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Part 2: Driving Across the United States – The Southwest

You are insane- why don’t you just FLY?!” asked many well – meaning friends and family. My response – NOPE!! I have been looking at the same walls for months and now that I am vaccinated I am going to pack my Mazda3 and drive from one end of this country to another.  And I did. With the help of my friend, Marj, we criss – crossed the United States learning more than any book could teach about this vast country.  This is the second of my blog series about this experience spotlighting the  trip from LA to Chicago!

Time to roll: Day 1

After much preparation – Marj and I were ready to roll! With a car packed from top to bottom – my little Mazda 3 was decked out to the hilt. My co-driver had stashed a lot of yummy snacks and drinks in the cooler and we had enough electronic and print maps to hopefully guide us through any navigation situation. Read about how we prepared here.

Cute clothing and much more at Cracker Barrel

Never under estimate stopping at a Cracker Barrel

I must admit that I had not considered the perennial favorite – Cracker Barrel – as a place that would become very important to us during this trip. Not only does this restaurant/ store have a huge array of candy that evokes emotional responses from my youth, but the ladies clothing line and game selection were amazing! Marj and I stopped at no less than 8 Cracker Barrels during this trip. I managed to buy everything from candy sticks to a baby present. The menu selection is best categorized as “comfort food”. But, most notably – this establishment has CLEAN bathrooms. Seriously, as the trip continued the importance of having a clean and safe bathroom was tantamount! I for one am a new and forever fan of “the barrel”! To see the list of Cracker Barrels around the United States – click here.

Crossing the Mojave to Arizona full tank of gas is a must!

Route 15 and 40 across the Mojave desert are two long roads that converge and cross and area of California noted for being a bizzilion degrees hot in the warmer months and windy as hell on most any day. It also has very little service areas so if you are crossing this part of California (home to the nearby and infamous Death Valley) – go to the “potty”, gas up and check your car before venturing out. Our route had us going through the Cajon Pass to the bottom part of the Mojave on Route 40. (This also is the part of the highway that is shared with Route 66). After about 7 hours (with stops)- we found ourselves in Williams, Arizona. Here we stayed for the night and headed out to get dessert at a local establishment known for their various pie recipes. Sadly, our choices of pie were unsatisfactory – so I will leave off the name of this place and hope that they were just having a bad day.

Highly recommend purchasing and using THE NEXT EXIT 2021 edition. This little gem of a book tells you which towns are on your route, what service areas are at each exit and much more. Found on Amazon and worth the $18 price. Check here for details.

Day 2- Let is snow!

We left the last week of April only to find ourselves riding through several inches of snow the morning of our second day. Breakfast was in Flagstaff, about an hour east of Williams, and an excellent little diner – Brandy’s Restaurant and Bakery. The waitstaff was super friendly and very knowledgable about the area and supplied us with updated weather reports. Based on what I was seeing outside our diner window I was very happy that I remembered to pack snow boots.

When Covid Rules

Due to Covid 19 restrictions many places had limited availability to tour. Some closed early. Other places simply were CLOSED. We thought of visiting the Petrified Forest but changed our minds once we discovered it would add at least two hours to an already long driving day. The petroglyphs have been there for eons, and we will just have to put this national park on our “next time” list. Instead, we opted for the overpriced “unofficial” Petrified Forest store off Route 40. 

Side note: Unfortunately, not all who travel know how to negotiate roads in snowy situations. That includes the trucks that seemed to bounce along the highways carelessly. One after another of these double and triple trucks seemed to have challenges with “holding on to the road”. So, lesson for all – keep your distance. Be attentive to others who share the road with you.


Hello New Mexico we have a change of plan!

WINDY!! That is how I would describe driving through New Mexico on Route 40 before we arrived in Albuquerque. While the snow abated, the wind and dust did not. Poor Phoebe (yes, I named my car) – was so dirty by the time we settled for the night in Santa Fe.

While driving through New Mexico, we took in the beauty of the surrounding mountains and appreciated the small towns, many that were part of the Navajo Nation. New Mexico is beautiful, but the houses and villages seem to all adhere to a muted color palate. Shades of browns, greens, and yellow were most noted. Almost as if the intent was to not detract from the natural scenery, but to blend with it. 

A small section of the Navajo Nation

The trip through New Mexico took longer than we anticipated. So, we ended up just skirting Albuquerque and arriving in Santa Fe at dinner time. There we had an absolutely delicious dinner at the restaurant inside La Fonda – a big hotel in the town’s center. While most of the area was pretty quiet, we did see some fun street art.


Our original plan was to leave Santa Fe and continue to Tucumcarri – a small town on the Texas/ New Mexico border. But, due to the severe weather anticipated in that area and up through Oklahoma, we changed our path and headed north to Taos and southern Colorado. This was the first of many “adjustments” we made thanks to Mother Nature. So, we stayed the night at a resort north of Santa Fe and had a quiet evening. Little did we know that the next day was to be a marathon driving day.

In the morning we ventured to Taos, New Mexico. Known as a true artist colony, both Marj and I were pretty excited to check it out. Sadly, due to Covid, many of the galleries were closed. What was open was clearly geared for tourists.

There is one recollection of Taos that left me sad. I was a bit surprised about the number of people who were living on the streets or the back alleys). While Taos is beautiful and we simply did not see all the positive it offered, it is the memory of several women waiting to wash in a public bathroom that will stick with me. Their eyes so forlorn. I wondered if they were “broken” physically, mentally, or both.

(Side note: I am fully aware that homelessness is a situation that is complicated and happens in our urban, suburban, and rural areas. I just was surprised at the extent of homelessness in Taos.)


COLORADO – KANSAS – MISSOURI

We didn’t expect to go to Colorado during the West to East portion of our trip. But, since the weather was ominous to our east we thought going north and then east would be “safe”. This meant adding hours to our trip, being stuck in lots of road construction, and driving across endless areas where you passed very few if any other cars. (There was a time I would swear we were driving through private property as we saw NO ONE for miles and miles.)

Second adjustment of the day: Route 50 was closed. This was to be our connector to points north and now we had to decide what to do. To Route 70 we would go! This decision resulted in a much longer driving day than we expected and over 12 hours passed before we stopped for the night in Hays, Kansas.

I had heard from others who drove this route that Kansas was one of the worst states for driving. “Monotonous”, “Flat” “Boring” were all adjectives I have heard from others. I disagree. The roads were well maintained. The rest stops areas were plentiful. And, seeing the fields of golden crops juxtaposed with greenery was amazing. I enjoyed driving through Kansas very much.Plus, a stop in Kansas City at Joe’s “World Famous” Barbecue was a very welcome side-trip! Not to mention that I stocked up on sauces and seasonings for gifts!

We spent our fourth and final night before arriving to Chicago in Hannibal, Missouri. Here is where I encountered some of the most interesting people – in a hot tub.  Yes, an oversized indoor hot tub of all places! I learned from this assortment of folks that there is a lot of misinformation about Covid 19. But, I had to come to the reality that their “truth” was not all that uncommon.  The lack of facts they spewed to me were often cited on TV.  Some of these people were convinced that the covid vaccines were a ploy constructed by the Democratic Party to “brainwash” Republicans. I rarely am at a loss for words – but I wasn’t sure how to answer this claim. 

However, when one woman was very vocal about covid being due to “those people from Californi-ee” – I couldn’t keep quiet. Especially since I outed myself as a person from the great state of CaliforniA.  As an educator, I tried my best to present facts vs. fiction. I gave up after about 10 minutes and retired for the night feeling that I just met a good sample of people that support some of the initiatives in this country that divide versus unite us. If you agree with my spa buddies that the vaccine is a conspiracy – please feel free to stop reading my blog and skip the comment section.



DESTINATION CHICAGO!

Marj and I parted ways in Chicago after five fun-filled days together.  It is essential to travel with someone who is a good match or compliment to your own travel style. 

I must admit that when we crossed the Illinois border we did a bit of “hooting and hollering”.  And a few hours later we were finally within site of the Chicago skyline.  By mid-afternoon our first big leg of this month l long journey was checked off as complete!

RANDOM TRAVEL TIPS

  1. Buy jars of hatch chilis available in New Mexico. They are AMAZING!
  2. Stop at local owned stores for the best food/ spices and gifts. The prices are much more reasonable and the selection is usually more expansive than the stores located in the tourist areas.
  3. Keep your receipts for future reference.
  4. Lock your car and have a tarp or something to cover any items you need to leave in your back seat.
  5. Write down key “memories” as you will forget names and dates later.
  6. Consider donating to local shelters and food banks to help those in need.
  7. Take lots of photos, videos, and notes.
  8. Travel with someone who compliments you and doesn’t have vastly different goals for your trip.
  9. Remember that you didn’t need to talk the entire time. Quiet travel time can be wonderful. 

Driving Across The United States – Part 1: Prepare for your trip

During the year of being “stuck” due to Covid I dreamed of hitting the highways and driving from Los Angeles to family in New York. I spent months planning the route and picking the “right” time to leave (post vaccination). In order to make this trek successful and keep hiccups to a minimum, I prepped with the help of friend, Marj aka, co-driver and navigator. So, get comfy as the next few posts will be dedicated to this adventure from the perspective of two women ready for fun and ready with AARP and AAA cards in their wallets!

And, in the spirit of this blog – lessons we learned will be shared framed with tons of photos and video for your enjoyment.

So, let’s begin with Part 1: Driving Across the United States from the WEST to the EAST COAST – the “getting ready” blog.

Map Your Route

Marj and I decided to prepare a route based on weather during the early and mid spring, places of interest, and shortest distance between points. Our first thought was to go through the Mojave through California and connect to Route 40/ 66 once in Arizona. We decided to spend the first night in Williams, Arizona – north of the Grand Canyon. Then off through New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma the second and third days. Day four we thought we would veer off course to Branson, Missouri and then head back up to St. Louis. Our destination was Chicago to visit our two sons – coincidentally they both live in the Windy City very close to each other. I was then to continue the journey to New York to see more family, sans my driving gal.

Hint: Be prepared to have a PLAN B and PLAN C of your route. We needed to switch our plan due to horrendous tornado activity through Texas and Oklahoma. More about this in the next blog entry.

Prep the Car

I made sure the car was fully serviced prior to leaving. That included a very thorough look-over by the Mazda dealership, including new brakes. We then went to American Tire and added new windshield wipers and four new tires. I even bought a spare set of wipers.

What should you have in your car?

  • Spare Tire – checked and ready to use. Also, FIX A FLAT in a can for quick emergency repairs.
  • Chains for tires, in the event of lots of snow- if you are traveling through snowy regions.
  • Emergency lights.
  • Blanket
  • Water and lots of it.
  • Emergency medical supplies – including an api-pen or something for an allergic reaction.
  • Emergency radio.
  • A book of maps, such as Rand MacNally. DO NOT depend on “Mr. Google Maps” to guide you. (See story in next blog for this lesson learned!)
  • Your cars information guide, including what kind of coolant you use.
  • Spare key to give to your driving partner.
  • Snacks that are healthy (a cooler is a good “addition”).
  • Raincoat or poncho.
  • Flashlight (check batteries).
  • Cords for your phone to recharge while driving.
  • Change of clothes easily accessible.
  • Holder for extra items.
  • Comfortable car seat cover
  • Lumbar support, such as Therma Rest Lumbar Support
  • Download audible books, bring trivia games, and have a good satellite radio.


Where to stay? Should you book hotels in advance?

Some of you may want to stay with family and friends along your route. That is great! Marj and I decided to rough it – meaning we stayed in fairly inexpensive hotels with a few splurges. We also didn’t book a hotel until we knew where we would “land” that night. I found TripAdvisor to be an invaluable resource as to which hotels were rated decently and about their pricing. Much of my bookings came through TripAdivors via the connection to Orbitz. Marj used her AAA card to save money. I also was equipped with an AARP card. We had a few criteria about where we would stay. First and foremost, safety. After all, we are two women who are traveling. Secondly, we preferred a place that had a hot breakfast. For, I wanted an indoor pool, if possible. A bit of exercise after driving all day was a welcome amenity! Nearby restaurants also were a must to grab a nice dinner or a snack. Lastly, proximity to the interstate. After a long day the last thing we wanted was to drive further just to find a hotel that may save us a few bucks.

Hint: Have your travel rewards numbers for hotels ready to use when you check-in or book your room.

Things you may not have thought about when preparing for your cross – country trip

As I said at the beginning – expect the unexpected. So, be sure to have phone numbers of people who you can call along your way. Also, when you see that from Point A to Point B is X amount of time – don’t believe it. Your trip will be longer than what is quoted on your digital map. You see, “potty” and meal stops are not factored in to this calculation. Nor is slow traffic due to weather or being pulled over for a ticket because you went too fast on that flat highway that just seemed so inviting to rev it up to 90 mph!

Do not underestimate the importance of travel apps for cell phones. I highly recommend TripAdvisor, Weather apps with all the key cities on your route tabbed for reference and alerts, and an app that gives you current road conditions (such as unexpected closures or construction.)

Also, if anyone in your party has unique challenges – be prepared that many places in our vast country have not embraced the word – “accessibility”. I met NO ONE who could use American Sign Language (ASL) outside of the city tourist sites. Many of the doorways to restaurants and rest areas seemed too small for a standard wheelchair. There often were steep inclines at rest stops. Only a few restaurants had braille menus. And, if you are a vegan or vegetarian you may have difficulties eating in more remote areas in states like Kansas and Nebraska. Be prepared that mask mandates for Covid were not always adhered to in many hotels and venues.

Let’s talk money. Whatever you THINK it may cost – double it. The price of gas surged after we left our homes and that meant a gas bill allotment far more than we anticipated. Try to fill your gas tank before it dips under the “half-way” point. As you may not know when the next station will be available. Furthermore, the cost of tax on hotels and food varied from state to state. I also ended up having to buy new sneakers after I dropped one in a street only to find it later- broken. And, don’t forget you WILL buy something that you weren’t expecting. After all , who can resist the green hatch chilies of New Mexico or candles of Northern Lights / Zippo in New York?!

Also, remember there are TOLL ROADS. I attempted to be prepared by downloading toll road apps and getting actual transponders. Epic fail. We ended up paying cash or having to pay later.

Final notes: Safety first

Safety should be tantamount when traveling. Not only should you prepare your car and pack accordingly – but also yourself. Know your limits. If you are someone who can’t do long distance driving – plan to take a lot of breaks and only make a few hours of travel per day your goal.

Have a history of blood clots? Consider talking to your doctor before leaving about steps you can take to minimize your risk (such as compression socks, frequent breaks, etc.)

Also, know the laws per state. Pepper sprays are not allowed in all states. You also can’t transport certain fruits, plants, or items that are for “medicinal” purposes across state lines.

Lastly, remember to adhere to local speed limits so part of your trip isn’t spent on the side of the highway being issued a traffic ticket.

May your journey be filled with fun, adventure, and great memories!

“SHIT ADULTS NEVER TAUGHT US” – What I LEARNED from my daughter’s self-help / mini-memoir.

One of the opening lines of her first journal from kindergarten read, “When I grw up I want to be a dwkter.” And, with a single affirmation began the career path for our daughter, Natasha Sattler. Yes, after honing her craft she now is an accomplished filmmaker, producer, and most recently author of a new book – SHIT ADULTS NEVER TAUGHT US.

Did the title take your breath away? It did mine, just for a second, the first time I read it. But, if you know anything about Natasha you know this – she does not hold anything back. She speaks her mind. She will talk and write with candor and a generous amount of humor. But, she will tell it like it is. Her journey is chronicled in this book – “no holds barred.” I for one am glad she didn’t try to be polite and politically correct. (I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree?)

SHIT ADULTS NEVER TAUGHT US (to be shortened by me as SANTU) is best described in one short quote:

“A SNAPSHOT REVIEW OF THE THINGS YOU DIDN’T LEARN IN SCHOOL – IN QUICK, HILARIOUS CHAPTERS.” 

But for those who are seeking a wee bit more context about the book, try this longer explanation that Natasha wrote for her book jacket and promotional materials:

We’ve made it this far, but after countless conversations with friends, it became obvious to me that our childhood education had a ton of gaps. Sure, we learned linear equations and got to dissect frogs for some reason, but no one taught us what the difference between an HMO and a PPO was and why it’s important. I took several years of Algebra but not once was a Mutual Funds class offered. 

That’s where Shit Adults Never Taught Us comes in. This book picks up where the adults left off and helps fill in all our insufficient knowledge by going beyond the Google search bar. 

Disguised as a self-help book, this mini-memoir uses personal experiences, including some epic failures, to guide you through the most perplexing moments in life. Shit Adults Never Taught Us covers a lot of topics: including career strategies, mental health, emotional quandaries, and navigating all of the WTF moments of adulthood.


Now the “Mom” perspective. I read the first and second draft of SANTU. First time I read it as if there was a disconnect – trying to put on my “objective hat”. Looking at the grammar and flow of the book. Yep, it seemed to check all the technical boxes.

The second time, I laughed, I cried, I had a few “aha moments”, and I reminisced. Here are a few of my personal favorites from the book:

And… I will read it again – the final polished version and this time I will wait for the phone to ring. You see, SANTU is raw. It is honest. It is FULL of profanity. It is Natasha’s truth and I am beaming with pride that she had the courage to tell it. It also may not sit well with people who may recognize the “cast of characters”. Too bad, I say. No one is mentioned by name. So, let the guessing begin.

What I truly am hoping is that the readers will learn more about the practical things in their life that may be missing. Perhaps a few lessons for all on how to deal with money, career choices, and buying “stuff” – like a car. Then there is the more heavy weighted material to digest and this is where the road gets a little uncomfortable. Natasha talks candidly about relationships, mental health (including her own), and grief. She has experienced her share of all of them from the end of long – term partnership to losing close friends way before their time. The book is written about her life juxtaposed with lessons to be learned – the sh*t that this parental unit may have forgotten to teach, school didn’t cover, or simply she found out (or didn’t) from “Mr.Google”. (Perhaps the desire to educate is genetic?)

SHIT ADULTS NEVER TAUGHT US NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon / Barnes and Noble Apple Books and GOOGLE STORES

READ the REVIEWS!!! GOODREADS

To learn more straight from the author – check out recent podcast interviews and the SANTU website here.

Or click the images below to go straight to each podcast that has aired at the time of this blog being uploaded.

In closing, I welcome respectful comments and thank you for reading this blog.

Be well. Be safe. And if you bought the book- thank you!

Red, White, & Pinot

UPDATE! PINOT HAS WON HIS CATEGORY!

I don’t often write posts that ask for “votes”, but, I am making an exception for little Pinot, the “Chiweenie”. 

Pinot, named for the fine wines of Northern California, is vying for “top dog” for the America’s FAVORITE Pet Contest! The prize is being the COVER model for Dogster magazine AND a $5,000 prize.

PLUS, America’s Favorite Pet will be donating to the PAWS FOUNDATION. (“PAWS actively rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife, shelters and adopts homeless cats and dogs, and also provides education and outreach within the community to promote compassionate action for animals.”)

Why Pinot?

I happen to know Pinot’s fur-mommy, Nicole Z. She tells me that her fur-baby was adopted after being in three other placements. To this day she can’t figure out why this bundle of energetic love needed to be rehomed so many times. But, now he is snuggle bug with his fur-parents and doggy sibling, Max.

Actually, Max is the reason why Pinot is competing. Apparently, he needed some unexpected surgery. The cost – $5K. The parents opted for this expense to help save Max from pain – but let’s face it – during COVID 19 that is a lot of cash to outlay when times are uncertain. So, they are hoping that Pinot’s cuteness and the kindness of friends and strangers will click to press the vote button below!

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

After 10 Years I am STILL a Cancer WARRIOR GODDESS!

January 5, 2011 I spent 7 plus hours under the knife at Johns Hopkins Hospital to remove Stage 3 thyroid cancer throughout my neck. My hubby can give you a play by play as how that day went through his lens. How he waited all day to hear I was done and instead received lots of medical updates- hour after hour. He also can tell you he was one of the first to arrive in the JHH waiting room and the last one to leave that day. As for me, I remember very little except being asked upon my waking to recall anything I said from the morning before they dosed me with heavy duty anesthesia. My answer: “I am STILL a cancer warrior goddess?”. The nurses and doctors laughed and looked relieved. I laughed with a very froggy throat, too. Apparently, my talking was a sign that my vocal chords were still working, albeit very raspy. “Top-Doc” wasn’t too sure that would be the case – so my declaration – was considered the evidence of medical success.

Related: Warning signs of thyroid cancer: click here

Ten years later and countless tests, trips back to Hopkins for follow-up exams, and blogs later, I remain vigilant with my health and a bit of a crusader for thyroid wellness of others. I also recognize that I have had my own challenges after ten years. My voice still gets raspy and there have been times when I simply couldn’t talk for days, weeks or months. (Once again proving that knowing sign language is a skill we all should have!) Plus, a good head cold can put me down for the count for a week or more. I don’t have the immune system of most folks and that makes Covid 19 really really sucky! And, losing the weight I have gained is my biggest challenge.

Yet, I do have an immense sense of gratitude for the medical professionals who have cared for me since my diagnosis late 2010. I also want to reiterate my “mantra” – be your best advocate. I had ZERO of the usual red flags for thyroid cancer except for weight gain. Rapid weight gain! I was told it was menopause. It wasn’t. So, if you feel something is “amiss” – then you are more than likely correct and should keep seeking answers until you feel better or more at ease.

No blogger should post without taking time out to stop and thank their audience. That includes me. I want to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU to all of YOU. For more than a decade many of you have read this blog, commented and shared. You helped to educate others and also yourselves. I appreciate you. I pray for your health and hope that all of us have better days ahead.

If you are new to my blog and wonder what the heck I am talking about?… Well … here are links to get you started to learn about my journey and perhaps find some nuggets of help for you, too. If you are a recurring reader – again thank you and enjoy the re-runs below.

2010: Hello, Now Go Away!!

January is Check the Neck Month!

Dear New Thyroid Cancer Patient

Remission

My Year of Learning How to Kick Cancer to the Door

TWO YEARS LATER… My journey with Thyroid Cancer

My annual reminder that I survived cancer

Six Years Later

Lucky 7 – Life after a thyroid cancer diagnosis

9 Years – Post Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis

ASL video on my cancer experience

Twitter Scarves

This blog is dedicated to all the wonderful healthcare professionals who have helped me during my cancer journey and have supported and cared for the the health needs of others.

Also, dedicated to my friends who have experienced “lumps” in their roads and have survived with grit and grace. You are my inspiration.

2020. We. Have. Had. Enough.

This will not be my usual post. It won’t be full of humor or “teachable moments”, but, instead a blog that puts 2020 to “bed” as we turn the proverbial calendar to 2021.

The year started off with such hope and promise. While tensions over elections were predicted to be high – no one really grasped the enormity of impact that could be made by a microscopic terrorist that was to ravage our globe. During 2020 Covid 19 became the devil that walked among us – everywhere – 24/7.

I stopped sleeping last January. I know the exact day that I started to only rest for about 4 hours a night – it was the day our daughter flew China Air to Asia. Her wanderlust took her on a great solo-preneur journey throughout Cambodia, Singapore and Bali. But, I had heard about this global terrorist – then called CORONA – and was petrified that the two would meet up. Thankfully, our daughter traversed Asia without crossing paths with CORONA.

By the time she returned to the US, the now termed “Covid 19” was at our shores. But, just a “few cases” – mostly isolated. People seemed to not take it seriously or thought it was “fake news”. Nor did we quite expect that within a few months in to 2020 this disease would take hold of the US from coast to coast and across the globe.

I equate my March birthday with QUARANTINE. At first it was a novelty. Happy hours every night on the street – physically distanced, of course. People stirring their creative juices, pivoting their careers and learning how to assume the role as their child’s teacher. Zoom became a noun and a verb in March – meaning to meet online and not to physically race past another person or vehicle.

By summer we thought we were going to get “sprung” and travel. Some folks did. Some stayed put. I continued to be one of those people who did’t venture more than a mile or five from home.

I discovered this past July that I have Covid 19 anxiety. Every time I see people in crowds I start to sweat and my heart races. I have left a store with a basket full of items upon hearing a single person across the store cough – once. No joke – I literally ran out of the store and to the car at a speed that may have broke my personal best running time due to a single little cough. That my friends is situational anxiety. I got it. It ain’t fun.

In August I started a new virtual job – pivot, pivot, pivot! I pivoted so many times and in so many ways that I found myself becoming dizzy. But, my new job is really good and replaces the dire straights I was feeling with trying to make my “old gig” work financially and spiritually – especially during a pandemic. (So, this may be the 2020 silver lining). While I still work in social media from time to time, I am really enjoying helping kids and their families as a School Psychologist.

By fall I realized that 2020 would end but Covid wouldn’t. I must admit the sadness started to really drift in to my psyche when it hit me like a brick the cumulative toll that 2020 took on so many of my family and friends. People had become seriously ill. People had died. People had lost their jobs, relationships and for some – hope. Covid was indeed the name of the new Satan. It had no mercy. It had no rationale. It was just the devil. It took too much from so many.

Then today happened. The devil took someone else. Someone I knew and admired. Her name – Dawn Wells, and on this second to last day of 2020 she died due to complications from Covid 19. You may know her as Mary Ann from the TV show, Gilligan’s Island, but, I knew Dawn for herself – a great person. Dawn and I met several years ago at the premiere for a web-series directed by the very talented, Steve Wishnoff, and starring her called, Life Interrupted. My “assignment” at the premiere was to snap some photos and “do” some social media postings. My goal was to at least introduce myself to Dawn – and I did. I snapped the photo below, and several others, and that was the start of our first “meet and greet”. She invited me to sit next to her and we chatted for what seemed like quite a long time. We talked about her work with the awesome ensemble cast and crew of the series. Then we chatted fashion, how great she looked in the color she was wearing, and how I could never don an outfit in that hue of yellow. We gabbed, we laughed, and we said good-bye. I didn’t know it then – but we would cross paths again.

Dawn Wells at the LA premiere of
Life Interrupted,
May 2015 Photo: Louise Sattler

Photo by Louise Sattler, October 2017

Life Interrupted also was my pick for opening the San Pedro Film Festival (SPIFFEST) in 2017 – where Dawn and I met up again. I was helping put together the festival and thought it would be fun to celebrate the opening night with a party. Dawn attended and again we spent quite a bit of time talking and sharing funny stories. She was a huge “trooper” as she wasn’t feeling her best that evening – but you would never have known that!

Dawn impressed me as a consummate professional and genuinely an amazing person. I didn’t know her well – but I was glad we had an opportunity to meet and share some laughs. She was indeed very special.


Today, the news of Dawn passing came to me via text as I was leaving the dentist office. That was it. 2020 finally got to me. I broke. I cried all the way to my car and then the whole drive home. It was a sucky day.

Then this happened. A sunset. A glorious sunset with random formations of clouds and blue skies peaking through. I noticed that in the photo a little glimmer of yellow – perhaps nature’s tribute to Dawn?

If nothing else, the sunset reminded me that there is a lot wonderful days ahead. We just need to have patience, grit, and hope.

See you in 2021.

~Louise

Photo credit: Louise Sattler, Dec. 30, 2020

OY! What a Year! Photos Included.

I have started and stopped writing this “Retrospect of 2020” blog – a dozen times. Seriously. I started to organize my thoughts into a succinct blog days ago – each time with the intention to write about why we need to be hopeful and positive as we turn the calendar to 2021. I wanted to write about being grateful . I wanted to write how I learned so much by literally staying home. Yet… what I ended up typing (and deleting 12 times) was a potpourri of complaints. My rants ranged from a tirade of how so many people ended the year with unfathomable heartache due to Covid 19 to my disgust with the polarization of our country – largely due to politics. Delete. Delete. Delete… etc.

Finally – on my 13th attempt to write this blog – I found clarity.

2020 was about survival. I don’t have any words of wisdom for 2021. No big resolutions. No grand plans.

So, I end the year with a blog of photos from the year. Hard to believe that 2020 was a year that we saw LA Zoo Lights New Year’s weekend- back when the year held so much promise. Then off to Nevada to see Alan Parsons in concert and hike red rocks! January, February and early March also brought fabulous times including with the cast of THE CUBAN at the PanAm Film Festival followed by the LA Travel and Adventure Show, cheering our favorite films of 2019 the Oscars at a party at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, working on The Salon Digital Series for Emmy consideration, and celebrating Margaret McSweeney’s induction in to the Hall of Fame for the Taste Awards! Then Covid hit and we pressed the pause button. That is when you will see my photos become more of my surroundings -including starting a fairy garden for neighbors to enjoy. I learned to listen to nature and appreciate the simplicity of life. Enjoy my photos and please drop your blog in the comments for me to check out your year in review.

Be well. Be safe. Happy 2021. ~Louise

All photos are the property of Louise Sattler. Snapped with an iPhone 8 or iPhone 11 Max. 2020 All Rights Reserved Louise Sattler


A Random List of Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas

So, you waited until the last minute to shop for the holidays? Don’t worry- I have ideas for the last minute shopper who is looking for a unique gifts

Think Positive! DIY!

Short on time and cash? Here are some gifts that are from the heart and shouldn’t break your wallet.

  1. Make a photo book chronicling the positive aspects of 2020. Send your photos to a one -day/ hour service (such as Walgreens or CVS) and then place the prints in to an inexpensive photo album or create one yourself from materials you can find at home. For bonus fun – write a poem to add to your gift.
  2. Go festive and make your own piñata! Be sure to fill with favorites – like candy and dollar store toys! Here is an easy “recipe” from Berries. com
  3. Sew from scraps of cloth and fill with beans – your very own bean bags. Use to play games or teach another person how to juggle!
  4. Bake cookies, decorate and place in creative containers.

Not in the creative mood – well then give the gift of TRAVEL!

Eventually, we will be able to satiate our wanderlust! Travel will be back on the calendar and you can make your family and friends smile with travel themed gifts. ( I already talked with my travel agent guru from The Travel Store, Linda Kahn- Ferrell for our next adventure!)

Consider ITALY!! We are! I can’t wait to reunite with the awesome Ana from Selected Tours Italy! I met Ana more than a year ago at the LA Travel and Adventure Show. We stayed in touch and she smartly has pivoted her business to helping travelers who are “stuck at home” enjoy the spirit of travel – virtually! Check out their awesome virtual tours for holiday gifting here. And, surprise your loved one by booking as a gift a customized tour of Italy for a post-Covid future trip!

Zion

Not ready to fly across the ocean? Well here is another travel themed idea. How fun to give the gift of a trip to a National Park! Rent an easy to drive RV and surprise your family with a trip to go visit Yosemite, the Grand Canyon or even Niagra Falls! These parks have been open (more or less) throughout the pandemic and help press our inner “reset” button.

Cruise America is known for great RV rentals. And, to learn about US National Parks go here: https://www.nps.gov/index.htm

Read about my spin on RV’ing


Last but certainly not least – Give the Gift of Paying It Forward!

Let’s face it – you get to a certain age when you have collected more than enough “STUFF”. You don’t need anymore “stuff” because you have no room in drawers, closets or shelves.

That is when you give to others.

Consider giving to your local shelter, domestic violence center or a GoFundMe that helps individuals and families in need across the globe. Donate in honor of others. As I am sure, others you know also don’t need more stuff!

RUFF! RUFF! MEOW! MEOW!

Animals need love, too! While there has been a surge of animal adoptions since the Covid 19 pandemic- there continues to be a huge need for help at our local shelters and organizations that care for animals in fragile situations. This is where you can help by sponsoring an animal, donating or adoption.

Try PetFinder.com to find your local organizations in need and pets looking for homes. And remember, before you shop – look to adopt! There are many “pure breed” animals looking for their fur-ever families.

This past holiday season I sponsored five dogs in shelters. Each dog was sponsored in the name of a family member or friend. The sponsor fee helped pay for food and care for the dogs. I heard a lot of “aws” and “how cute” when the envelopes with photos of these pups were opened. I opted to sponsor via RUFFStartRescue.org and they sent a lovely thank you.

Just look at these faces (and by the way – they all have been adopted since we started to sponsor them – except for Minnetonka (with the red collar on the left). How sweet is this little pup! Learn more here


And, as the calendar turns to 2021 – know that I have appreciated each of those who have read this blog. Happy Holidays!