Don't Be Cheap. Give Her a Dozen Roses this Valentine's

Give her roses this Valentine’s Day

There is nothing that says “I love you” like one dozen, long-stemmed roses (except maybe two dozen).  Don’t fall for that hype that expressed in poetry … “a single rose of love – a single love never to be broken”.  Single roses are for cheap givers.  Give her at least one dozen on Valentine’s Day – the feast that celebrates love.

Every year, my husband gives me a dozen (or two dozen) roses. He spent fifteen years in the floral industry as a grower, a designer and a shop owner.  He told me that they'd always laugh at the few dumb schlubs (<---- he did not say schulbs) that would buy "one single rose" for his dearest love.

"You could see the love in their eyes - the ones who bought a dozen roses - or two dozen" he said. "But the guy who bought one rose, always had a big story about how one rose was more meaningful."

Get a grip, guys. Think of your true love. Does she want one single rose when she could have a dozen?  That's like asking if she's rather have one beautiful wrapped piece of chocolate instead of a box. Seriously... we want the box.

Though Roses have been in existence for over 35 million years, garden cultivation of roses began 5000 years ago.  It is only in the last several hundred years that they have been widely cultivated and become part of the human experience equated with “love.”

In the late eighteenth century, roses from China were cultivated and introduced into Europe.  Today the rose has over 30,000 varieties to its flower species, and the flower that only bloomed once a year in soft shades of pink and white – now has produced “repeat bloomers” and hardy varieties in shades including lavender, yellow, blue, multi-toned and a thousand shades of pink and red.

Rose myths and history

How the Flower got its Name: "Eros" to Rose

One theory stems from a story in Roman mythology when Flora, the goddess of flowers, who, while walking through the woods, came upon the dead body of a young woman.  Deeply moved by the death of one so young and lovely, she transformed the body into the most beautiful flower ever created – the white rose.  Flora named the flower for Eros, the god of love.

Another myth states that Venus created the rose from her tears.  A different story claims that when Venus rose from the froth of the sea, the gods celebrated by creating the rose in her honor.

How the Rose Got its Color

Then there is the love story between Aphrodite (Venus) and Adonis.  Their love gave the red rose its crimson color.  Aphrodite, rushing towards her slain lover, catches herself on the prickly thorns of a rosebush, and her blood gives the flower its deep red color.

A Christian myth has Eve kissing a white rose and the flower then blushed with color – giving it a pinky hue.  According to Bishop Basil, writing in the 4th century, the rose only carried thorns after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden.  Ironically, as the rose became one of the flowers of the Virgin Mary, it became associated with Christian charity.

The color of the Rose you give means …..

For those of you who have heard that the color of the rose is tied to a certain “sentiment”, here’s a helpful reference:

Red – romantic love; they’re the “Valentine roses” par excellence.

Yellow – joy and friendship, affection – good for someone you love, but not romantically

Deep Pink – gratitude and appreciation – ideal for mom or grandmother

Light Pink -   admiration - perfect for a daughter or sister

White – purity, reverence, humility – perfect for – well maybe a nun or saint

Valentines Day History

How Did Valentine’s Day Get Started?

Around 498 AD., Pope Gelasius declared February 14th, Saint Valentine’s Day, in honor of the Roman priest martyred under Emperor Claudius II in 279 AD.  No one is certain how the feast of Saint Valentine became associated with lovers, but two legends give us a hint.

One legend is that Pope Gelasius was attempting to “Christianize” the pagan Roman Festival “Lupercalia” which paired lovers (sometimes against their will) with life-mates by way of a lottery. A second legend tells of Saint Valentine resisting an edict of the Emperor forbidding the marriage of young men bound for military service, for which offence he was put to death.  Thus Saint Valentine and the day marked in his honor are equated with lovers.

There are varying ideas about what actually became of Valentine.  While some say he was beheaded, others contend that he became sick in prison and died.  In 1835, the remains – or what are believed to be the remains – of Saint Valentine were given to an Irish Carmelite priest named Father John Spratt, by Pope Gregory VI, after Spratt impressed the Pope with his passionate preaching during a visit to Rome.  The gift, in a black and gold casket, can still be viewed every Valentine’s Day at the Carmelite Monastery next to the Whitefriar Street church in Dublin Ireland.

The evolvement of today’s printed Valentines

History tells us the first modern valentines date from the early years of the fifteenth century.  The Young French Duc d’Orleans was captured at the battle of Agincourt and kept a prisoner in the Tower of London for a number of years.  The duke wrote a series of poems to his wife from captivity.  About sixty of them remain.  They can be seen among the royal paers in the British Museum.
Flowers as valentines appear nearly two hundred years later.  A daughter of Henry IV of France gave a party in honor of Saint Valentine.  Each lady received a bouquet of flowers from the man chosen as her valentine.

But commercial, mass print valentines have their origin in Massachusetts when in 1847 Esther Howland, pioneer of the American Valentine Industry, received a decorated card from England.  She began making her own lacy cards to sell in her father’s shop.  It was an idea so successful that she earned almost $100,000 per year in the greeting card business.

Happy Valentines Day everyone. Celebrate with Roses.

New Year's Resolutions - Walking My Own Crazy Path

For 2015 I'm marching to my own drummer, even if my boots are on the wrong feet. Checking out Twitter and some of the  posts, almost half include losing weight - and half of those have it as #1. That's always been on my list too.... but i'm still fat.

Like last year.  My New Year's Resolutions for 2014 were:

1. Lose 50 lbs.
2. Pay down our debts.
3. Expand our company's tour operation.
4. Write a book.
5. Reduce conflicts, be less judgmental.

Losing weight has been on every year's resolution list since I can remember.  In 2014 it was #1 on the list. I didn't lose 50 lbs. In fact, I gained weight.  What the hell!?

True ... losing weight is always on my Resolutions list, but some years I actually do lose weight. Other years I don't.

Why bother resolving?  It's a lifetime, on and off battle - depending on what's in my fridge.

Resolving to lose weight on Jan 1st has no impact on whether I do.  And it starts my list off with the most unfun... boring ... unlikely to achieve resolution. I either will or I won't.  Losing weight is off my Resolutions list forever.

Last year, I actually did accomplish the other 4 things on that list. I paid down our debt ... but I would have done that whether or not I resolved to do it or not ... and I would have written that book and expanded our tour company whether or not they were on the list. Resolutions # 2, 3 and 4 were part of our business plan.

#5 was actually a good resolution.  I did reduce conflicts in my life and I'm working on judging people less. Resolution #5 was something that I could do daily, and it brought instant satisfaction. And the process changed me and impacted the results of the entire year. It wasn't something to be achieved - it was a mental process that made me happy.


I was on a St. Bernard's teen club weekend retreat in 1974.  I was fifteen years old and I had a long, conversation around an empty campfire with a visiting Irish seminarian name Jack McArdle. Jack was probably in his 30s then.  His vocational call came later than most priest's. We talked about making decisions. He talked to me like I was an adult. I can't recall what choice I was trying to make, but it weighed heavy.  Jack confided that he had a big decision to make too.  He was pondering whether to be ordained or marry the woman he loved. Though I can't remember the choice I was trying to make, I'll never forget the advice he gave me. I still use his formula.

Jack said, "When you have to make a tough decision, ask yourself two questions.  What do you want to do, and what do you think you should do? Once you've honestly answered those two questions for yourself, the best choice will present itself." He also explained that with hard decisions - life-changing decisions, one had to repeat this process several times. It was likely that the "should do" part of equation would remain constant. The key was recognizing  the "want to do" part and understanding why you wanted certain things.

He was right.  Separating the "shoulds" and "oughts" from the "wants" definitely makes all the benefits and costs visible, and provides clarity. If you want something for all the wrong reasons, then it's not worth having. And likewise, if you allow the expectation of others to rule your choices, you'll be miserable.

For me, Jack McArdle's formula also works for making resolutions. Resolving to apply myself to something that I'm passionate about - that doesn't harm anyone else - is a resolution that is likely to bring about good change and help me reach the goals I set.

By the way, Jack McArdle chose to become a priest.  He went back to Ireland and served many years as a retreat guide, pastoral counselor, public speaker and writer. When I Googled him I discovered that he passed away in 2009 after a long illness but not before authoring at least 10 books on spirituality. 

The Angel Oak - Charleston, SC


1. Reject negative energy, and reject conflict whenever possible.
2. Write something new every day (five days a week).
3. Learn more about earth energy particularly in stones and trees, ley lines and dowsing.
4. Read 3 books about great writers.
5. Read 5 literary travel memoirs.

These are all things that I want to do, and should do #1 and #2. I am passionate about all of them, and I'll enjoy the effort.

All 5 of these resolutions will enrich my life, make me a better person - a more happy person, and will likely bring about the goals I've set for myself  - to write 2 books, expand our tour operation and produce a Travel Hag podcast. But even I don't achieve those goals, these five actions will propel me into something wonderful.

Here's to resolving to do things we're passionate about and a great 2015.

Merry Christmas from the Burgoynes - 2014

December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas from east side of the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in North America and the most studied estuary in the world. That big ol’ bay has 48 rivers and 102 branches and tributaries that stretch from Pennsylvania to Virginia, and 1750 miles of navigable waters. If you started at our home in Marion Station and laid all of the Chesapeake waterways end to end in a straight line, it would stretch as far west as the Rocky Mountains.  Every morning when I look across this Chesapeake landscape I am inspired.  Though Dan and I love to travel … this rare place with its endless of shorelines, vast marshes and big skies – this place that we call home  - is always on our minds. It’s a magical landscape with a heart and a soul, and the lifeblood that courses through its veins is its people – past and present. It will always be home to us, and we are grateful to rest in the peace of its blessing.

Burgoyne House in Marion Station, MD

Our family is well. Albert was promoted to Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy this year.  It’s big step for him, and we’re so proud of his service.

Dan and Chief Al Burgoyne

Dominic’s doing great and has a new job doing marketing for his cousin Preston’s company. It’s allowed him to travel a bit. Our eldest grandchild, Benjamin became an Eagle Scout, graduated from high school, and enlisted in the US Army. Dan joined Becky, Harry and Connor to be at Ben’s boot camp graduation in Georgia.

Eagle Scout, Ben and brother Connor

Al and Ruthie came too. We know Becky will be crazy missing her son these next few years as he begins his assignment with the Army, but we also know it will be such an adventure for Ben. We’re so proud of him.

Bailea, Al and Catalina

Danny and Amber are still living on top of that mountain in Virginia raising their beautiful girls, Mia and Gracie. Amber is sticking it out through Pharmacology School with one more year to go. Mia told me she was a country girl at heart and I figure she is. While other little girls are singing, “Let it Go” from Frozen and pirouetting like proper princesses; our twin granddaughters sing Rain is a Good Thing and dancing to a country beat. (I’d never heard this song.) Imagine our surprise when these two 9-year-old sweethearts stood on the stage at the KOA Campground in Harpers Ferry, WV (it was karaoke night) and sang with spirit and confidence “Rain makes corn. Corn makes whiskey. Whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky.”  Yes they ARE country girls. And we love everything about them.

Grace and Mia on one of our days at the beach

The twins spent a month with us this summer. We did ghost walks, met a lot of old friends, stayed endless hours on the beach, and even spent a night in an old haunted Victorian Inn with a tower. But, as always, the best memories were the simple conversations, the story telling, the wondering, the night walks, the bike rides. Every hour with them is a gift. They are deep thinkers with old souls, and Grampa and I miss them so when they go home.

Lara and David are enjoying their new home in Westminster. Tristan (aka Muffin Man) is constant entertainment. He’s in preschool now and just turned four. I asked him what he needed before he could become a man. He said, “A car …..a woman …. money……..and beer.” The biggest milestone of 2014 was the birth of his sister - grandchild #10 – Rosie.  Primrose Serra English was born on January 14th, and I was fortunate to be able to watch her come into the world. Lara and David and I were in the hospital room talking, when the doctor came in, examined Lara and said, “Whoa. We’re ready. Get the cart. We’re having a baby.”  Five minutes later Rosie emerged with a clenched fist held up to her cheek as if to be warning the world not to mess with her. And she was a very serious baby, unwilling to smile on demand. She’s more relaxed now and smiles often. She’s starting to stand on her own, getting ready to take her first steps.

Rosie is a very serious baby. 

It seems that we spend our whole lives teaching them how to stand on their own. And we’re so happy with every little milestone until suddenly, we realize that they made it. They grew up. The first steps, first day of school, first prom, first love, first car… they’re all in the past and your baby’s childlike innocence has faded into memory. While memories are great, it still stings a little to know that those special moments are over – gone – forever.

Grammy and Rosie

But grandchildren help take that sting away for us. The milestone experiences return, only they are magnified because we get to share them with the very ones who were once our little children. And we’re all in this big love fest together and life is new again. I still marvel when I look at Lara’s hands and remember how little they were, and how tight she’d hold onto my hand when she was scared. How she trusted me to keep her world in order. And now those little hands have morphed into big hands that are repeating the process with another generation. Today the little hands belong to Rosie and Tristan. Gosh, I don’t feel old enough for this to be happening, but it’s a joy just the same to see the traces of our own children woven into the bodies and spirits of our grandchildren. It helps us know who we are. Who we belong to. To recognize what matters. To look hopefully into the future.

Mia and Tristan

I’m in my eleventh year of working for the State of Maryland, and we’re still growing the new businesses we’ve established – Chesapeake Ghost Walks. In 2013 we did 29 ghost walks, and I wrote and guided them all. In 2014 we trained six guides, hired Lara to do the customer service and put on 130 ghost walks. We were even featured in the Washington Post’s Travel section. I also got a 3-book deal with The History Press still featuring haunted sites on the Eastern Shore. Book #1  - Haunted Ocean City & Berlin was released in October. Books 2 and 3 will be released in 2015 and 2016.  So we are blessed and thrilled with the success and looking hopefully to the new year.

Chesapeake Ghost Walk Tour Guides 2014

2014 was also the first year we led two tours to Ireland. I led the May tour to Northern Ireland, and the highlight for me was visiting Tory Island – an inhabited island in the north Atlantic nine miles off the coast of Donegal. Like many of Ireland’s offshore islands, Tory’s landscape has been beaten by the elements into a stark, flat, rocky, yet enchanting island where there are sweeping views of the sea from almost every perspective. The island has 93 people living full time, and the landscape has inspired local (and non-local) artists to form the Tory Island Art School and gallery there. The artists say that the island has a spirit that moves them - inspires them to create. Almost all of the artists’ renderings are of island landscapes, island life or island culture.  

King of Tory Island - Patsy Dan Rogers and Mindie

But Tory Island also has a king.  Yes. No joke. There really is a king. It’s a long-standing tradition modeling the days of the old clans. Patsy Dan Rodgers is the King of Tory Island, elected by the islanders to serve until his death. He met our boat at the port, and led our group on a private tour of the island telling stories about island life, flirting with the ladies and giving us a chance to engage and “plug into” the island culture. After the tour the King popped into the pub, grabbed a drink and his button box, and joined other musicians outside in a set of traditional Irish music. And there in the street, the locals - one-by-one - began to dance … just because there was music. Their entire heritage seemed to gather around them in those moments. It was such a rich experience. There are no pretenses with these people.

Dan went with me on the September Ireland tour, and there – on the tour - we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. On the anniversary day we took the group to Tintern Abbey in County Wexford. It is a restored ruin of a 13th century Cistercian abbey. In 1200, William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke (Wales) set sail for Ireland to assume his position as Lord of Leinster. But Marshall’s ship was wrecked and while he struggled not to drown, he made a promise to God, that if his life were spared, he would found an abbey wherever he safely landed.  Marshall survived and established this abbey near where he washed up. He named it “Tintern” in honor of a famous abbey in his homeland –Tintern Abbey in Wales.

Tintern Abbey in Wexford - photo taken on our anniversary day, September 18, 2014

Being that this was a milestone anniversary, Dan and I gathered our tour guests on the grounds below the abbey and had a “handfasting” ceremony - an old Celtic marriage ritual. One of our guests, Kathy Sweeney presided over the ceremony while other guests tied the ribbons on our hands – one ribbon for each of our promises. Our very talented coach driver and dear friend, John O’Keeffe (from Cork) sang a beautiful Irish song. And there in the shadow of Tintern Abbey, Dan and I choose each other again, and vowed to walk through this crazy life together. The service was short, the weather was fine, and the experience marked a new beginning for us – a new cycle of years. Here’s to another 15, and may we all meet again at Tintern in 2029.  

I’ll happily admit that there is no better partner for me than Dan Burgoyne. He is my soulmate and my inspiration, and his gentle support keeps me from spinning out of control.   I know I’ll choose him again and again as these circles of life spin. Though we’ve weathered hardships and had to reinvent ourselves a few times, our spirits have been constant and are knitted tightly together. I can’t imagine life without him.

 Dan and Mindie at the Rock of Cashel - 2014

And it doesn’t seem like 15 years – or more than 15 – or less than 15. It seems like we’ve always been together. I suspect that we’ve got the wrong idea about time. Einstein said that time is an illusion – that we perceive time to be past, present and future because we live in aging bodies. But in reality there is no time… there just “is.” Our existence is circular, not linear. We follow spiral paths that ascend and descend as our trials and joys ebb and flow. All living things mirror that circle of time – the seasons, the sun, birth, life and death. And as one life passes out of this earthly existence, another life come in … like Rosie, with so much promise. So much hope.

For me, Christmas also has timelessness about it. Even though it comes every year, it’s always a part of my existence. Every time I moved into a new home I imagined where the Christmas tree would go. I’d see things I thought the boys or Lara would throughout the year and tuck them away for Christmas. Christmas is something we’re always imagining – looking forward to. For the pagans, the solstice was the longest night. It marked the shift in the year when the light started to come back again – when it began to outlast the darkness. It celebrated new life, a new year, and new beginnings. Christ’s birth mirrored the solstice – only Christ WAS the light, the promise incarnate – proclaiming that death wasn’t forever, and we could all be reborn. Life could be new again in him. And every year, on every Christmas that truth is restated. We can be reborn, no matter how old we get. Christmas reminds us that there is always a way to start again, to bury grievances, to shake bad energy, to become something new. It’s the lesson that all the songs and stories impart. Time stands still at  Christmas, and we’re moved to consider new choices and promises for when the circles start to spin again.

Last summer Gracie and I tried to count the stars one night. Once we discovered this was impossible she said, “If God made all the stars and all the people, and there might even be people on other planets … how can he keep track of everything? How does he remember me?” I said, “I don’t know, Gracie. I just know that he does.” After a few seconds of silence, Gracie said, “There has to be a whole lot of stuff about God that we’ll never know.”

Gracie and Grammy

I agree with Gracie.  And it seems the older I get, the less I understand. I figure the best we can do is clutch the common truths that we do understand and know that even though life may throw us hardships that can sometimes seem unbearable, there’s always hope – hope of reinvention, of shifting circumstances, of new love and new beginnings. As time circles around us, life will get better again.  And the things that are always constant - love, hope and belief in something greater than ourselves – will sustain us.

Here’s to you and yours and to a new year of hope, health and peace. Dan and I wish you every blessing this Christmas and in the year to come. May your burdens be light. May your hopes be great. May love surround you, and joy fulfill you. And May God bless you and those you love.

Merry Christmas, dear friends and family.