Ending Back Pain: A Book Giveaway

As a younger woman, I suffered from bouts of lower back pain. My back is better, thanks to the easy back exercises I do. For others, the solution to back pain is not so simple. 

Ending Back Pain: 5 Powerful Steps to Diagnose, Understand, and Treat Your Ailing Back (Penguin Random House) is fresh off the press. This readable and encouraging book by Dr. Jack Stern, a board-certified neurosurgeon and professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, explains most everything there is to know about back troubles and how to cure them.

Here’s what the publisher writes about Ending Back Pain:

Virtually every American will suffer from back pain at some point. Back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in the United States—only headaches are more common. And, after colds and influenza, it’s the second most common reason Americans see their doctors.

Dr. Stern brings relief to these millions of sufferers (including himself) who literally ache for help. Based on scientific data, Dr. Stern developed a five-step solution with a multidisciplinary, holistic perspective that’s been missing from conventional back pain wisdom. And it may not require surgery or another form of another invasive therapy.

In the book, he explains the six major anatomical sites that often generate pain, while also identifying other potential sources that people (and doctors) can easily overlook, such as commonly used drugs, undiagnosed illnesses or disease, and even depression.

With diagnostic self-tests, checklists to take to your next doctor’s appointment, advice on treatment options, preventative strategies and much more, Ending Back Pain will help you pinpoint the specific causes of your own back pain issues so you can get on the road to healing.

According to Dr. Stern, “Ending back pain begins with you. Diagnosing back pain is a tricky combination of art and science. Indeed, lots of high-tech tools are available to us in medicine, but that doesn’t mean that diagnosing, let alone curing, back pain is a black-and-white endeavor. Unfortunately, it’s very much to the contrary—complex, imprecise, and immensely vexing. So, the more you can contribute to the story of your back pain, the more you can shift your experience to one that’s less reliant on art and more based on science.”

Giveaway: The publisher is giving a copy of Ending Back Pain to one lucky Friend for the Ride reader. For a chance to win, please enter a comment by January 1. U.S. only. Thanks!


About the Author:  Jack Stern, M.D., Ph.D., is a board-certified neurosurgeon specializing in spinal surgery, and co-founder of Spine Options, one of America’s first facilities committed to nonsurgical care of back and neck pain. Dr. Stern is on the clinical faculty at Weill Cornell Medical College and has published numerous peer- and non peer– reviewed medical articles. He lives and practices in White Plains, New York.


Me and the Western Wall

Card in Wall

This fall, Cliff and I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The trip was organized by my good friend, Judy Bown, and run by St. George’s College in Jerusalem. We saw so many sacred and historical sights, it’s hard to choose a favorite. But at the top of my list is our visit to the Western Wall, known years ago as the Wailing Wall. 


The concept of this place has always intrigued me– an ancient wall where people go to pray. Even more, I love the idea of tucking a prayer into the wall.

I meant to write a prayer on a slip of paper ahead of time, but I forgot.

As I waited my turn to approach the wall, I dug around in my backpack. The only paper I could find was one of my art business cards. Should I?

I pressed the card into the wall, sending up a prayer that I use my art for good. Then I touched the wall and kissed it as is the tradition.

My card was colorful and stood out among the slips of white paper. I wondered if I was being flippant or disrespectful. I hoped not. I was honored to have my prayer among the thousands left there.

I never expected to paint, much less sell a painting. I never dreamed of being represented in a gallery (Thank you, (Margaret Lane Gallery) or participating in an art show. (Thank you, Ann Hobgood and Debi Drew).

Each sale is so dear to me. The story behind why a buyer wants a certain painting is intriguing and uplifting.  I love when they send me a photo of my art displayed on their wall. Better yet is a photo of a child holding one of my paintings.

Kitty and Child

How am I using my art for good?

I’ve donated paintings to a local school and several charity auctions. When you take a look at my website, you’ll see a series of paintings I did for our historical museum. All of the money from the sales go directly to the museum. And people tell me my paintings make them smile. I paint happy.


Snuggle Bunny Escapes from the Nursery (20 by 16)  From the Toys Escaping Series done for the Orange Country Historical Museum

I hope to continue to use my art for good. That card tucked into the Western Wall is my best reminder.

Cat is Ready--16 by 20

Cat, Ready for the Valentine’s Tea (16 by 20)


Seagull Sings Goodnight to the Lighthouse (12 by 12)


A Thousand Flowers Greet the Sun (12 by 9)

Cow- 7 by 12

Cow, Wishing the Grass Tasted Like Buttercream (7 by 12 on an up-cycled metal plaque) 

Rabbit Arrives at the Estate- 16 by 20

Rabbit Arrives at the Estate (16 by 20)


Check our my art page at I’m now shipping paintings. I also take commissions.


Butterfly, Pleased with Her Green World. ( 20 by 16)

Ladies Room Doors, Menopause

The Ladies Room Door Art Series: Portugal Edition

Lisbon Airport

Susan Bellinger is Friend for the Ride’s first reader and an excellent spotter of bathroom doors. Here’s her report from a recent trip:

In my travels, I always keep an eye out for interesting bathroom doors to send to my friend, Barbara, for her blog. I hit the jackpot in  Portugal. What is it about Portugal, where it seems every door was unique, inventive, eye-opening, and/or fun?

A British newspaper called Lisbon “the most exciting creative scene in mainland Europe.” Could be!  But not just Lisbon. We found creative door in the Algarve and in Porto, too. Here they are!

The photo at top was taken at the Lisbon Airport. The door below is from the Dear Breakfast Cafe in Lisbon.


The Bachannol Restaurant

The National Tile Museum

The Flora and Fauna Restaurant

The Time Out Market

Grupeto Cafe, a bike cafe in Lisbon


A Tasca do Joao, a tapas place in Faro

Dessert Island off  the coast of Faro

Chelsea Cafe in Faro

The green arch is the entrance to the men’s and women’s rooms at Tivera Castle in Tivera.

La Pizza in Faro




A sign for street sanitarias


The Porto Center of Photography


The McDonalds in Porto




The Majestic Cafe in Porto



A restaurant in Faro, Portugal. (The restaurant’s name is now forgotten.)


And here is Susan posing in the Cafe Majestic. It’s an Art Nouveau cafe where J. K. Rowling wrote part of Harry Potter. Thank you so much for the wonderful doors, Susan, and I’m glad you had such a creative and happy trip.



It’s Not About Me: Communicating


I’ve been working on habits and thus far, one of the hardest bad ones to break is my habit of interrupting. I’ve noticed that sometimes I interrupt with a comment about myself:

Oh, that happened to me just last week!

I had cancer too, five years ago.

Oh my gosh. If you’re making trifles, I have a great recipe for an English trifle!

I’m especially guilty of this when talking to Cliff:

Your night’s sleep was awful?  I was awake for three hours.

I’m noticing the pattern and am now able to say things like, “Oh. I’m sorry to interrupt. Back to you!”

When I had a second trimester miscarriage 35 years ago, I heard some really sad stories of miscarriages and of stillbirths. I took the sharing as a concerned gesture, but on reflection, these stories only made me sad for the babies lost. They didn’t help me with my own grief.  The tellers meant well, and I hold no grudge.

But telling stories about yourself is not usually the best response. And so I’m working on it, both in light situations and in more serious ones. I’ve read that it’s best to listen to the other person’s story and then ask permission to tell your own.

Here’s a great article on mindful listening.  There are links at the bottom to other helpful articles about listening.

What about you? Do people tell you you’re a good listener? Any tips?

Painting: I painted my cow to be an excellent listener. Note the gentle smile and the  engaged eyes.


Take Time to Be Tidy: A New Challenge

I like my home to be picked up, so its best qualities shine, and I like my house to be organized for efficiency.

But I often fall short on both neatness and organization.

So one of the habits I’ve been working is nicknamed “Take Time to Be Tidy.” I’m supposed to spend the extra minutes it takes to neaten up my cosmetic bag after a trip or keep my paint tubes sorted by color or fold my jeans instead of cramming them onto the closet shelf.

Case in point (pun somewhat intended) is sharpening pencils. It maybe takes three minutes to sharpen a few pencils. But the above pencils sat in my art box for weeks or maybe even months. I would pick up a broken pencil, put it back, pick up another broken pencil, put it back. I would keep this up until I finally found one that was sharp enough to use to sketch out a painting.

I might spend the same three minutes (many times over) online and never think twice. What’s so hard about sharpening some pencils?

I finally did sharpen my pencils. I’m so happy! Those pointy pencils stand ready to do their job.

I get procrastinating the harder stuff, but why do I put off easy tasks? I have no clue if this is a habit I can break, but I seem to be making some progress.

What easy tasks do you put off? Any tips for breaking the habit?

And right as I finished up this post, I learned that there’s such a thing as pencil tip sculptures. Who knew? If you google it, you’ll find a multitude of wonderful creations. Here’s just a taste:





The Transformation: A Book Review and Giveaway

I loved Jame S. Gordon’s The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing after Trauma. I see great hope in the techniques he’s developed to help those who have experienced horrific life events. And there’s plenty here to help you process and recover from some of the lesser sadness and confusion of life too.

Here’s what the publisher has to say:

The Transformation represents the culmination of Dr. Gordon’s fifty years as a mind-body medicine pioneer and an advocate of integrative approaches to overcoming psychological trauma and stress.

Based on the basic understanding that trauma will come to all of us sooner or later, Dr. Gordon teaches readers that each of us has the capacity to heal ourselves. Outlining a proven, step-by-step method, he demonstrates how to reverse the damage caused by trauma and to restore hope.

Offering inspirational stories, eye-opening research, and innovative prescriptive support, the book makes accessible for the first time the methods that Dr. Gordon—with the help of his faculty of 160, and 6,000 trained clinicians, educators, and community leaders—has developed and used to relieve the suffering of hundreds of thousands of adults and children around the world.

Giveaway: The publisher is giving away a copy of The Transformation to one lucky Friend for the Ride reader. For a chance to win, please enter a comment by December 15. U.S. only. Thanks!

Dr. James Gordon is a Harvard-educated psychiatrist and a clinical professor of psychiatry and family medicine at Georgetown Medical School. He has written for the New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The Atlantic, as well as numerous professional journals, and has been featured on 60 MinutesThe Today ShowGood Morning America, and NPR.

The Ladies Room Door Art Series: Part Fifty-three

More doors!

I love the door above at Havanas in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

I found this lively restroom sign at Vanish Farmwoods Brewery in Leesburg, Virginia. The actual door to the ladies room featured a flyer for an art workshop. Fun!

I took the next three photos at Independence Beer Garden in downtown Philadelphia.



And I snapped this unisex door at Kolbe Cafe in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

This is the arty door at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The museum displays work of three generations of the Wyeth Family.

Here’s the door to the ladies room, and then to the men’s room, at the Mellow Mushroom in Raleigh, North Carolina.


This is a sign for the public restrooms in Southport, North Carolina. The tree is a live oak, native to that region. I suspect the trees are called “live oaks” because they are evergreens.


This door comes from faraway Loch Ness, Scotland.  The photo was sent by a friend of my friend, Ann.

This often true sign comes from the Red Oak Brewery in Whitsett, North Carolina.

Here’s the shiny door to the actual ladies room at the brewery.

Finally, I loved reading  how this school decorated their bathroom stalls. A million cheers for creativity and positivity!  You can read the article about the doors and  see the video on the USA Today website.