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.

SHOULDS AND OUGHTS


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

MY 2015 RESOLUTIONS


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.

Gander Mountain FAILS in Customer Service - Amazon.com Rocks!

Dear Gander Mountain -- Your packaging sucks as does your customer service. I will never order from you again.

Dear FedEx - I recognize your driver probably felt threatened by our dogs, but wouldn't it have been better for your driver to bring the package back to your warehouse so we could pick it up, rather than him tossing it in the driveway? Do you have a policy in place?

Dear Amazon.com - Thank you for standing by the customer and resolving delivery problems behind the scenes with out wasting the customer's time.


On Cyber Monday (12/1) I ordered a shirt from Gander Mountain. It was a Christmas gift for my husband. On 12/5 they notified me that it was shipped.  It was packed in the flimsy plastic envelope pictured above. We found it today in the yard, half eaten by our dogs.

WE HAVE DOGS. They are large, and they bark furiously whenever anyone approaches our home. They are intimidating, but are contained in our yard behind an invisible fence. It's understandable that delivery people who don't know about the invisible fence are apprehensive about approaching the house. We have a front door with a porch that is under cover and the dogs cannot reach it. All of our usual delivery people from FEDEx, UPS and the Post Office know this and come right to the front door. In fact, we have officially notified both UPS and FedEx about the invisible fence so they can note that for all their drivers.  Occasionally there is a new driver, who misses the flag in the system. But someone is almost always home and will run outside when the dogs bark.

It's likely that the FedEx driver who delivered this package didn't see the flag about the fence, and we didn't hear the dogs in time to intercept the delivery.  So the driver tossed the shirt in its flimsy plastic envelope into our driveway and the dogs destroyed it. We found it a day later. The shirt inside is ruined.



Amazon.com Values Customers


For those who love to bash Amazon.com for their usurping all of the retail business, think about how they handle customer service.  It could be why their market share in the retail sector never shrinks.

We had a similar situation with an Amazon.com package that got ruined last year. Only it was rain that destroyed the contents, not the dogs.  This UPS drive left it on the steps instead of bringing it up on the covered porch, and the rain destroyed the package and contents.

I reported the issue to Amazon.com as soon as I discovered the damaged package, and within 20 minutes of reporting it, I was a happy customer.

AMAZON.COM's PROCESS



After discovering the damaged package, I searched my email inbox and located the Amazon.com order for the damaged merch. Then I followed a link for customer support on their website and after clicking a few options noting the circumstances of my issue, I chose the option "Call me in 5 minutes." Two seconds later, my phone rang. I explained to the Amazon.com customer service representative what happened.  I was emailed instructed for filing a simple claim that included pictures of the damaged merchandise.  I was assured by the representative that they would replace the item, and I received the replacement item 4 days later. Amazon arranged for UPS to pick up the damaged merchandise the next day and they resolved the delivery issue / charges directly with UPS.

Amazon got a satisfied customer. I spent 20 minutes on resolving the problem. I continue to do more business with Amazon. I tell everyone how wonderful they are.


GANDER MOUNTAIN'S PROCESS


I called the customer support number for Gander Mountain that was noted on my order confirmation email. I was on hold for ten minutes. While waiting I visited the FedEx website and try to file a claim and spend 7minutes (while I'm on hold with Gander Mountain) trying to fill out a claim.  This included creating an account and going through 4 screens inputting information, only to find out that FedEx will only deals directly with Gander Mountin - not me. Makes sense. After all Gander Mountain is their customer. What is FedEx going to do with me?  Send me a new shirt?

Once Gander Mountain came on the phone, the rep tells me that I have to file a claim with FedEx. I explain what I just discovered on FedEx's website. I get nowhere. I ask to speak to a manager.  I hold for 10 more minutes. When I am connected to a manager, he says that I can neither get a replacement shirt or get a refund. Nothing can be done until I file a claim with FedEx. And the manager - Durell at ext #116 - explains that once the package leaves Gander Mountain's warehouse, they relinquish all responsibility. And he added ..."It is not our fault that your dogs chewed up the package."

Nice.

So I called FedEx. They reiterate what their website says; that they have to take it up with the sender. The half done claim that I abandoned mid cycle on their website actually went through and posted. They gave me a claim # which is impossible to track via the website (or at least it was difficult and confusing to figure out). FedEx explained that they will process the claim and then - if they deem it reasonable - will reimburse Gander Mountain for the expense.  I asked to speak to a manager.  I waited 10 minutes on hold and finally hung up.

One hour wasted and Yay!  FedEx will reimburse Gander Mountain if they deem my claim reasonable.  There is no mechanism for me to enter this communication process other then to submit a claim. The whole process will take weeks and it's incumbent upon me - the customer - to keep up with the process.

Bottom line:  No Christmas present, and a lot of hassle. Neither FedEx nor Gander Mountain assumes responsibility for customer satisfaction of the recipient who shelled out the bucks for the merch.

I am so glad I only ordered a shirt for $27.99.




NO GUARNTEE GANDER MOUNTAIN WILL EVER REIMBURSE ME


So if Gander Mountain does get reimbursed there's no guarantee they'll reimburse me. And even if they do, I won't get it by Christmas, which was my intent for the shirt.

When I asked Durell, the Gander Mountain Customer Service Manager what he thought of that he said that I could always order another shirt now and get reimbursed later.

Yeah...Thanks for that, Durell, but forget it.

GANDER MOUNTAIN FAILS AT SERVICE WHILE AMAZON.COM WINS


Gander Mountain has lost my business for life. I checked Amazon.com site and they have the same Carhart mock tee in Port being offered by Rugged Outfitters for one dollar more than I paid on the Gander Mountain website.

So Amazon gets my business and so does Rugged Outfitters, and I'm happy to pay the dollar more because I have a history with Amazon. They recognize the value of meeting customer's needs.




And one more thing about Amazon.com. Every time I wish they could improve certain offerings, they usually know my needs before I can even express them. Between wish lists, the Amazon.com Wishlist applet for browsers, great prices, fast delivery, wide spread of merchandise through 3rd party partners, easy tracking, gift wrapping, value points credit card and shipping to multiple address ... I am a satisfied customer who actually enjoys shopping on this site.

And FedEx. ... If you care at all about the recipients of your packages, won't you consider establishing a policy for drivers who feel unsafe because of domestic animals? I totally sympathize with them and wouldn't expect anyone to put himself in harm's way. But I'd have been more than happy to drive to my FedEx pick up location and get this shirt undamaged if the driver would have simply taken it back there. And what's the point of my notifying you about the invisible fence if the driver doesn't get the notification?


BUYER BEWARE when ordering online from Gander Mountain. If your delivery is damaged in shipment, they will abandon you.