Today is Leap Day.

Leap Day used to mean something, but now, it’s just something we call that extra day we get at the end of February every four years.

Once upon a time, it really meant that the calendar leapt over a day to correct the time for a fixed calendar. We no longer “leap” over anything, but the name stuck.

Chrysanthemum autumn

Today, however, I got to do my own leaping. This is the time of year when Blue Cross requires you to get prior authorizations for almost every medication I or my husband takes. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been taking them … or that there is no other medication that does the same thing. We have to LEAP over the hurdle of getting authorized so we can keep on keeping one.

It seemed a singularly appropriate day to spend hours on the phone with the customer service woman at Blue Cross. She was charming, friendly, helpful. I was ready to snarl and get angry, but she was so nice and … well … she pretty much took care of everything for both me and Garry and I hung up the phone feeling like I had a lot of disgruntled and nowhere to use it.

chrysanthemum 0630-15

Watching NCIS last night, they were leaping out of airplanes for fun. Sky diving. Garry used to sky dive. He liked it. I probably would have liked it. It’s not the diving that’s a problem for me. It’s the landing. The bad spine has been bad since I was a teenager. One bad landing is all I need. Along with horse-back riding, it’s one of the two named activities that I’ve been warned by everyone is very likely to finish me off should I be stupid enough to pursue them.


I can do without jumping out of airplanes, but I really miss the horses.

In the name of using up a little of the disgruntle (I assume this is the noun version of the word “disgruntled”) I feel, why does every single camera have to use a different battery from every other camera? Does someone make money from this? I can’t see how it makes more money.

We’d have to buy batteries anyway for our widgets and gadgets and cameras and other devices. We just wouldn’t have to try to figure out which one goes where … and what did I do with the charger?


It drives me nuts, especially when the batteries are from cameras of the same manufacturer and look almost identical … but require different chargers and absolutely will not fit in each others’ battery cases. I have so many chargers in this house, I’ve lost count and I often have to walk around with batteries in my hand following a shoot trying to figure out which one goes in which after-market charger (because a lot of cameras don’t even come with chargers anymore).

Mayan calendar

Okay. Now I feel better. You have a great week, okay? Super Tuesday is tomorrow, so I hope you are planning to vote for a sane person who isn’t out to destroy our world.



Blame Cee. It’s all HER fault. I looked at her pictures and said “Gee, I’ve got some like that!” and indeed, I do.


I've never seen an actual "cigar store Indian." Heard about them, but never seen one.

I’ve never seen an actual “cigar store Indian” until I met this one in Gettysburg



Wooden animals, wooden man, carousel carvings. And something shiny!




This is the final part of a four-part series. You can read the others here: Part I, Part 2, Part 3.


Everyday stress is a killer. Literally.

The greatest damage from stress is caused by excessive triggering of the fight-or flight (stress) response. These throw your entire system into high gear on a chemical and biological level. Your system is designed to handle no more than a few fight-or-flight responses a week.

silhouette cactus

Instead, our modern world bombards us with more than fifty such (brief) episodes each day. Over time, this unrelenting stress wears down and damages every part of your body in some way.

Your body can’t distinguish between minor, everyday stress and those which threaten life and loved ones. So we respond to all stressors as if they were charging tigers.

Moreover, your body doesn’t distinguish between physical threats which require action, and psychological threats which require thought or a verbal response — or potential threats which are worries about the future and don’t even yet (or maybe ever) exist.

Thoughts alone can trigger a full blown, physiological stress reaction throughout your body. Your body “believes” your thoughts are real.

If you think about a fight you recently had or might have, your system reacts as if you were having the fight now! The good news is you can trick your unconscious, internal systems into thinking you are sitting on the beach with a tall, cold drink in hand.

This is what gives visualization and mindfulness such power.

The key is visualizing in detail. To demonstrate the power of thoughts and images on your body, close your eyes and imagine, in vivid detail, that you are eating a lemon. Soon your mouth will begin to pucker. You will start to salivate. Your stomach will start secreting the fluids to digest a lemon. Your mind will have tricked your body into thinking you were eating a lemon.



This is a visualization you can tailor to your mood and whatever time you have available:

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Imagine yourself in a place you love — the woods, the beach, or some place which holds special meaning for you.
  3. Make sure it’s a place where you feel secure, safe, comfortable, and happy.
  4. Focus on the details of your imagined scene.
  5. Work with each of your senses, one at a time. Focus on everything you see. Colors. Shapes. Light. Shadows.
  6. Work from the ground up.
  7. Focus on the sounds around you, including the silence.
  8. Take a few deep breaths, then tune into the smells. Allow scents to trigger positive emotions.
  9. Focus on the variety of textures around you. Imagine yourself touching the items in your environment – smooth, rough, hard, soft, and so on.
  10. Focus on any movement in the scene you have created for yourself. Clouds in the sky, waves in the ocean.
  11. Finally imagine doing something you love in your mental oasis. Put your feet in a lake. Ski down a mountain. Play with a pet.
  12. Continue the experience until you feel a sense of peace and well-being.

Gradually ease yourself back into your day focusing on your breath, then the sensations in the room. When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes and take another deep, abdominal breath.


Mindfulness is a slightly different way to focus on the present moment. Focusing on the present decreases tension and stress. It increases your enjoyment of life. You can give your body and mind a mini-vacation from worry about the past and the future, and reduce the damage stress can do over time.

Schubert Theater boston night

You can practice mindfulness while you are doing anything from washing dishes or folding laundry, to walking upstairs or even eating.

All you need do is spend a few minutes focusing on the details and sensations of the moment. Use all of your senses, one at a time.

Mindful eating is a good exercise for beginners. For example, while eating an orange you can focus on the color and roughness of the skin and the different colors and shapes of the segments. Then focus on the feel of the rind, pulp and juice on your hands, face, lips and tongue and the sensations in your mouth, throat and stomach as you bite, chew and swallow. Then turn to the smell and the taste of each bite and how they change as you go through the process of eating. Come back to the real world slowly and focus on abdominal breathing for a few moments before you get on with your day.


Life is aggravating. It just is. You can’t completely eliminate everyday annoyances or anxiety, so be prepared to change how your body reacts to them. I’ve explained abdominal breathing, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, mindful walking, visualization, and mindfulness. All these techniques can reduce the level of stress stored up in your body and mind. Using these can dramatically improve the quality of your life.


Do what you can, whenever you can for as long as you can. Just … do something. No matter how small, anything you do will protect you and help heal your mind and body. In the process, you’ll develop skills which will serve you well in the future by allowing you to take control of your responses to the stress life inevitably brings.



It has been an amusing trip for me, realizing that so many of the things I’ve always done while taking pictures has a name.

BW Steeple

The first one was “bokeh” which it turned out means a softly blurred background. Then along came the “rule of thirds” and now, it’s “negative space.”

BW Manchaug - 2013

Again, instinct takes over. My natural dislike of clutter takes over, so I always try to leave some room for nothingness. When I create a web page or a printed one, I leave a lot of “white space” — at least 60% including margins and gutters — because the human eye is easily distracted. If you fill up everything, it pulls the eye away from the thing you want looked at.

Thank you Paula for being such a gracious host and a fine example.


Which Ones Hold Your Memories? by Rich Paschall

A lot of people have a song or two that are special to them.  It might be their prom theme song or other high school or college dance song.  It might be their first dance from their wedding.  It just might be the song that was playing when they met or when they first realized they were in love.

The special song could be one remembered from a rock concert or play.  It maybe the one that was on the radio when you were off on a road trip.  You know the one!  Everyone sang along at the top of their voices.  When you meet now and hear that song, everyone sings it again, just like 20, 30, or even 40 years ago.

Here is my top ten list.  They all hold special memories and if I was to write this tomorrow, the order might change completely, except for number one.  That would stay the same.  First I have some honorable mentions from recent years.

I have seen Maroon 5 in concert a number of times in recent years, but I really like Sunday Morning for a memory it evokes.  I also love David Archuleta’s Touch My Hand for the thoughts it gives of being on stage but singing to just one person.  Hunter Hayes touches a chord with the recent Invisible.  I mentioned it previously here.  I will also add One Republic’s Apologize, as in “it’s too late to apologize.”

10.  Ferry Cross the Mersey, Gerry and the Pacemakers.  This 1965 hit seemed to play constantly on a road trip to Galena, Illinois.  You had to love top 40 radio in those days.

9.  Sister Golden Hair, America.  This 1975 number one hit was a favorite of Chicago radio personality Larry Lujack.

8.  Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? Chicago.  Recorded for the band’s first album, Chicago Transit Authority, 1969, it was released as a single the following year.

7.  Save The Last Dance For Me, The Drifters The 1960 hit came back around a number of times and by several artists.  If you saw the final episode of season one of Queer As Folk, no further explanation of its meaning to me would be necessary.

6.  Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys  I guess I could have picked several Beach Boys Songs for this spot, especially Heroes and Villains.  They recall a particular era for me.

5.  Color My World, Chicago.  Again off the “CTA” album.  It was a popular theme for dances, proms, weddings.  The late Terry Kath did lead vocals on the hit song.  These days original member and trumpet player Lee Loughnane sings it.  Here it is founding member Robert Lamm on vocals:

4.  Horse With No Name, America  It is a favorite of my closest friend and it became our road trip song.  This 1972 hit was written and sung by band member Dewey Bunnell.

3.  That’s Life, Frank Sinatra, 1966  A friend who ran karaoke often asked me to sing it.  If she had no one to start off her show, she would just announce that I would be starting and play this, even if I was not going to sing anything.  I ended up singing it a lot:

2.  Cherish, The Association.  A friend asked me to write a lyric for his sister’s wedding song.  Someone else asked me after the wedding how I thought to rhyme cherish with perish (as in, “their love will never perish”).  Listen and discover:

1. Beginnings, Chicago  I saw them in concert at DePaul University when the first album was hot and the hits were being released one after another.  This was the theme of many dances and certainly many weddings and proms.  I can not adequately explain the memories that go with this song.  From my seat on Chicago’s lakefront:

Add your favorites in the comments below.  Maybe we will sing along with you.


My mother was deeply cynical. She considered herself an atheist, but I think it was more that she felt God had done such a crappy job, he didn’t deserve worship.


I knew a lot of the experiences that had made her the way she was. The Great Depression. Two world wars, Korea, and Vietnam. She believe people were mostly stupid, racist, and cruel. That all government was oppressive by its nature.

Although not a conspiracy nut, she was pretty sure someone was out to get us. Probably a hangover from the Hitler era followed by HUAC witch hunts of the 1950s — shameful periods of history we are apparently determined to repeat.


I’m pretty happy in my personal life, but the body politic is appalling. Sickening. I find myself watching CNN with my jaw hanging open. I would never have believed our electorate could be so stupid, ignorant, mean-spirited, bigoted, and bent on self-destruction as they obviously are. If we used the same amount of energy we use for hating each other into improving society, we could fix everything that’s wrong with the world — fast.

Saguaro Storm 06

It’s depressing. I don’t see a positive outcome. I think we are doomed. As a species, we probably deserve it, but personally, I resent it because I’ve done my best. There ought to be a payoff for doing the right thing, don’t you think?

Some of my friends are more optimistic, but I think i’s because they don’t want to believe what’s happening. In a world where Donald Trump is the leading candidate in the party of Abraham Lincoln, what light could be at the end of the tunnel? Bets on the headlights of an oncoming train.


I really don’t care what Democrat you vote for. Just please, vote for one. I’ve never been sure about God, but I look around, I believe in the Devil. His paw prints are all over this world — and I’m pretty sure he’s running the Republican Party.

By the way … I’d be very pleased to be proved wrong.


State of Mind

In Hebrew, state-of-mind translates literally to “state of the (your, implied) wind.” I’ve always liked the saying.  It’s poetic … and likens how I feel, my “now” state to the natural world. The wind that blows through my life and mind. My state of the wind.


My current state of mind is surprisingly positive. Despite a whole bunch of small, medium and kind of large problems, losses, and more — I feel good about life.


Maybe it’s because winter is nearly over and it was an easy one, something for which I ardently hoped. Being away for a couple of weeks in a different part of the country helped too. People who live in cold wintry places should take a break to be reminded the sun still shines.

Otherwise, winter can be very long and isolating here.



From Cee: This week’s Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge (CB&W) topic is Sepia Tones Only. The topic this week is endless as long as your photos are in sepia (brown) stone. No black and white for this week’s challenge. Selective color is allowed with your sepia tones.

I have only recently begun to experiment with toning in monochrome.


It’s interesting how sepia (and other toning) can change the feeling you get from a picture.


For me, it’s a major mood changer. More mysterious, perhaps?


There is an antique quality to sepia that makes even the most modern scene look like it’s pulled from the pages of an old book. I like that.


Cee's Black & White Photo Challenge Badge


My father studied with Sigmund Freud in Vienna in 1921. He was one of the first psychoanalysts to practice the “new” field of psychiatry in this country — in New York City. If you’re trying to do the math, I am not approaching 90. My father was almost 60 when I was born.

One of my Dad’s cases from that time has haunted me. I wanted to write a script based on this story for my audio theater group, Voicescapes Audio Theater. But it involves a hit man for the mob going to a psychiatrist. It was done, with great success and humor in “Analyze This” with Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal. And of course in “The Sopranos” on HBO.

mobster4The fact that my father’s story predates these versions by over 50 years does not seem to matter. When I tell the story, people are fascinated, but say: “Too bad you can’t turn this into a script – it’s already been done.” I still think it’s a great story, so I’ll tell it to you. With the proviso you don’t try to turn it into a script.

A man walked into my father’s office and said he needed psychiatric help. What was the problem? He couldn’t do his job anymore. It meant a demotion at work and a pay cut.

What was his job?

He was a hit man for the mob and just couldn’t seem to pull the trigger. He talked about the demotion to second story work (burglaries), as any corporate employee would. He complained he was too old now to go back to climbing in and out of windows.


He was humiliated by his lower status in the organization. So was his wife. She was getting snubbed by the upper level mob wives. She was furious about the pay cut he had to take and was making his life miserable.

My father had a moral dilemma. Should he do his job and help this man go out and kill people again? He only killed other mobsters, never civilians — and did that make a moral difference? Or should he uphold his personal feelings rather than his professional ones, and turn the man away?

He wondered how he would go about stifling the stirrings of conscience in this man, even if he wanted to.


My father was also concerned about his personal safety. He asked the man how he could be sure if he cured him, the man wouldn’t come back and shoot him because he knew too much. The man said: “ Doc, how do I know you’re not going to turn me into the authorities? I guess we’re just going to have to trust each other.”

My Dad was intrigued by the man. His curiosity and professional ethics won. He took the man on as a patient. Unfortunately the story ends pretty much there. My father had several sessions with the man and then the man just stopped coming.

By sir_trees-d6cn6ls

By sir_trees-d6cn6ls

Maybe the story has stayed with me all these years because it ended in mystery. I theorized the man fell out a second story window in the course of a robbery. My father thought maybe he had told someone about his progress in therapy and the hit man who “replaced” him decided he wanted to keep his promotion.

I think this story is different from the whiny mobster and shrink stories already out there. I may yet write a script using this as a part of the plot. But for now, the story is a big hit at dinner parties.

Hopefully, it makes a good post, too.



America doesn’t have much of a traceable past. Not only are we a rather recent addition to the list of nations, but long ago remnants exist only if they were built of stone.

old number 2

Who know how many civilizations came and went on Earth without leaving traces because they built their cities from wood or adobe?


Old means very different things here and there.


Now we build cities and steel towers. We’ve created piles of rubbish that will never decay.


A thousand years from now, archaeologists may believe we worshiped aluminum cans or plastic bottles. Because that’s what they will find.


Evil Squirrel’s Nest Comic #200 — 2/25/16


And another milestone is reached with my 200th edition of my comic strip!  Thank you for helping inspire me to make you laugh, cry, smile and groan for the past 200 Thursdays!

Congratulations, Bill.

You brighten my life and make me laugh.



This week’s topic is Things that are rough. Anything that feels rough, like sand paper, gravel, tree bark, an elephant’s trunk or a cactus or rusty piece of metal. Lots of rough things in this world.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


The 59th Street Bridge Song – Simon and Garfunkel …

“If you could slow down an action that usually zooms by, or speed up an event that normally drags on, which would you choose, and why? … “

I would slow down everything to make all the moments last and grab every possible moment of joy before it is gone …”

Blast from the past, but it’s the right song for this moment in time and maybe lots of moments in time. One of my all time favorites.


Take me back to Coney Island, the Coney Island I remember from when I was a child.

Boardwalk at Coney Island - Marilyn Armstrong

I want to be on the Boardwalk. I want to sniff the air full of the aroma of spicy exotic food, pop corn and hotdogs. I want to smell the salt air blowing off the ocean and shade my eyes from the gleam of bright sun on white sand.


I want to hear the endless screams of riders on the Cyclone, the squeal of kids discovering how far they can see from the top of the Wonder Wheel.


I want to watch the people, all the different people of every color from everywhere in the world as thy gape at the strange wonders along the boardwalk, hear the rumble of the elevated trains passing.


I want it to be exactly how it was the first time I rode the big roller coasters and screamed in delighted terror. I want to be that child again for a single day, the little girl discovering fear and wonder on a hot summer day when the world and I were both young.