Travel Untangled: Memphis, Tennessee

A few months ago, I had some vacation days to burn and some summer to enjoy. I asked my family to join me on a road trip to Memphis. 

We could spend time with my Uncle Sonny, a retired military vet who spent many years working in the Department of Corrections. He likes structure and routine but loves when family come to visit and disrupt all that. We had a great time. We could also…

.. See one of my fave former college professors and let her meet the cuteness that is my nephew. Then we could for sure…

 

…enjoy some sights and scenes of Tennessee. On our trip, we even took a few minutes to marvel at the mighty Mississippi River which we crossed at several points. We will definitely be back though, we didn’t make it to Beale street and some of the music tours we wanted because of several crazy, stormy weather days. 

One of the places we visited that I always wanted to check out was The Lorraine Motel. This is the location where civil rights activist and leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was shot. 

In addition to a memorial for Dr. King, there is also a Civil Rights Museum taking visitors through the history and journey of blacks arriving enslaved, enduring slavery and the on-going civil rights movement, to present-day, of African-Americans in America. A powerful mixture of triumphs and setbacks, the memories cascade even today since many of us or our parents and theirs are alive and saw the up and down times throughout history. We don’t have to look far however since America still isn’t very far on the spectrum of, “all men are created equal.”

Each room in the museum takes on a different piece of history. It’s always emotional for me, but I held myself together. That is, until I walked into a room with a song playing over the loud speaker and a video with lyrics on a giant screen. They were singing, “We Shall Overcome”….and I lost it. A ball of tears. I guess the outpouring of feeling overwhelmed me. Each word as powerful and relevant TODAY as decades prior.

It was quite an experience and I would recommend you take a visit to the Lorraine Motel someday. 

No matter who you are, where you are from, how you were raised or whatever else, we can teach ourselves (our kids, spouses, friends, neighbors, politicians, families, coworkers, etc) to be/do better because we know better, to really love people – all people, to show kindness and humility in our humanity. We can absolutely change the world. 

“I may not get there with you but I want you to know that we as a people will get to the promised land” -Dr. King

Final Civil Rights Museum room has quotes from many world leaders, including President Barack Obama

Hope you enjoyed the recap of my trip to Memphis! That place is full of history, music, great food, good fun and I can’t wait to be back.

Chicago Goods: Museum of Contemporary Art

In the last month, I have been to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) located downtown Chicago twice. They currently have Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami, on exhibition with The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg

Murakami has an interesting mix of artistic displays, ranging from traditional Japanese paintings to fun animated characters to kooky yet darkly playful looking, almost monster-like characters to pop art collaborations with musical artists like Kanye West.

MCA is located just behind the Water Tower Place, a mere block from the Magnificent Mile. Most days they are open until 5pm with the exception on 9pm on Tuesday and Friday and being closed on Mondays. Suggested regular admission price is $15 for adults. Illinois residents are free on Tuesdays which is also a treat because during the summer, MCA hosts Tuesdays on the Terracewhich features live jazz from 5:30-8pm, has drinks for sale and space for people to mingle or chill on their back patio area. After the jazz is done, visitors have an additional hour to walk through all open exhibits before the museum closes at 9pm. 

Murakami’s The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg came out of the Japanese folk saying that an octopus in distress will chew off a damaged leg to ensure survival, knowing that a new one will grow in its place. 

A really profound concept when you think about it.

“The exhibition chronologically traces the many reinventions and refinements that have fueled Murakami’s career. I have now gone through the exhibition twice and I don’t think it will be my last. I find something new and interesting every time and there is plenty more to discover. Though some of the pieces have aspects that are plain weird, when I think overall about his message, I get it. I love that the exhibit goes in chronological order so you see the evolution of Murakami’s craft and mental state as he reinvents and refines over time.

I know the Art Institute of Chicago gets a lot of love (and it should!) because it has a lot more historical pieces but this is another option for people looking for something different in Chicago.

Murakami will be on display until September 6. Enjoy! 

Book Review: The Mastery of Love

“The only way to master love is to practice love. You don’t need to justify your love, you don’t need to explain your love; you just need to practice your love. Practice creates the master.”

A friend of mine recommended this book by Don Miguel Ruiz, said it changed their relationship which was fascinating enough a statement for me to check it out. 

This book, also boasting as, “A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship,” was quite a read. I highlighted so many strong takaways and nuggets of wisdom. 

“The whole world can love you, but that love will not make you happy. What will make you happy is the love coming out of you.” 


Essentially Ruiz focuses on fear-based beliefs and assumptions that sabotage love and cause drama in out relationships.  He discusses control, accepting & loving ourselves to love others and how perfection leads to self-rejection. 

“Whoever wants to suffer is welcome to suffer, but we don’t have to suffer.”


There are three masteries that guide us towards happiness, freedom and love. The Mastery of Awareness, the Mastery of Transformation and the Mastery of Love which is the result of achieving the first two masteries. 

“If you go into a relationship with selfishness, expecting that your partner will make you happy, it will not happen. And it’s not that person’s fault; it’s your own.”


I will say some parts at the end gave me pause when Ruiz tries to solidify examples through character stories from ancient India and Toltec tradition but other than that, I was tracking along with a great deal of what he was saying. 

“In the end that is what we are looking for: to find ourselves, to be ourselves, to live our own life, instead of…the life we were programmed to live.” 


I can see how this book can positively impact a relationship. I have already used some of the key wisdom points in my own. 

“When you hear your heart guiding you to your happiness, then make a choice and stick to it.” 


Communication and the desire to understand our significant other can help us elevate one another in love. We practice love. We are able to be vulnerable, open and honest without fear. 

“The relationship you have with yourself is reflected in your relationships with others. If you reject yourself then you will make the assumption that the other person will reject you for the same thing you reject in yourself.” 


You are what you believe you are. Be love for it’s what we all need most. 

Travel Untangled: Starved Rock State Park

Illinois is an interesting state. Most people who don’t live here know of Chicago, maybe Springfield then the rest fades into oblivion. Well, I suppose some who do live here also think that way. 

Over the weekend I got to visit a natural treasure of the state that I would recommend to residents and visitors alike: Starved Rock State Park.

Council Overhang

Starved Rock is a little less than a 2 hour drive from Chicago…located in Oglesby, Illinois. On almost 3000 acres of land include miles of hiking trails, canyons and waterfalls…something for all ages. 

The local towns to Starved Rock are the size that city-people like me call “charming.” On a shuttle tour, we learned the grain silos in town are considered the skyscrapers. Imagine my surprise. 

Random grain silos from Google lol
Sears Tower photo taken by me Monday during Chicago River Architectural Boat Tour

I had the best, most relaxing experience during my visit to Starved Rock. 

We hiked through a few canyons, saw some beautiful waterfalls flowing into hidden dips and valleys from the Illinois River and learned of the history of Starved Rock, named for a rather tragic 1760’s incident in Native American history. 

Illinois Waterway Visitor Center

This family trip was also my nephew Malik’s first big adventure. In fact, our group ranged in age from 2 months to 60+ and we all enjoyed every minute. 

The park is free to enter and has free parking. They offer guided hikes, guided trolley tours or people can go explore on their own. They said on a busy holiday, they can get 400,000 visitors. They have a hotel and cabins on site for booking. They also have campgrounds for anyone interested in roughing it for a night or two under the stars. There are restaurants, live music at The Lodge and during our stay, we saw two weddings get hosted. 

I’m telling you, this place has so much to offer. 

Here are some more photos from our trip. Visit Starved Rock! You won’t be disappointed. 

Me & Dad with one of our guides
Me in Ottawa Canyon
Mom & Dad enjoying the view of the canal

Above is a victory photo.  My mom has been through several health things in the last few years including hip replacement surgery in February on Valentine’s Day. She was unsure if she could handle the hiking and so were we but she did it! This particular canyon and hike through Ottawa was a lot of climbing up and down steep steps, taking extra care in slippery and muddy areas, stepping on jagged rocks to cross water in our paths and she friggin (I wanted to use a stronger word here but I know mom will read this lol) rocked it ALL!!! I’m so proud, as we all were. This was a major accomplishment on the journey and such an awesome photo to take!

Loved ones
Sister & Nephew
Me posing with my waterfall friend

Until next time! 

Summer is Here!

Here in Chicago, summertime weather seems to has arrived and I am over the moon.
Though summer officially lands June 21, just last week, I was able to pack my winter coat away…finally. I wish I were joking about that. Even last month we were still having temps range from 40s to 80s which just makes me crazy in the head. 

I already declared that I want to be outside as much as humanly possible. 

Chicago has so many festivals, concerts, shows, rooftops, events and many of them are free or cheap, at least the ones I keep an eye out for. 

Downtown isn’t the only part with things to offer.  Tourists and locals can get to know city areas even better by stopping by the hundreds of neighborhood festivals. 

This weekend I enjoyed the Chicago Blues Fest, one of the world’s largest, free festivals celebrating blues music performed by outstanding musicians and artists. 

I want to soak up the sun (bathed in my sunscreen of course) and be at the lakefront all the time. The next few weeks include camping trips and roadtrips and fun in the sun. 

If you live in a part of the country like me where you get 4 seasons and it’s not divine all the time, enjoy summer while we got it! The next few months will be the perfect mood booster to prepare for whatever winter brings us later this year.  

Have a great week and get some outdoor time in. Fresh air is everything and good for the body, mind and soul. 

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 

Many moons ago when I was in high school, I was selected to lay the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery while on a trip to Washington DC. We paid tribute to fallen servicemen and women. 

It was such an honor and so humbling. 
I dug up some old photos to share. I am very grateful for whoever snapped the pics. I was young and that experience will live with me forever. Much like the soldiers who have fought and lost their lives throughout history. Whether claimed or unknown, many young when they went to war, thousands never to return home the same. Many more never to return home at all. 

On that particular morning at Arlington National Cemetery, there was a chill in the air. It was raining and foggy. 

If you’ve never been to Arlington, what a sight to see. Thousands of small headstones in neat rows, filling the land in every direction. Mothers and fathers, daughters and sons in their final resting places. 

On a trip to DC, you can pay respects at several memorial sites. The impact on you will be tremendous I know. I am always overcome with emotion.

For Arlington, three other graduating seniors from my class were selected by our peers to represent our school and participate in the great honor of laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

Me walking towards the tomb

The soldier guiding us was so kind and when it was time to begin the ceremony, he turned around and got so serious. It made sense though. Laying the wreath is a very somber ceremony. We were very meticulous and in sync with every step. We watched the changing of the guard and participated in the entire ceremony. It was incredible and so powerful to be part of. 

Me on the back right

Memorial Day, we think of ones we’ve lost, known and unknown and naturally give thanks to veterans and active duty soldiers we still have. Each group just as important as the other…for they all deserve our respect when they protect and serve as intended. Many sacrifice their lives in the process and we remember them because life is precious and we only have one to live. We thank you.

May our active duty military and veterans have the peace and strength to go through another day and night then again and again. May you have what you need to keep fighting the fight, whatever fight that may be. 

Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. 

If you know of any resources to help Veterans (national or local to you), please share by leaving a comment with the information.  

Moms

The older I get, the more I appreciate my mom and what I have learned from her. She has had her set of triumphs and challenges in this life. In my eyes her triumphs are plentiful and outweigh anything else. She has taught me the love of learning and how to show compassion. I admire mom’s strength. It encourages me to live in my own strength. 
I am grateful for my mom and many other women in my life who have given motherly advice, been positive examples of wives, mothers, sisters and daughters I am proud to know and be like. 

You didn’t have to love me like you did but you did and I thank you. 

Happy Mother’s Day!