Walking in Italy

I do a lot of walking when I travel. In fact, wandering around by foot is one of my favorite travel activities. Some people like driving vacations. I am not one of those people. I won’t get behind the wheel of a car once on this trip, and that’s how I like it.

I learn more about a place by walking. I save a ton of money (on rental fees, gas, parking) by walking, and I minimise stress by walking because I don’t have to research parking or deal with figuring out road signs in other languages.

In Italy, in particular, drivers are notorious for not following the rules, and parking is a headache. A potentially very expensive headache.

So, I walk. Today I put in 10,000 steps by noon. My first day here, when I made three trips to the grocery store alone, I logged more than 14,000. I get lost and turned around a lot, but that’s the only way to learn my way around.

Since walking is so key, footwear is paramount. I have spent years trying to find just the right shoes to bring on trips. On a trip to Prague years ago, I wore the only pair of shoes I brought on the plane. They were a pair of New Balance sneakers.

Throughout the entire trip, people would walk up to me and start speaking in English (usually to ask for money). I was baffled because this often happened when I hadn’t said a word, so it’s not like anyone heard my accent or that I was speaking English.

I got home and asked a European friend what gave away my American-ness. Was it my clothes? Surely it was my camera. What did I need to change to better fit in?

“Did you wear athletic shoes?” she asked.

“Athletic shoes are the only type of shoes I brought,” I said.

“That’s it,” she said. “Europeans only wear athletic shoes when they are doing athletic things. Americans wear them all the time.”

Ever since, I’ve tried to find alternatives for athletic shoes, but nothing has been as comfortable for all that walking.

This time, I think I found the perfect combination.

The perfect travel shoes aren’t just about what type of shoes I bring. It’s also about how many pairs of shoes I bring. I tried wearing the same pair of (yes, athletic shoes) on a long weekend in the US and my feet were killing me at the end of the three days. It turns out that changing up the shoes is as important as the shoes themselves.

A lot of travel gurus advise two pairs of shoes: a bigger pair of walking shoes to wear on the plane and a lower profile pair of sandals in your luggage. I have yet to be able to make that work, because I still won’t have anything cute enough to wear to a nicer dinner or outing or to dress any outfits up. I don’t dress up much when I travel, but I want to be able to if needed. I also want to be able to give my feet a break.

For this trip, I packed three pairs of shoes:

Left to right: Naot Kayla sandals, Keen Rose sandals, Converse classic sneakers, and a pair of compression-style athletic socks

The converse are comfy, breathable, and go with everything, including the dress and skort that I brought.

The Keens are super comfortable, can get wet, and I can walk all day in them. They are my favorite pair of walking shoes ever. I even wear them to work (I teach 7th grade and am on my feet all day).

I would stop with just the two of them except I know how much happier my feet will be if I have a third pair of shoes in the mix. So, I include the Naot sandals. Don’t let the price tag scare you away. They are worth every single penny. They’re cute, can dress up anything, and are super supportive. I can walk all day in them, and have.

My main takeaways:

  • Bring more than 1 pair of shoes; I prefer 3 pairs for long trips or trips where I know I’ll be doing a lot of walking
  • There are plenty of travel writers/bloggers who advocate for packing light light light, and limiting shoes is one way they do it; that’s fine for some. It’s not for me. Keeping my feet happy when I travel is key to a good vacation, and that means a third pair of shoes for a trip where I’ll be doing a lot of walking.
  • Try to avoid shoes that you would wear to the gym, otherwise you will be marked as a tourist immediately.
  • Try to make sure one of your pairs is waterproof. Your feet will thank you on the inevitable rainy day.

As I wander on my current trip, I’m paying attention to what European women wear. On some level, I’ll always look like an American tourist. But I am noticing Birkenstocks everywhere, especially this super-cute style. I will keep that in mind when it comes time to replace my beloved Naots.

One last note: I only bring 2-3 pairs of socks. They’re easy enough to wash in the sink if needed. I like the ones pictured because they are compression-style athletic socks. They’re low profile so hardly visible when walking around and don’t scream “athletics”, yet offer some nice compression to help keep my feet from swelling up by the end of the day.

*I do not receive a commission for any of the products I mention in this post.

Washing Clothes in Italy

Yesterday, I bought produce. Today, it was time to tackle doing a load of laundry.

I thought it would be simple. My host had shown me the order of operations already: First, select the setting I wanted. Then, select the temperature. Put soap in the dispenser, place clothes in the drum, close the door, and pull the handle to start the cycle. When finished, press the (un)lock button to open the door.

In other words, this is like doing laundry at home.

Except of course it wasn’t like doing laundry at home.

At home, I have the option for cold water and a gentle cycle. Here, I have neither. My cycle choices are:

  • Rinse with spin
  • Short spin
  • Rinse without spin
  • Drain (I think; the Italian word is “scarico,” which means “drain” but in context that doesn’t make much sense to me)

For temperature, the closest thing to cold I could get was warm. Cold does not seem to be an option.

My temperature options are:

  • White cottons with pre-wash 60-90 degrees C (140-194 F)
  • Colored cottons with pre-wash 40-60 degrees C (104-140 F)
  • Short cycle cotton 30-40 degrees C (86-104 F)
  • Synthetic with prewash 40-60 degrees C (104-140 F)

This one baffled me. How was there no cold water option? Should I wash my things in the sink? There’s no way Italians wash everything in the sink. If that were the case, there would be no washing machines.

I decided to go with the options that were as close to cold and delicate as I could get: short cycle cotton and short spin.

I put in my clothes. It’s a good thing I only had a few things to wash. The drum was just big enough to hold my two shirts, one pair of shorts, one pair of pants, two sets of socks, and two pairs of underwear. I maybe could have squeezed in one more shirt, but that’s about it.

I put in the clothes, put in the soap, pulled the knob, and waited for the action to begin.

After a few seconds, my clothes started to slowly spin. Then, they spun so fast they seemed to disappear. Calling the spin cycle a “centrifuge” was spot on.

This stop>spin slowly>spin super-fast cycle repeated for about fifteen minutes, and then stopped for good. That was it. That was the entire “wash” cycle. Except, there was no wash. No water entered the machine.

Why on earth would someone choose to spin their clothes around for a while without actual washing?

I tried again. This time I chose “rinse with spin” as my setting, and this time I got water!

About 15-20 minutes later, I had clean clothes that I hung on a drying rack so big it’s taking up most of the living room, which is hilarious when you consider how few clothes fit in the machine for a single load.

Doing laundry while in Italy: complete.

I still have no clue if I used an appropriate amount of laundry soap, but I’m calling this a win and going to bed.

Buying Produce in Italy

I’m in Italy right now. I came for a month, because, well, because I can.

I teach middle school during the school year and have the luxury of my summer off, so I decided to make the most of it. So I’m here in Parma, doing my best to learn my way around my new neighborhood, practice speaking Italian, and embrace living in Italian time.

Today’s mission: find the local grocery store. That’s one of my favorite things to do when I travel. You learn so much about a culture by what is – and isn’t – on the shelves at the local market. Peanut butter? Not a chance. Chestnut spread in the jam aisle? Absolutely.

Other interesting finds: pesto-flavored potato chips, lemon-burrata ravioli, and fun beverages: Lambrusco, the local wine, and Chinotto, the national soda.

I got my things home, including lugging a six-pack of 2 liter bottles of purified drinking water (the pipes are old so the water that comes out of the faucet is safe for cooking and bathing but it’s not advisable to guzzle it by the liter on a hot day). Then I realized I forgot to buy fruit. I wanted to go to the local fruit vendor, but couldn’t find him, and ended up back at the grocery store. I grabbed a few peaches, bagged them up, and headed to the checkout line.

The cashier lifting the bag, and looked confused. I didn’t understand her words, but I understood her body language. She kept lifting and dropping the bag, pantomiming that I needed to weigh the fruit.

I took the bag back, said a quick “mi dispiace” (I’m sorry) and headed back to the produce aisle, hoping I would see what other people were doing.

I saw one guy weighing fruit at a scale. Great! I followed him and put my peaches on the scale after he walked away, only to realize I had no clue how to tell the scale what I was weighing. There were no stickers on the fruit, and no product number (it seemed) on the price tag label on the shelf where I got the fruit. There was only a scale and a keypad with – get this – keys numbered from 1 to at least a hundred. It may have gone higher, I didn’t take notice of when the numbers stopped. I just saw blank number after blank number and no instructions on what to do with them.

I half considered leaving. Putting the fruit back and walking out the door was an option that was available to me.

But in that moment I became even more determined. I was buying that fruit! Those peaches would be mine! There was no way I was letting buying produce in a supermarket beat me.

There had to be a code for the scale. Nothing else made sense. I went back to the fruit stand. I looked at the tag again. And again. I saw the name of the fruit (peche), and the price per weight. I did not see a code.

I put my fruit on the scale, got the weight, and pressed a random number to see what would happen. My button rang my fruit up as l’aranche: Oranges. I had a clue!

The scale was covered with discarded bar code stickers, implying that people screw this up all the time or do exactly what i just did, and leave the discard stickers there.

I put the bar code sticker for the oranges on the scale with the other discards and went back to the peach display. I stared hard at the tag, looking for anything that looked like a code.

I noticed three tiny numbers, each in a separate box. There was a teeny tiny “1” in box. Next to it, there was a teeny tiny “8” in its own box. Next to that was another teeny tiny “1” in its own box.

I went back to the scale.

I put the fruit on the scale, and got my weight. I pressed “1” to see what would happen. The wrong thing rang up. I put the sticker on the scale and tried again. This time I pressed the only other number I had: “8.” It worked! The price tag popped out for my peaches and I headed back to the check out counter. The lady smiled when she saw me back with my properly labeled bag.

I’m still a little embarrassed by the fact that I actually considered giving up. Only for about half a second, but still. Then, on the way home, I found the produce vendor that I had been looking for from the beginning. I bought some apricots from him, no bar code needed.

I have fruit. I have wine. I have Italia. What more do I need?

Love in the time of Coronavirus

*I wrote this in March 2020. I’ve had it sitting on my desktop ever since. I’m not sure why. It never seemed like the right time to post it. Everything about how we live right now is different, it seems. But, this is a representative snapshot of a moment in time for me, so I’ll share it now.

I don’t know what to think about the amount of stress I felt going to CVS today.

My state is on lockdown. No one is to be out unless for food or medicine. I needed the latter.

I had to psych myself up before getting in the car. I gathered supplies: my remaining stash of Clorox wipes, my own pen, and I had my credit card out and at the ready so I could touch my wallet as little as possible before disinfecting it.

The one mile drive to the store was like driving through a ghost town. I half expected to see tumbleweed roll by. I don’t live in a very happening place to begin with, but this was downright eerie.

When I pulled up to the store, I headed straight for the drive through.

Last week, I was greeted with a smile by the pharmacy technician. She handed me a clipboard and a pen, that I reluctantly used to sign my receipt. Not so, today. The tech barely opened the window, talking to me the whole time through an opening of about six inches, using the glass as a shield. It was off-putting and reassuring at the same time. I was startled at first. Then, oh right. The contagion.

He looked me up in the computer, and found my order. “That’ll be $25,” he said with a pinched face. He must hate this part. The touching money part. He extended the metal drawer, and I dropped my credit card into it. “Oh, wait! I also have…” I started to say that I also have cash. Then I remembered that cash actually isn’t better.

He ran my card, and returned it back in the drawer. I really didn’t want to pick it up.

But I did, and then cleaned it as much as I dared with a precious Clorox wipe. Does getting the magnetic strip wet damage it? I didn’t know, and didn’t much care.

The tech handed my rather large bag through that very small opening. I took it with two fingers, touching as little as possible. No clipboard or signature needed. Thank goodness for electronic receipts.

I wiped everything I could think of, my credit card, my hands, even the pen I didn’t use.

I drove home and tried to touch as little as possible. I put the bag in a back room and washed my hands, then cleaned the doorknob, my car key fob, my leather wallet, my phone. I washed my hands again.

This is not typically how I live.




Fun with Apostrophes

For such a tiny punctuation mark, apostrophes sure seem to cause a lot of problems.

Here’s the basic rule for apostrophes:

Use an apostrophe to:

  • Show possession
  • Show where other letters should be

Do not use an apostrophe to:

  • Make something plural

That’s about the gist of it. Are there exceptions? Sure. There usually are, with grammar. But if you can commit to getting to where you feel comfortable with the above, you will find that your writing is suddenly clearer, the clouds will part, the sun will shine, and angels will sing from the heavens.

Okay, not really, but using apostrophes correctly really does make a difference in your writing.

Here are some examples to illustrate the above:

Show Possession

The keys are Jennifer’s.

You don’t have multiple Jennifers, right? (see? No apostrophe = plural)

But the keys belong to Jennifer. She possesses them. They are Jennifer’s keys.

You use an apostrophe to show that that the keys belong to Jennifer, not that there are many Jennifers.

Show Where Other Letters Should Be

This is known as a contraction.

For example:

They’re = They are

The apostrophe is a place-holder to show where the “a” in “are” would go. We squish the words “they” and “are” together to make “they are” easier to say. (And, so that our written language mostly matches the sounds that actually come out of our mouths.)

Can’t = can not

The apostrophe stands in for the “no” in not.

Its vs It’s

This one is actually quite easy.

“It’s” falls under the “show where other letters should be” rule.

It’s = It is

The apostrophe shows where the “I” in “is” would go.

Not sure which to use? Just say it out loud. Does “It is” make sense in the context of the sentence? If so, use “it’s.” If not, it’s “its.” Heh.

What about years, you ask?

She is an ‘80s girl at heart.

You know what to do here.

The apostrophe is the place holder where other letters (or, in this case, numbers) should be.

The apostrophe is standing in for the 19 in 1980s.

And I know you have the urge to add an apostrophe before the S, but don’t. Don’t do it. Resist that urge!

The ‘80s is a decade. It refers to ten years. Multiple years = plural. And remember the cardinal rule of apostrophes: they denote possession, not plurality.

Yes: 1980s

Nope nope nope: 1980’s

Your challenge: In all of your writing for the next week, every time you go to use an apostrophe, ask yourself: Plural or possessive?

If the word is denoting possession, use an apostrophe.

If the word is simply indicating multiples/plurality, no apostrophe.

You can do this. I believe in you.



Screen Shot 2020-07-16 at 3.17.27 PM
I love etymology (the study of the origin of words). The word “apostrophe” means “to turn away.” That explains its use with contractions, though I’ll have to do more research on how it came to show possession. 


Grammar: Affect vs Effect

One of the frustrating things about learning grammar is that there are a lot of rules but also a lot of exceptions to those rules. The exceptions make it tough for people to remember things like when to use affect vs effect, or where to place those pesky commas.

One way to learn the conventions – note that I did not say “rule” – is to read a lot. The more you read, the more you grow accustomed to how language is commonly used. Sometimes that’s a good thing, because you start to feel comfortable with how to use commas most effectively. Sometimes that’s a bad thing, because you start to you write “night” like “nite.” [Shudder]

Actually, any professional linguist will tell you that language is fluid. Language changes all the time, but happens so organically that we often don’t realize it. Give it a few more decades or maybe a few hundred more years, and “nite” will become the way that word is actually spelled.

I digress.

affect effectWhen it comes to whether or not to use “affect” or “effect” there’s a rule, and then there’s when to break the rule.

Here’s the rule

In their most common usages:

Affect: verb

Effect: noun

That’s it. It’s that simple.

To affect a change means that action is taking place, so affect is a verb and gets the A spelling.

To have an effect on someone means that effect is a thing that is happening to a person, and is therefore a noun, and gets the E spelling.


If you remember the affect/verb, effect/noun convention, you’ll be right pretty much all of the time. Except, when you talk about mood. Sometimes, with psychology, affect is a noun. For example, “The patient exhibited flat affect and wasn’t showing emotion at all.”

And sometimes, effect can mean “to bring about.” For example, “The new principal hoped to effect positive change on the student body.”

But those exceptions really are exceptions. Almost all of the time, affect is a verb, and effect is a noun.

So, commit the affect/verb, effect/noun convention to memory and you’ll be in good shape.

Here’s a handy pneumonic device to help you remember:

A for activate, which is action, aka a verb. Pneumonic devices are meant to be silly so you remember them. If you say to yourself “affect activate,” you’ll remember that affect = verb.

E for elephant, which is a noun. “Elephant Effect” = noun.





Music That Changed My Life

I was nominated to do that album cover thing on Facebook, where you post an album cover every day without explanation. The idea is that the albums are supposed to mean something to you.  Or maybe the idea is that music is so profound that no explanation is needed. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I can’t complete this challenge. I don’t have ten albums that changed my life or whatever the thing is. I listen to music all the time, but if it’s not Sara Bareilles or the Foo Fighters, it’s whatever random song comes up next on Lithium or while I’m channel surfing.

downloadI have exactly one album cover that I can share because I actually have Thoughts about the album. And you’re probably going to hate it because Dave Matthews Band sucks these days. Maybe they always did. But I loved Under the Table and Dreaming my freshman and sophomore years of college.

I would listen to this album on a cassette tape in my Sony Walkman while running endless laps around the Cole Field House concourse at UMCP. For those who don’t recall, that concourse was concrete. I probably wore cotton, too. I was a college sophomore; I didn’t know anything.

I once ran while listening to the entire album, start to finish, stopping only long enough to flip the tape. I had just gotten into some ridiculous fight with my roommate and our friends, and they didn’t want to be my friends anymore but didn’t have the emotional maturity to figure out a way to end the friendship like decent human beings, so they went full-on Mean Girl instead.

When the tape ran out, I was shocked. The album is an hour and fourteen minutes long. I had never run that long, ever. I didn’t even realize the time had passed, because I was angry, and the running was, well, taking the anger out on myself, really, given that concrete. But it’s the first time that I realized that taking care of myself mattered. I needed to do something that helped me feel better, instead of caring about what those stupid girls thought about anything. The running was solitary and an escape, and made me feel strong.

We never did make up. I got fed up with their nonsense and told them to shove it. My roommate and I did not speak one single word to each other for the last four months of our sophomore year. I made other, better friends, who are still my friends.

I learned how to run properly, with actual running shoes, and clothes made of synthetics. And I learned not to run on concrete. This post, and that memory, isn’t really about the album. Though, that’s how music works, doesn’t it? Sometimes it’s not about the music at all.

Hey my friend
It seems your eyes are troubled
Care to share your time with me
Would you say you’re feeling low and so
A good idea would be to get it off your mind
See you and me
Have a better time than most can dream
Have it better than the best
So we can pull on through
Whatever tears at us
Whatever holds us down
And if nothing can be done
We’ll make the best of what’s around
Turns out not where but who you’re with
That really matters
And hurts not much when you’re around
And if you hold on tight
To what you think is your thing
You may find you’re missing all the rest…

New Article!

Hi, all! I have a new article out this week! Check out Southern New Hampshire Screen Shot 2020-03-06 at 11.56.27 AMUniversity’s Newsroom for my latest piece, What are advanced nursing degrees?

I had a blast writing this piece, because I got to spend time talking with two experts in the field of nursing to learn all about this subject.

That experience led me to think about how I get asked all the time about my niche. “What kind of things do you write?” comes up a lot. While I focus on writing marketing content for businesses, nonprofits, and higher education, that’s still pretty broad, isn’t it?

My best answer is that I write a bit of everything, and I love it. Last week, I got to learn about nursing degrees. This week, I’m learning about systems thinking, artificial intelligence, and the controversy around vaccines.

Recently, I’ve also written a travel brochure for a terrific small town, website copy for a small business that provides really excellent customer service, and several blog posts for a financial advising firm.

I have the best job, because I get to learn all the things while crafting stories and sharing information. I have a small part in helping small businesses grow, and helping all sorts of organizations use their voice.

If you’re wondering what I can do for you, feel free to reach out!




How to Cure Jet Lag

Friends, I did it.

I found the cure for jet lag.

In the past, I would fly from the East Coast to Europe, or from the West Coast to Australia, and resign myself to feeling exhausted the next day. I would force myself to stay awake and walk, walk, walk outside in the sunshine until I basically collapsed into bed, usually around 6pm local time. Then I would sleep for at least 12 hours, and wake up still feeling tired.

DSC_0710 copy
One of the sights on my post-nap stroll.

I was an exhausted, useless mess for a solid 24 hours, if not more.

On my last trip, I did a little research about sleep. I learned that we need to sleep in 90 minute increments in order to get the full cycle of sleep. If you sleep less than 90 minutes, you wake up too soon, groggy, cranky, and no better than had you never slept at all. If you just sleep until your body is ready to wake up, the result is nearly as bad.

My most recent trip involved traveling from the mid-Atlantic region to Italy. That involved an overnight flight of about 8 hours. Which means that after the in-flight meal service after you take off, plus breakfast about an hour before you land, you really only have about 6 hours to try to sleep, if you’re lucky.

I was flying in economy, which usually isn’t the worst thing on overnight flights, but this time I was on Alitalia and I swear they must have done research on how to design an airplane seat that is the least likely shape possible to support the human body in any sort of recline. They even had non-removable headrests that forced your head into an unnatural position if you were of average height. Or, of any height, quite possibly.

As an added bonus, there always seemed to be a bright light hitting my face no matter which I way I shifted.

In short, this was the least comfortable overnight flight I have experienced yet. I got the least amount sleep I have ever gotten on a plane, despite my noise cancelling headphones, melatonin, blanket, and pillow.

But, while the overnight portion of the trip was a frustrating, sleepless mess, I tried a few

DSC_0066 copy
The sunshine was a great help.

new things upon landing that made all the difference in helping me conquer jet lag.

This is my new overnight routine to beat jet lag:

  • Wear noise-cancelling headphones. Mine are Bose over-the-ear wireless headphones. They are comfortable and the sound quality is great. They weren’t cheap but were worth every penny.
  • Wear compression socks. I don’t know how I ever traveled before compression socks. They feel like normal socks while you wear them, except your feet don’t swell up like balloons by the time you get to where you’re going.
  • Drink water. Buy a metal water bottle (less likely to break than plastic, plus, you know, the environment) and a metal carabiner. Fill that bad boy up at a water fountain in the airport before you board. Hang it to the magazine pocket on the seat back in front of you the minute you sit down. Drink from it liberally. Make it your goal to drink every drop of water in that bottle before you step off the plane. Do this for every leg of your flight. Don’t worry if you have to pee. Dehydration is worse than needing to go to the bathroom. Just drink the water. Plus, getting up to go to the bathroom frequently is good for your circulation.
  • Check with your doctor first, but if you can, take some melatonin before you try to sleep. It’s a natural supplement that will help trigger that sleepy feeling you need to fall asleep. It’s not a sleeping pill, though, so you won’t wake up groggy. But again, I’m not a medical doctor and I have no idea if melatonin can interact with medications, so do your research before you put anything in your mouth.
  • Set your watch to the local time of your destination the minute you board the plane. Don’t do the mental math of what time is it really, just accept that you are on the time of your destination already and that’s it.

    When you get to where you’re going, do the following. These steps are really key:

    • Fill your water bottle with fresh water and drop in an airborne tablet. You can get the cheaper generic kind at CVS or Costco (and probably lots of other places), if you like. Let it fizz, and drink it down. All of it. You’ll get the full benefits of hydration plus electrolytes.
    • Take a nap. That’s right. Do it. Sleep right in the middle of the day. But, and this is the key, only nap for an amount of time divided by 90 minutes. I set my alarm for exactly 90 minutes, but you could also do 180 minutes or 270 minutes. You get the picture. When your alarm goes off after that period of time, get up.
    • Go outside. If you flew overnight, it should still be daylight when you wake up from your nap. Walk around. Drink more water. Keep walking. Walk walk walk. Drink drink drink. (just water – no caffeine or alcohol)
    • Go to dinner at the local dinnertime. You will be tired, but you won’t be the kind of tired where you feel like you were hit by a truck and want to die, face down in your plate.
    • Go to bed at a normal bedtime. You’ll wake up the next morning after sleeping for about 8-10 hours feeling like you can conquer the world. Just like that, jet lag is gone.

DSC_0063 copy
Walking in daylight after my nap + hydration helped me adjust to local time quickly.

While I was tired when my alarm went off at the end of my nap, it wasn’t terrible. I definitely felt energized and ready to go outside. The hydration and the electrolytes made a huge difference. Thanks to the nap, hydration, and electrolytes, I was able to both enjoy a nice dinner in polite company of others the day of arrival AND wake up the next day feeling great – without any trace of jet lag.

**I am not expressly endorsing any of the products to which I have provided links; I am providing links as a courtesy, for informational purposes only. I do not receive payment of any kind should you choose to purchase these items.