game of fetch.

Non-Durable Dog Toys, Martha Stewart?

Some of the silliest ideas have originated from the Martha Stewart Camp.  Her plush mallard toy comes with the recommendation that you present it to your dog for gentle play. Excuse me – is this even possible? Is it just my dog that feels she must methodically destroy all of her belongings? I’d love to hear if others have pets that can gently enjoy Martha’s offerings.

In the meantime,I think I’ll just move on to the rubber and rawhide section of  dog toys .  Maybe I’ll find something cute and cuddly there.

Best Websites for Freelance Writers

beautiful books
Hi all!

I’ve had lots of people asking  about the online websites I’ve been writing for lately, so I thought I’d do a quick rundown. I’ve been surprised by the number of great sites available to freelance writers. These services match writers or sellers, with buyers looking for blog posts, website content etc. then take a small commission as their fee.

Aside from the usual learning curve when beginning something like this, I’ve had a great time while earning extra cash. At the end of this post I’ll include a list of the most popular freelance websites. I haven’t used them all, but I’ll tell you about those I’m familiar with. – I started out with a site called Freelancer. For some reason I could never get going with this one. The pay was minimal, and a couple of people stiffed me in spite of that. I know at least one person who really loves this site, so it works for some people, just not for me. – This site pays writers for posting on other people’s blogs. I had trouble getting signed up for this one, so it didn’t work for me either, although it sounded like a fun way to earn dollar$. This is my favorite site so far – and no they’re not paying me to say that. On Fiverr you create an account and propose to do something for five dollars. This is a fun site to peruse whether you’re serious about selling or not. There’s a wide variety of categories and people are very creative with their business ideas.

As for writing – My account says I’ll write 200 words for a blog or website. I get $5.00 for each “gig” I sell – well actually $4.00 after Fiver takes their cut. After you get established you can offer “extras” such as an express delivery for an extra fee, or you can charge more for larger jobs etc. My husband has even gotten into it. He does radio spots and video scripts. Fiverr operates on the PayPal system and I haven’t had a problem transferring my earnings so far.

This has been a lot of fun. Business is brisk and I’ve even had to turn people away when I’m overbooked. Right now I write blog posts for a realtor and a travel agent, and also write content for a producer who’s creating a video Wikipedia. I’ve written about everything from  pets, to the benefits of drinking water, and the joy of bounce houses. I have re-written a resume, a job proposal, and a financial planner’s About Us page, and never know what will come up next. One of the best things about this job is the constant variety.

The following are some of the more popular sites. Check them out if you’d like to turn your hobby into a source of income.

• Fiverup
• Gigbucks
• Zeerk SEO Clerks
• Ten Bux
• Fittytown
• Dollar3
• Twentyville
• Tenner
• Guru

Here’s an update.  I recently learned about two others that many people make a living writing for.  Elance, and Odesk.

I’d love to hear  people’s experiences with these or other sites. Let me know what works for you!

Good Samaritan @ Smith’s Pharmacy

thanksWell, I’m back from the twilight zone. I’m not sure if anyone will ever see this because my readership has tanked due to my self-imposed blog fast, but I hope someone does because this is a great story. It’ll make you happy!

My 24-year-old daughter Josie is a caretaker, she has a nurturing heart and has always been the listening ear/shoulder to cry on for her brothers and anyone else who‘s singing the blues. As of now she has a job taking care of Cindy, a handicapped individual, who though smart as a whip is sadly, paralyzed.

My daughter’s job is to care for Cindy’s needs and make her as comfortable as possible. They have a great time visiting museums and movie theaters, the zoo and the aquarium, but it’s not always fun and games. Jo also drives her to doctors appointments, takes her shopping, styles her hair and even feeds her. Needless to say, this is a very special relationship.

About a week ago my daughter and her charge were at a pharmacy waiting to pick up some medication. It had been a long day and Cindy was hungry. Josie bought some yogurt and proceeded to feed it to her. After a few minutes a nattily dressed older gentleman came over and seemed to be watching them.

“Is this a mother daughter relationship,” he said.

My daughter, not sure what to make of him said, “No.”

“Are you sisters?”

“We’re not. This is Cindy and I’m her caretaker.”

“Well,” he continued, “will you two do something for me?”

Radar on full alert now Josie hesitated, and watched as the man reached into his pocket.  He pulled out his wallet, and proceeded to hand them a $100 dollar bill.

“I’d like you two to have a day out on me.“

Mouth hanging open, my daughter tried to give it back to him and finally stuttered out a thank you. The man walked away before she could adequately express her appreciation or even get his name.The next day Jo and Cindy went out for a lovely lunch at Cheese Cake Factory, and got their nails done – on the Mystery man’s dime.


If you’re reading this my daughter thinks the world of you and what you did. Also,you made everyone’s day!