Category Archives: Valley Scene Magazine

Conquering the Fear of Flying – Valley Scene Magazine

Here is my latest piece in Valley Scene.

It is notably doubtful that there is a single human alive who has not experienced fear. Maybe it was that spider in the bathtub making it’s way to your foot. Perhaps it was the loud backfire of the neighbor’s van. Or possibly you have a fear which is profound and lasting. If so, this may be more of phobia than just a "Yikes, that freaked me out" kind of fear. Phobias are typically a specific, intense and irrational fear. And phobias are under the umbrella of anxiety disorders.

The real difficulty with phobias is when they disrupt your life or the lives of those around you. If Mary has a fear of dolphins and she lives in Indiana, this phobia is likely not going to cause much disruption for her. But if Jim has a fear of flying and he is a Traveling Sales Manager for a Fortune 500 company, then poor ole Jimbo has got himself an issue.

The fear of flying, also known as aerophobia, is fairly widespread phobia which can have some devastating consequences. Edmund Bourne, PhD. stated in his Anxiety and Phobia Workbook that this fear is so common that approximately 10 percent of the population will avoid planes all together and another 20 percent will experience significant anxiety while flying. A person with aerophobia in all likelihood is afraid of the plane crashing. But there are also could be many other components such as, heights, enclosed spaces, turbulence and maybe the most common contributor – the lack of control. The anxiety that arises from a specific phobia such as a fear of flying does not only occur when a passenger is belted into her flotation device, but the anticipatory anxiety usually reeks havoc for sometimes long periods prior to the event itself.

According to Bourne there are several ways to treat a fear of flying: Relaxation Training, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and/or Exposure Therapy.

Relaxation training is just what it says – training a person how to relax. Not only the mind, but the body must learn how to intentionally and consciously relax itself. Mindful relaxation or even meditation is not only very helpful in anxious phobic situations, but practicing these exercises can be quite beneficial to a person’s overall health. When learning to relax oneself, the practitioner will coach to the patient on the uses of abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation.

Cognitive behavior therapy sounds fancy and complicated, but it is really just a matter of replacing negative and irrational thoughts with realistic and calming thoughts. With many anxiety disorders, Catastrophic Thinking is a huge part of the problem. "The plane is too heavy, it will certainly crash." "I know I will flip out in the plane and embarrass myself completely." "I am flying to New York; there will probably be a terrorist on the plane." These are examples of catastrophic thinking. With cognitive behavioral therapy, the patient will learn how to replace these thoughts with ones which are more supportive and healthy by challenging the negative statements with facts. "Have I ever devastatingly embarrassed myself in public before? No. So, what are the chances of it happening this time? Little to no chance." "Hundreds of flights into JFK a day and how many terrorist situations have you heard about? One. Then what are the chances it will happen to THIS flight TODAY? Little to no chance."

Exposure therapy can sound scary in itself, but it is an extremely effective long term tool to eliminate the fear completely. We hear all of the time, "It is best to face your fears." And essentially, that is what exposure therapy is all about. However it is done in a way that is more controlled and on a gradual scale. For example: A patient and his therapist may tackle the fear of flying by slowing exposing the patient to all of the steps to flying. They may first simply drive to the airport. A few days later they may actually walk into the airport. And next, get onto a plane only for a moment without actually going anywhere. While reassurance is slowly gained and confidence is being built – the fear begins to fade.

Most of us probably know someone who has a fear of flying. Many celebrities have admitted to this fear. Whoopi Goldberg (who takes her bus everywhere – even over seas), Aretha Franklin and Bob Newhart are just a few. Unless one has Miss Goldberg’s kind of cash flow, this fear may need to be dealt with in order to get through life more comfortably. Avoidance is not always possible – nor healthy – and being panic stricken is no way to live. So, know there are ways to get past this dilemma and even the most fearful fliers may just one day pocket their very own pilot’s license.


The Origin of the Tricycle

Here is a story I wrote for Valley Scene Magazine (was assigned – I didn’t CHOOSE the topic LOL). The link below is only good for a couple weeks.

Ah, the wind in your hair and the burn in your thighs produce nothing but smiles across your face as you speed through the neighborhood.  You try to maneuver faster and faster to impress all those who look on admiring the coolness before them. The chrome reflects the summer sun and the smell of the rubber on the asphalt are like nothing else.  Behold your awesome new bike. Tricycle bike that is.


We have all experienced that childhood joy of the tricycle and if not we certainly have become accustom to seeing them blazing around parks and your local vicinity. But I am willing to bet that not many of us thought much about from whence these strange little vehicles came.


Today, in America, when we think of ‘tricycle’, most of us likely imagine the little red and chrome three wheeled vehicles with plastic ribbons on the handles and the little ‘ching ching’ bell.  But the tricycle has come a long way baby. In fact, in years past, these little bikes were not for babies at all, nor were they little.


In 1680 there was a paraplegic German man who found himself in need of transportation in order to make it to church on Sundays. Stephan Farffler was his name and he painstakingly created the very first known tricycle which was powered by a hand crank.  This really puts my under deserving pride into check after beating my chest for skillfully putting together my daughter’s Radio Flyer.


Later in 1789, two men by the names Blanchard and Maguier invented a foot pedaled tricycle. This gained enough popularity for the Journal de Paris to define the words tricycle and bicycle for the very first time. The first patented tricycle was in England by Denis Johnson in the year 1818.


As the evolution of the three wheeled bike continued, James Starley created the Coventry Lever Tricycle which was a side driven lever variety and this is the one that started a trike craze in England. By 1884, Great Britain was over run with 120 various models of the tricycles.  Many believe that the greater love of these bikes over the two wheeled bicycles was due to safety and convenience.  The added third wheel gave the bike more stability thus preventing injuries.


During this tricycle bonanza, children were finally figured into the mix.  Most were homemade out of wood for the kiddos. And this product idea quickly made its way across the ocean and became a part of life for the American children.  Later in the 1880s the tricycles started being made from steel.  Also, during this time, it was discovered that front steering and chain driven tricycles were the better way to go – again for safety concerns.







There is typically (but not always) one of three types of tricycles:


  1. The Delta. This is the most popular with 2 wheels in the back and 1 in the front.  The back wheels drive the bike while the front wheel is for steering.


  1. The Tadpole. This one has 2 wheels in the front which do the steering and one wheel in the back for the driving. Essentially the opposite from which we are familiar.


  1. The iL3. This tricycle is a 3 wheeled inline bike. 2 of the wheels again are for steering and one for driving. 



In the US, most of those reading this have probably always considered the tricycle to be a child’s toy. But as you can see, it certainly did not start out that way. And we seem to be entering a new trike era as adults are now beginning to see their appeal once again.


Aside from being used for load carrying and freight (including the trike rickshaws – why does Kramer pop into my head?), recumbent tricycles are becoming all the rage for American adults. Whether it is the comfort, the greater stability or the ability to turn on a dime – recumbent trikes fulfill a desire for many enthusiasts across the country.  And they also provide a source of transportation for those with special needs.


Some say that the invention of the wheel was the single most important development in human history. But I have a feeling that putting three of those wheels together is what is truly appreciated by quite a few – from that bell ringing kid down the block to the avid racer whizzing by daily. After all, how much fun can you really have with just one wheel?


In the Tornado of Health Anxiety


I have had another article printed in Valley Scene Magazine. This time I was given an assignment I was happy with – the topic was anxiety. Having had a history myself with anxiety, I wrote a 1500 word story I was quite proud of. Then the editor gets back to me with a request to cut it down to 650 words. WHAT??? I almost cried. It was so difficult. But anyway…

Here is the result:


For anyone interested…here is the original article…

A surge comes over her like a warm electrical shock. Instantly her throat begins to tighten and palms begin to sweat. All of her muscles ache and she begins to tremble. “Oh no, not again,” she thinks to herself in dread. She becomes more aware of her breathing and it appears to be rapid and shallow. Her mind starts to spin and her heart races noticeably. Something terrible must be happening; could this be the end? Terrifying thoughts and uncomfortable, scary feelings – both mentally and physically – overcome her. This can last for a few minutes or even a couple hours. Finally when it is over she is so exhausted and drained, though relieved she is still alive. She may get depressed at the fact that this keeps happening and she has no idea why. Perhaps others in her life are not supportive or understanding which makes it all the more difficult to defend her sanity. What she needs to realize is that she is indeed sane. What is happening is not her fault or even in her control. And most of all, her life is not in danger. She is likely having anxiety/panic attacks.

The first thing that should be mentioned is the importance of a full and complete physical workup when faced with any new and concerning symptoms. Many of these symptoms can indeed be created by a physical or physiological problem such as a thyroid dysfunction, a heart arrhythmia, a hormonal imbalance or a number of other issues that can usually be easily ruled out with a number of tests and blood work. Once a clean bill of health is stamped upon one’s chart, it is time to look elsewhere for relief.

Anxiety and Panic Disorder is not as understood as we would like it to be. As with most disorders, the whys and whats are not black and white with definitive answers. But there are many options for recovery.

While interviewing and researching this topic, I have learned that there are basically three schools of thought on the topic as to the reasons one develops an Anxiety Disorder (including Panic Disorder involving Panic Attacks). Some believe that it is strictly psychological. Perhaps something occurred during childhood; a traumatic event at some point in life that sparked this reaction to the psyche. Others believe that it is brought on by physiological and physical causes. Adrenal sensitivity, vagel nerve disruption, as well as many other possibilities are some of the suggested suspects. And then there are a large group of those who believe it is a combination of the two. A person could have simply been born with a strong sensitivity to stimuli and when a trauma occurred in their past – the flame was ignited. Therefore, some may have a predisposition to the disorder and it is eventually sparked by an event.

As I said, it is not a black and white issue. There is no right or wrong when determining the causes of Anxiety Disorders. One woman I spoke with began having panic attacks at the age of 12 after being molested by an older relative. Another woman admitted that she has had no traumatic experience or past circumstances that would appear to be the cause – that the attacks just started happening out of nowhere when she was at the most content moment in her life.

What I have noticed in speaking with so many people with Anxiety and Panic is the vast amount of them who have health related anxiety. Once having an attack, they are then so focused on their bodies and how they are feeling. Many of these people tend to notice things that others without the disorder would never notice. A slight increase in blood pressure, body temperature raising a mere degree, a minor heart palpitation…these are all things that most of the population would never recognize. But to people who have an Anxiety disorder, these disruptions and discomforts are pronounced and very much present. Sufferers of these disorders tend to have heightened awareness and extreme sensitivity. Where that becomes almost debilitating (and for some, completely debilitating) is when a person begins to castastrophize. This is very common among those with Anxiety Disorders. Catastrophizing is basically a consuming thought process that makes the person think that the worst possible thing is going to happen. For example, one may have a headache and begin to believe it is an aneurysm. Or a stomach ache could be cancer. Certainly any chest discomfort is a heart attack in the mind of a catastrophizer.

Brandyn explains how Panic affected his life, “I could have sworn that I was dying. I became agoraphobic and never left the house. I didn’t work, socialize with friends, drive, or take trips.”

And what is worse is that it is a vicious circle that spins and spins until the right stick is able to be stuck in the spokes of this whirlwind. Once one has an attack, they begin to fear subsequent attacks. This fear brings on the “what if” thinking that may stop them from doing certain daily things. If someone has an attack in a grocery store – they may then avoid grocery stores. This feeds into the fear and gives fuel to the disorder. Once and attack begins, the body releases adrenaline due to our natural fight or flight reaction that is instinct in all of us in case of danger. But for those with Anxiety Disorder, our fight or flight reaction occurs at inappropriate times – when not in danger. When this adrenaline is released it increases the breathing which can cause hyperventilation. It also tightens muscles which is what gives that closed throat and chest muscle discomfort. It causes perspiration and racing hearts. This is what adrenaline does. But when it happens out of the blue, it can certainly be alarming and worrisome. It is such an uncomfortable and scary experience that for those who it happens to begin to fear it happening again. The more fear that is existing, the more likely it is to have another attack. So basically, the physical symptoms cause the fear and the fear causes the physical symptoms. Round and round it goes until proper remedies are found.

The road to recovery from this nasty disorder is certainly different for everyone. Many find that meditation and relaxation techniques are enough to keep the disorder at bay. Others benefit immensely from different types of counseling. Biofeedback, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Talk Therapy are all very useful to many people. And there are also many of those who need medication to get back on that even keel they may not have felt for many years. Like therapy, there are also different forms of medications.

Brandyn did eventually find some relief, “Through medication and therapy I learned breathing exercises and the "ride the wave" method of thinking. It’s based on the idea that you have to ride the wave of anxiety. The anxiety will peak and then it will subside. All you have to do is ride it out and you will be ok. For the last 5 years I have led a relatively normal life. “

And Amy, another person diagnosed with Panic Disorder states, “It took years to find what really worked for me. Meditation never worked and breathing exercises seemed to make things worse. But through talk therapy and finding the right medication – I have been symptom free for over three years.”

A treatment plan would be discussed and decided upon between the patient and their mental health professional. For many, taking that first step towards professional help is the most difficult. But it is obviously the most crucial. In this day and age there is simply no reason to live this way. There are so many options out there to help one live a more relaxed and peaceful life. Imagining being free of worry, fear, and dread may seem impossible to those who have lived with this disorder for any length of time. But it is in fact very possible.

The truth is, we do not know how long we have on this planet. None of us do. Many of those with Panic and Anxiety Disorders often worry they are going to die. And while they are worrying about their mortality, they are not living life while they have it. We have these moments – right now. Disorder or no disorder, we need to live life in the time that we have. The best thing we can all do for ourselves is live life well. And living in a constant state of debilitating, painful and misunderstood agony is not living well. Help is out there and for those who are suffering, please seek it.

For more information on Anxiety and Panic Disorders, please check out the following websites: 

Landon – CD Review

Here is the link to the temporary online article:

In the song ‘Angry’ there is a quote, “I just want to be angry.” Well, listening to ‘Defying the Stereotype’, Landon’s newest and self-released CD, that statement is so painfully obvious. I felt during most of the album that I was being scolded or punished in some way. All the shouting and angst appears to me to be something as simple as misguided talent. And I say talent because Landon, the lead singer, definitely is pure and raw in that regard. There are moments throughout this CD where you are awakened by a change of pace and drawn to her Stefani-like, melodic vocals. But then the moment is quickly banished by more yelling and drowning out instrumentals.


There are also misplaced production additions that seem odd. In the third track, First to Come in Last (which is a sweet title by the way), the beginning of the song has these background “Ohs” and “Ahs” which are in true teeny bopper fashion. It is not only strange but also obnoxious. And it certainly did not fit with the rest of the heaviness that adorns 90% of this album.


By naming the CD ‘Defying the Stereotype’, I can only guess that they wish not to be a part of any particular genre. And the music certainly accomplishes that wish. While it is attractive to be independent and have variety within a band and even within a CD, it makes it difficult to find a fan base when the music stomps all over the place as though it is lost and without a home.


Instrumentally, the band, Landon, is mediocre. Vocally, there are gobs of potential. Young and fresh – I can see Landon, herself, becoming a true star. But I believe that she will need to find her niche and tone down the PO’d screaming just a tad.


In the meantime, I think this would be a good CD to crank up after a bitter breakup, a couple thrown lamps and a few Jack and Cokes. 

The Origin of the Tortilla – Valley Scene Magazine

Link to the online article –

The Origin of Tortillas


As I attempt to eat these chips and salsa while drinking a margarita without making a mess on my laptop, I will also attempt to make your tummies growl with this peek into the origin of the ever so loved – Tortilla.


First, we must delve into some early history – so take notes, there will be a quiz when were finished. In the 16th century, the Aztec Empire in Mexico was ambushed by a fleet of Spaniards led by Hernán Cortés. When his army anchored off the coasts of Mexico, Aztec Emperor, Montezuma, sent them lavish gifts and plentiful nourishings in hopes to keep them at bay and away from their capital city. Well, that plan sure backfired. The gifts of gold and such just compelled Cortes and his men want to search for their original destination – and they went a huntin’. After a period of devastating battles, Cortes had claimed victory and the capitol was destroyed and replaced with Spanish monuments and laws. But as much as they changed the appearance of prior Aztec region, they could not demolish the deep and rich culture which thrives even today. And part of this culture was indeed the wonderful foods that had been around for centuries. And may I now, introduce the loved…the versatile…the tasty – Tortilla (take a bow, tortilla).


Maize (now known to us as corn) was a principal food for the Aztecs, Incas, Mayans and countless groups of North American Indians. It supplied them with starch and protein which is what gave them their necessary energy.  No part of the grain was wasted and the Incas even were known to produce ‘chica’ which was a beer made from maize.


The maize was typically dried and ground into a powdery substance known as mesa. In those days this was the process the women endured making the beloved tortilla:


          A woman working with a stone slab known as ‘metate’ would grind the soaked kernels into mesa.


          She would then take a piece of mesa, about the size of a golf ball, with her wet hands and pat the dough until it is flattened into a round cake less than an 1/8 of an inch thick.


          The cakes (raw tortillas) would be tossed onto a hot pan, known as ‘comal’, for just a few seconds on each side. They would brown slightly – and viola!


Used as bread, plates, forks and spoons there were and are many ways to eat a tortilla which is commonly referred to as ‘the bread of Mexico’.  Ohhh, those tacos filled with meats and cheeses…or those burritos stuffed with beans and rice…even the wonderfully saucy enchiladas – tortillas have brought joy to our taste buds time and time again.


Stated by The Tortilla Association (TIA), “Thanks in part to the widespread popularity of Mexican and Southwestern cuisines, Americans love tortillas. In fact, tortillas are more popular today in the U.S. than all other ethnic breads, such as bagels, English muffins and pita bread.”


They also found in an Industry survey in 2002 that tortillas gained 32 percent of the sales for the United States Bread Industry and that they followed bread sales by a mere 2 percent!


Not too long ago, grocery store tortillas came in two forms – flour, being the soft white kind and corn, being the yellow, crunchy variety. Today there is a plethora of types available: whole wheat, gluten free, roasted red pepper, jalapeno, tomato and garlic, low carb and so many more. And this isn’t even including the shelves stocked with copious assortments of tortilla chips.


Perhaps you would like to make your own tortillas. For you adventurous, kitchen lovers out there, here are a few recipes:



From here is a very simple recipe for homemade corn tortillas:



1 c. cornmeal
1 c. boiling water
1 tsp. salt



Pour boiling salted water over cornmeal and stir. When cornmeal is cool enough to harden, shape into then flat cakes and cook on an un-oiled hot griddle until brown on both sides. Makes 8 servings.




From this is recipe for flour tortillas:

 2 cups all purpose flour
 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
 1/2 tsp. salt
 1/2 tsp. baking powder
 3/4 cup warm water

In a bowl, blend flour, salt, baking powder and shortening until it resembles fine meal.

Add warm water, a little at a time, to flour mixture and toss until liquid is incorporated. Water amount will vary with different flour types.

Form dough into a ball and kneed on a floured surface until dough is smooth and elastic. Divide, and make 12 smaller balls. Cover and let stand at least 30 minutes.

Cooking Tortilla:
Roll each ball of dough on a floured surface to make 6 or 7 inch sized tortillas. Place on a pre-heated griddle or cast iron skillet and cook till medium golden on both sides.

Remove to a basket lined with a cloth towel or put between towels until cool. After the tortillas have cooled completely, store them in a plastic bag. This recipe will make approximately 12 flour tortillas.


Tortillas have become to bread as salsa has become to ketchup. Mexican traditions are deliciously becoming more mainstream every year. As our tables and stores reflect that, so do our pallets. Needless to say, I will be having Mexican food tonight because in my attempts to make your tummy growl…mine is sounding like a lion over here!!

Origin of Hops – Valley Scene Magazine

Here is the link to the online article – tho it only lasts 2 weeks:

We have all seen them, those commercials with the rushing rivers and mountain peaks. And living in the Milwaukee area my entire life, the beer terminology floats around like the frothy head on a cold mug of Genuine Draft. All the companies claim that their beer is made with the best of ingredients – including the always mentioned, hops. But do any of us really know what a hop is? After a six pack, I doubt anyone would much care. Well, for you sober readers (and those who are more the brainiac, Cliff Clavin types) I will share with you my findings in search for the origin of hops.


Hop is a perennial and dioecious (boy plants and girl plants are kept separate, just like health class was in junior high) plant. It is a summer growing, twining vine which in nature, would block the light needed by surrounding plants. This is what gave it its first name by the Romans, Lupus Salictarius which translates to ‘good wolf’. Later it was given the English name, hops from hoppan, meaning ‘to climb’.


The first accounts of hops being used in beer was during the Babylonian times by people of Jewish decent. Not only did they use it for its drinking purposes but they also believed it to cure leprosy. Even today, hops are known to have medicinal purposes such as the alleviation of ear aches, tooth aches, nervous tendencies, sleep deficiencies, appetite arousal and several other benefits. Wow. Perhaps I should start growing my own hops!


The hops that are used for the production of beer are the unpollinated female hops because those are higher in alpha acids and that is what gives the drink the bitter taste we have all grown to appreciate. The hops petals contain an element called tannin. Tannin was also used as a dye back in the day and is what gives beer its darker colors. Tannins can be found in the leaves and bark of many trees and is known to cause the darker colors in many tree surrounded rivers, wines, teas and different flavinoid packed fruits.


These green, heart leafed plants are believed to have been first cultivated in Germany in 8th century in the Hallertau district. It made its way across the English Channel in the 15th century to be used primarily as a vegetable. It was eaten in the spring much like we eat asparagus today.  You see, hops were given a timorous eye for quite some time and were even considered ‘illegal’ by the powers that existed during those times.  Hops were assumed to be a hazardous additive to beer due to its possible melancholy effect. However, it is more likely that the opposition to hops was mainly due to the concern of the growers of the mixture of plants which had previously been used to flavor beer. This mixture was often called Gruit. Gruit was made up of a mixture of several herbs such as St. Johns Wort, Rosemary, Wormwood (that sounds yummy, eh?), yarrow and others. But eventually the hops won out and became instrumental in the brewing of beer; not only for the flavor aspects, but also financial ones.


Hops are essential in allowing beer to be preservable and shippable. Without it, beer did not last long and there was no way to really transport it without it spoiling. That would not make for very large profits. Also, because of its preservative properties, large amounts of alcohol were no longer necessary to keep the beer lasting longer. It does not effect the alcohol content other than the fact that less alcohol was needed once hops was an option for preservation. This kept the costs lower for the brewers. And as we know – profits always win the joust even in the middle ages of jolly ole England.


And let us not forget flavor! According to Michael Jackson (not the moonwalker, but the affectionately acclaimed ‘Beer Hunter’), “Hops have no influence on the alcohol content of beer. What they contribute is aroma and flavor. Depending upon the variety used, the hoppy character may be cedary, piney or lemony, or reminiscent, for example, of orange zest, aniseed or mint.”


So, what it boils down to is that hops’ basic functions in the production of beer are preservation and flavor.


In seventeenth century, The Massachusetts Bay Company had hop seeds shipped from the UK. The majority of hops grown in the US were in New York. Once the Erie Canal became available for shipments, brewers in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana began using Hops transported from NY. But as the land seemed to shrink and cities grew and grew, hops had to make its way to other parts of the country.


Around 1857 hops were introduced to sunny California’s Central Valley by a settler from Vermont. Then it was onto Wisconsin in the 1860’s, Washington in 1866 and Oregon in the 1880s.


Today, America is the second largest producer of hops, Germany being first, of course. Washington State is the center of hops cultivation in the US.


I don’t know about you, but I am suddenly quite thirsty and that sweaty, gleaming bottle of Rolling Rock is looking pretty tasty. So I bid you a fair adieu as I pop the top and enjoy my hop.

Pen Pals – Making a Comeback? – Valley Scene Magazine

 Here is the link (only lasts until next publication – two weeks) to the online article:


I have never had a pen pal and while researching this topic, I became disappointed that I hadn’t as a child. Having a pen pal has many positive results and promotes many values and principles that a simple classroom cannot always provide. Gaining a pen pal gives intellectual, emotional and social benefits.


First, there are the intellectual benefits one can obtain from writing to a pen pal. From learning a foreign language to cultural education to practicing penmanship; having a relationship by mail gives the ability to help one’s mind grow in many facets. More and more, writing to pen pals in today’s classrooms is becoming part of curriculum and an enjoyable class activity.  The aforementioned educational benefits are likely the aspects of pen paling which attracts teachers to the idea. So many subjects can be touched upon when corresponding with other children; especially children from other countries.  Understanding cultures through the writings of similar aged children can be a cherished lesson.


Second, there is an emotional factor. For many kids, loneliness and a sense of not belonging can be very prevalent. To find a person with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings can be priceless to a young person; not to mention an impression of understanding and camaraderie even with the miles between. And there is that reward the letter appearing in one’s mail box that always brings a child joy. There is also a paradigm in teaching children positive differences. They could gain a perception that we are all just people with emotions, hopes and dreams regardless of our logistics. Julie Delbridge from the International Pen Friends Organization states, “When children share their thoughts and experiences, they often feel less alone in the world and gain more confidence.” She adds, “On a personal level, in a small but meaningful way, children can help promote peace in the world that is often dominated by conflict.”


Third, writing to a person who shares your interests or can invite you to learn of new interests; can have a great social influence.  “Bobby” may believe that there isn’t another kid in the world that has a love of botchy ball the way he does. But perhaps writing to a pen pal in Italy may allow him to share his merriment and even gain some playing tips. “Susie” may spend her summer days on the couch watching Spongebob with her mom on bended knee begging her to find a hobby – something to DO. Writing to her pen pal in Australia may help her learn about the sport of Cricket with which she ends up adoring and flourishing.


There are many pen pal sites on the internet. Some are geared specifically for teachers and students to use in the classroom. Some are just general pen pal sites for anyone. Some sites require registration and even a membership fee. Others are free and easy to use. Some pen pal sites and organizations encourage writing in the original format – with a paper and pen. But with most other things in our society, technology has taken hold and now many chose to “key pal” using email instead of snail mail. While this saves money on postage, it also loses many of the benefits to writing letters. That anticipation of a letter’s arrival is enough to choose the original form of pen paling. Delbridge tells me, “The most common feedback we receive from IPF members is that despite all of the modern forms of technology, they still love to write and receive handwritten letters.”


When visiting and joining pen pal sites online, it is of extreme importance that parents are monitoring their children’s activities and that the kids know how to keep themselves safe from online predators. They should never give out their home address or phone number online. They should certainly never plan a ‘real life’ meeting especially without a parent present.  On the internet there is really know sure way to ensure who or what you are dealing with and it is always better to be safe than sorry.


One organization, International Pen Friends ( out of Australia has been helping people meet one another through the written word since 1967.  IPF does not use the internet to match pen pals. They wish for the participants to use the communication form of letter writing, however, the pals can always chose to exchange email addresses if they so wish.


The Student Letter Exchange ( claims to be the world’s largest pen pal organization dating back to 1936.  This organization links over 500, 000 students in over 100 different countries each year.


Other ways to find pen pals and e-pals can be found on the following sites:


Again, it is always extremely important to keep children safe when corresponding to strangers. But when parents keep an eye out and precautions are taken, writing to pen pals can be a very encouraging, fulfilling, interesting and educational experience that could continue for many years as relationships develop and grow. Pen paling can be a wonderful experience for students, teachers and even parents. It is certainly an activity worth exploring with your children or students.


Now, I am off to find a thirty-something like soul who shares an interest in movies, chocolate and sleep. Wish me luck!!

Sound of the Blue Heart – CD Review – Valley Scene Magazine

This is my second publication in Valley Scene Magazine – another CD Review.
Here is the link to the online article:
Here is the story:

Beauty? By Sound of the Blue Heart



The CD, Beauty? by Sound of the Blue Heart is certainly original. Johnny Indovina (of Human Drama) takes you through a melodic maze of injustice, paradox, tragedy and sorrow via this somewhat trance-like music.


While the words are meaningful and tell globally significant stories, listening to the album, I cannot help but be reminded of a breathy Bowie or a whispering prank phone call. I was not familiar with Indovina prior to listening to this particular project.  The songs run together as though there is no beginning or end to each. And for me, this creates a depressing way to fall asleep.  I almost dare to say that minus the vocals, this would be a great meditative CD.


Having said this, there is no doubt that there is a consumer base for Sound of the Blue Heart lingering through the streets of any city in the world. I also have to consider that this mystical sounding tunage and the deep, yet quite vocals would attract many a follower – perhaps in the goth-type arena – I am sure fans are a plenty. I simply happen to not be one of them.

Thursday May 31, 2007


On Sunday we (my husband, mom, step father and daughter) went to Burlington’s Chocolatefest. I had never been there before and it was a pretty nice time. Typical carnival-type atmosphere. We played some games (I won a small froggie for Cass). Cassidy went on a few rides. We ate some yummies. Bought some chocolate. And I attempted to be hypnotized.  Yes, you heard right. There was a hypnotist there by the name of Chris Carter. I guess he is there every year and my parents always talked about what a funny show it was and how he got the participants to do all this hilarious stuff. So when he asked for audience volunteers, I raised my hand and was chosen. I was VERY nervous for some reason. I don’t get anxious being on stage on in front of a crowd and I wasn’t even afraid of making a fool of myself…I think it was just the unknown of being hypnotized and not knowing how I would react.


I really tried to follow his instructions completely. I waited and waited and as I watched as other people appeared to be going ‘under’…I knew that for me, nothing was happening. I did feel sort of meditative and relaxed. But not at all hypnotized. Neither was the guy next to me. We were both older than the rest of the participants. But the guy on the other side of me was the star of the show. Chris Carter told him that whenever he said a certain word he was to sneak around the stage and steal everyone’s shoes and hide them in his shirt. Sure enough – he did it. He also preformed as Elvis. Thing was, before the show, he turned to me and asked, “What if it doesn’t work – are we suppose to fake it?” I just said I had no idea. Though I knew I wouldn’t fake it…which I didn’t.


After the show I talked to the Elvis kid and he said he faked the whole thing.


Poo poo. I was sorta disappointed. I thought it would be a fun experience to be hypnotized. Oh well. At least I had lots of chocolate J


Cassidy had a blast and that was so fun to see. She loved the rides and had no fear going on them alone. She did not like the mini roller coaster (for toddlers) though. It jerked her around too much. I wouldn’t have liked it either. She didn’t cry or anything. She just announced loudly in the middle of the ride “I’m done NOW!!”


Other than that – not much else going on. I have to get some CD reviews written for Valley Scene Magazine. I need to do some laundry. And we are trying to choose what home improvement task to take on. Either tear out our cement patio in the back and build a wood deck or get carpet for the basement so it can finally be finished. We are also putting a fence around the back yard so the kids can play without Cassidy constantly escaping to the front yard. Ugh. I hate spending money. But things gotta get done, right??


There are a few other things I would like to talk about…but I think I will do those in separate blogs.


I hope everyone has a wonderful day J

Brandi Carlile – Valley Scene Magazine

This is a CD review I wrote for Valley Scene Magazine (based in California). This is my first magazine publication. And here is the link to the online article:

Close to 15 years ago, I received a CD for Christmas called Fruit of Life by The Wild Colonials.  Throughout these past years it has been a staple in my short list of go-to tunes.  I would play it over and over – not a usual occurrence for my easily bored ears.  Fast forward to Spring of 2007, a new female vocalist has bumped onto that go-to list and has been playing non-stop in my car since receiving it. That album is The Story by Brandi Carlile.


Brandi Carlile must find it difficult to describe her music with a particular shade of genre. Is it possible she has created her own like few before her? Her powerful pipes and pain ridden lyrics gives us all a relatable voice shouting out all that which we wish we could. Authentically poetic words are spun like gold through her powerful lungs and possibly wounded heart. Each of the fifteen tracks is musically original, thus making the boring impossible. One minute the car next to you (because you will have it loud enough for them to hear) may think you are listening to modern country and the next minute, pure women’s folk. And don’t leave out the rock and alternative moments that have your head bobbing as though a spring in your neck has snapped.


This CD has made it into my small collection that stays in my player indefinitely and needs to become part of your musical library. Brandi, along with her brothers, Tim and Phil Hanseroth and other musicians who collaborated with her on this CD (Josh Neumann, Matt Chamberlain, David Palmer, Keefus Ciancia and special guests Amy Ray and Emily Sanders – of Indigo Girls fame) have all created this musical blast which I am fanatically thrilled to have come across.