Awash with memories, this one’s about a special lady

My latest on hypeorlando is about the fantastic Harriett Lake. Settling into our new (old) neighborhood is bringing back a bunch of memories. The memory narrative I refer to is well worth a read, especially if you’ve lived in the area as long as I have.

Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel

Another move for the Youngs!

Newly married in our new condo

It’s been a busy summer (now almost winter) which has included a move. We’re known for our tendancy not to sit in one place too long…here’s our history of selling and buying houses during our 41 years together. Stayin Alive in Yet Another Home

Travel the world with these bloggers and photojournalists…eye-candy for the armchair traveler

A break in the daily cruise travelogue to praise our fellow writers and photojournalists. Check it out on hypeorlando…8 Global Journalists who take you to foreign lands without leaving home.

Vid and Savi, BruisedPassports.com

Vid and Savi, BruisedPassports.com

Mountain Update and new posts on TravelPulse and hypeorlando

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Taking a break from cruise blogging to write about early Christmas shopping on hypeorlando and a post about the upcoming Fall Farm and Artisans’ Tour in conjunction with local B&Bs on TravelPulse (just click on the links).

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We’ve been busy, up here in NC, exploring Asheville and the surrounding mountain towns. The temps still remain 75 or under…some evenings drop to low 60’s and even high 50’s the other morning. This is why we’re here.

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Deer sightings are in abundance this month, as are squirrels terrorizing us by sitting in trees, high above our metal roof, using us as target practice with these round objects which sound like cannon balls. They hit the roof and then roll down…honestly, if not cannons they sound like bowling balls!

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Yesterday this was a nice mound of colorful impatiens…last night they were a deer’s appetizer

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Visitors arriving in a couple of weeks…will head home mid October, hopefully, after a gorgeous display of fall leaves.

More cruise news and photos to follow…

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Holy Sh*t moments in Juneau

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After two nights and a full day of cruising, we arrived in Juneau. Surprised at how small this town is, especially since it’s the capitol of Alaska, we were told that most of the jobs were in state government or tourism. Of course, fishing is a major industry here, also. Our ship docked just after lunch and we had an excursion planned a couple of hours later.

Our floatplane

Our floatplane

We bravely, but with a fair amount of trepidation, chose a Wings Airways seaplane (or floatplane, as they’re called in Alaska) touring five of the glaciers of Juneau’s massive icefield. Strapping into the 10 passenger De Havilland Otter was scary, to say the least, especially on such a cloudy day but we just sucked it up, donned our headphones and held our breath.

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Will I need this?

Will I need this?

Side note: You WILL be asked to divulge your weight and it WILL be written on your ticket in big red figures. If you choose to lie about your weight, you might feel a bit of panic as the plane takes off, worrying that everybody else might have lied, too. Not that I have any experience in this, just sayin…

Bye, bye, Nieuw Amsterdam - hope we make it back!

Bye, bye, Nieuw Amsterdam – hope we make it back!

To say this was a #HolyShitMoment is an understatement. From the moment our bush plane’s floats left the water until we drifted back to dock, the views were exhilarating and we were glad we chose this adventure. Observing the glaciers from above offers an amazing insight into how these huge structures are formed.

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The 40-minute adventure covered five glaciers, most of which are receding. The Taku Glacier, however, is the largest in the ice field and the only one still advancing. Wearing headphones, we listened to educational narration throughout the flight with oodles of photo opps as every seat has its own window.

My intrepid photographer!

My intrepid photographer!

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There were a few anxious moments when we were buffeted about a bit but the experienced pilot kept us level and before we knew it we were gliding into the bay for a smooth landing, wishing the flight wasn’t coming to an end.

Flowers of Juneau

Flowers of Juneau

Afterward, we strolled the streets of the town and ducked into the infamous Red Dog Saloon. During the mining era, the owner would meet tour boats, with a mule wearing a sign stating, “follow my ass to the Red Dog Saloon.”  Now, modern tourists and cruisers fill the sawdust-floored bar looking for a brew and a raunchy song.

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Tomorrow finds us in Skagway…

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An unexpected treat…cruising through Alaska!

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Waiting, waiting…

An incredible opportunity opened up for Charlie and I to join a press group, cruising Alaska’s waterways with Holland America Lines on the ms Nieuw Amsterdam. The offer was last minute, as in 2 ½ weeks, but the calendar was clear and, luckily, we brought our passports to NC, so we were in. The key to a happy retirement is flexibility and spontaneity. No moss growing on our rolling stone!

The plan was to fly from Asheville to Vancouver and back via Chicago. It takes an hour to get to the airport from the mountain house and the flight was on time when we left. Arriving at the airport, however, we discovered our flights, in both Asheville and Chicago were delayed. We started sweating bullets when our originating flight wound up 3 hours late but managed to find our terminal and gate in Chicago in time.

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The Pan Pacific, overlooking the terminal

The rest of the trip was seamless as we were picked up in Vancouver, driven through the streets of the city and dropped off at the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel, atop Canada Place’s cruise ship terminals. Arriving around 6 pm we had time to walk a few blocks to dinner at Original Joe’s on Robson Street. Of course, our brains were telling us it was 3 hours later so we were disinclined to imbibe in the local beer offerings as we were afraid we wouldn’t make it back to the hotel.

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The Pan Pacific is gorgeous and next morning our ship was in dock waiting for us to board. We met our fellow journalists for breakfast and were amazed at how far some of them traveled…Australia, Holland, London, Austria, Belgium and a few more from the states…all lovely people who were a joy to accompany on this trip of a lifetime.

Leaving beautiful Vancouver

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View from our deck

The ms Nieuw Amsterdam is one of HAL’s larger ships, much bigger than the ms Maasdam, on which we cruised through New England and Nova Scotia last year. The comfort level and beauty were the same, however, this time with a touch of Manhattan and NYC art deco touches. Our Verandah was roomy, located at the back of the ship, which proved to be a perfect place to view all that Alaska had to offer.

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We met our group again at the Crow’s Nest on the Observation Deck, for a welcome cocktail and then dinner in the Manhattan Dining Room. The food on these cruises is just phenomenal and the champagne was flowing that night, along with perfect wine pairings. We were reminded that we needed to take it easy and not eat our way through the trip…not an easy task!

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Next morning, we met for a private Galley tour. What we saw was a well-organized effort to feed over 2,000 guests and more than 900 crew members. The kitchens were spotless and we saw smiling faces and beautiful culinary creations. Here are some stats…a typical 7-day cruise goes through 23,000 eggs, 1,675 pounds of butter and 137,500 pounds of fresh vegetables. It’s mind-boggling the amount of work that goes into storing, preparing and serving this much food. And they do it cheerfully and meticulously.

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Working so fast, his hands are a blur

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The final taste test

That night we met at The Pinnacle Grill, one of three fine dining choices, which will cost extra but are well worth the price. The menu highlights Pacific Northwest steak and seafood along with an ample choice of wines. Looking out the window we spotted the backs of a few whales cruising alongside the ship. I should mention that the other dining choices, which are included in the price of the cruise, are top of the line. You can choose the Lido buffet which changes offerings every day, along with the Manhattan Dining Room, which is a 2-level, formal dining experience.

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Pepper?

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Vid and Savi, Bruised Passports

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Delectable crab cakes

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Captain Edward Van Zaane and his lovely wife, Apollonia…yes, that Apollonia!

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Here are a couple of links to my blog posts on hypeorlando about this trip… Sushi virgins no longer and What the rest of the world thinks of Americans – Next up, Days 3 and 4, sailing through Tracy Arm, arriving in Juneau and Skagway.

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3 Reasons to visit Asheville

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North Lodge on Oakland

I just want to share some of my recent posts about Asheville in hypeorlando and TravelPulse. We were invited to stay in 3 lodges which are indicative of the hospitality and beauty of this city.

TravelPulse is a newsy travel industry site which is heavy on words, but not photos. Here’s the link to that one… Click here for TravelPulse

I broke down each of the Inns on hypeorlando as more of a pictorial:

The North Lodge on Oakland is a small B&B, close to the Biltmore Estate, operated by a lovely couple who take pride in their home. Click here for the North Lodge

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Gary and Cindy Broaddus, Innkeepers

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Library Room at the North Lodge

Our next stop was the Reynolds Mansion where Billy Sanders treated us like royalty. This home was built by slaves and has undergone massive renovations with the intent to restore it to its original beauty. Click here for The Reynolds Mansion

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The Reynolds Mansion

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The Reynolds Mansion Guestroom Lila

I can’t believe I had never heard of the Omni Grove Park Inn. An NC neighbor recommended it and I was amazed by the history and architecture of this lodge. Click here for the Omni Grove Park Inn

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Photo courtesy of The Omni Grove Park Inn

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Sunset over Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains

We’re now in the last week of a month-long visit by 2 of the grandkids and will be heading back to Florida to deliver them to mom. After a short stay in Orlando, we’ll be returning to Wolf Laurel with Ali and James in tow.

So far the weather has been the reason we moved up here for the summer. The temps have risen in town but when we drive back up the mountain to our house, we’re back in the 60’s or low 70’s. There is definitely something to be said for high elevations!

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Home sweet NC home

Wolf Laurel Update

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The view when we arrived April 13

It’s been a little over a month since arriving at the mountain house for the summer. One thing we’ve learned is, next year, we’ll head up this way later in the spring/summer. Although it has been fun seeing the wildflowers of spring, the temps are chilly…just this morning we woke up to low 30’s, brrrr. Hopefully, this is the last cold spell and we won’t have to turn on the heat again. Our rhododendrons are about to bloom, much later than those in town and toward the bottom of the mountain…I’m guessing the low temps play a part in that.

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What a difference a month makes!

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Mayapples are everywhere. Each one only produces one tiny flower under an umbrella of leaves.

We’ve been busy fixing up the house, painting, patching, hauling stuff we don’t want to Goodwill. We enjoyed bonding with the Bonds last week during their visit after nephew, Andrew, graduated UCF. They are experienced hikers so we had our hands full keeping up with them while visiting their old vacation haunts. Checking out the stars on Andrew’s telescope in the pitch blackness of the mountain was a high point. The night sky provides quite a show when light pollution is not an issue. Looking forward to more visitors…Jess, Chris and the grandkids are arriving mid June, then Ali and James in July. We’re feeling a bit like empty-nesters since sis, Patty, and her crew left, though.

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Snow on Big Bald

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Missing the Bond’s boots on the porch

Critter sightings include deer, turkey, chipmunks and, we think, a big fat groundhog. No bear scares but we are always vigilant.

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This little lady charged toward Patty and I on our walk. We were the “deer in the headlights” til she darted away.

We enjoy our visits to Mars Hill, Weaverville and Asheville, when we need a dose of civilization. One thing that stands out, everybody is so friendly and happy up here, whether at the grocery store, restaurants, shops…always a smile and ready to help. And highway driving is way more civilized than what we deal with in Florida. Missing our newspaper home delivery and still can’t find where the Sunday NY Times is sold. We’re old and old-school…getting our news online is just not the same.

This is a whole new world for us and it’s been a bit of a learning curve. We’re happy with our choice of house and area, we just have to become more accustomed to the harsh terrain. We’re so spoiled in Florida…bitch as we might about the heat and humidity, it’s an easy environment in which to live, with all its flatness.

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Every night the sunsets are phenomenal over the ridge

Check me out on TravelPulse.com

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Gotta blow my own horn here, so to speak, with the news that TravelPulse.com has published one of my blog posts and I am in contract with them to write further content. Most will be based in Orlando but I’ll be writing about Asheville this summer, also. First post is about the rise of the craft beer industry in Orlando…research was great fun!

It’s a major step for me as I’ve been slooooowly working towards this kind of validation as a writer, focusing on travel, and it feels good to be validated. Thanks to Kim Warrner for informing me about the Orlando Sentinel‘s blog platform,  hypeorlando.com, right after we moved back to Orlando. Writing for them has been a wonderful exercise in discipline and the support really helps, as sitting at a computer, hoping to get noticed, can be very isolating. Just when you feel like giving it all up, someone in the hypeorlando group will pat you on the back, come up with a few words of encouragement and spur you on.

Geez, this is sounding like an acceptance speech for an Academy Award! Actually, it kind of felt that way when I saw my name under the TravelPulse banner yesterday. More to come…

When Plan A fails…make sure you have Plan B, C and D available

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So the deal wasn’t done and the papers weren’t signed, lucky for us we had an honest inspector who immediately saw structural issues and did not continue the process. Inspections are pricey in the mountains and he saved us quite a few bucks by not going any further. He said a structural engineer needed to see the damage and go from there. It was enough for us to cancel the contract and move on. Very disappointing, especially since the owner is a structural engineer and should have disclosed the problems on the contract.

We’ve learned not to become emotionally attached to anything we attempt to purchase so we weren’t envisioning family holidays on the deck quite yet. There were others on our short list and some more popped up on the MLS, so we kept shopping. Our criteria and must-have list was short – 3,000 feet in elevation, a view, high ceilings (we want to feel like we’re in a mountain house, not sitting in a subdivision somewhere with low ceilings), and a location that doesn’t need a 4-wheel drive vehicle.

Elevation is a must as our main reason for purchasing a summer home is to get out of the heat and humidity of Orlando. Our research has shown that 3,000 feet pretty much insures not having to turn on the a/c all summer. A panoramic mountain view is fleeting. The house that failed inspection had a killer view off the deck but that deck might be sliding off the mountain in the future. Another house had a great view but was too small and, inside, felt like we were anywhere but in the mountains. Another one had a death-defying drive-way and a larger car would have to back out of it without being able to turn around.

In the end we’re losing the view with the chosen abode, but it’s just a short walk away, along with the Appalachian Trail, and the size and location make up for it. Check out my hypeorlando.com blog at Forever Young but Growing Old for details on our last visit. Hopefully, we’ll close in early December and have more to report with pictures. But those photos might include snow!

 

 

 

Tijuana Flats…not just good food but good people

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Recently I was invited to a blogger event at the Tijuana Flats on East Colonial, in Orlando. These events are one of the many perks of writing a blog, especially with hypeorlando (the Orlando Sentinel blog platform). We get to taste-test new menu items and get an insider view of house local restaurants operate.

I’m including a link to my recent Tijuana Flats blog post with hypeorlando…”Tijuana Flats, superb Tex Mex and giving back to the community

It’s heartening to know that local businesses play such a big part in helping our community by giving back in ways we might be aware of. And the sangria is awesome!

The Amtrak Adirondack to New York City

Lake Champlain from the train, looking east to Vermont

Lake Champlain from the train, looking east to Vermont

The next leg of our journey put us on the Amtrak Adirondack to Penn Station in Manhattan. What was touted as a 10 hour trip, turned into 12. Check out my blog post on hypeorlando for more details…

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Part 3 – A day in Charlottetown, then another at sea

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Day 5 – Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

The next day, Wednesday, we would be in Charlottetown from 9 am to 5:30 pm. This city is quite a bit larger than Sydney, so we laced up our walking shoes and stepped off the ship into a cloudy, 68 degree morning.

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St. Dunstan’s Basilica

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What do you think they were discussing? Across the street from St. Dunstan’s

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The gorgeous architecture of cathedrals and homes was amazing. If you want to be more adventurous and get out of the city, Holland America provides excursions to more picturesque areas of Prince Edward Island. If you’re an Anne of Green Gables fan, you will find the family home where author L. M. Montgomery wrote many of her novels.

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Sir John MacDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister

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Hoping to get some free ice cream from Cow’s Creamery

It was suggested, by an experienced cruiser, to try Cow’s Creamery which was worth the stop for ice cream. We were later told by the crew that their favorite Lobster Roll provider is Dave’s Lobster – wish we’d known beforehand – note to self: quiz the crew before a port of call about their favorite restaurants!  Continue reading

Part 2 of our Holland America cruise

Day 3 – Halifax

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Cruising into Nova Scotia, on Holland America‘s Maasdam, we had no clue as to the history of the place. So we chose that rainy Day 2 to spend some time in the Explorations Café Library learning about our destination. A big piece of Halifax’s history lies in a horrific event in 1917 when a munitions ship experienced a collision in the Narrows strait of Halifax Harbour. The mishap caused a mighty fire before the explosion which brought townspeople out into the streets to witness. What they didn’t realize was that the ship would blow up causing the largest man-made explosion prior to nuclear weaponry, killing or injuring thousands with property damage happening miles away. It created a tsunami which killed even more, as if the disaster didn’t do enough damage.

The Citadel, Halifax NS

The Citadel, Halifax NS

With that knowledge in tow we hopped off the ship and caught up, at 10 am, with a free walking tour  at The Citadel which sits high atop the city. Our guide was a young guy, new on the job, but knowledgeable enough to keep us interested. Others in the group also had stories to add (as did we!). The city is beautiful and the jacket weather matched it…cool and dry! Patrick took us up and down the streets of Halifax, eventually leading down to the harbor where we headed back to the ship for lunch.  Continue reading

Our marvelous adventure with Holland America Lines – cruising to cooler temps!

The Maasdam

The Maasdam

Having only been on a cruise once, and not being very impressed, we decided to give it a second chance with the opportunity to get out of the Florida heat and head up to New England and Nova Scotia. Holland America Lines was recommended by friends and, upon research, we found this cruise line to be highly rated. Waiting until the last minute gave us the opportunity to take advantage of much lower rates so we decided to go for it.

The cruise we chose was a 7 day, medium ship, the Maasdam, out of Boston, ending in Montreal. The only problem with choosing a last minute cruise is dealing with the higher costs of last minute flights. The small airport in Worcester, just an hour out of Boston, provided decent fare with JetBlue. The prices flying out of Montreal were really high, however, so we decided to hop on the Amtrak Adirondack to Penn Station in Manhattan. USAir/American Airlines flights out of Newark were way more affordable. Here’s a diary of our adventure…

Needing to be reminded what day it is...proof of a great vacation!

Needing to be reminded what day it is…proof of a great vacation!

Day 1 – Embarkation

Mears Taxi picked us up at 6 am for an early flight to Worcester where my childhood friend picked us up. We only spent about 20 minutes with her as she just drove us to the Worcester Bus Station for our rendezvous with a Greyhound bus to Boston. From there we walked about a mile and a half to the cruise terminal, not minding the trek as we had minimal luggage to roll behind us and the weather was breezy and cool…such a relief from 100 degrees in Orlando.

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Union Station, Worcester

Checking onto the ship was quick and seamless. As a precaution, and having read this many times in cruise blogs, we checked in our suitcases but carried a tote with our toiletries, drugs and clean underwear, just in case our baggage was delayed or delivered to the wrong room (not to worry, though, all 3 bags were sitting outside our door within a couple of hours).  Continue reading

911 Memorial Museum Anniversary

Recently the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City celebrated its first anniversary. On a recent trip to Manhattan we made sure to reserve a day to visit the 911 Museum. It is a pilgrimage that feels like one’s civic duty. We need to be reminded of the pain that was felt that awful day. Our pain has subsided but for those who lost family members, it never goes away.

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Walking through the museum one never knows what might touch the heart or cause you to tear up. My husband was particularly affected by the Maasi Tribe, who felt so bad for our country’s loss that they offered up 14 of their prized cows to be sent as a gift. The shipment to America of cattle never happened because of financial and health concerns, but there is a special spot for the herd in Kenya where they are cared for and are free to roam. You can read the entire story here but go grab a tissue first. I don’t think anyone can get through the tale without a lump in the throat.

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Continue reading

Laugh Often And 19 More Rules To Live By, Gina Barreca

Today I’m sharing a column by Gina Barreca. Gina’s an English professor at the University of Connecticut, a feminist scholar, writer of eight books and columnist (Not That I’m Bitter) with the Hartford Courant. At the last NSNC conference in Hartford, we were lucky enough to be her audience as she taught us “A Lesson in Being Funny.” Needless to say, we were in stitches LOLing, ROFLing, LMAOing…she’s hysterical.

This being a travel blog, my fave is number 8. Enjoy, and thanks Gina for your words!

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Laugh Often And 19 More Rules To Live By
Not That I’m Bitter

I’ve made a list of 20 rules to live by.

1. Bring your sense of humor with you at all times. Bring your friends with a sense of humor. If their friends have a sense of humor, invite them, too. Remember this when going to hospitals, weight-loss centers and funerals, as well as when going to work, coming home, waking up and going to sleep.

2. If it’s worth crying over, it’s probably worth laughing at. Cultivate a sense of perspective that permits you to see the wider and longer view of the situation; this will help you realize that although your situation is upsetting, it might also one day become a terrific story.

3. Other people don’t care what you’re wearing.

4. Don’t be a sissy. This is especially important if you are a woman. Girls can be sissies, but behaving like a simpering, whining, fretful coward as an adult is unacceptable no matter what your gender happens to be. If you are anxious, scared and feeling powerless, you don’t need to change your behavior; you need to change your life.

5. Don’t lie. Cheat the devil and tell the truth.

6. There is one exception to the rule above: Never say a baby looks like a sausage wearing a hat. The parents will not forgive you. This is a situation in which telling the truth is not wholly necessary. If it’s not possible to tell the whole truth for fear of causing undue pain, just say the baby looks “happy.”

7. Never use the passive voice. Do not say, “It will get done.” Say, “I’ll do it” and then offer a solid, unwavering deadline. Always make your deadline.

8. The pinnacle is always slippery; no peak is safe. Only plateaus offers a place to rest. Are you ready to stay on a plateau or are you climbing? Decide and pack your bags accordingly.

9. As we age, love changes. As a youth, you fall for an unattainable ideal. When you’re more mature, you fall in love with a person: “Sure, he has only one eye in the middle of his forehead,” you’ll rationalize, “But he never forgets my birthday.”

10. Power is the ability to persuade stupid people to do intelligent things and intelligent people to do stupid things. This is why power is dangerous.

11. Sherlock Holmes said, “Work is the best antidote to sorrow, my dear Watson.” Listen to Mr. Holmes.

12. Everybody wants a short cut to love, prosperity and weight loss, although not necessarily in that order. Apart from being born into an adoring family, getting good genes and inheriting the mineral rights, however, there are no short cuts. The rest of us have to work at it.

13. Help the dramatically self-pitying to understand that they are not, by definition, sympathetic or interesting. Encourage them to address topics other than themselves.

14. Be kind, not nice. Kindness is both intentional and meaningful. Acts of kindness requires generosity, emotional and otherwise. Perfunctory and superficial niceness is, too often, mere window-dressing.

15. Only poor workers blame their tools. It’s not the fault of the computer, the school, the train, the government or poor cell phone reception. Take responsibility.

16. You know how sometimes you don’t think you’re asleep — you’re half listening to a conversation or the television — only to discover you were unconscious? One part of your head would swear it’s awake, but when you actually snap out of it, you realize you were wholly elsewhere? Sometimes that happens in life. Sometimes the only way you know you’re truly in love, in the entirely wrong profession, being a moron at parties or a great poet is when you snap out of it.

17. You can always stop what you’re doing.

18. You should either be doing something useful or you should be playing. You should not be thinking about playing while at work or thinking about work when you’re out having fun. Compartmentalizing your life is not inevitably a bad thing. It’s easy to waste pleasure by feeling guilty and waste potentially effective time by feeling resentful.

19. Be aware that a safety net, if pulled too tight, easily turns into a noose. Don’t trade independence for security without being aware of the consequences.

20. Someday you will die. Until then, you should do everything possible to enjoy life.

Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and a feminist scholar who has written eight books. She can be reached through her website at http://www.ginabarreca.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Hartford Courant