The Greatest Casualty is to Be Forgotten – Memorial Day is for Remembering

With Memorial Day right around the corner, all the sale flyers clogging my mail and in-boxes, everyone (myself included) talking about holiday menus and impending summer fun, I thought this post I wrote on Veteran’s Day of 2009 might be in need of some dusting off. This was also written several years before my oldest son became a Marine – an event that forever changed what “fellow veterans” means to me.

Don't Forget What Memorial Day is About

Memorial Day – like Veteran’s day – is not about the sales or that long awaited three-day weekend. It isn’t about nabbing a great deal on a new mattress. We live in The Land of The Free… because of the brave.  Let us not forget those who gave all.

Enjoy your three-day weekend, grill up something tasty. While you’re at it stop by a local veterans memorial, buy that poppy from the vet set up in front of the big box store. Ask them about their story, let them tell it. Listen with an open heart and thank them, for their story goes deeper than the words you’ll hear. Preserve Memorial Day (and Veterans Day) for those who serve(d).

(originally published November 11, 2009)

Today is Veteran’s day and I always thought it was a bit awkward to say “Happy Veteran’s Day”. Not because I’m not happy to have served my country. I think it has something to do with knowing some of the hardships that come along with that service. I was a 19 year old kid when I left the familiar surroundings of my small town and boarded a plane for Navy basic training in Orlando, Florida. It was just after Thanksgiving 1990 and I couldn’t believe how cold it was in Florida, I thought this was supposed to be the sunshine state! I was scared out of my mind, lost and really regretting being the first person in my family to have joined the Navy.A few weeks into training our Company Commanders came into our compartment and removed all the drill weapons. They then announced that the Operation Desert Storm was underway. We were allowed one call home. With the sound of Bing Crosby singing “I’ll be home for Christmas” playing over the PA I called my parents. That was the first time it really hit me what it meant to be a member of the armed services.

 

Yep that’s me on the right all snuggled up to Fifle the mouse from An American tale. I’d go on to cry every time I heard the theme song “Somewhere out there” while serving a continent away from my family and friends. Okay I STILL cry when I hear it.  To my right is the best buddy any sailor could ask for Michelle Graf! 

I went on to become a Navy Airman and made it to 
my first duty station in Rota, Spain. Rota was a stop on the way to both Iraq and Somalia when I was there. Ships came through with Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Air Force Airmen. I count myself privileged to have served, partied, jaw jacked, worked my butt off and mourned with many of them.

Among them all I was honored to serve under Admiral Jeremy Michael “Mike” Boorda. Admiral Boorda is to this day someone I admire beyond words. He worked his way up from the lowest of enlisted rank, Seaman, to go on and become an Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations. I was honored to have had a one-on-one conversation with him. When he reportedly took his own life a hole was ripped in my heart and memory. He was honest and honorable, a person who stood up for what he believed, championed the underdog and no matter what others may think they know, he was a true hero.

With so many currently serving and so many giving the ultimate sacrifice there are those who’s loss has faded in our collective memory. Yet they are heroes all the same and I have not forgotten them. 

Remember you don’t have to support war to support a Veteran or honor the fallen.

 

2015 Travel Trends: Insider Interview with John Golicz

Can't Miss Travel Trends of 2015 - an Insider's GuideAhead of each change in the seasons my family gathers round the table, each with a list in hand. From the grownups down to the eight year old – everyone gets a chance to share. This is part of our travel ritual. Where are we going? What will we see? What’s the year’s newest travel trend we’re longing to give a go?

A Disney destination of some form Invariably makes the list. Beyond that though, I’m often surprised by the ideas brought – literally – to the table. When I had the chance to chat with an industry insider about 2015 travel trends, I couldn’t pass that up.

This summer I’m going to have the coolest ideas!

John Golicz is the brilliant mind behind the Travel & Adventure Show Series. Open to travelers – and those who aspire to be – the shows attract over 130,000 people annually as the largest series of travel shows in the United States.   As founder and CEO of Connecticut-based Unicomm, John has put together a team that creates hands-on experiences that educate and inspire travelers expand their boundaries, helping them to plan, book and take trips that enrich their lives in ways that only travel can.

John Golicz founder of the Travel & Adventure Show series
John Golicz founder of the Travel & Adventure Show series

After thirty minutes with John my list grew exponentially. Here are some of the new places I added and what John had to say about them.

Taiwan

A perfect ‘Starter’ destination for families who are looking to delve into the Asian travel experience. Being that Taiwan is an island, getting around is an easy task. A 2-hour train ride can take you from a vibrant city with a slightly ‘Western’ feel to a pastoral village that is a step back in time. Taiwan is a paradise for adventurous Foodies. Both modern and steeped in tradition at the same time, it’s gives a sense of the China experience with  better air quality and fewer adjustments.

Iceland

For the outdoorsy types and shutterbugs the stunning natural wonders make Iceland a must see. Glaciers, volcanoes, and don’t forget the Northern Lights – there is just so much to see here. Not only easy on the eyes, it’s also easier on the budget. The Swedish Krona (as of the writing of this post) is around 1 for every 12 cents in US dollars. That will buy the adventurous eater quite a bit of Hákarl (cured shark meat – the national dish of Iceland.)

Nicaragua

Less traveled and cheaper than Costa Rica, Nicaragua boasts beautiful beaches, modern hotels, and epic surfing – not many ankle busters here. Into adventure travel? This is where you want to be. Hiking to a volcano? Um… okay. They’ve got enough of those to for you to do nothing but. If you want to experience all that Nicaragua has to offer – BEFORE everybody and their Aunt Millie catches on – do it soon! (check out this great piece on 15 things to in Nicaragua do penned by Nomadic Matt)

Istanbul

I love how John put this, “Istanbul is the crossroads of the world…” In all honesty Turkey has been on my list for years – even before the White House Travel Blogger’s Summit where Turkish Airlines hosted an amazing event and invited us to visit. Living in Spain I was always enamored of the Moorish influences abundant in the the architecture. Istanbul is like a living classroom where culture, food, and history literally come to life. Walk through the market an discover spices that ensnare the senses.  Visit a museum that houses artifacts that date back to the birth of civilization . Sip coffee that is as much a cultural event as it is a morning pick-me-up. Plus, what Disney-loving kid doesn’t want to play Aladdin? 

Europe

I didn’t really need John to tell me this one. We spoke a week after I got back from Ireland. Always a great place to take the family, Ireland – and much of Europe – are now even more family-friendly with the strength of the dollar. My last visit was in 2010 when the Euro was strong enough to leave the old bank account bruised. This go around the dollar bounced back and opened up even more options. A seven day rental car was less than $200, allowing us to get lost in the most magical of places.

Beyond the destinations John had some great tips for traveling with your family, and even the extended family.

Let The Kids Do The Planning

John allows each of his kids to plan an entire day of the trip. The rest of the family can tag along, or go do their own thing. The idea is to give each child the opportunity to do something they’re excited about rather than keeping everyone on one rigid itinerary. As a result John and family have toured the sewers of Paris and the Royal College of Surgeons in London. Turns out both were very interesting places – who knew?    

Go For The Villa

A recent trip to the Dominican Republic brought John, his wife and kids, siblings and their brood, parents and a slew of mulch-generational family members together. How do you manage the needs, likes, and … well… dislikes, of a group that size?

Get. The. Villa.   

Having a home-base that everyone can have their own space in, come back to on their schedule, and generally just go with the flow does wonders for traveling with different age groups. Renting a big house may sound pricy, but when you split the bill it can be more manageable – and less expensive – than multiple hotel rooms. My family are big fans of the vacation rental.

Corolla North Carolina - The Outter Banks

Let The Local Be Your Guide

 I’ll just put this out there, I have never been a fan of guided tours. In fact I rather loathe them. Something about being herded like cattle into and out of points of interest makes me get the willies. Not to mention it can make you a target for everything from jacked-up prices to petty criminals. John has a different point of view. Arrange a private tour guide.  Skip the guide with the flag and microphone and get an intimate look at both the famed attractions and local favorites with an expert who actually lives there. Many times students serve as tour guides to earn a bit more, some tours are guided experts on the history, food, or culture of the city you’re visiting. There are even resources out there that will match you with a local guide who can tailor the tour just for you.

I can’t wait for our next gathering. With a list like this at least ONE of my trips is sure to make the cut.

Want more expert tips from travel insiders? Check out John’s latest venture; 1000TravelTips.com.

 

For Baltimore

Join the conversation at (cool) Progeny, support Baltimore and show that we can #BeMORE
Join the conversation at (cool) Progeny, support Baltimore and show that we can #BeMORE

Like millions of others I was glued to the TV yesterday watching events unfold in Baltimore. I was also waiting for my husband to get home from his office in the heart of Baltimore I found myself fielding questions from family and friends across the globe, and talking through the surreality of it all with friends in the city.

Then the phone rang. Schools were canceling all bus service into the city, including Emily’s field trip to the symphony tomorrow.

For the first time since we moved to the suburbs of Baltimore 12 years ago, I feared the city I’d come to love.

Today I woke up in a turmoil of mixed emotions ; heartbreak, anger, bewilderment, fear, and some I don’t even have words to describe. In fact, I find myself at a total loss to understand this, to find a way to move forward with anything that feels remotely effective. 

Again I join millions watching Baltimore, searching for answers, wiping away tears. Wisdom can often found in the oddest places, and sometimes when you need it most. Today it was delivered by George Takei.

“My heart aches for the City of Baltimore, which saw riots following the funeral of 25-year old Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody due to severe spinal cord injuries.

As a Buddhist and a follower of the teachings of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I both understand, but cannot condone, the violence that has erupted. I have no easy answers for either those enraged by the continued racial injustice, or those appalled by the violent rioting and looting the whole world is seeing.

Many say there can be no peace without justice, but so, too, can there be no true justice without peace. The riots must end before any progress can be made; progress must be made so that riots have their end.

What none of us should do is remain silent or indifferent. Tonight and in the coming days, hold your children, your families, your loved ones. Talk to them, and your friends and co-workers, about your feelings and theirs, and understand the passions that underlay them. All of us in our own way care deeply about both the symptoms and the manifestations of this disease that plagues our nation and indeed the world. To recognize this shared desire for both justice and peace is the first step towards both.”  ~George Takei

If you’re in Baltimore and looking for resources, just looking to help, or in search of someplace to talk things out, please visit (cool) Progeny. This digital magazine serves as a resource for Baltimore families in good times — and hard. I am proud to be a contributor and grateful for this place to gather, share, and begin to heal.

Roasted Red Pepper & Pignoli Tapenade

quick and easy roasted red pepper & pine nut tapenade

Having an easy, go-to recipe for entertaining is a must. Even if you’re not a whiz in the kitchen this Roasted Red Pepper & Pignoli (pine nut) Tapenade is sure to impress.

It passed my mother-in-law test!

The best part is all the ingredients can be found, “grab-and-go” in nearly any grocery store. If you’re more into roasting your own peppers (which is a tasty option) then go for it. I’d rather spend more time on the cocktails! 

Roasted Red Pepper and Pignoli Tapenade
Serves 10
Easy, fast, and impressive this simple tapenade is a staple for enteraining.
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 Can Roasted Red Peppers (drained)
  2. 2 TBSP Romano Cheese (grated)
  3. 2 TBSP Pignoli/Pine Nuts
  4. 1 TSP Capers
  5. 2 Sprigs Tarragon (coarsely chopped)
  6. 1/2 TSP White Pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat a small skillet on medium-high. Once the pan is heated through, add pignoli. Smell is your indicator here, as soon as the nuts start to release their oils and the aroma of nut wafts up from the pan, give it a few shakes until they are golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside. Place remaining ingredients in a blender. Pulse several times to break down the peppers. Add pignoli and continue to pulse until a nice paste forms - as chunky or smooth as you like.
Notes
  1. It's best to let this tapenade chill for 30 minutes or so in the refrigerator. This gives it time to set up and for the flavors to meld.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

Love & Compassion For Nepal

nepal
With each refresh on my laptop the tragedy in Nepal grows by unfathomable proportions. Waiting for word from friends in Kathmandu is nothing short of heartbreaking. The Khata I’ve kept in a small box in the antique steamer trunk in our sitting room, now sits out on the table.
 
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”~ Dalai Lama
My hope is that prayers are heard – no matter our spiritual affiliations.  Yet prayer seems to fall short when faced with so much detestation and grief.  Perhaps compassion will go further?

To that end, I’ve done some research on organizations both on the ground in Nepal and those providing aid remotely. My hope is that gathering together the compassion, building the swell of kindness and care, a difference can be made. Even if it is only to relieve the suffering of one. 
 
UNICEF – providing supplies, including water purification tablets, hygiene kits, tarpaulins and nutrition supplies, and is working with government and other partners to meet children’s immediate needs in the areas of water and sanitation, child protection, health and nutrition.
 
World Food Program – providing food to those effected. Be sure to check their matching programs, there are many companies that will match the donations of employees. 
 
Crowdrise: Celebrating Dan – Google Exec Dan Fredinberg was among the climbers killed on Mt. Everest in the aftermath of the quake. He was climbing in-part to support a charity he was passionate about. 100% of all donations to the Crowdrise campaign set up by he his freinds go directly to relief efforts and the children effected by the disaster.   Learn more about OrphanGift.
 
International Urban Search and Rescue Task Force – The Task Force began its humanitarian response relationship with the US Agency for International Development – Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID-OFDA) in 1986 following a tragic 1985 seismic event in Mexico City.  They are our elite team when it comes to earthquake search and rescue. Though they are a funded organization, there is a support network for their families who are often left with little to no communication with the team while activated.
 
 

I have four kids and an opinion.