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Category: Blog

The Power of Failure

If you want to empower girls, you have to let them fail. After a week of cool but unusually sunny weather in southern Scotland, I arrived in Fort William, ready to hike Ben Nevis. I needed to get my first lungful of Highland air, and stock supplies for the next 7 days on the Great Glen Way. The rain hit first thing in the morning. A sprinkle at first, then sheets of icy drizzle, then a downpour. This did not surprise me. It is Scotland, after all. I had rain gear and waterproof hiking boots and a good supply of…

3 Things I Learned at a Writing Retreat

“Rustic cabins with all the conveniences of home,” the email gushed. “Miles of pristine forest trails to explore, and spectacular sunsets over the lake.” There were photos of blissed-out writers doing tai chi in the grass, getting massages, or writing intently on sunlit porches. “You take care of everyone else,” the email nodded sagely. “Isn’t it time to do something for YOU?” I handed over my credit card number in five minutes flat. A few days later I was out the door, bound for Lake Something-or-Other for a weekend of writing, communing with nature, and supporting…

Em Dash-ians Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose but Your Commas …

  I wrote my first, furtive em dash as a freshman in high school. A boy I liked in English class was sneaking them into his paragraphs willy-nilly, despite our teacher’s objections. I was preparing a speech to the assembly, and it sounded stiff and boring — which was crazy, because I’m hilarious, and I knew the speech was, too. The periods made me stop. The commas let me slow down, but didn’t give me the dramatic effect I was after. And using exclamation points drove me crazy! No, I wanted long, sweeping paragraphs — interrupted by bursts…

Behind the Green Door

Kiefer was still holding my hand, squeezing a little too hard, but it was dark and he seemed to know where he was going, so I didn’t complain. “Almost there,” he whispered. “Portuguese wine and cheese biscuits, coming right up.” He turned left abruptly, and I stumbled into one of the crumbling stone walls lining the alley. Something wet and furry brushed against my ankle and I squealed. “It’s just a rat,” he shrugged. “No worries, here’s the door.” I pulled up short in front of a dark, wooden archway. The door itself was hidden in shadow…

There’s No Such Thing as Perfect Timing

Stop waiting for perfection. Step out there. In Vila do Conde, Portugal, on my second morning of walking the Camino de Santiago, I am struck again by the pragmatic faith in this little village. There are no guard rails on the footbridges, no warning signs, no walk/don’t walk signals. I stand stupidly on the sidewalk, longing to cross the busy street to the café I see on the other side. I watch, horrified, as other pedestrians simply step out into the traffic — just throw themselves into mortal danger with no apparent fear. I’m equally amazed when the…

Runaway Mom

My Teenager’s Not a Flight Risk. But I am. At age 55, I set out alone to hike the Camino de Santiago from Portugal to Spain. Like so many pilgrims, I came home both reflective and giddy, eager to share my experience about walking the sacred Way, and what it meant to me. Here’s what I never talk about: I left my 16-year-old son home alone while I did it. That’s right. I left the country, strapped on my backpack, and allowed my teenager to fend for himself for several weeks. In my defense…

Stop Eating Meat! (Just Kidding)

Well, I’m kidding a little. We Americans love meat – roasted, grilled, fried, baked or simmered all day in our greens. We don’t consider a meal complete without a big hunk of beef, pork or chicken taking up half the plate, and when we hit the fast food joints, we head straight for the double-thick, extra-large, bacon-covered animal flesh. We feed our kids the same way, teaching them to savor all that fatty goodness, and to turn up their noses at broccoli. And let’s face it: meat is yummy. Is there any aroma more intoxicating…

Unleash Your Inner Beagle

I stumbled off the plane at O’Hare, dragging my smelly backpack and my bad attitude with me. I’d spent 6 hours in turbulence, 4 hours sleeping like a pretzel at Heathrow, 2 hours on a bus, and 90 minutes on a sardine flight from Inverness, Scotland, where my luggage was still being held hostage. My weeks of hiking in the Highlands had been a dream come true, but getting home was a nightmare. Passport control at O’Hare – if you’ve never had the pleasure – is like swimming through muddy water. With electric eels. Today, in addition to…

Your Kids Should See the World … and Protect it, Too

School’s out and so is the sun – finally! After surviving another Illinois winter, we’re looking forward to lazy backyard cook-outs, bike rides on the lakefront, and splash-downs at the water park. If you’ve been planning a family getaway this summer, you may already know that the United Nations has declared 2017 The Year of Sustainable Travel. The goal is to encourage people to consider global issues when they travel – protecting the planet, economic equality and social justice. Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Just to take the kids on a road trip…

We’ll Always Have Paris

Well. Maybe we won’t have Paris. Not the Paris Climate Accord anyway. But no matter what the White House says, climate change is the fundamental challenge of this century. And how we respond will be our defining moment as Americans. Last week, the Trump administration announced that the United States would not honor our commitment to the Paris Climate Accord. As the world’s most industrialized and prosperous nation, we are also the world’s biggest polluter – and we should be the global leader in what will be the fundamental challenge of this century: climate change. Despite science…