Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Knowing when to stay and when to go.....

I leave Italy one week from today.   

Three months ago, I departed my known world with these lyrics from David Byrne’s “Glass and Concrete and Stone” in mind:
Looking at happiness
Keeping my flavor fresh
Nobody knows, I guess
How far I go, I know

And so I started this adventure with open bookends...

and with more David Byrne (Talking Heads – “Once in a Lifetime”) lyrics:
And you may find yourself in another part of the world...

I have not rushed to see every famous thing, here in the old world. I did not come to sightsee. Mostly I have been in place…
Letting the days go by
Let the water hold me down

And I have found much to love in my quiet wanderings.
Here are some random samples of European flavors to savor:


Things to love about Italy:

women in skirts on Vespas
men in pink pants
the song of cicadas
angels on bridges
Aperol Spritz with free appetizers

Things to love about France:

multi-language Scrabble at night in the café on the square
being able to speak the language
the stranger with the kindest face I’ve ever seen

Things to love about Germany:

girls on bicycles
women in braids
tall, good-looking men who drink beer for breakfast
windows that both tilt and open – hello America!
efficiency and cleanliness in every corner

And yet, 
despite all the new experiences and new friends to love, 
I am ready to come home.

Travel can be both exhilarating and isolating... 

It is like being invited to a party, 
but watching it through the window from the sidewalk.

And you may tell yourself,
This is not my beautiful house
This is not my beautiful wife…

That said, people here have been extremely friendly. Indeed, I have had to ask for assistance a number of times and have only experienced helpfulness and generosity (sometimes in words I couldn’t understand but, still, the kindness is decipherable).

Of course, when traveling, one has to be prepared to be humbled by the inevitable mistakes that happen. Traveling alone, in particular, can be very educating. 

Here are six handy travel tips I can share with you: 

  1.       Do NOT get involved in an emotional text message while waiting for the train. If you do, you will find yourself, ten minutes later, sitting on the slow rumbler that stops at every god-forsaken little station, examining your expensive ticket for the high-speed trip, as your sleek, modern train whizzes by. The Hey, that’s my train moment…… 
  2.      Do NOT agree to rub ointment onto the aching back of an Italian man. When he goes to the hospital in an ambulance, it is not your fault. The fact that he phones a dozen people to discuss the situation, saying things like “L’Americana” and “massaggio” will remind you to never do this again. In fact, the Italian Parliament is probably drafting a law, even now, to ensure that you, personally, never again perform “massaggio” in Italy.
  3.      Do NOT let the owner of the lovely restaurant on the outskirts of Sienna ply you with free Limoncellos, no matter how nice he is, or how sweet and yummy they are. If you get lost finding your way back to the hostel that night, it is your own fault
  4.       Do NOT bring luggage to Corniglia, in the Cinque Terre. Just don’t. If the sun is relentless and the bus is done for the day, it is just you and 400, yes 400, stairs to climb from the train station to the village. Trust me, it’s better to wear the same sundress for three days....
  5.       Do NOT sit on the Altstadt in Dusseldorf, at night, in a pretty dress. Known as “the longest bar in the world,” this is not a place I’d recommend wandering alone. The men are not shy…...
  6.       Do NOT try to drive like the Italians. When they roar up on your tail and park there, 2cm away, set aside your driving bravado and just pull over. Let them rush past you. Let them rip down double roads the width of a horsecart. Let them pass the ubiquitous bicyclist on a blind corner. In this case, when in Rome, do NOT do like the Romans….
These may (or may not) be valuable lessons. Some of them may (or may not) end up in the book on which I am feverishly working, day and night (well, that may be a small exaggeration, but it is coming along). Fresh inspiration is a beautiful thing. As is the call of one’s home.

And so, in a week, I return with several mementos (the snakeskin I found, a few feathers, the rosaries blessed by the pope – one for me, one for my mom), a few lessons, a couple new friendships, and one open heart..............

and more David Byrne singing in my head -
I’m wakin’ at the crack of dawn…
Gonna be on my way…
And my head is fifty feet high…
Let my body and soul be my guide.

I hope to see you all soon!

xox, Cate

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The gritty underbelly of glamor

Every glamorous thing has its flip side, when reality smacks you in the face.

You know what I mean - that fleeting “I hate everything” moment that comes to all of us. 
We tend to shun such unacceptable thoughts because it’s not nice to hate and my mother taught me to count my blessings.  

Counting blessings is good, but there’s still that moment….

Here are some examples you may relate to: 

Having a Baby. 
What a wonderful, exciting event!
Everyone gushes over you; you get to buy new clothes; people hold parties just so they can give you gifts; and babies are so adorable….
Then, there’s that moment when you realize it may be years before you sleep a night through, there’s spitup stains on the shoulder of every blouse you own, your figure will never be the same, and good god will he never stop crying?

Getting a Job out of College.
What a wonderful exciting event!
Everyone gushes over you; you get to wear grown up clothes; you’ll be raking in the dough; and the girls will swoon over your hot new car….
Then, there’s that moment when you realize you hate your boss, the paycheck barely covers the rent-plus-student-loans, 6 am is freakin’ early, and oh god am I really going to be doing this every day for the rest of my life?

Falling in Love.
What a wonderful exciting event!
Everyone gushes over you; you go buy sexy new shoes; there’s magic in his every look and touch; and he is so handsome….
Then, there’s that moment when you realize he farts in bed, he wants to watch sports all day, your sink will never again be free of dishes, and how could anyone hate your mother.

You know what I mean.

Well, I reached my “I hate everything” moment yesterday.

I hesitate to share this side of me, because I know you all think I am “living the life” here in Tuscany. Yet, in the interest of honesty, here it is: the gritty side of the glamor:

For the last month I have basked in the sun, savored nature’s bounty for every meal, relished getting my hands into soil again, and appreciated all the abundant plant and animal life.

Yesterday, that all changed.

First, I was so frickin’ hot. Yes, I know you all are hot too. But (and yes, I am whining) I have no air conditioning, no cold water, no ice (the freezer doesn’t work), no access to a pool or lake, and I’d surely expire if I rode the bike into town for a cold beer.

Second, my love and appreciation of all things living is kaput. I’m talking about mosquitos. Are they really one of God’s creatures? Why, I ask, why?

Sure, I br­ought repellant, but I’m pretty sure the jokester at the factory put attractant in my bottle. I have so many bites, I look like I have chicken pox. The little bastards are stealth machines – tiny and silent. I seldom even see one to swat at. But the evidence of their presence is abundant. Last night, as I lay “protected” under my mosquito netting, I saw one fly by my face. I wanted to cry.

I tried rubbing my body with mint, basil, and clay from the stream (the clay was a good look). These are supposedly natural repellants. Not.

The Buddhist owner here says mosquitos don’t bother him and that I just need to make peace with them. So, I tried to create positive zen energy by telling the little buggers I would not try to kill them if they would not eat me alive. I actually refrained from swatting them for a period…but they did not reciprocate the kindness….

So, fuck natural remedies and fuck sending them positive energy. I resorted to Deet. Nothing like bathing in chemicals every morning and night. Plus, there’s the smell. Ugh. I laughed when an Italian lady at the market said to me, “Oh, you smell good. I love your perfume.” Parfum de Deet, it’s all the rage. Then, I ran out of the stuff, and you can’t find it here.

I’ve hardly slept at night due to the sensitivity of all those bites and I can’t open the windows because the screens suck and it’s too hot out there anyway.

Plus, I was tired of dirt under my fingernails.
And tired of getting shocked every time I plug in my old metal-sided computer (power converter not withstanding).
And I would have killed for a burger, or a Starbucks iced latte, or even a popsicle.
And then, the final straw. I had a gastrointestinal reaction to something I ate and my stomach was in revolt.

That’s when it happened. I got to that point. The “I hate everything” moment.

It came in the middle of the night and I didn’t fight it.
I just lay with it. I looked it in the face, acknowledged it, and accepted the moment.
I knew that it came from a culmination of many things: losses, challenges, changes, incessant itching.

I relished, for a moment, the grief that still rolls over me from some of the recent transitions in my life. I let it lie on me like an exhausted lover, cherishing its weight, then patting it on the fanny and telling it to move off.

I sighed, for a moment, over the feeling that life is just too hard, sometimes. I let that belief soak gently into me and disappear, like soft rain on hard ground.

I said out loud, “And I’m tired of trying to speak freakin’ Italian!” And that was okay, too. And it made me laugh, which made my stomach gurgle, which made me giggle again.

And then it was done. My happy equilibrium returned and I fell to sleep peacefully.

I’m a big believer in letting all emotions have their moment in the spotlight, without judgment. Yet, we are taught to repress our negative emotions. We've all seen someone yell, “I’m not angry!” or say, “Everything’s fine,” with their features screwed up tight, or deny that they are irritated, after pitching a bitch fit, simply because being irritated is not on their list of allowed emotions. This is something we learn from years of social training.

The best way to get to the other side of an emotion is to lean into it. Kind of like crossing a river. You can lean into the current and move through it, or you can turn your back to it and let the current knock you in the knees.

“What river? I don’t see any river.” 

Denying it does not make it go away.

We start early to indoctrinate our children on this “just say no” to emotions. If a child comes home complaining about a teacher, most parents say all sort of things like: “She’s just trying to help you,” or “You need to be paying better attention,” or “It’s not nice to call her a mean old cat.” And the child will argue back and explain and get more upset (because he hasn’t yet learned the rule about which emotions are okay and which are not).

I learned, with my kids, that acknowledging the emotion immediately diffused it. I would simply say, to the complaining child, “It sounds like you’re upset.

He would look me in the face and say, “Yeah.” Then, having been heard and understood, he would go play and forget all about it. Try it. It works.

It worked for me last night. I looked that unpleasant emotion in the face and it quickly disappeared..

So, I say, let those emotions have their day. Lean into them. Let them be in the spotlight for the attention they crave. Then, they will simply escort themselves off stage, like characters whose scene is over, leaving you to enjoy the play.

And in the meantime, is anyone willing to mail me some Deet???? Email me at

Sunday, June 28, 2015

It takes a village....

As most of you know, I love to write.

Many of you read my first mystery, Silent Sky. Yes, I like to write about adventure and action . . . and yes, Reina is getting into trouble again. . . . She just can't help it!

What you may not know, is that I have oodles of other stuff that languishes, lonely, on my computer. I just am not very disciplined about submitting stories and articles and poems for publication. Sometimes, I wonder if, as with Emily Dickinson, my poetry will be discovered post-mortem and will find a place in this world.

Or, perhaps I'll get the guts to publish some of it one day.....

Anywho . . . I am making an effort to get my writing out there in the world. And that is where you all come in. . . . .

I would love it if you would all read the piece that just got published in the lovely, online elephant journal. Just click on the link below and check it out. Then, even if it is not your cup of tea, if you would be so kind as to share it (ASAP if possible as the internet world moves quickly) to your family/friends on facebook, google+, and any other social media you use, that would be so totally awesome!!

I hope you all know how much I appreciate the support and comments and love I receive from you! Keep sending me emails.

xox, Cate

Friday, June 19, 2015

Today's Friday, I think I'll Move to Italy

Buon Giorno from Italy!

One month ago I decided I needed a change. Now, some people rearrange the furniture. Me, I moved to Italy. For a time, anyway, exact dates yet to be determined.... 

People ask, "How did you just up and do that?" Well, I hopped onto a website, found a housesitting position in Tuscany, and two days later bought my ticket. 

Most people are not comfortable with such drastic changes, and for good reason; There is the house and car and pets and job and all the stuff to take care of.  

Several years ago, I started simplifying my life by paring down on life's "stuff." I ruthlessly sold, gave away, or threw away all kinds of things, even those items that held memories or family significance. 
Sure, I still have the photo albums of my kids and some small family mementos, but did I really need to store that antique dining room table for the "someday" that one of my kids might want it? Nope. Let it go. What about the extra coats and blankets crammed in the closet? (in case of a terrorist strike on our power grid) - Let 'em go. What about the piles of electronic cords and bits accumulated from various past computers? (might need one to garrotte a zombie during the apocalypse) - Let 'em go. What about the blenders (how did I end up with three?), the broken lamps, the mismatched Tupperware, the extra frames, the scraps of paper/wood/fabric/metal/junk that I might need someday for something? - Let 'em all go. 

And, I discovered that with each layer I let go, I felt lighter and lighter. I tell people, now, that I spent 25 years accumulating stuff and I spent the last five trying to get rid of it all.
I see so many houses full of clutter - old magazines, figurines and trinkets, a china cabinet full of vases and never-used crystal glasses. Walls, corners, closets full of precious "stuff" that accumulates like layers of papier mâché, restricting our mobility. When I walk into a house full of old stuff, I immediately feel it weigh down my energy. There is a reason spas are so spartan, clean and bright; Open space allows energy to flow freely. I often notice that the inhabitants of cluttered homes are perennially tired, overweight, or even sickly. It is no wonder! Their energy is slumping with the dust bunnies beneath the unused piano. 

Step one to being open to change is to get rid of stuff. Trust me, you'll feel better. Take your stuff to someplace like Goodwill and allow someone less fortunate to benefit from your discards. I love to shop at Goodwill. I like that no new resources are consumed in what I buy and I also find some awesome, unique clothing that is impossible to find in the ubiquitous chain stores.

Step two to making positive changes is learning to develop a comfort level with the unknown. The unknown is scary, kind of like that monster under your bed when you were a kid - I vividly recall how terrified I was, as a child, to put my feet on the floor because of whatever it was that was lurking under my bed. And yet, like that imaginary monster, the reality behind our fears doesn't really exist. 
Yes, real and present on a recent walk

I ask myself, when fears crop up (and they do), "Is this a real and present danger, (i.e., the house is on fire; I could perish in the flames) or is it an imaginary scenario?" 

Imaginary scenarios include, "What if the plane gets highjacked?" "What if my money and passport get stolen?" "What if TSA finds more than 3 ounces of lotion in my carry-on and throws me into the gulag?" 

Yes, any of the above could happen (well, maybe not the gulag...) but they are not real and present dangers. Yes, I need to prepare adequately and take precautions, as with anything, and then I need to step forward boldly in action. That is where the fun starts to happen in life. New experiences, new people, new challenges to keep the mind and body and soul growing. Change is invigorating!

"When you step out boldly toward change, the universal plates move to support you -
dance lightly and joyfully on the shifting times"

Step three to experiencing the benefit of change is to cultivate a sense of attention. Be aware of when something doesn't feel right in your life. If your life is feeling stale or unsatisfying, be open to looking it in the face and asking why. In all likelihood, it won't require a wholesale move to another country, but perhaps a little change will breathe more joy into your life - take dancing lessons, learn to fly (had to throw that one in), get a sex change (just a quick nod to Bruce Jenner there). Be attentive to your life. It's the only one you got, so don't waste a single day wishing it were something different. 

And when you make a change, be attentive, and accepting, of whatever it brings. 

This is me without luggage
For example, lost baggage. Okay, I can wear the same clothes for three days. The other passengers in the train may not like it, but c'est la vie! Oops, thats' French, which brings me to the next difficulty: I don't speak a word of Italian (other than pizza, spaghetti, ravioli, etc). Not being able to communicate is an ego leveler. On my first trip to the supermercado, I brought a bunch of fruits and vegies to the check out not realizing I was supposed to weigh them and put the pricetag on myself. Of course, the line was building up behind me, with me stumbling to understand.... Embarassing, yeah, but I just smiled, said grazie and headed back to the produce section. 

Unlike some European countries, very few people here speak English. And why should they? It's Italy, after all, and their language is perfectly good. So, I am busy learning enough Italian to not feel like an idiot in public. Other little challenges crop up every day - how to get around, how to find a public toilet, how to smile at the attention from handsome Italianos without giving them too much encouragement....

Change is life's way of opening new doors for us (although sometimes you have to wait for that door, as in when you bike into town several kilometers away, only to find that the store is closed from 12:30 to 4:30! - see left)

Sometimes change is a little painful during the transition period, especially when it comes unasked, as in the loss of a loved one, but there is a whole new world available to us when we step across the threshold of change. 

So, see if your life could use a little (or big) change. And if you do end up in sure and look me up! But wherever it is life brings you, I hope your view is grand!

xox, Cate

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

In Need of Mental Floss

I have decided that I have "professional schizophrenia." 

You see, I really want to spend all my time writing. And I need to finish/publish all the stuff I've written - ghost stories, erotica, children's books, poems, and that PROMISED sequel to Silent Sky!  
 For those of you who have asked, the sequel won't be long. See below for a contest to title it.

The other part of me says, I really want to spend all my time flying. I want to stay steeped in aviation and have amazing flying adventures. I want to go and see and do, not sit around behind a computer! To that end, I have recently started working with NW Seaplanes out of Seattle. Who knows, maybe I'll finally get my floatplane license . . . in a De Havilland Beaver? Big Smile! And I want to fly to OshKosh this year, an event I've never been to - always too busy running my businesses.

And yet a third person inside me says, I really want to spend all my time helping people. I obtained my Life Coach Certificate this year (through the Tony Robbins - Rock Star of Transformational Change - program) and so many people tell me how my words and suggestions have helped them find positive change within themselves.

I suppose we all find ourselves pulled in different directions. We struggle to balance the work vs. play/earn vs. spend/do vs. be sides of our selves. Although sometimes I chastise myself for not marching more methodically toward my goals, I am also kind to myself. It will all come in time and, somehow, all the puzzle pieces fit together to make the whole of a well-lived life.

What do you work to juggle in your life?
Mark Twain said,
The two most important days of your life
are the day you are born
and the day you find out why.

I do believe we are all put on this earth for a reason, with a mission. I'm fine-tuning what mine is. What's yours? I love to hear from you, as always.

Oh, and here is the Book-Naming Contest: I want the title of the sequel to have the word "Sky" in it (you know, like Silent Sky) only different. I realize you don't know the content, but know that Reina and friends will have to unwind a mystery that will lead to danger and excitement. So . . .  throw out some titles. Anything goes as long as it has the word "Sky" somewhere. If I choose your title, you get a free, specially signed, copy

Looking forward to your comments/emails!

xo, Cate

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Reality - It's a Whole New World

When I was raising my boys, I watched a lot of Disney movies with them. As you know, all those films end Happily Ever After. Of course, we all know reality is something quite different. The bad guys don't always get their comeuppance, the genie doesn't really appear to grant your wishes, the princess doesn't necessarily ride off into the sunset with her prince.

You were probably taught about reality too - that you have to work hard, often in a job you hate, to pay the bills; You have to scrape and scurry to climb that ladder so you can have all those things that are supposed to make life better; You have to protect your own, because there is not enough to go around; And, if you suffer enough, you will get your reward in the after life.

In fact, our whole world is built on those premises. Scrape, Scurry, Struggle, Protect. We do work that numbs us to death because it will enable us to buy that bigger house or boat or car. We don't stop to give that guy on the corner twenty bucks because, dammit, we worked hard for our money (and he didn't!) Our corporations underpay employees so they can increase profits. Our countries wage war to protect economic security and religious self-righteousness. And each fear-based, defensive action perpetuates another round of war, poverty, hate, hopelessness.

Don't get me wrong. I am no stranger to "reality." I grew up economically deprived. I've worked hard at jobs I hated. I've decreed the beggar on the street to be a "bum." I've tried to justify religion and war, in the name of God and self-defense. I've accumulated wealth in the hopes it would buy me happiness.

But guess what? None of it worked. Living in fear and self-defense just doesn't bring happiness or security, on a small or large scale. Check it out:

"For most of this century, we've been fighting wars to enhance our security, and each time, we find ourselves with more enemies and less security." -Steve Chapman

So, something's gotta change... Can I change the world with one blog post? I WISH!!!!

Can we change at all? I believe the answer is yes.

I believe we change one person at a time. Personal transformation and empowerment has always been near and dear to my heart. It is what I loved about teaching people how to fly and what I love about being a Life Coach, writer, and speaker.

I hope you will join with me - and Disney's Aladdin - in believing the world into a different reality. I can personally testify that when we change our beliefs, we change our reality. I've seen it in my life and I've seen it in others. Your life depends on it. And so does our world.

I can show you the world
Shining, shimmering, splendid . . .
I can open your eyes
Take you wonder by wonder
Over, sideways and under
On a magic carpet ride

A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us no or where to go
Or say we're only dreaming

A whole new world
A dazzling place I never knew
But when I'm way up here, it's crystal clear . . .
Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling
Through an endless diamond sky

A whole new world
Don't you dare close your eyes
A hundred thousand things to see
Hold your breath, it gets better

I'm like a shooting star
I've come so far
I can't go back
To where I used to be . . .
A wondrous place
For you and me

Listen to Aladdin here

PS. I know I've been a long time silent. I missed you all!!

xo, Cate