Advice to my 19-year-old Self: Monday Musings

As I look down at the skin discoloration and new freckles on my sun-damaged arms and hands, I silently berate myself for not having stayed out of the sun or, at the very least, worn some serious sunscreen when I was younger.  The harsh reality is, once you cross over that proverbial middle-aged number (I like to think of it as a moving target, but I know in my heart of hearts I have long since crossed it), all your old vices and bad habits come back to haunt you.

I remember back in the 1990’s there was a song by Baz Luhrmann called “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen”.  It was actually more of a speech put to music than a song (click here to listen). Nevertheless, it contained copious amounts of good advice given to a graduating class. It got me to musing, what kind of advice would my older-self give today to my younger-self?

The first one would be to wear sunscreen. Seriously!  I remember in the summer months (and spring and fall whenever possible) in my youth going to the beach or the pool daily and absolutely baking every piece of my legally allowable visible skin.  Sunscreen? That was for sissies. I would slather on a greasy mixture of baby oil and iodine (yes iodine to stain the skin darker) and bake front side and back side in 30-minute increments for hours.

I went on a girl’s trip to the Bahamas after high school graduation and proudly compared myself to the many local’s deep coco skin. I was darker than half of them. Hey 19- year-old self: Dark tans on white girls do not make you look sexy (no matter what Hawaiian Tropic tells you), it only helps insure a visit from the melanoma fairy later in life. Not to mention the loss of elasticity and wrinkles. Argh! Wrinkles!

Secondly, your parents are going to give you good advice. But only to a point. That is right, those annoying adult people who kept laying all those rules on you for all your teenage years?  They were giving you good advice.  They are two of the most important people in your life and will always be, even after they are gone. And they have already crossed over to their middle age. They get it. They lived it. Listen to their advice and respect them. However, do not let their advice rule your decisions completelyFor example,  I thought hs Kat w cameraabout a career in The Arts (read starving artist) when we had to declare a major for higher education. My father steered me towards business because he felt I would make more money and have more stability. Their job was to protect and help keep things secure and comfortable. If I wanted to do something completely adventurous or risky, they would not have been especially supportive. Hey 19-year-old self: Go with your gut. If you feel strongly about doing something outside the box, DO IT.

Third, do not be so shy and cautious! Okay, you are doing better these last few years since the painfully shy child you were in grade school. But I see it still holds you back.  Do not be frightened to be bold. Speak up, reach out, take risks. The greater the risks, the greater the rewards. Remember when you were a freshman in high school and you excelled in Spanish class? You had the opportunity to be a year-long exchange student in Bolivia or Chile or some other exotic South American country, but you opted out because of some unfounded fear. That would have been one of the most amazing experiences of your life. And now you would not be struggling to have command of the Spanish language.  Hey 19-year-old self, it is time to become fearless and forget that you were ever shy.

Fourth, do not get caught up with classmates or friends making fun of people or being unkind. We all have our personal handicaps.  We are all trying to find where we fit in and how this world works. You are no more superior than anyone else on this earth. You may have better skills or opportunities or even beauty, but that does not give you license to be unkind or intolerant. Be a uniter not a divider. 

Fifth, do not play with people’s hearts.  Several men will fall in love with yohs kat dallasu in the future. Some relationships will be beautiful and some not so much. Most of them will end in an unpleasant way. You, most likely, will be the one ending it. Once you know the relationship is not working, be honest and up front.  Do not play with his heart. He will love you and he deserves to be treated with respect.  Make an effort to remain friends, if you desire. If you once really loved one another, he will always have a special place in your heart after the dust settles.

Sixth, eat healthy, drink less alcohol and stay fit.  Sounds silly now, right? You look pretty damn good and you don’t have to worry about weight gain or any health issues.  Guess what? Metabolism changes. Health changes. Suddenly you wonder how cholesterol levels can possibly creep up. And where the heck did those 5 extra kilos come from?  Stay fit for life starting now and don’t miss health check ups. Hey 19-year-old self, you will thank me later.

Seventh, never say “That will never happen to me.” in your cocky littler manner. You have no idea what will or will not happen to you until you live your life.

Eighth, learn to be more patient.  In the upcoming decades you are going to see massive changes in the way we communicate, in the way you do your job, in the way the politics shift. Everything that touches your life will change. For the only constant is change (no, it is not a cliché). This is going to require a lot of patience on your part. You are going to have to relearn and reprogram your brain and your lifestyle. Be patient, with not only your learning process, but with others as well.  Learning new things will be fantastic and also frustrating.  Practice patience.

Ninth, spend time around children and elderly. You don’t spend enough time around either. Start now. You will learn some amazing things from the raw truths spoken by both ends of the life-cycle spectrum.  Hey 19-year-old self, you won’t have kids of your own, but you will have plenty to love in India.

Tenth, travel every chance you can. HS kat in FranceGet out there and discover the world. It will expand your mind, make you more tolerant of different beliefs and thankful for what you have. And yes, you are off to a good start.

Eleventh, do not be so hard on yourself. You will meet plenty of people who will do that for you. You are smarter, cooler, prettier than you think. Just be happy in your  own skin. Hey 19-year old self, they are going to call you eccentric. Take it as a compliment. HS kat with mug

Lastly, get involved. Make a difference.  You have the power to make changes which will make our world better. Even if you don’t believe you can. You can.

You probably won’t take all this advice. I know you better by now than you know yourself. And trust me on the sunscreen!

Monday Musings. What woud you tell YOUR younger self?  Have a great week!




How Lonely is Fame? Holiday Musings

I remember when I was younger and my mom would be saddened because a movie star died.  It is not that she ever knew them or they were friends or anything, but yet she always had a brief sadness at their passing.  “Sexy Rock Hudson died. I cannot believe he was gay.” “Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire were the best dancers of my era, I cannot believe he is gone.” “Judy Garland had so much ahead of her; dying at just 47.  I cannot believe she took her own life.” She would say after each new passing was announced by the media.  In my childlike way I did not completely understand it. Everyone dies. And we go through stages of grief when our loved ones leave us.  But what about someone we did not know?

Now that I have grown beyond the age of my mother when she lamented these deaths, I understand her brief sadness each time it happened and her desire to relive those movies. It transports us back in time. 2016 seems like a long year of losing too many iconic artists…Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Carrie Fischer, David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and many more entertainers.

Most of these stars were pop cultural figures in my coming-of-age era and, in their way, helped form who I am today.   I loved Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I remember my teacher in grade school reading this story out loud to the class. I would fantasize that this chocolate factory really existed. I would have given anything to find a golden ticket in my chocolate bar.  Gene Wilder played a perfect eccentric chocolate factory owner. And who didn’t want Mrs. Brady to be their mom? She was so “groovy”!  I never missed an episode of the Brady Bunch. And any young girl who saw the original Star Wars series wanted to be Princess Leia. She was a role model as a female science fiction superhero.

However,  is was the musicians who forced me to reach into the depths of my soul to find the outrageous part of me.  When we are in our teens, coming of age, we tend to question everything about tradition and reach out to new ideas.  Trying to find who we are; experimenting. I cannot think of a better trio of gender-bending, sexually charged men than Prince, David Bowie and George Michael. We were young, the next generation, and these musicians helped create much of pop music for the next several decades.  The Fred Astaires and Glen Millers of the Depression era kids  and the hippie icons of the baby boomers had morphed into make-up wearing, costumed men who tackled all kinds of taboo subjects with their music and lifestyles…steamy sex…drugs…homosexuality…. bisexuality. All the while sending a message that is was okay for this experimentation.  Some radio stations would not play certain songs. And that simply fueled fans like me to want more.

Each time a new death of a musical icon was announced this year, I consumed their art in a VH-1 marathon music bender.   All so young. Taken from this earth long before their story was complete. Lives marred by drugs, disorders, secrets and fame.  And it got me to musing. How lonely is fame? I am not talking 15 minutes of fame from some viral video. I am not talking about a local TV anchor posing for a few pics with viewers when out to dinner. I am not even talking reality star fame.

What do you do with adoration beyond comprehension? One which imprisons you?  Lady Gaga said in a recent interview, “I don’t think I could think of a single thing that’s more isolating than being famous.”  The kind of fame that haunted(s) icons in their height like Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Shahrukh Khan (yes, it is Bollywood, but trust me he is big-time) and the list goes on. The paparazzi get bolder and the gossip magazines will pay more for photos and the fans demand more news. It is vicious cycle. One which creates so much isolation for the person living it.

Sure, everything is a trade-off.  Fame has it perks. For one, anything money can buy.  Jets, mansions, golden toilets, drugs. Whatever your heart desires. But can you imagine the pressure?  You are only as famous as your last great (fill in the blank….song, movie, photo, painting, performance, stage show, game winning goal, etc.). So once you are on the pinnacle, it takes even more creative genius to top your last fantastic piece.  Add to that the people who want to be your “friend” but are only in it to ride your coattails.  Your entourage of sorts.  Ready to take your money or expose you in some way. After a while, it may difficult to trust anyone.  And not know if any one is actually a “friend” anymore,

But wait, there is more to this fantastic ride of fame.  You can’t leave your house without a flood of flashes and cell phones in your face. Casual undisturbed dinner at your favorite restaurant down the street? Shopping for a pair of shoes? Going to a festival? No, forget it. All these normal things most people enjoy with anonymity just do not exist in a famous person’s world.  I have seen fans who are so bold, they will crush towards stars grabbing at them, even cutting pieces of clothing or hair, if their body-guard is not close by.  I can sympathize as to how frightening that must be.


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It is no wonder famous people turn to drugs (legal and illegal) and alcohol and isolationist behavior to cope. These struggles are real.  It can bring out the best of creativity, but also the worst in mental health. It makes me ponder the age-old question. Do you want to be rich and famous or have enough income to live on and be inconspicuous?

Holiday Musings. Have a fantastic future ahead, wherever your path takes you.


Is Life Near the Equator Spinning Out of Control? Monday Musings

Last week a friend of mine (we will call her Carla) came to a holiday fundraiser in my adopted home town in Costa Rica and later spent the night at my place.  Before she left the next morning, we enjoyed some Costa Rican coffee on the terrace and recapped the prior evening.

Carla had moved to Costa Rica from the USA with her husband approximately a decade ago. They were divorced fairly recently.  I do not know the gory details, nor do I necessarily care. Sometimes plans do not work out and it is time to make a life change.

At the event, I introduced her to a gringo friend of mine and they appeared to easily glide into a flirtatious conversation.  There are several explanations of where the word “gringo” originated. Some research says it started in Spain simply to describe non-Spanish speaking Europeans of white skin.  It was introduced to the Castilian dictionary in the latter 1700’s. gravity-gringo Another theory I have read is the word was created during the Mexican-American War. The soldiers from the USA wore green uniforms and the Mexicans would yell at them “green-go” using the English version to let them know they were not welcome in Mexico.  I have visited Spanish-speaking countries where the term is used derogatorily or as a racial slur. But in Costa Rica, is it typically used as a neutral label to describe a light-skinned expats (and tourists) from places like Canada, the USA, non-Spanish Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africans of Dutch/British decent, etc. And a native Costa Rican is a called a Tico or Tica.  A cute nickname used exclusively for Costa Ricans, but not for other Latinos.

As we sipped our coffee the next morning, I learned that Carla and my gringo friend had already accepted a Facebook friendship andgravity-facebook exchanged a bit of chatter that morning.  She asked me about his dating habits….Is he involved with anyone? Is he a bit of whore? The sort of things you question (regardless of age or experience) when you experience a potentially budding crush.   I told her I really did not know him that well, but he seemed extremely cool and authentic. And age appropriate, I added. We talked about how men can wear their wrinkles as a badge of honor. It means their years in the sun made them appear “outdoorsy and adventurous”. For some it also translates into wealth or wisdom. But for a woman? Her wrinkles are often viewed as an uncomplimentary reminder of ageing.

The coffee conversation naturally steered itself towards the odd dating situation for an over-40-year-old expat woman in small town Costa Rica.  Carla is not the first to lament this issue. I have had several strong, independent and attractive gravity-surferssingle girlfriends permanently depart this lovely region to find more depth in the dating pool.  We live in a touristy beach area with great surf and several Spanish schools.  So it is not unusual to find surfing/Spanish students and bachelor party revelers flowing though the region.  They are easy targets for one-night stands; away from home and ready to play.   There are also plenty of young Tico guys looking for a wealthy female “sponsor” and lover.  But if a gringa is looking for a permanent or semi-permanent resident, self sufficient and age-appropriate man (I am giving it is +/- 8-10 year window), it is challenging to find one here. I am not saying it can’t happen, but…..

Many gringo men immigrate here with a wife/significant other. So that takes them out of the dating pool. The ones who come alone are sometimes running from something in their home country…for example: a crazy ex-wife, tax evasion, depression, etc. Which can make ones definition of “normal” a random shade of gray.  But in all fairness, some guys just want a new adventure and retired with a whole bunch of cash.  Carla and I hypothesized these men who are alone are not necessarily looking for that age-appropriate strong or independently thinking gringa woman. In fact, many of them loved a woman like that in their previous life back home.  They are often looking for a young, hot woman. One who confirms their sexuality and makes them feel completely loved regardless of their shortcomings.  Of course this is an age-old trend everywhere in the world.  Wife number one dies or divorces; wife number two (or three) is a much younger trophy.

However, when I observe these cases happening in Costa Rica (and probably many places in Latin America) it seems to have a slightly different twist.  The younger Tica woman is almost always from a lower socioeconomic status than the gringo. And although she may not be extremely attractive (but most are), she is sexually exciting and happy to please her man.  Many of these women have not had role models to teach them worldly lessons, and they may not have had access to higher education. Some also have children from a previous lover or husband.  So they have a way of latching on (or “falling in love” as it were) in a mothering kind of way.  Washing his clothes, cooking amazing meals, cleaning his home, taking care of day-to-day dealings in Spanish and of course, having uninhibited sex with him as often as he desires (or when the little blue pill kicks in).

And yes, sometimes part of the equation is attempting to get pregnant so she will be on his eternal payroll.  For a lot of women, this is the ticket out of poverty, or at least a difficult life barely living paycheck to paycheck. I cannot blame them for that opportunity. And why wouldn’t many men want a tiger in bed and a live-in “assistant” in the home?  Plus it is a great way to learn Spanish, if he has any interest in cultural immersion. That being said, I know a lot of Latina women who do NOT AT ALL fit this mold. However, there are many who do. I understand the mutual benefits, but it leaves a gaping hole in the dating pool.

Carla and I shared stories of plenty of people we knew here in these types of relationships. And she blamed it on being so close to the equator.  I sat there nodding my head and then stopped. Whoa, what? The equator?? What did that have to do with this conversation?  Obviously the earth is wider and warmer at the equator. but is there more to it? The equatorial bulge is created by the Earth’s rotation. As lines of latitude increase in size, a point has to travel faster to complete a revolution in the same amount of time. gravity-spinning-earthThe rotational speed, or spin, at the Arctic Circle is slower than the spin at the Tropic of Cancer, because the circumference of the Arctic Circle is much smaller and a point doesn’t have to travel as far to complete a revolution. The spin at the Tropic of Cancer is much slower than the spin at the Equator. Near the poles, the Earth’s rotational speed, or spin, is near zero. At the Equator, the spin is about 1,670 kilometers per hour (1,038 miles per hour)!

That means we are spinning much faster here in Costa Rica than our gringo friends way up in North America or Europe or down under in Australia. We are closer to the sun and our gravitational pull is less. Meaning you weigh less at the equator than the poles. And it affects our tides and sea levels. Scientists and celestial students have hypothesized all these factors have an effect on animal behavior.  But does it? Or are we simply spinning out of control?

Monday musings. Have a fantastic holiday week ahead.

Photo credits:,, Facebook, RioDia, Tico Times, Clarita’s Jaco,

Living the Life…Monday Musings, Sept 2016

I was recently in Cody, Wyoming. A small town of approximately 10,000 people in the NW corner of the state near Yellowstone National Park. The city was founded by Buffalo Bill Cody at the turn of the century BEFORE last. I met a local at the lively Irma Hotel Saloon (yes, apparently bars are still saloons in the wild west). He was very friendly and talkative and I did not want to be rude, so I smiled and obliged him in conversation and learned quite a bit about him in the amount of time it took me to drink half a pint of Buffalo Bill Beer.


I didn’t catch his name, actually I never asked, which is a bit out of character for me. But I chalk that up to the weary traveler in me, having traversed many kilometers on foot in Yellowstone earlier that day. So let’s call him Bill. Seems like a popular name in the area.

Bill is a classic repeater. He likes to tell you the same thing over and over. The pros here are that the character becomes unforgettable. The cons? One can certainly get annoyed quickly while engaged in conversation.

Bill is originally from Ohio, but lived in Florida for 20 years working for KOA campgrounds. They transferred him to Cody, Wyoming where he manages the KOA campground pool and hot tub during the summer months only. They have to close the campground late Sept-May because their pipes are only 3 feet deep and will freeze and burst in their brutal winters. So what does the KOA pool manager do all winter? Moves into town and lives in a $400/month apartment that he pays for annually in advance. His ability to do that because of all the money he makes in the summer managing that pool.

Bill is 66 years old, but he looks barely over 50. Not a gray hear on his long curly mullet cut. And super smooth skin. Trust me, I am certain he has never had any work done. No facelifts or botox for my buddy Bill. No way. He must be living right. Although, self-admittedly, he likes to drink lots of beer at the local Cody saloons. And all the locals seem to know him. How could you not? He is a repeater.

Bill continued on about being on social security and medicare and between that and his KOA salary he is able to live a happy life and only work 5 months of the year. He has no pesky wife or children to get in the way or make life difficult. He made repeated points about how much her enjoyed his lifestyle. So I raised my pint of Buffalo Bill Beer and toasted my new friend, the other Bill, to “living the life”.

Then ol’ Cody Bill the Repeater surprised me with saying it wasn’t exactly the good life. If he could meet someone special it would be better. So I wished him the best of luck finding what he was looking for as I morphed back to my weary traveler face and drained my beer.

When I went to bed in the haunted Irma Hotel I thought about Bill and all the people wirma-hotelho say they are “living the life”. Or wish they were living the life. But the definition of the good life is as different for each person who desires it.

Does living in a big house and driving a flashy car and wearing expensive designer clothes define the good life? Does living on a remote beach or in an isolated cabin, one with nature, define the good life? What about managing a KOA campground pool in wild west? All of these could be the good life. And yet I have met people from all walks of life all over the world who look like they are living “the life” and yet they are unhappy. Or still searching for the one thing to bring them happiness.

Silly people, that happiness is only within us. And I am thankful to have lived on this earth long enough to come to that realization. It is not about what we own or the job we have or the power we wield or the income we enjoy. 90% of our happiness is about our attitude. That’s right…its already inside you. It is really about how we choose to embrace what we have and react to what happens to us. I bet you ol’ Cody Bill The Repeater is just as happy as Brad Pitt. Perhaps more right now. Monday Musings. Have a great week.

The Great Ocean Road, Katsjourney Around the World: 17 March, 2003

The Great Ocean Road
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2003 14:21:35 -0600
Greetings from the Journey Down Under,

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Mel St Paddys day

I am still in Melbourne, Australia and enjoying

the last vestiges of Indian Summer here.  Today and tomorrow will be a high

33-35 degrees Celsius (in the 90’s) and then it will be cooling off to 18-20

(in the 60’s) and rain…a much more proper Melbourne type day in the

autumn.  Since I am following the summer on this journey, that means it is

time to head north.  I will be leaving for Bangkok, Thailand this Friday


Last week was a fantastic week of touring and introspection.  My friend,

Ron, from Austin, is here teaching part of his facilitator course with Mike

(whom I am staying with in Melbourne) from RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute

of Technology).  Anyway, they teach the first module in the lovely seaside Mel grt ocn rd rainforest gully

town of Lorne…about two hours south west of Melbourne.  We hired (rented)

a car and I was able to explore for the week on my own while they taught.

I can’t tell you what a freedom it was to have an automobile.  Something I

have taken for granted since age 20.  I had no problems driving on the left

side.  In fact, since November, everywhere I have been has been left hand

road driving.  so, even as a passenger you do get used to it quickly.  My

difficulty came with turning on the windscreen (shield) wipers every time I

attempted ot turn.  You see, the wipers and the blinkers are opposite of

ours.  Thank god the brake and the accelerator are not reversed!

I traveled west, down the Great Ocean Road for the week and stayed at

delightful little towns along the coast.  This rugged coastline is one of

the most beautiful in the entire world.  On one side are the Otway Ranges

complete with fern tree rainforests and on the other side are sheer cliffs

into the ocean with beautiful, pristine beaches tucked inbetween rocky


The 12 Apostles in Port campbell National Park is the most famous seascape

rock formation in the country.   These rock outcroppings, light gold in

colour, are magnificent along the beach as the Great Southern Ocean waves

constantly pound them.  As the sun changes positions throughout the, so

changes the colour and the “feel” of the apostles.  To stand in the viewing

platform near them is a party for your senses as you smell and taste the

clean, pure salt water below and feel the power of the place.  It is the

kind of place you can imagine your God talking to you.

All along the coast are several stunning stops…The Loch Ard Gorge, The

London Bridge, the Arch, the Grotto and the Blowhole.  A few times, I almost

didn’t stop, but the raw beauty of each naturally carved rock was worth a

walk to view it.  It was also so nice to see no development.  Untouched by

human hands, as it were.

As an added bonus, I was able to capture photos of several koalas in the

wild.  They are such beautiful creatures and sadly,  near the point of


They feed only on certain types of eucalypt and are very

sensitive to changes in their habitat.  They are losing their habitat

quickly here.

I was alone all week and chose to eat  take-away meals quietly on beaches or

at picnic areas in national parks Mel Grt Ocn rd Pt Fairy lighthouse and rainforests (there has not been much

rain, as Australia has been in a terrible drought).  I had lots of time to

find peaceful places and think about the world and my life.  It is a luxury

few of us get, since we are usually caught up in day to day madness of the

world.  I wish I could solve some of the world’s problems.  Hell, I wish I

could solve some of my own problems!  But it was interesting because time

seemed to move very slowly.  A sensation I would say most of the western

world is not used to.

In my introspection, I know I am passionate about this earth and the

horrible way that humans are treating it.  The mines we are stripping, the

forests we are destroying, the oceans we are polluting, the ozone we are

depleting, and the sensitive plants and animals that we are killing to

extinction.  All of those that were created on this earth for the perfect

circle of life.  Alas, it is not so perfect anymore.  And then there is war.

Are the Americans helping to save the world from weapons of mass

destruction, a mad dictator and terrorism or is the true axis of evil oil,

greed and money?  Something to ponder, if you can find the time.

I have changed the course of the journey a bit, since Nepal is quite

dangerous at the present time.  Of course, there is this crazy Asian virus

that is killing people and plenty of political unrest in North Korea and the

Malaysian Muslim extremists.  Where is safe anymore?

I will send more updates from the wild, unusual and amazing city of Bangkok

next week.  Love to all.