Monday, May 23, 2022

That’s a wrap

During the writing workshop I wrote about mom and learned that books about dementia are popular these days. hmmm - maybe I should actually write this? In the process I also write about old Florida, Dania j'ai alai etc. And learned that books about old Florida are popular. I need to read Swamplandia.

Here's what I wrote when Cary gave the prompt to describe the book you might write:

Marilyn’s shrinking world

I had a special relationship with my Mom. I thought everyone was as close to their mother as I was, but I learned that isn’t true. So, when she started to get confused, when she forgot how to do simple tasks, I was acutely aware that she was suffering from dementia. I didn’t live nearby, this happened in the years that I lived in an RV and traveled all the time. Maybe that heightened my awareness because seeing her after 3 months away made the change more abrupt to me. 

Mom was living alone at this time, and I am an only child, so it was up to me to take care of her. 

All this is to say that I am in a unique position to understand what was going on with her and explain it to others. As her memory left her, I filled the void. I became her.

This book starts with some background, the reader needs to know a little about Marilyn’s life before dementia. Then it catalogs the warning signs of the disease.

There are many personal stories of how I managed to take care of her. Some sad, some quite funny. And, finally, it tells the story of the years in assisted living and memory care, ending with hospice and how Covid provided the final relief.

The purpose of the book is to tell Marilyn’s story, the one she couldn’t tell herself, and to give some insight into the wants and needs of someone in her position. The wants and needs that all too many people today are having to navigate. Finally, it is a book about love.

Why it matters

Why you’re qualified to write it

Who is the intended audience

Keep my own voice

Maybe start with Mom coming with us in the RV, then flashbacks and flash forwards from there.

When mom fell out of the cab over bed

My grandparents business in the 1940-50s - on the IntraCoastal near the Dania cutoff canal
Part of the Florida Sea Life Aquarium was alligator wrestling! My uncles (the twins at the left in the photo above) did the wrestling, Mom did the announcing, and we raised baby alligators at home!
That's me with a live baby alligator

I'm getting to know my fellow writers.  A wonderful, mixed bunch. I think I should write a book, even if I have to return to Castiglion Fiorentino for this writer's workshop 2-3-4 more times!

They talked about travels and places that are good to live. I learned that Portugal needs to be higher on our list of places to go. I also learned more about crypto. Set up a meta mask wallet for ethereum and signed up for a proof of humanity account. Two of the attendees were Herb and Sandra. Herb is a cofounder of I also got a .eth address - chrisguld.eth - by going thru the process at, making a new wallet at my Metamask account, and registered my name. Whew! On to the next level of blockchain!

One evening, the group had happy hour in Herb and Sandra's suite, and they introduced me to what has become my favorite Italian food!!

I'm not kidding - this is my favorite Italian food!

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Cooking class

One evening, during the writer's workshop, Cary arranged for our group to visit a Giuseppina who teaches cooking classes. We all fit into 2 cars and drove just about 5 miles to her house. 

It was a beautiful place. Giuseppina greeted us outside with a glass of Proseco, and we wandered around her garden for a while before going inside.

Here are the few notes I took about the class:
Fresh local ingredients. Chicken from down the road, tomato sauce made from her tomatoes, pork from local pigs. Sliced thin, cured like salami, added salt and fresh herbs. Served on bread
Batter for eggplant or any veg: flour and seltzer water salt and pepper - like Tempura. She battered giant sage leaves then deep fried in sunflower oil. 

Then, we all sat down in her exquisite dining room and ate our handiwork.

Here is a little movie that I made with Google Photos about the evening:

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Cary Tennis writer's workshop in Tuscany

I like to write, and I love how Cary Tennis is able to create the environment where I write, and write, and write. And it helps that it's in Italy!  A beautiful little ancient walled city called Castiglion Fiorentino. We were there for a previous workshop in 2017. Here are photos from both times. The town is behind us on the hill.

Same for me and Cary:
Our small group would sit down to write and Cary would first ask us to be quiet and meditate for a moment. I could hear birds singing, feel the sun, and listen to the voices in my head. One of them was my mother's. I ended up writing quite a bit about her.

Since I'm actually writing this long after we've been home, I can refer you to a speech I did for my Toastmaster's club about Italy and the writing class. It starts at the 20 minute point.

Drag the timeline to the 20 minute point to hear my speech
or click this link to go to YouTube at the exact right spot

And, here's the piece I wrote about Mom that I reference in the speech:

Don't fence me in
It wasn't all writing and seriousness, we had plenty of social time during the afternoons and at meals. At one dinner, Cary brought his guitar and entertained us. I couldn't believe it when he started playing Don't Fence Me In. That was my moms theme song when she was 8 years old and bed ridden with polio in 1940. She taught it to me and I adopted it as our theme song for RVing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Touring a city like Rome without a guide

 If you really want to tour some place in Europe and do it right, you should get a guide. So many people have told us that. But we did not follow their advice. It's OK with us if we "didn't do it right", we just wanted to do it ourselves and it's so amazing that Google maps makes it possible to do so. 

There was one place - the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel - where you couldn't get in without a guide. So Jim used his trusty website - - to book a guided tour, 2 days away. 
A hastily snapped picture looking up at the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo

Think about it, if you traveled to Rome 25 years ago, you'd have to do it without the Internet. I guess you'd use a paper map. It might be possible, but figuring out where you are is next to impossible when there are no dependable street signs. And, believe me, there are no dependable street signs anywhere in Italy!
With Google Maps, we could just ask for walking directions to the Colosseum from wherever we were and it would tell us where to go. We can even use the feature called Live View to see the real world around us and follow big blue arrows. The background is seen live thru your camera, then Google Maps uses Augmented Reality (AR) to superimpose the big blue arrows and instructions. It was very helpful. To see how it's done - here's my video:

And, did we ever walk. For the 4 days we were in Rome, my Apple Watch recorded 8,500 16,000 13,500 and 16,300 steps. Whew! At home we're lucky to get 3,000 in a day. We didn't go out at night though - too bad, I'm sure the sights with the lights on at night are really beautiful. But, we've gotten used to early bed times and we are quite exhausted by then.

I was so happy with the technique I worked out with Google Maps that we did one of our "What Does This Button Do?" shows on it. See Episode 234:

We made a list in Google Maps of all the places we wanted to go. Then we saved it and sent the link to an email.  Here is the link: If you click it, you will get a google map with all our stops.

I know we would have learned a lot more about the places we visited if we had a guide, but I'm just so happy that we got to see these places at all. Then, later, we can watch YouTube videos about the place and learn more. Having been there gives us the foundation. For example we visited the Pantheon - and it was impressive. Huge columns - Greek Temple-like - in a very rectangular formation is the front of the very round - Roman - building that houses statues and artwork representing all the religions of the time. Pan = all  Theon = religion. Loved it. Then, once we're back in our room with computer and internet, we can watch this video: and learn so much more. You can watch the video too - but if you haven't experienced it, it's just not the same. 

Here's Jim's 360 panorama of the Pantheon - you need to click on it to see it right, then you can scroll around to see the full 360 degrees.

I liked Rome a lot. I had always thought of it as just a BIG city - and I'm not a fan of big cities. But, I also love history and, I can't imagine a city with more history than this one. And it's the history of the western world - our history. Before we left, one of our Geeks on Tour members recommended the book "Oil and Marble." If you're going to Rome, you gotta read Oil and Marble. I immediately purchased the Kindle version so I could read it on my phone any chance I got - great train ride reading! I put it at one of the top 10 books of my life. I LOVED it. And, it gave me a foundation for looking at the art. It's about Leonardo Da Vinci (Oil) and Michelangelo (Marble.) I've heard of them! This book, although using accurate historical references was written as a novel - there were conversations between Leonardo and Michelangelo. You learn about Michelangelo's father's attempt to prevent him from being a sculptor - he wanted Michelangelo to get a respectable government job! Did you know that Michelangelo did not paint the Sistine chapel while lying on his back? That's what I had always understood, but think about it, that's a big ceiling - how would he get into position? By wriggling like a snake? No, the scaffolding was at a height that allowed him to stand and he painted by raising his hand. 

Elephants in Rome!

This photo was shot by the Forum Romana, just a few blocks from the Colloseum. What a trip to see Elephants in Rome. Come to find out the movie "Fast and Furious 10" was being filmed in Rome over some of the days we were there. We assume this was part of it.