The Transformative Power of Yoga: Who Knew? I didn’t.

cover_feature1-6 Instead of a regular blog post today, I recommend that you read a great article written about my stepson.  

Robbie Norris, who owns Richmond Private Yoga, has been running a yoga program at the Richmond City Jail for several years. Billy (my stepson) took advantage of the program, along with every other program the jail had to offer, including a writing class. If you read all the way through the post, you will see a letter that Robbie wrote to the judge and one that Billy wrote to the judge. They will make you cry.

And many thanks to the judge, Beverly Snukals, for giving him a second chance. Bev is an old friend of mine from way back. I kept a low profile while he was going through the court system because of my friendship with Bev. I doubt she even knows that Billy is my stepson.

Billy now has his own blog at Please check that out as well. With support from the community, he will have a much better chance of succeeding at his new life.

Bonus: you will learn some surprising things about the Richmond City Jail– good things, for a change.

If you like this post, please press “Like” and leave a comment. I really need some comments!

Crazy Things My Dad used to Say


And sooner or later
Everybody’s kingdom must end
And I’m so afraid your courtiers
Cannot be called best friends

 The King Must Die, lyrics by B. Taupin
(c) 1969 Dick James Music, Inc.

In earlier posts, I have discussed the causes of depression.   Research indicates that at least one cause of depression is physical.  At the same time, depression is a complex illness and can also be caused by environmental factors such as abuse, conflict, major events and medications.

One of my doctors once told me that one of the signs of being an adult is being able to discard some of the things our parents taught us.   Continue reading

A Love Stronger than Diamonds


I can’t believe you love me
I never thought you’d come
I guess I misjudged love
Between a father and his son
The Last Song, Lyrics by Bernie Taupin
(c) 1992 Big Pig Music, Ltd.

I once had a beautiful engagement ring.  I loved it because of the stories it told.  The stories began even before I received the ring.
Continue reading

Happy New Year! I’m Still Standing–No more Playing it Safe

Happy New Year!

This is the first time in my life that I have felt hopeful about a new year starting.  I’ve never felt this way before.  2014 was such a difficult year for me, with so many changes, uncertainty and unexpected events.  2015 can only be better, right?  Even if it’s not, I’ve been through so much and not only survived, but persevered and thrived, that I know that no matter what life throws at me, I will be able to weather it.  Now that is a new feeling for me. Continue reading

The Biltmore: A real life Downton Abbey


It’s not a coincidence that the Biltmore Estate is going to mount an exhibit called “Dressing Downton” in March 2015.   The owners of the Biltmore, which is still in private hands and still run by members of the Vanderbilt family, are savvy when it comes to attracting tourists to their 175,000 square foot mansion/palace/castle/chateau.

Moreover, there are parallels between Downton Abbey, a fictional place and a fictional upper class/semi royal family, and the Biltmore, which is a real place owned by a real family of U.S. type royalty–the Vanderbilts.  Americans who can’t afford a trip to England to see Highclere Castle, the fictional home of the Crawley family, can visit the Biltmore instead.  I doubt anyone who visits the Biltmore is disappointed.

Let’s face it– we are all voyeurs.  We love to read about the rich and famous, whether real or fictional.  The Vanderbilts of Biltmore have all the required elements of a great story:  wealth, love, tragedy and mystery.   Continue reading

Deja Vu, Part Two: Mom and Dad to the Rescue

In Deja Vu Part One, I described my own disappointing experience at my first college. In this post, we move on the next generation where history repeats itself.

Every Mother’s Dream/Nightmare

Every mother hopes that when she sends her child to college, the child will have an awesome experience.  It’s supposed to be a bit scary for the mom when the child leaves the nest.  Will he go to class or stay in his room and get stoned?  Will he take tye-dye or underwater basketweaving?  Will he eat magic mushrooms if offered to him?  Will he get a social disease?  Will he join a cult and quit school? Continue reading

Deja Vu All over Again — The Fall of My Discontent


I haven’t mentioned how my son is doing at college.  That’s because—he’s not.

Let me back up to 1978.   I went to high school in a small town in Maryland.   Purportedly, less than 10% of the students went to college.  I don’t know if that is true or not, but it felt like it at the time. Continue reading

Christmas Morning before the Age of Affluence

Renata on Santa’s lap circa 1960’s

Remember Christmas in the 1960’s?  Back when most people had real Christmas trees (or those aluminum ones) and decorated them with colored lights and lots of tinsel?   I used to sit in front of the tree at night, in my little white rocking chair, and stare up at the lights, thinking about Christmas morning.  Santa usually brought what I had asked for (up until 1971, that is), and then he would add a surprise or two.  Continue reading

I’m Thankful For All that I’m Allowed

And I’ve got all that I’m allowed
It’ll do for me, I’m thankful now
I see hope in every cloud
And I’m thankful, thankful
I’m thankful, So thankful
I’m thankful, I’ve got all that I’m allowed
All That I’m Allowed, lyrics by Bernie Taupin
© 2004 HST Management Ltd./Rouge Booze, Inc.
On Monday I whined about everything that’s going wrong in my life.  Today I focus on everything that’s going right.  And there’s plenty to be thankful for.

Continue reading

A pilot, a cemetery and a three-legged dog

I’m in Woodbridge, Virginia for a few days, visiting my niece, who is a Navy pilot.  She just moved here and knows no one. Plus, with the winter hanging on, there’s not much opportunity to meet the neighbors, even though she owns two dogs.  Walking the dogs is a great way to meet new people.

I needed a change of venue, and so did Billy, I’m sure, so I came up on Tuesday to keep her company for a few days.  Tuesday we had yet another snow storm, but I-95 was clean and dry.

Woodbridge is located 20 miles south of Washington D.C. and is growing.  Growing is an understatement.  Exploding is more like it.  Once I left the interstate, I saw miles and miles of houses in new and nearly-new subdivisions.  Woodbridge, located in Prince William County, is a popular bedroom community for D.C, to say the least.

Wikipedia calls Woodbridge a “census-designated place” (CDP), which means that it’s not an incorporated city or town, but has a dense population so it is “designated” solely for purposes of counting people. I had never heard of a CDP before.

Most of the neighborhoods I passed appeared to be built on old farms.  I say this because I saw very few native trees in the subdivisions. Usually builders leave a few trees standing when they clear the land.  Here, instead of old trees, every house sported one or two saplings in the yard.

The houses looked lonely in the waning afternoon sun as I arrived.  When I rang the doorbell, it sounded like hounds had been unleashed from hell.  The sidelight windows were covered with blinds, but I could hear dogs banging against them.  I heard not one dog barking, but three.  And there was a bird screeching as well. It was a comical sound to me.

Well, I thought, Mel doesn’t have to worry about being burglarized!

Turns out Mel only has two dogs, not three.  The third dog I heard was from next door.  And only one of them was throwing itself against the front windows!

She has two dogs, both quintessential mutts. Both are short-haired and medium sized.  The female has white fur with black spots on her legs, neck and belly, a sign that there’s some Dalmatian mixed in there somewhere.  The male is mostly black.  Even though they are not related, they both have brown spots above their eyes that look like eyebrows.

This morning I walked them around the neighborhood. There was not a soul about.  No commuter traffic, no service vehicles, nothing.  Certainly no one else out walking–it was 34 degrees with a harsh wind blowing.  Yet the dogs, even though both are short-haired, didn’t seem to mind in the least.  I think it’s true that mutts are hardy; these two certainly were.

We walked to the tot-lot and in the middle I saw something unusual.  A cemetery surrounded by a black metal fence.  A very old cemetery.  I could see less than a dozen headstones.  Most of them were so worn I could not make out the inscriptions.  The ones I could read dated back to the mid-1800’s– pre-Civil War.  The names were mostly the same–a family cemetery.  This confirmed my suspicion that this used to be a farm.  There was a sign outside the fence that read “Maddox Scott Cemetery.”

When I returned to the house I did some digging.  I hit paydirt almost immediately when I found a website with a list of cemeteries in Prince William County.  According to the website, there are more than 400 of them.

The description for the Maddox Scott cemetery said it contained 33 graves, but only eight with headstones.  The dates on the headstones ranged from 1826 to 1857.  The oldest person in the cemetery was 83, which was old for that time.  The youngest was 29.

Personally, I think its pretty cool to have a cemetery right in the subdivision.  I wonder, though, if all the residents feel the same way.  It reminded me a little of the movie Poltergeist.

And the three-legged dog?  His name is Foster.  Before Mel and her husband rescued him, he had been attacked by a gang of dogs and when he managed to escape, he was hit by a car. Yet you cannot tell he is missing a leg when you look at him from the front.  He stands with perfect balance.  He has a little hitch in his step when he walks, but when he runs, there’s not difference.

He, like his friend Shandy (the one who charged the blinds), is a sweetheart.  After we walked this morning, they both snuggled against me while I watched T.V.

Oh, and Shandy talks.  I just heard her.