Experience 2015: Moselle River Barge


20151004_174914A few weeks ago, Cliff and I took a trip on the Moselle River from Metz, France to Cochem, Germany. The river is “Moselle” in French. In Germany, it’s “Mosel.” And it’s beautiful!
Mosel-Radkarte-Metz-bis-Koblenz Kopie

We sailed on the Merlijn, a restored river barge owned and operated by Jantien Wondergen and Henk Karelse. They’re spirited, lovely people who hail from the Netherlands. Jantien and Henk did an incredible job restoring and decorating the boat. You can imagine my delight to spot the above ladies room door within seconds of stepping onto the Merlijn.


The boat has twelve cabins like this one. Plenty of room!.


The bathroom was just right.


Daniela, who is from Romania, keeps the boat shipshape.


Of course I’d heard about river cruises but couldn’t have dreamed just how mystical they are. Your eyes go into overdrive.



We passed cities, towns, castles, churches of every size, and vineyard after vineyard growing riesling grapes.


One day, we took a VERY merry wagon ride into one of those vineyards.


And every night on the boat, Lidia, also Romanian, served us local wines, beers, cocktails, and cordials.



We ate delicious meals in the dining room.


And enjoyed sparking conversations with our fellow travelers. We were fifteen in number, and we became good friends by the time the trip was over. (That wagon ride sure helped!)

The Moselle features a series of locks. Another new experience of 2015. I’d never been through a lock before.


Here’s the view from the porthole in my cabin as we went through a lock. Kinda scary looking.

Our tour planner and guide was Dr. Ken Ostrand, who holds a doctorate in Ancient Studies and was a Fulbright Scholar. Ken knows a lot about a lot but has special expertise in antiquities and medieval religious art. He adores ruins and saints! Ken is leading this trip again in 2018. Here’s the link to our trip, but the next one will be nearly identical.

Ken Ostrand

I was especially pleased by the Barbara Baths, built by the Romans. Women and men bathed on separate days. I bet the ladies had a grand old time. Wonder if some of their discussions included menopause talk? (For those who lived long enough.)

Barbara Baths

I loved this statue of St. Barbara. Let’s hear it for Barbaras! A name no longer trendy, I was pleased to see Barbara had her glory days.


We toured church after church, which was fine with me since I love old churches.

Stained Glass
Small church

Church from Afar

My favorite was the the Cathedral of Our Lady of Luxembourg. I like the expression on the cherub at the bottom of the pillar (At least I think he/she is a cherub).

Our Lady of Luxembourg

And I was drawn to the faces of these women, who stand over a tomb of a king/duke whose name I did not record.


Of course the trip wasn’t all history. We checked out the cafes to sample the beer


and the pastries!


Crumb Streudel

I was on keen alert for ladies room doors.


A cafe in Metz, FranceMetz

The Chocolate House in Luxembourg Square


A museum in Trier, Germany

Close up of Drier Museum Door

And another door whose location I can’t remember. I like that even the simpler doors use varying shapes of women, unlike the U.S., where we tend to use the same  symbol.
Red Lady


This charming picture hangs near the restrooms in a cafe in Bernkastel-Kues, Germany.

This sign lets you know that if you aren’t a customer, you may use the bathroom for fifty cents. Fair enough! I wish establishments in tourist locations in the U.S. would permit this.

20151008_131326The actual door20151008_131336

Ken was pleased to lead me to this door at the Hotel Bellevue, an art nouveau hotel in Trabach, Germany. Ken reports that the door is original to the hotel, making it circa 1903.


The towns are storybook quality.


Window boxes abound.


Eltz Castle is right out of fairy tale too.


And so are the swans that follow the boat.


I miss the new friends I made, exploring intriguing places, and the view from the Merlijn.

Window View

But I was glad to return home with t-shirts for grandson Maze


And my traveling companion.Cliff

DIYA: A Megawatt Approach to Change


High Resolution Front Cover_5692078

Lately, I’ve been writing on Thursdays at the Panera Bread in Durham. I love the energy that sparks from people working on their laptops, chatting intently with their fellow diners, or engaging with their kids. Two Thursdays ago, I met Aruna, who showed me her brand new book, DIYA: A Megawatt Approach to Change. I asked the author to send me some excerpts for Friend for the Ride. Here are three of my favorites:

Number One: I love the idea of a panel discussion with me as the leader. What a new way to approach discord. Aruna writes:

Change Dat. Take a deep breath. Take fresh air in. Get all the toxins out of your body. Learn to chill. Attain peace of the body and mind. If someone is being unreasonable, YOU be reasonable. Reassess a situation, like you’ve never done it before. And teach them that you are calm about that situation in hand. This is not reason to flare up, whether it is work, school, or kids, think of it as a panel discussion and you being the leader. You don’t have to yell, or lose your temper. Show them that you can be cool. They will also learn, with time. But let that not bother you. Ever.

Number Two: When I get upset with someone, I rarely embrace the concept that he or she is precious. It’s usually about me, my feelings. Time to change that thinking thanks to Aruna. I’m precious and so is the soul who has upset me! She writes:

Are you annoyed? For whatever reason? Do you feel like yelling at someone? For the meanest thing they’ve done to you? Then Wait. DON’T YELL. Here’s why: Yelling causes an increase in your blood pressure, heart rate, causes headache and increases stress and a whole bunch of negative hormones associated with it. And the person who inflicted this ugly reaction in you, is happy and feels lovely. Instead, take short deep breaths, like you’re blowing at something softly, listen to music, walk around, divert your mind, try to understand that this person might be coming from a different world, so I won’t be upset by this, I won’t let myself be hurt, I am precious and so is he.

Number Three: As an admirer of diamonds, I’m going to keep this image in mind. Aruna’s book focuses on change, but she points out that not everything can, will, or should change. She writes:

Change is NOT ubiquitous. Not all things can change. A diamond, for instance, has a crystal lattice structure such that it can take years and will melt only with great, great difficulty. But who would want to melt a diamond? My point is, when something is resistant to change, then so be it. Two minds, for instance that don’t marry, must be left alone. So, if you are trying to change everything about yourself or others, forget about it. Some things are better not touched. A state of equilibrium is important to achieve and sure can be attempted. That state of equilibrium will bring two minds together, the cat and the rat together, Duke and Carolina together, and India and Pakistan together.

Giveaway! I’m giving away one copy of DIYA: A Megawatt Approach to Change. For a chance to win, please enter  a comment by December 1. Thanks!

Book Signing: Aruna will be signing copies of DIYA at the Bulls Head Bookshop on the UNC Chapel Hill campus on November 11 from 5 to 6 PM.

Buy the book on Amazon here.

Read an article about Aruna and her book in UNC CHapel HIll’s Daily Tarheel here.

A Diya: Aruna explained to me that “a diya is the light that brings about change.” The cup-shaped lamp is used in the Indian festival of Lights Deepavali/Diwali.


About Aruna: Born in Mumbai, Aruna Gurumurthy lived in different parts of India before she crossed barriers and continents to attend graduate school in Amherst, MA.

She has worked as a medical researcher at Duke University, University of North Carolina and University of California, Berkeley. Her research scholarship has been in many diverse medical fields, including orthopedics, functional GI, breast cancer, craniofacial genomics and community psychiatry. Aruna cares for female literacy, education of slum children, elderly with Alzheimer’s, young adults with learning disability and emancipation of school dropout teenagers. She believes that true change can happen when one immerses oneself in the community and empathizes with others’ minds.

Aruna lives with her husband and toddler daughter in Chapel Hill, NC. She enjoys watching basketball, American football and more recently, golf. She has an avid ear for music of all hues and likes lap swimming. DIYA is Aruna’s first book.

Menopause in the Tropics: Saigon is Hot Enough! (and a Giveaway)


Crila Plantation Sue with PBS' HQ Roy Walkenhorst

A post by lawyer and business consultant Sue McKinney:

I’m a California lawyer who moved to Vietnam 21 years ago at age 40. When people ask what happened? I say “I got lucky!”

In ‘94, I went to Bangkok on business. Then the client sent a group of Thai businessmen to Saigon to look around and invited me along. The embargo against Vietnam had just ended. The country was about to re-emerge into the world community. I was granted a visa at the Vietnam Embassy in Bangkok. It changed my life.

Upon arrival, the airport looked the same as the 6 o’clock news images engraved on my mind from the war. Traffic was non-existent – bicycles, cyclos, a few scooters, the occasional car. As our van drove into the city, my white face shone like a spotlight. People noticed and followed our van – on their bikes, scooters, one man even jogged alongside until we stopped. Everyone else got out. I waited. A small crowd of people waited. Finally I had no choice but to get out too.

I stepped into the crowd of excited people who surged around me, clamoring in English “Where you from? Where you from?”

It was disconcerting, but they weren’t hostile, just anxious. It totally crossed my mind to say “I’m Canadian!” but I really wanted to know what this was all about. I stammered, “I’mm Ammericann.”

The man who’d been jogging alongside reached out his arms to me. He didn’t touch me, but he wanted to. He fought to find the English words. He managed to say, “Are. You. Coming…back?!” They would rush to the airport – organize banners, flowers, a banquet – were the Americans coming back?

Twenty-one years later, that day still stands out among the most profound experiences of my life. The pro-American attitude was everywhere we went. Where in the world does that happen? The group stayed a week before returning to Bangkok. But within 30 days, I was back. Saigon had bitten me hard. Within months I’d closed my law office and sold my house in California. I was in Saigon trying to come to terms with the enigma that is Vietnam. I’m still trying.

When I asked Vietnamese friends, “Why are you so pro-American?” they’d look confused.

“Oh, do you mean ‘The American War’? But that war was only 20 years…We fought the French for 150 and the Chinese for 1,000.” There’s perspective for you.

I export ceramics, furniture, jewelry, art, and rice. Finally, most importantly, I export a rare medicinal herb. Vietnam is a bio “hot spot”. The Amazon rain forest claims 12,000 species of plants; Vietnam claims 20,000 species with 4,000 classified as medicinal.

Vietnam’s top scientist, Dr. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Tram, who devoted her life to botanical medicine, developed Crila® over 25 years. Clinical trials for prostate and uterine health were a success. An American medical university confirmed that it’s estrogen free.

Girlfriends tried it for menopause. Magic! We didn’t have to suffer hot flashes on top of sweltering in the heat and humidity of Saigon. Take Crila® and have another scoop of fresh mango ice cream. Saigon Book Club friends invested with me to bring it to market for you. But that’s another story. Follow it on our website, www.crilahealth.com

Giveaway!! I can’t send you the mango ice cream, but enter an enticing comment, and I’ll send someone three  bottles of Crila®. Satisfaction guaranteed; it’s that good. For a chance to win, enter a comment by November 20.  Winner will be chosen at random. Thanks!


Sue McKinney is a lawyer and business consultant who settled in Vietnam in 1994. She has been instrumental in creating hundreds of jobs and exporting thousands of Vietnamese products. Sue has had the pleasure of witnessing and taking part in Vietnam’s extensive economic and social growth. She’s active in Rotary and has been the incountry liaison on 21 Rotary projects from wheelchairs to libraries to soccer balls.

Top Photo: Sue in a a Crila plantation with Roy Walkenhorst, host of the PBS broadcast, Healing Quest.

Bottom Photo: Sue in Viet Nam.

A Woman’s Time Menopause Research Study




A request from the folks at A Woman’s Time:

We are doing a clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of an experimental herbal product in menopausal women with hot flashes and night sweats. Participation for women in the study would last about three and one-half months and would require 4 visits to our office in Portland, Oregon. Payments to you of $20 will be made for each of the last three visits.

We are seeking women over 45 who have an average of 5 or more hot flashes and/or night sweats per day (at least 35 per week) to test the herbal product to see if it helps.

To see if you might qualify for this study, please click on the questionnaire here. You do not have to answer any questions you do not want to answer. You may stop the questionnaire at any time. If you do not qualify for this study, some of the information you give, but not identifiable information about you, will be stored until the end of the study.