Antonia Graza Ghost Ship

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My sister and her family are Halloween party planners, extraordinaire. They create the most amazing themed parties each year…when COVID (2020) or a move to a new house (2021) don’t cancel the highly anticipated event.

Check out the 2018 and 2019 Halloween Parties…more themed parties available by clicking links at the bottom of those two posts…and prepare to board the Antonia Graza Ghost Ship, for a voyage into spookiness.

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The Antonia Graza Ghost Ship

This year’s theme included a backstory, cleverly posted as newspaper headlines on the walls. My niece Ashley makes full use of her incredible graphic design abilities.

Reading the headlines from various national newspapers reveal that the MS Antonia Graza never arrived at her destination, after embarking on her maiden voyage October 29, 1922. All on board, 600 passengers and 500 crew, are listed as missing. Initial rescue efforts fail to locate the Antonia Graza.

Eventual sightings of the vessel lead to recovery crews boarding the ship, which appears operational although no sign of the passengers or crew are reported. Rescue efforts halt when the recovery crews fail to return.

The Antonia Graza roams the seas for 100 years, all lives…including those of the rescue crews….presumed lost. In 2022, the Antonia Graza is sighted once again, cruising along on her original route in the North Atlantic.

We each received electronic invitations to board the Antonia Graza Ghost Ship, if we dared!

Antonia Graza Ghost Ship staircase
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship – grand staircase

Tour the Antonia Graza Ghost Ship

Come on a tour of the ghost ship with me. My sister Debbie and her family transformed the lower level of the house and the upstairs hallway and bathroom.

The attention to detail is perfect. Using estate sale and thrift shops finds, these creative souls go way beyond adding a few ship worthy decorations. They paper the walls, creating areas of exposed “brick”, add seaweed and cobwebs, add sound and light special effects, remove existing furniture, build false walls and prepare a spread of theme appropriate food. Lights flicker. Red alerts sound. Fog roils past the front door. In costume violinists perform a hauntingly beautiful song in the dining hall.

Guests arrive in costume, ranging from 1920s aristocrats to “dead” crew members to sharks to passengers who perished aboard the ship.

Have a look!

Antonia Graza Ghost Ship buffet
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship – buffet spread out over three rooms.
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship dining
Ship dining room (in reality, this is the family room) for gathering with plates of food and drinks.
Ghost Violinists
Ghost violinists
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship elevator
Upstairs an elevator malfunction! I love the little touches, like numbers on the doors.
Upstairs bathroom
Upstairs bathroom
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship quiet moment
My sister Debbie enjoying a quiet moment in the ship lounge.
Ship clock
Ship clock

Antonia Graza Passengers and Crew

Here’s a peek at the creative costumes of those attending the party.

Antonia Graza Ghost Ship crew
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship crew, my sister and her family, hosts for the party.
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship sharks
Baby Shark with Mommy Shark and Daddy Shark
My brother and sister in law
My brother and sister in law.
Cousins photo
Adult cousins photo. The outdoor deck provided a great gathering spot.
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship greg and roy
Greg and Roy. Perhaps they are members of the rescue crew.
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship sibling photo
Sibling photo – me, my brother and my sisters

Fun Evening

What an amazing voyage, aboard the Antonia Graza. I captured photos of most family members, however there were many more guests that came and went.

We all enjoyed the evening, the food, the music, the decorations and chatting in groups that formed, broke apart and reformed with new people.

I so appreciate all the hard work that goes into this annual event. I absolutely know that my sister and her family could create a successful business around their creativity and their love of Halloween. They currently do all of this for fun. And fun it is.

Does your family celebrate Halloween? If you had a Halloween party this year, what was your theme?

Me and my girls
Me with daughters and granddaughter, We missed my son and his family at the party!

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Ghost Stories from Springfield MO

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Closer to home, this week’s spooky tales come from a city about an hour from Joplin. It was fun to spend a day photographing haunted locations and to take an evening ghost tour of a castle.

The castle proved so interesting that I’ll do a separate post to adequately highlight all the spooky happenings there. Check out all five of the locations I visited for Ghost Stories from Springfield MO.

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Springfield, Missouri

Currently the third largest city in Missouri, the Springfield area originally was home to Native American tribes that included Kickapoo, Osage and Lenape. The first European settlers arrived in 1829, from Tennessee.

John Polk Campbell later donated land from his property for Springfield’s public square and he platted the town site. Springfield incorporated in 1878, with the nickname of “Queen City of the Ozarks”.

The city held strategic importance during the Civil War, with Springfield’s divided loyalty between the North and the South. On August 10, 1861, Union and Confederate troops fought for control of the city in the Battle of Wilson Creek. Considered a Confederate victory, the battle saw the death of Nathaniel Lyon, the first Union general killed during the war.

Today, with a population of more than 170,000, Springfield is the fastest growing metropolitan area in the state. Their historic downtown is enjoying a resurgence and the city’s lively culture includes theaters, art, music, dance and opera.

With her turbulent history that includes the forced relocation of Native peoples, Civil War battles and racial violence, there are plenty of locations within Springfield that classify as haunted.

Bride Ghost of Phelps Grove Park Bridge

This 31 acre park, established in 1931, is situated in a beautiful older neighborhood in Springfield. Once part of the Phelps homestead, the original 1,050 acres belonged to the founding “father” and “mother” of Springfield, John and Mary Phelps. John, a Missouri congressman and the 23rd Governor of Missouri, and his wife Mary aided and educated orphans during and after the Civil War.

At the entrance to the park, visitors cross over an old fieldstone bridge that arches over a drainage canal.  Legend has it that on their wedding night, a couple crossed the bridge in their carriage. The horse bolted, causing the carriage to flip over the railing of the bridge. The carriage landed upside down, killing the newlyweds.

People claim to see a woman near or under the bridge, dressed in a flowing white wedding gown. She appears forlorn. And some report that her face is missing. The park and bridge are popular sites for paranormal investigations and abnormal energy readings.

Ghost Stories from Springfield MO phelps bridge
Ghost Stories from Springfield MO – Bride Ghost at Phelps Bridge

Drury University Ghosts

Drury University opened its doors to 39 students in 1873. Over the years, the campus expanded as did the student body. Today the 40 acre campus includes many academic buildings…and more than a few ghosts.

Drury University occupies land that once served as Native American burial grounds. Later the Civil War raged around it. And Smith Hall, a women’s dormitory, is built on the site of a row of Victorian homes. A little girl, caught in a fire that caused her demise, lived in one of those homes. Her ghost lingers. Dressed in pink, the ghostly girl wanders the hallways, looking for her teddy bear.

Other students in the same hall report locked doors and dresser drawers opening and objects out of place in their rooms.

In Clara Thompson Hall, students report pianos that play by themselves and doors that slam closed. And in Wilhoit Theatre flickering lights move about the building when no one is inside.

Ghost Stories from Springfield MO drury university
Ghost Stories from Springfield MO – Clara Thompson Hall at Drury University

Restless Spirits at Landers Theatre

This pretty terra cotta building, built in 1909, has been in continuous use since its completion. It began life as a playhouse and later became one of the first “talkie” motion picture theaters. After major renovations in the 1980s, Landers Theatre today hosts plays, musicals, ballets, symphonies and other artistic performances.

It is also home to restless spirits.

One of the most frequently seen ghosts is a janitor who died in the theatre during a fire in 1920. The janitor hangs out in the balcony, claim the actors who see him from the stage. Others report experiencing another ghost, a baby who accidentally fell from the upper balcony. They hear the fall repeatedly, on a loop. Or hear the baby crying, followed by comforting sounds from the baby’s ghost mother.

Above the stage, a vaudeville stagehand hanged himself from the rigging. His ghost haunts the catwalks.

Another ghost peeks from a fourth floor window, watching passersby walking along Walnut Street. This spirit, a man with long blond hair and wearing Elizabethan clothing, is never spotted from inside the theatre…only by people outside the building.

Ghost Stories from Springfield MO landers theatre
Ghost Stories from Springfield MO – Landers Theatre

Permanent Guest at Walnut Street Inn

This pretty bed and breakfast at 900 E Walnut Street, built in the mid 1890s, has a permanent otherworldly guest. She claims the Rosen Room as hers. A man staying in the room looked up from where he reclined on the bed to see a woman sitting at a table against the wall.

“Excuse me,” he said. “This is my room!” The woman replied that it was her room…and disappeared.

Others report seeing the woman sitting on the edge of their beds. And people often feel a cold draft on the backs of their necks.

Activity appeared to increase in the inn after a 1998 renovation. If you dare, you can make a reservation HERE. Would I? Yes! In fact, I hope to stay there soon.

Ghost Stories from Springfield MO walnut street inn
Ghost Stories from Springfield MO – a permanent guest at Walnut Street Inn

Haunted Castle

I only recently learned that Springfield has a castle! Image my excitement to discover that it offers year around ghost tours.

Pythian Castle, constructed in 1913, originally housed older members of the Knights of Pythias and their widows and orphans. Later the military purchased the castle and used it as a prisoner of war camp during WWII and a place to rehabilitate burned and injured US troops. It is now privately owned and available for special events and history and ghost tours.

At least 100 deaths occurred within the castle. Causes of death range from diseases such as tuberculosis to accidents to suicide. Many spirits haunt Pythian Castle.

Ghosts include children who speak to and play pranks on visitors, Mr. Boots who lurks in a tunnel in the basement, the spirits of soldiers and shadow people.  Several paranormal investigators have captured audio and video evidence of the hauntings at the castle, including the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures crew.

Tours last 90 minutes and include a very interesting and informative video. If you live in the area or pass through Springfield, stop for a tour. Info HERE.

Does your city offer ghost tours?

I learned a lot of Springfield history while checking out these haunted locations in the city. In fact, that’s one of my favorite reasons for participating in a ghost tour or creating my own version of one…learning the oft times hidden history of a place.

It’s fun to explore historical cities, such as Washington DC, and learn about their local ghosts and legends. However, small towns and perhaps YOUR hometown have their own spooky tales as well.

You can read Joplin’s ghost stories. And I’d love to learn about your city’s ghost tales as well. Share a spooky story in the comments below.

Ghost Hunting
Ghost Hunting at Pythian Castle

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Ghost Stories from South Carolina Sea Islands

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The second installment in the October spooky series is Ghost Stories from South Carolina Sea Islands.

Last year, after my first visit to Charleston, SC, I shared ghost stories from that beautiful and historic city. This year, I returned to the area, staying this time on nearby Johns Island. It wasn’t difficult to find spooky tales from the cluster of South Carolina sea islands to share.

Grab a beverage of choice and get comfy. And you might want to leave the lights on.

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South Carolina Sea Islands

The sea islands are a chain of tidal and barrier islands in the Atlantic Ocean, along the Southeastern US coast.  Near Charleston, South Carolina the major sea islands are Johns, James, Kiawah, Madmalaw, Folly, Seabrook, Sullivan’s and Edisto. The largest of these is Johns Island.

Plantations existed on most of the sea islands, growing crops of cotton, rice, indigo and tobacco, with enslaved people doing the work. After the civil war, most white land owners fled, leaving their former slaves behind to fend for themselves. Northern charities stepped in to provide help so that the remaining residents of the islands could become self sufficient.

From those peoples came the Gullah culture, one of the oldest surviving African cultures in the US. The descendants of the Africans brought to the South Carolina Colony in the 1500s now number more than 500,000.

The sea islands are unique, offering laid back vibes, a rich culture and many fun places to visit and explore. As with any historical site that has known great change and trials, the sea islands have their ghost stories. These five tales come from Johns Island and Edisto Island.

Angel Oak Tree Spirits

Located on Johns Island, Angel Oak Tree is considered the largest southern live oak tree east of the Mississippi. This massive tree stands 66.5 feet tall, boasts a trunk circumference of 28 feet and spreads its Spanish moss draped canopy over 17, 200 square feet.

There are many ghost stories associated with the Angel Tree. While the tree is beautiful and serene during the day, at night a different energy emanates from the ancient oak.

Native Americans reportedly gathered beneath the sprawling tree and made it a sacred burial ground. It’s believed that the shining spirits of Native Americans surround the tree to protect it when it is in danger.

There are also stories of slaves being hung from the thick branches of Angel Oak. According to legend, a curse was put on the tree because of the violence that happened there. Some people in the area avoid the tree at night because of the curse. They report seeing ghostly figures hanging from the branches.

And in more recent years, people report seeing glowing lights and faces in the branches and trunk. One couple snuck back to the tree late at night, after a wedding ceremony beneath the branches. When the new husband tried to carve a heart on the massive trunk,  the murmuring sounds of an angry mob swirled around them. A flash of light revealed a grim face staring at them in warning. Terrified, they ran away, looking back to see many glowing figures around the tree.

Ghost Stories from South Carolina Sea Islands angel oak
Ghost Stories from South Carolina Sea Islands – Angel Oak Tree

Fenwick Hall Plantation’s Headless Horseman

John Fenwick arrived on Johns Island from Britain, in 1703. After building a log cabin for his wife Elizabeth, John eventually constructed a Georgian style plantation house. John’s son Edward inherited the house and 11,000 acres in 1747. He added extensive stables to the property for his many horses.

During the British occupation of Charleston, the large house served as headquarters for the British army. One local story claims that Edward Jr invited their American neighbors to a dinner party. They met their demise at the hands of the British soldiers.

Over the years the property changed hands several times. Civil War battles razed the fields. The land was sold off. In 1980, new owners turned the house into an alcohol and drug rehabilitation hospital. Then the property sat abandoned from 1995 until 2000 when new owners purchased it for renovations.

Fenwick Hall Ghost Stories

The most infamous story at Fenwick is a tragic one as well. Ann, the daughter of Edward Sr., fell in love with a handsome young groom named Tony, who cared for her father’s horses. Although Edward disapproved, the couple eloped and married.  When her father found the couple and brought them back to the hall, he instructed his men to place a noose around Tony’s neck and hoist him upon a horse, facing backward. Edward forced Ann to strike the horse with a crop, hanging her own husband from one of the old oaks on the property. The force of the hanging decapitated the unfortunate young man.

Ann never recovered from her husband’s shocking death. She wandered the grounds, calling Tony’s name until she died a short time later. After her death, people reported seeing a headless horseman riding through the property, looking for his wife and his head. He’s appeared on the grounds for more than 250 years.

Visitors also report hearing Ann crying and calling for her husband. Her spirit is seen in the East Parlor in the house and on the staircase. And some claim to see a young ghostly couple walking hand in hand down the long driveway to the house.

Ghost Stories from South Carolina Sea Islands fenwick hall
Ghost Stories from South Carolina Sea Islands – Fenwick Hall Plantation

The Tomb that Would Not Stay Closed

The graveyard of the old Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island dates back to the late 1700s. In the cemetery is a mausoleum, famous for the fact that it’s always open, with the door removed.

Why? Read on.

Julia Legare, the wife of a wealthy planter on Edisto Island, came down with a serious illness, thought to be diphtheria. Tragically, she died of the disease in 1852.

After Julia’s burial in the Legare Mausoleum, the door was sealed shut, as is customary. A couple of years later, Julia’s young son died and the grounds keeper reopened the door for burial. To the family’s horror, Julia’s decomposed body was found inside, crumpled up near the door. Scratch marks on the door interior brought the shocking realization that Julia was entombed, alive.

After reburying Julia’s bones and adding the deceased child, the family resealed the mausoleum door. However, this time, the door refused to remain closed. Visitors to the cemetery repeatedly found the tomb standing open. Locks and chains could not keep the door closed. Eventually, church members removed the door and the tomb remains open to this day. Tombstones within memorialize Julia, her husband John and their son Hugh.

Ghost Stories from South Carolina Sea Island legare tomb
Ghost Stories from South Carolina Sea Islands – Julia Legare Tomb

A Haunting Love Story

The Brick House on Edisto Island, built in 1725, used bricks imported from Boston for its construction and aged wood. The French Huguenot influenced structure was part of a 300 acre plantation.

The Jenkins family purchased the property in 1798. Shortly after, a beautiful young relative arrived from Charleston. Amelia, engaged to a man from a prominent family, quickly found herself in a dilemma. She fell in love with a wealthy planter on Edisto Island and attempted to end her engagement. The jilted boyfriend came to Edisto to confront his intended. And when she refused to reconsider her decision, he left with the words, “You will never marry him. I would rather see you dead first.”

A Lover’s Revenge

Months later, on the day of her wedding to the Edisto planter, Amelia retired to her upstairs bedroom to put on her wedding dress. The house was filled with family and friends, anticipating a beautiful wedding. As Amelia prepared to go downstairs, she heard someone outside calling her name. When she peered out the upstairs window, the sound of a gunshot rang out.

Amelia’s bridegroom was the first to reach her, but it was too late. A bloody handprint on the window frame marked the spot where Amelia stood, as she placed her hand on the frame after the fatal shot. Outside, the jilted boyfriend’s body lay beneath an oak tree. After shooting his former love, he turned the gun on himself.

Amelia’s bloody handprint remained on the window frame for 100 years until it was finally covered with dark green paint. In 1929, the house burned in a fire, leaving only the brick exterior standing. Every August 13, people report screams coming from the shell of a house. And Amelia is often seen at the open upstairs window, looking out in her wedding dress.

Ghost Stories from South Carolina Sea Island brick house
Ghost Stories from South Carolina Sea Islands – Brick House

House of Tragedy

Locksley Hall, also known as Seaside Plantation, was built before the American Revolution by William Edings.

Due to the many tragedies within the house and on the property, Locksley Hall became known as the House of Tragedy. Those tragedies contribute to the house’s eerie atmosphere and the belief that it is haunted.

Edings’ first wife died in childbirth. Two of Edings’ daughters died in the house, less than a week apart of diphtheria. A son committed suicide by cutting his own throat. The resulting bloodstains refuse to remain covered and people report hearing the sound of dripping blood in the room below.

A relative of the Edings’, who went to live with the family as an orphan, returned home after a hunting trip. As he carried his rifle upstairs, it discharged, striking and killing his old nanny who had been with him since early childhood. Grief stricken. the young man turned the gun on himself.

The McConky Family eventually bought Locksley Hall. The tragedies continued. A young daughter died there when her hoop skirt caught fire. Her brother died in the stable, after a mule kicked him. Another family member died under mysterious circumstances. And yet another committed suicide.

Today the property is privately owned by a Navy admiral, who seems immune to the house’s curse and its ghosts.

Ghost Stories from South Carolina Sea Islands locksley hall
Ghost Stories from South Carolina Sea Islands – Locksley Hall
*photo from South Carolina Department of Archives

Have You Visited the South Carolina Sea Islands?

One thing I’ve discovered, no matter where I travel, is the existence of local ghost stories. Every region has them because tragedies and  historical events happen everywhere.

The South Carolina Sea Islands are no exception.

Have you visited these charming, beautiful islands? If so, do you have a spooky tale to share?

Ghost Stories from South Carolina Sea Islands dark night
A dark night on Johns Island.

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Ghost Stories from Washington DC

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October ushers in spooky season, and that means it’s time for my annual round up of ghost stories from around the world. Every Friday during October I’ll post a fresh batch of haunting tales from my travels.

Having just returned from the beautiful US capital, I’ll start with Ghost Stories from Washington DC. Grab a cup of hot tea and read these fun scary stories.

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Haunted DC

Founded in July, 1790, DC is the capital of the United States. During its long history, the sprawling city has experienced military battles, fires, deadly duels, assassinations, untimely deaths and many other tragedies.

It’s no wonder that DC is considered a city of many haunts. Ghosts range from past presidents and first ladies to workers who died constructing the massive buildings to Civil War soldiers to government officials. There’s even the ghost of a black cat that appears in the Capitol Building.

Enjoy these five ghost stories from Washington DC…and watch for more in future posts.

Ford’s Theatre

Located at 511 10th Street NW, Ford’s Theatre is one of the oldest stage theatres in the US. Built in 1833, the theatre once housed a church. However, when the membership outgrew the facility, the building passed to theatre producer John T Ford. After a fire in 1861, Ford’s Theatre opened to the public in 1863.

On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary attended a production of “Our American Cousin”, five days after the official end of the Civil War. Seated in the theatre’s presidential box, Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth, seeking revenge for the defeat of the Confederacy. Lincoln died from his wound the following day.

While the assassination is the most well known death at Ford’s Theatre, it’s not the only one. In 1893 the front of the building inexplicably collapsed, killing 22 clerks of the War Department. Another 70 people were injured. The accident, never explained, led to the belief that the building is cursed.

Ghosts of the Theatre

Ghosts reported in the theatre include the somber specter of Abraham Lincoln, in his tall stovepipe hat, his wife Mary Lincoln who is seen leaning over the balcony and John Wilkes Booth, most often spotted sprinting across the stage or walking into the theatre box.

Visitors also report encountering cold spots, hearing disembodied voices and footsteps, ghostly gunshots and the sound of screaming and feeling nauseous and shaky on the stage where Booth apparently stood after shooting Lincoln.

Ghost Stories from Washington DC fords theatre
Ghost Stories from Washington DC – Ford’s Theatre

Ghost Stories from Washington DC – Ford’s Theatre

US Capitol Building

George Washington laid the cornerstone for the Capitol Building in 1791. The construction of the huge building was not without complications and perils however. A collapsed beam crushed the construction supervisor. Another man fell to his death working on the dome. Both of their ghosts haunt the structure.

Other Capitol Building Specters

The spirit of John Quincy Adams reportedly prowls the Capitol Building. He suffered a stroke while giving an impassioned speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. People claim to hear his wails throughout the building and even his emphatic “NO” that he uttered during that last speech.

During the Civil War the building served as a military hospital for Union soldiers. Cots filled the Statuary Hall. At least one ghost soldier remains in the building, his shadowy figure drifting among the statues

In 1890 Congressman William Taulbee was shot and killed on a stairwell by a reporter that Taulbee taunted. His blood stains the steps and Taulbee’s ghost likes to trip reporters as they climb those stairs.

The strangest spook in the Capitol Building is a black cat said to appear in the hallways before historic or tragic national events. As early as 1862, night watchmen reported spotting the cat and even shooting at it, only to see the animal disappear. The cat supposedly appeared before the assassinations of President Lincoln and President Kennedy.

Ghost Stories from Washington DC capitol building
Ghost Stories from Washington DC – the Capitol Building

The Ghosts of the White House

Since its completion in 1800, many presidents, first families and staff members called this grand house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home. The property is also the site of countless historic events. Over the past 200+ years, presidents, first ladies, visitors and staff shared stories about the ghosts that wander in the White House.

Abraham Lincoln

The most frequently sighted apparition is Abraham Lincoln. He’s most often heard or seen near or in the bedroom he used while living in the White House and occasionally peering out of a window in the room he used as an office.

In 1942 Queen Wihelmina of the Netherlands woke to the sound of someone knocking on the door while sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom. She opened the door to see the former president standing there…and promptly fainted.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stepped out of a hot bath and walked into that same bedroom where he encountered Lincoln’s ghost standing near the fireplace. Caught naked, the prime minister supposedly quipped, “Good evening Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” Lincoln smiled…and faded away.

Others report seeing Lincoln pacing up and down the second floor hallways, knocking on doors and peering out windows. President Reagan, in 1989, commented that his dog refused to enter that room. Others reported that their dogs barked at Lincoln’s bedroom door.

Other White House Ghosts

Other White House ghost stories feature Abigail Adams, hanging sheets to dry in the East Room and Dolley Madison, tending the garden. People report hearing Andrew Jackson swearing and Thomas Jefferson playing the violin. It’s even reported that David Burns, the man who sold the land for the building of the White House, introduces himself as Mr Burns in the Oval Office.

Ghost Stories from Washington DC white house
Ghost Stories from Washington DC – the White House (back view)

Ghosts of Lafayette Square Park

Directly behind the White House lies Lafayette Square Park. Created by President Thomas Jefferson in 1804, this green space served as a graveyard, a slave market and during the War of 1812, an encampment for soldiers. Many tragedies occurred in the park, including a revenge murder. It’s no surprise that ghosts haunt this spot.

Representative Daniel Sickles shot and killed District Attorney Philip Barton Key, son of Francis Scott Key, in the park when he discovered Philip was having an affair with his wife. Sickles pled temporary insanity and escaped a prison sentence. However, as fate would have it, while fighting in the Battle of Gettysburg a cannonball severed Sickles’ leg.  Both men supposedly haunt the park as Sickles relentlessly stalks Key.

Surrounding the park are a number of haunted buildings and houses. These include Decatur House, Hay-Adams Hotel, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Cutts-Madison House and Octagon House, now a museum.

Ghost Stories from Washington DC lafayette square park
Ghost Stories from Washington DC – Lafayette Square Park

Smithsonian Castle Ghosts

You’ve heard of the Smithsonian museums in DC. There are 19 of them. Have you heard of the Smithsonian Castle?

The castle’s namesake and founder of the institute, James Smithson, was born in Paris and kept a secret. He was illegitimate and not allowed to use the Smithson surname for many years. As a result of early rejection, he traveled throughout his life in search of a place to belong.

Although James never visited the US, when he died he donated his vast fortune for the founding of the Smithsonian Institute. His remains, brought to the US in 1904, are entombed in one of the castle’s main rooms. His ghost frequently wanders through the castle. So many people reported seeing Smithson that in 1973, they opened and examined his coffin. His skeleton remained within.

Today the castle serves as a space for administrative offices and a visitor center.

Other Smithsonian Castle Ghosts

Another frequently seen ghost is that of the first curator, Spencer Fullerton Baird. When approached by the night watchmen, Spencer vanishes.

Paleontologist Fielding Meek, who lived with his cat in a tiny suite of rooms beneath the castle grand staircase, also roams the hallways at night, seeking other scientists to converse with.

And James Henry, the Smithsonian’s first secretary, walks at night in the castle dressed in a frock coat, cravat and a starched white collar. When approached by security guards, he fades away.

Ghost Stories from Washington DC - smithsonian castle
Ghost Stories from Washington DC – Smithsonian Castle

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

You might, after this ghost story series completes at the end of October. I’m excited to share spooky tales every Friday, from different locations.

I believe that everything is energy and vibration. Some energy frequencies loop and repeat in a particular space, especially after a tragedy occurs, creating a haunting. And some lower energies feel heavy, troubled and yes, scary. Those are hauntings too.

When I visit a city or region, I learn the local ghost stories because historical information intertwines with those tales. Washington DC, with its long and varied history, is certainly a hotspot for paranormal activity.

Have you visited DC and toured any of the city’s haunted locations? Share your experiences in the comments below!

And check out one of the posts from last year: Ghost Stories from Rome

Ghost Stories from Washington DC st johns church
Ghost Stories from Washington DC – St John’s Episcopal Church, on Lafayette Square. Photo by my grandson, Dayan Reynolds.


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Going Beyond People Pleasing

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For most of my life, my desire to please others drove my behavior and my choice of words or the lack of them.

I carefully avoided confrontation due to my agreeableness…and my silence, choosing to play small rather than upset anyone.

What I eventually learned, way later than I should have, was that people pleasing kept me from being who I was meant to be. Sure, I didn’t “rock the boat”…but I didn’t rock my life either. In fact, for many years, I lost important aspects of myself, all because of a fear of disappointing someone else.

Can you relate?

People pleasing is very common, especially among girls and women. If you routinely seek to please others, rather than yourself, check out these six tips for going beyond people pleasing.

Going Beyond People Pleasing title


What is People Pleasing?

People pleasing is the behavior you adopt to avoid disappointing others, upsetting others or attempting to meet the expectations of others. Kindness and courtesy are desirable traits, however people pleasing is a lessening of who you are to fit within the acceptable parameters of someone else.

It’s a great way to avoid confrontation and conflicts. And also a great way to lose yourself. You can’t live as your authentic self when you constantly change how you act and what you say or refuse to say, based on what you think someone else wants.

People pleasing is energy draining. Focusing on what others expect or want means you aren’t focusing on your own desires and needs.

Try the following ways to shift away from people pleasing.

“I lost myself when I learned how to please.”  Glennon Doyle

Get to Know Yourself

You are told to love yourself. It’s not that simple. I found self love impossible to do before accepting myself. And I couldn’t accept myself until I really got to know myself, in a deep way.

Small children know who they are. Just watch a toddler at play. She isn’t trying to figure out what others expect of her or trying to please. She’s simply being herself as she explores her world.

By the time that same child starts school though, she’s learning to adapt herself to others in order to make friends, to keep friends, to receive praise from the teacher or parents, to avoid conflicts. That’s when people pleasing starts.

Know yourself. Use journaling or voice recordings to get beneath all the layers you’ve built up over the years and REALLY get to know yourself again.

What makes your heart sing and your face light up with anticipation? What brings you great joy, no matter what anyone else says or does? And what did you love doing as a child that you stopped doing as you grew older? List your strengths and gifts, your quirks and superpowers. And list your flaws too. You are all of these things. They make up your unique personality.

Once you’ve spent time getting to know yourself again, THEN you can accept yourself, just as you are. Self love follows. And then, you know. “This is me…with my gifts and quirks and abilities and desires.” You become unwilling to forsake yourself to please another.

“We forgot how to know when we learned how to please.”  Glennon Doyle

Find Your Voice

To stand on your own truths and beliefs, rather than on another’s, you must find your own voice.

So…what do you believe? It doesn’t have to be what everyone else you know believes, nor the same as your best friend or your family. What are your key beliefs and values, the rules you live your life by?

It’s helpful to write your own manifesto, to uncover what those beliefs are. Find tips for writing yours HERE.

Once you know what you believe…then you learn to speak up for yourself and those beliefs. Trust me, I know how difficult that can be.

The greatest harm I’ve done to myself and to others, is to remain silent when my voice is needed. Silence is perceived as agreement. My silence through much of my adult life eventually led to living out of alignment with who I am. Carrying the burden of silence seems justified when people don’t like what you have to say. However, it is so crucial to find your voice, to express your thoughts, and stand up for yourself.

Speak your truth. Don’t let others belittle you and your beliefs. Walk away from conversations you don’t want to have. And, make new friends. It’s okay to let people go, those who discover that the real you isn’t to their liking. Remember, you are no longer trying to please them.

“We can stop asking what the world wants from us and instead ask ourselves what we want for our world.”  Glennon Doyle

Going Beyond People Pleasing know yourself
Going Beyond People Pleasing – know yourself

Set Boundaries

Once you know who you are, know what you enjoy and use your voice to express your beliefs and values, you’ll find it necessary to set boundaries.

People who are used to you going out of your way to please them and do what they want, may continue to manipulate or place expectations on you, to meet their needs.

It’s not selfish to know what you will and won’t allow in your own life, and what you will and won’t do for others. Of course you can offer help to someone in need, if you choose to and it aligns with who you are. And, you can decline to help, go out with friends for an evening, have people over or have coffee with others. If it doesn’t feel like the person or activity is in alignment with what is important to you, don’t do it.

You don’t have to volunteer for every project, repeatedly stay late for work, babysit for the neighbor or be the mom who always organizes the class parties. If it feels like others are taking advantage of you, it’s time to create or re-establish boundaries and protect your time and energy.

“Anger delivers important information about where one of our boundaries has been crossed. When we answer the door and accept that delivery, we begin to know ourselves better. When we restore the boundary that was violated, we honor ourselves.”  Glennon Doyle

Learn to Say No

Connected to establishing boundaries is learning to say no.  And I get it…this feels very difficult, saying no to people who are used to hearing yes. Feeling like you disappoint people for not agreeing with them or their requests is uncomfortable.

If you are asked to do something you don’t want to do, say no. If someone makes fun of another person or a whole group of people, say no and walk away.  When someone is unreasonable in his or her requests, say no. If a task or project feels unfulfilling, say no. Saying no and meaning it is part of knowing who you are and caring deeply for yourself. You only have so much time and energy to give to others and to tasks. Saying yes to too many requests uses up that precious energy.

And, you don’t need to offer excuses for saying no. A simple, firmly spoken “no” is enough. You don’t have to justify why you answer the way that you do.

“Sometimes being brave means letting everyone down but yourself.”  Glennon Doyle

Going Beyond People Pleasing voice
Going Beyond People Pleasing – learning to say no

Stay True to Who You Are

After doing the sometimes challenging inner work of freeing yourself from the need to please others, stay absolutely true to who you know you are. You are a powerful, amazing, creative, compassionate bearer of light and truth. No one can take that from you.

Learn to go within and listen to that still small voice that continually reminds you who you are and why you are here on Earth. Journal what you hear. Write down thoughts, feelings, dreams and plans.

Trust what you know is true about yourself and let that guide you in your dealings with others and in your actions.  You stop pleasing others not by changing who you are but by knowing who you are and staying true to what you know.

Sometimes fear arises, attempting to drive you back into people pleasing mode. “What if no one likes the real you?” fear whispers. “You won’t fit in anywhere,” fear threatens. Go beyond fear with these tips. And stay true to you.

“The people who build their truest, most beautiful lives usually put pen to paper.”  Glennon Doyle

Spend Time Alone

Another reason that you might feel tempted to please people is so that you are not alone. Loneliness, in my opinion, occurs when you aren’t present with yourself, rather than when you aren’t with others. People pleasing to insure you are surrounded by others ultimately doesn’t help to ease that feeling of aloneness.

When you focus on who you are and what you enjoy, you are present with yourself. When you focus on your present moment instead of a past that cannot change or a future that has not happened, you are present with yourself.

Learn to enjoy your own company and thoughts. Spend time doing what you love, what brings you joy, what encourages growth and expansion. The more you learn to please yourself, the less you desire to please others in an unhealthy way.

Schedule times of solitude and use them for self care, having fun, meditating, pursuing an interest, enjoying a new experience or doing absolutely nothing.

“Then I built a life of my own. I did it by resurrecting the very parts of me I was trained to mistrust, hide and abandon in order to keep others comfortable: my emotions, my intuition, my imagination, my courage.”  Glennon Doyle

Going Beyond People Pleasing lunch for one
Going Beyond People Pleasing – lunch for one

Are you a People Pleaser?

Unlearning my people pleasing tendency took years, and I still feel the pull toward it occasionally.

Was it easy to stop trying to please everyone except myself? No. Did people cheer me on? No, most did not. I let many people go and limit contact with others.

Do I believe it was worth the effort? Oh yes. I’m happier, healthier, more confident, less anxious, at peace with who I am and what I enjoy doing. With my energy more focused on what I desire to do, I find exciting opportunities come to me frequently. I never feel lonely or unworthy or unwanted. I’m exactly who I am and doing what I love. Gratitude is my foundation…Joy my companion…Adventure my traveling partner. I feel centered and settled in my soul. Life, truly, is good.

Are you a people pleaser? Do these tips inspire you to take the steps toward breaking free? Have you found other practices helpful for saying no to the expectations of others? If you feel so inclined, share your journey in the comments below.

Going Beyond People Pleasing alone time
Going Beyond People Pleasing – alone time

The quotes in this post come from Get Untamed: The Journal.  With a subtitle of How to quit pleasing and start living, I highly recommend the journal and the companion book, Untamed, to all those ready to stop people pleasing.


Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to, all at no extra cost to you.












August Movies

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August brought a new slate of films to the theater. With my Regal Unlimited membership, I caught six movies that bounced between comedy, suspense, fantasy and heart warming.

Movie watching is more than entertainment to me. It’s a form of self care, setting aside a few hours each week, just for me. And I enjoy deciphering the deeper messages within the stories and picking up life lessons.

These are the August movies.

August Movies title

August Movies

Check out June and July films. Then read a brief synopsis, spoiler free, of the August movies with my reason for enjoying each one.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Cast: Lesley Manville, Jason Isaacs, Isabelle Huppert, Lambert Wilson and Alba Baptista.

Rating/Length: PG, 1 hour 55 mintues

Currently available on Prime Video HERE.

Brief Synopsis: Mrs. Harris, a widowed cleaning lady in 1950s London, falls in love with the idea of owning a couture Dior dress. Saving her hard earned money, cutting expenses and relying on her faith in “good things happen to those who expect them”, Mrs. Harris travels to Paris, cash in hand for a one of a kind dress. Her adventure changes her outlook on life…and the future of House of Dior.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is based on the novel by the same name, written by Paul Gallico.

What I love about this movie: I so looked forward to this film, due to the previews I saw. And yet it did not show at my local theater. Not to be deterred, I purchased it through Amazon Prime Video. I’m so glad that I did!

I love Mrs. Harris and her optimistic, positive outlook on life. She believes in pursuing dreams and combining desire with action. The comedy drama is an adult fairy tale in which Mrs. Harris serves as her own fairy godmother and I appreciate that! It’s a warm hearted film full of laughter and a few tears along with hope and perseverance. This beautifully done movie captured my heart.

August Movies mrs harris
August Movies – Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Bullet Train

Cast: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Shannon and Sandra Bullock.

Rating/Length: R, 2 hours 7 minutes

Brief Synopsis: An assassin with the codename Ladybug accepts a supposedly easy and peaceful assignment, after too many gigs gone wrong. He boards the world’s fastest moving train in Japan, with the intention of completing his mission quickly and leaving the train at the next stop.

Fate has other plans as lethal adversaries from around the world end up on the same train in interconnecting missions. It’s a thrill ride that does not stop as the train hurtles toward the end of the line.

Bullet Train is based on the book by the same name, by author Kotaro Isaka.

Currently playing in theaters.

What I love about this movie: I’m a Brad Pitt fan. That drew me to this movie. What I didn’t expect was the comedic elements that made me literally laugh out loud. The action includes graphic violence however, which earns the film its R rating. What I appreciate most about Bullet Train are the synchronicities portrayed and the interconnected stories that bind the characters together. There’s a reason these strangers are all on the same train and discovering that keeps interest high through the film.

August Movies bullet train
August Movies – Bullet Train


Cast: BJ Novak, Boyd Holbrook, Dove Cameron, Issa Rae, Ashton Kutcher and J. Smith Cameron.

Rating/Length: R, 1 hour 47 minutes

Available on Prime Video HERE.

Brief Synopsis: Ben, a writer and wannabe podcaster from New York City, travels to Texas to attend the funeral of a girl he barely remembers. The young woman’s family believes the two were a couple, with plans to marry. After the funeral the girl’s family enlists Ben’s help to find the person responsible for her death. With the hope of creating a good story, suitable for a podcast, Ben agrees. However, not all is as it seems in Texas. What begins as a search for material for a podcast becomes a true mystery to solve.

What I love about this movie: I knew nothing about this film before watching it, other than reviews were decent. Watching it unfold, I laughed in all the right places and then got caught up in the mystery…and the deeper messages about our society. I definitely thought about this one for a while. BJ Novak wrote, directed and starred in the film, an ambitious undertaking that works.

August Movies vengeance
August Movies – Vengeance

Three Thousand Years of Longing

Cast: Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba and a huge cast of other lesser known actors.

Rating/Length: R, 1 hour 48 minutes

Currently playing in theaters.

Brief synopsis: Dr. Alithea Binnie, an academic content with her solitary life, travels to Istanbul to attend a conference. While there she encounters a Djinn who offers her three wishes, in exchange for his freedom from the bottle he’s been in for thousands of years. Dr. Binnie, a practical woman, hesitates. All stories about making wishes are cautionary tales about wishes gone wrong. The Djinn pleads his case, and inadvertently enforces her caution, with stories from his past.

What I love about this movie: Three Thousand Years of Longing is a beautiful, richly visual film that relies heavily on the art of story telling. And it’s about knowing the deep desires of the heart and allowing those desire to guide our choices…and wishes. I sat spellbound for almost two hours…and left wanting to know more about this film. Of all the movies I watched in August, this is the one I’ll watch again.

August Movies three thousand years
August Movies – Three Thousand Years of Longing


Cast: Grace Caroline Currey, Virginia Gardner, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Mason Gooding.

Rating/Length: PG-13, 1 hour 47 minutes

Currently playing in theaters.

Brief synopsis: Best friends Becky and Hunter reunite a year after a horrific tragedy causes each to go her own way. Avid adventure climbers before the tragedy, Hunter convinces her friend to join her on a new extreme climb to the top of a 2,000 foot abandoned television tower. The unthinkable happens, after the pair reaches a tiny platform at the top of the tower, stranding the girls. They need their wits and agility, along with endurance, to survive.

What I love about this movie: I expected Fall to play as a B disaster movie, set high above the ground. And it is…and it’s not. It’s more than that, with a good story, dizzying heights and unexpected twists and turns. I enjoyed this intense film although it’s not for those afraid of heights. The effects are incredible.

August Movies fall
August Movies – Fall


Cast: Idris Elba, Leah Jeffries, Iyana Halley and Sharlto Copley.

Rating/Length: R, 1 hour 33 minutes

Currently showing in theaters.

Brief synopsis: A father, who is a doctor, and his two teenaged daughters visit the African Savanna after the death of their wife and mother. They reunite with a family friend, who shows them the Savanna while also sharing with them about the animals living there and the threat of poachers. During their journey, the four become the hunted, pursued by a massive rogue lion.

What I love about this movie: Although not quite as intense as Fall, Beast kept me on edge and provided at least one jump scare. What I appreciate most was the dual story about family,..human and animal kind…and the importance of protecting that family. There’s more to Beast than a lion gone rogue and it’s hard to know exactly who all to cheer for!

August Movies beast
August Movies – Beast

Which August Movies Did You See?

I’m very much enjoying this form of self care. I initially signed up for Regal Unlimited for three months. When my subscription comes up for renewal in September, I’m happy to continue it on a month by month basis. I’m seeing a wider variety of movies and I love that.

Did you catch any of these flicks? Or did you see one that I missed? Tell me about it!

August Movies theater

Get Amazon Prime, which include Prime Video, HERE. Free trial for 30 days.

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Dine and Dash

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Thank you to The Adventure Challenge, for sending me The Adventure Challenge Solo Edition Book for review purposes and to use for my Year of Adventure. All opinions are my own.

I seem to be on a food arc, with The Adventure Challenge activities! Last month I randomly chose Homegrown, and enjoyed a trip to the farmers market where I selected fresh produce for my evening meal.

This month, opening a page at random, closing my eyes and picking an activity, I chose adventure #34, Dine and Dash.

That title gave me a moment’s pause, as “dine and dash” is a form of theft in which a diner orders and consumes food at a restaurant and then leaves without paying for the meal. No worries! The Adventure Challenge does NOT encourage lawlessness.

Check out this month’s challenge and see what it was all about!

Dine and Dash title meme

The Adventure Challenge Solo Edition

The Adventure Challenge books contain scratch off adventures, suitable for adults, families and individuals. Each hardbound book contain 50 fun and unique challenges to experience with a partner, spouse, friends, family members or on your own.

The challenges encourage you to get off your phone and electrical devices and connect with each other…or more deeply with yourself. They are the perfect way to explore your city or the great outdoors, try something new, reconnect with your inner child or make new friends.

The keepsake book makes it easy to document the memories, with snapshots and a few words about the experience.

There’s a catch though. The challenges are hidden. You don’t know what the activity is, until you scratch it off. If you’ve followed me for very long, you KNOW I love playing games built around randomness. The Adventure Challenge books are like the games I play where I draw random slips of paper out of a jar and do the activity I select. There are no “do overs”, in those fun games I make up, or in The Adventure Challenge.

Dine and Dash

The instructions for Challenge #34:

“Tonight you dine like royalty! You’re gonna order an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert.

The only rule is, you can’t eat any of them from the same restaurant. Three different courses, three different restaurants, one tasty night.”

This activity is fun…and there’s no not paying for meals!

During one of my birthday celebrations this past year, I did a similar activity and enjoyed it. As one who eats plant based, choosing restaurants is the challenge, however I knew exactly which ones to visit for this activity.

Dining at three different restaurants takes time as well. The activity suggested allowing 2 – 3 hours. So Greg and I selected a late afternoon to begin the dine and dash challenge, allowing plenty of time to eat and drive.

Dine and Dash first course
Dine and Dash – first course at Panera.

Dining and Dashing

We started our dining and dashing at Panera.

First Course

Rather than appetizers, our first course consisted of an Asian salad for me and a bowl of soup for Greg, with water to drink. Knowing our next stop was for the main course, we both selected the half portion sizes for our first course.

A huge benefit of this activity is eating slowly and enjoying the food before hopping in the car and driving to the next restaurant. Dining and dashing doesn’t mean wolfing down food as quickly as possible. It’s an experience to linger over.

Second Course

We felt ready for the main course when we arrived at Cracker Barrel, located five miles away.

Here Greg ordered one piece of fish and veggies, while I dined on the Cracker Barrel vegetable plate. I selected four plain veggies…baked potato with no butter or sour cream, green beans, carrots and broccoli.

Again, we ate slowly, savoring the food. And knowing dessert was still to come, I elected to take half of my main course home.

Third Course

Dessert out is difficult for me. Not only do I eat plant based, but I try to avoid gluten and too much sugar. At home I can limit the amount of sugar and use gluten free flours.

My solution? Dairy Queen drive through.

Did you know that Dairy Queen sells a gluten free, vegan dilly bar? They do! The sugar content is higher than I like, however, the dilly bar uses coconut cream and it is gluten free.

Rather than eat inside Dairy Queen, we chose to pick up a box of six vegan Dilly Bars and took them home. We enjoyed the special treat at home a little later in the evening. And Greg gets the rest of the bars!


Dine and Dash second course
Dine and Dash – second course at Cracker Barrel

Adventure Challenges

Do these adventure challenges sound intriguing to you?

Challenge books are available in solo, family and couples editions. Each book contains 50 scratch off challenges. Check out the various books and the camera/book kits HERE. Use my code GOINGBEYOND to save 10% off of your order at checkout.

You can also purchase the camera HERE, from Amazon. The instamatic photos add to the fun, plus there’s a spot for them in the book as you document the challenges.

This Dine and Dash challenge proved fun…and all meals WERE paid for. I toted along the Adventure Challenge book and the instamatic camera, for photos.

And no, I didn’t do this challenge solo. And I adapted the activity a bit. However overall, I completed the activity and enjoyed the leisurely meal that stretched over three locations and a couple of hours.

I’m curious to see if the food theme continues when I choose another challenge next month!

Dine and Dash course three
Dine and Dash course three – vegan Dilly Bar from Dairy Queen


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Weekend Fun in Branson MO

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Branson, Missouri is a popular vacation destination, drawing visitors from around the world. In fact, it’s known as the “Live Entertainment Capital of the World” due to the variety of live shows and events offered. And attractions such as Silver Dollar City and the Titanic Museum provide top notch entertainment.

I live in Joplin, Missouri, about a two hour drive from Branson. And although I’ve visited the city many times, I had yet to spend time in the charming downtown area.

Greg and I joined my sister Linda and brother in law Roy for weekend fun in Branson. Check out what we did!

Weekend Fun in Branson MO title meme

Branson Missouri

Located in the Ozark Mountains in Southwest Missouri, Branson is a unique community. The city offers a huge variety of activities, attractions, live shows and natural beauty.

Play golf on one of their many courses that range from par three to nature courses to championship, with skill levels suited for everyone. Visit a wide variety of restaurants, shops and museums.

And stay at accommodations that include hotels, Airbnbs, B&Bs, condos, cabins and luxury resorts.

It’s the perfect weekend getaway. Start planning your trip by visiting Explore Branson.

Linda and Roy spent five days enjoying Branson, staying in an Airbnb condo. Greg and I joined them for the weekend.

Weekend Fun in Branson MO
Weekend Fun in Branson MO – view from the condo balcony

Exploring Downtown Branson

While Greg and Roy played golf Saturday, Linda and I explored the historic downtown area.

As many times as I’ve visited Branson, this was a first for me. The Strip in Branson hosts many attractions and that’s where most of the live show venues are located. However, Downton Branson is a fun and charming destination of its own. The area includes many unique small shops and restaurants plus entertainment, outdoor activities, attractions and the fabulous Branson Landing.

It’s a very walkable area or you can ride the free Downtown Trolley called Sparky.

Linda and I found a free parking lot and walked. It was fun to explore the variety of shops…everything from energy infused jewelry stores to flea markets and gift shops to entertainment venues. We bought fudge for the guys. Wandered through cute shops, stopped by a dinosaur fossil store and enjoyed a girls’ lunch at MoMo Sushi and Grill.

We both found travel themed handbags at one shop and at another stop, I picked up a small vegan leather sling type purse that’s perfect to carry when I’m traveling.

And we enjoyed Dick’s 5 & 10, an old fashioned retail shop that’s been in Downtown Branson since 1961. The fun store boasts 250,000 items on the shelves and I believe that! We found all kinds of merchandise, some reminiscent of our childhood favorites. I bought a cute little tabletop framed quote that says “The best miles are the ones you walk”. It’s perfect for my travel shelf.

Weekend Fun in Branson MO downtown
Weekend Fun in Branson MO – historic downtown

Branson Landing

After wearing ourselves out walking and shopping in the August heat, we met up with the guys back at the condo. On the agenda for the evening…Anthems of Rock at King’s Castle Theatre on The Strip.

But first, the four of us walked in Branson Landing and ate dinner at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen there.

This 1.5 mile boardwalk along Taneycomo Lake offers shopping, dining and entertainment. Strolling down the boardwalk, Branson Landing feels like a cross between a high quality outdoor mall and a cute downtown. It’s a beautiful place to get outdoors, enjoy the activities, try a new restaurant and play.

Branson Landing offers events as well such as the weekly Farmers Market, concerts, the Grand Prix of Missouri Powerboat Nationals, Trick or Treating in October and a Winter Wonderlanding Season that begins in November.

Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen is a spacious restaurant and gift shop that specializes in family style dining with classic Southern recipes. I appreciated the family style dining. The four of us shared a variety of main and side dishes.

Weekend Fun in Branson MO branson landing
Weekend Fun in Branson MO – strolling along Branson Landing
Weekend Fun in Branson MO train
Weekend Fun in Branson MO – you can catch a train in Branson Landing if you need a lift…although this ride isn’t free

Anthems of Rock

After dinner we arrived at King’s Castle Theatre for the Anthems of Rock live show. When they say about this show, “Get ready to rock!”, they mean it!

This biggest rock party in Branson showcases hits from some of the most famous bands including The Beatles Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Bon Jovi, Led Zeppelin, Journey, Aerosmith, Meatloaf and Tina Turner.

It’s a high energy two hour performance by a cast of extremely talented singers, guitar players and dancers. They encourage the audience to sing and clap along.

We loved this show. If you grew up listening to rock music, you’ll appreciate every song. The performers keep the fast paced show interesting with props and costume changes. They seem to genuinely enjoy performing and interacting with each other and the audience.

And if you aren’t quite sure what that familiar song is, there are large screens behind the stage and in the corners of the auditorium that display the album cover, band and song.

I’d definitely recommend Anthems of Rock. Get more info and tickets HERE.

Weekend Fun in Branson MO anthems of rock
Weekend Fun in Branson MO – Anthems of Rock live show
Weekend Fun in Branson MO rock show
Weekend Fun in Branson MO – waiting for the rock show to begin. We enjoyed it.

Have you Explored Branson Missouri?

What a perfect getaway weekend! Branson offers so many choices and fun things to do. I loved exploring parts of the community I had not seen, trying a new restaurant and rocking out to favorite songs with an energetic audience.

I’d love to go back during the holidays to see Downtown Branson and Branson Landing decorated for Christmas and to catch another performance at King’s Castle.

Have you visited this beautiful city? Traveled to the past at Silver Dollar City or experienced the Titanic?

What are your favorite activities to enjoy while in Branson?

Weekend Fun in Branson MO quiet morning
Enjoying the view from the condo balcony


Exploring during the summer? You need these accessories from Amazon:


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Going Beyond Procrastination

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After writing posts on going beyond fear, comfort zones and limiting beliefs, I realized other limitations exist that can hold us back from accomplishing all that we want to accomplish.

And that thought birthed an idea for a series.

This limitation creates big roadblocks for many people, including me. In fact, as I worked on this post, it felt like I was talking to myself. Read the tips in Going Beyond Procrastination and let me know if this is something you also struggle with!

Going Beyond Procrastination title meme

What is Procrastination?

By definition, procrastination is the practice of delaying or postponing something such as an action or task. You have a deadline looming and yet instead of working on the project, you check email, scroll through social media feeds or watch funny videos on YouTube. There’s nothing wrong with any of those activities, however, you are stalling and ultimately placing pressure on yourself when that deadline absolutely must be met.

Procrastination can range from minor stalling to an inability to complete daily tasks. Reasons for procrastinating include setting indefinite, abstract goals, disconnection from true desires, overwhelm, anxiety, perfectionism and a dislike of certain tasks such as car maintenance.

This tendency to put off doing what you know needs doing isn’t so much a disorder to cure as a practice to shift.

If you find yourself procrastinating frequently and seek change, check out these tips for going beyond procrastination.

Reduce the Number of Decisions You Need to Make

Planning out the day, before you get up in the morning, goes a long way toward eliminating the tendency to procrastinate and waste energy throughout the day.

Instead of making decisions on the spot, moment by moment, plan out your day, your week, your month or your year in advance. When your plans are written out on paper it frees thoughts, which are energy too, from swirling around in your head. You don’t have to wonder what to do next…it’s written down.

Schedule reoccurring activities like walking, yoga, creative time, appointments, journaling, meditating and classes. Then you don’t have to decide, “Do I walk…or go to the store?”

Choose your outfit the night before. Establish a morning and nighttime routine.

Create habits for tasks you don’t like, such as housework. Make it fun or power through it…just do it. These are things that must be done no matter what, the non-negotiables.

Going Beyond Procrastination habits
Going Beyond Procrastination – create habits for reoccurring activities or unpleasant tasks

Make Lists

A helpful way to organize thoughts, make plans and prevent procrastination is through list making.

According to studies, we are 33% more likely to achieve goals and get tasks done if we make lists.

Using a planner or a simple notebook, create monthly lists of blog and social media posts and appointments, weekly scheduled activities and daily to-do tasks.

Prioritize by starting with the ONE big thing that needs to get ticked off the daily list. Check that activity off as early in the day as possible. It’s your most important task.

Break the rest of the list into doable tasks and attach action steps to them. Any deadlines for the day, week or month? Write those down too, so you don’t have to continually think about them.

Work in Time Blocks

You’ll get more done, without overwhelm or burn out, breaking the day into time blocks.

This scheduling method is a technique for time management. Break the day into small periods of time…typically an hour to three hours…for specific tasks and to-dos. During that block of time, focus only on the tasks or activities scheduled.

A simple but effective time blocking schedule might include breakfast, then threes hours for accomplishing your most important task, lunch, then two hours dedicated to other tasks and to-dos, afternoon break, then two hours for exercise, minor tasks, creativity or taking a class. Make the time blocking work for you. And stick with it. No procrastinating or avoiding the things you know you need to get done.

Going Beyond Procrastination lists
Going Beyond Procrastination – make lists of tasks and to-dos. Here I’m making a list of what to include in my post on making lists!

Create a Supportive Environment

To lessen procrastination, surround yourself with an environment that supports you and helps you get your tasks done.

Whether you work at home or in an office, tackle the space that you spend the most time in.

Declutter. A room or desk full of clutter creates disorganized energy. It doesn’t feel good and it’s not conducive to productivity. Have a place for everything, even if your system doesn’t look like someone else’s. Get rid of things you don’t need.

Eliminate distractions. Put your phone on silent. Stay off of social media unless that’s the task you are working on. Turn off the television.

Surround yourself with what inspires and motivates you. Hang up a vision board. Frame inspirational quotes. Create a personal manifesto and keep it nearby to read often. Play music that uplifts the spirit or boosts creativity. Display family photos, travel mementos and artwork.

Check for Alignment

Sometimes, the things we put off doing are things we really don’t want to do. I’m not talking about household chores or taking the dog for a walk. I mean things that no longer align with who you are and what you most want to do.

If you find yourself avoiding certain tasks, take time to check inward and see if those activities still align with your passion. If not, it’s time to shift away from them. Step down from committees that you no longer feel strongly about. Stop the activities that bore you. Say “the end” to the work that no longer interests you.

Focus on the tasks and activities that make your heart sing and light up your face when you talk about them. These are the priorities that go at the top of your to-do lists.

The truth is, we find the time and a way to do the things we really want to do. And, if we are avoiding or postponing activities, then they are no longer what we really want to do.

Going Beyond Procrastination supportive environment
Going Beyond Procrastination – create a supportive environment

Reward Yourself

One of my favorite ways to spur myself onward, when I have a big project to complete, is to reward myself when it’s done.

I personally avoid rewarding myself with food, as that was an old habit that wasn’t healthy. Instead, I might go for a walk in nature or visit a city, watch a movie, putter in the garden or play an online game.

And often the reward is the accomplishment itself or the incredible high level energy I feel.

Shifting a Task I Disliked

This is a real life example of a task I frequently procrastinated on and how I shifted.

I dislike washing dishes. I’ve never, in my lifetime, lived in a house with a dishwasher. I am the dishwasher. And I often postponed washing up, letting dishes accumulate in the sink, which made it even more difficult to make myself go into the kitchen to clean up.

I used tip number one to avoid procrastination, creating a habit to complete a task that I don’t like. Initially, I made this rule: no dishes in the sink by the time I go to bed. That meant I sometimes washed dishes at midnight, no matter how tired I was.

Soon I discovered I loved walking into a clean kitchen every morning. The energy of a ready for the day kitchen far exceeded the energy required to empty the sink each night.

And then, I realized I loved walking into a clean kitchen all the time. It became easier and easier to wash up immediately after a meal. The satisfaction of an empty sink and clean kitchen, always, is the reward and the habit evolved over time after I made one unbreakable rule about washing dishes.

Are You a Procrastinator?

I admit I was and I still fall into procrastination sometimes. Doing so is my nudge to check within to see what’s going on. Is the activity no longer in alignment with who I am becoming? Do I need to shift and create a no matter what rule? Or do my lists require some adjustment?

Going beyond procrastination is a continuing area of growth for me.

What about you? Are you a procrastinator? Tell me about the areas you struggle in. I hope these tips are helpful for you in going beyond and creating meaningful shifts in your life.

Going Beyond Procrastination tea break
Going Beyond Procrastination – daily tea breaks are important to me


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More Funny Travel Stories

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Last April I shared my first Funny Travel Stories post. The humorous experiences were fun to recall as I typed them out. And, in the process, I realized that I had enough funny stories for at least one more post.

I hope you enjoy these tales from my travels and feel inspired to share your own.

Here they are…more funny travel stories.

More Funny Travel Stories title meme


On my first visit to Scotland, with my cousin Mindy and her son William, we stayed at Halcyon House in Edinburgh. This property felt more like a grand old house rather than a hotel. The friendly owners lived on site and offered guests a hearty breakfast every morning in the dining room.

On our first morning in the city, Mindy and I finished getting ready in the large room while William showered. I KNEW better than to plug my hair dryer into the socket. I packed an electrical adapter, however, in my excitement to explore Edinburgh, I plugged the dryer in and turned it on.

The hair dryer sounded strange, surging with power. Just as I thought “Oh no…” a loud POP occurred. The dryer stopped and the lights went out. William yelled as he tried to shower in total darkness. I yelled an apology back and then heard doors opening all along the upstairs hallway. Power went out on the whole floor, as everyone got ready for the day.

I felt so embarrassed! One of the owners, Matthew, thankfully brought a ladder up, fiddled with the circuit breakers and quickly restored power. William did not let me forget that incident and I never forgot to use an adapter again.

Two Doctor Whos

My grandson Dayan and I are both huge fans of the British television series, Doctor Who. What a wonderful experience to attend our first Comic Con in St Louis, with special guests David Tennent, the Tenth Doctor and Matt Smith, the Eleventh.

After Dayan’s photo op with the two doctors, it was my turn. Throwing an arm around each actor I squeezed them close and happily told them they were two of my favorite people. David quipped, “Two of your favorites? Why aren’t we your absolute favorites?” Matt joined in the conversation and we all laughed so much that we messed up the first photo. The photographer scolded us and told us to stop laughing and talking and to hold still….which only made us laugh more.

Later, after standing in line for a couple of hours to get David’s autograph, I  offered my condolences on the recent death of his father. I told him how proud I was that as a Scotsman, he represented the country well during his stint as the Doctor. David surprised me by reaching for my hand and giving it a squeeze. I walked away and then realized I never got a signature on my photo.

Turning around, David saw me and waved me back. In his thick Scottish brogue, said he wondered how long it would take for me to return. He signed the photo with a flourish and then said, “Now go…and behave yourself!” (You have to imagine the words spoken in a Scottish accent to get the full effect.) I’ll remember that day always!

More Funny Travel Stories doctors
More Funny Travel Stories – Dayan with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors

Knock First!

During the girls’ UK trip with my mother, two sisters and niece, we shared rooms to cut down on costs. And almost immediately we had to have a talk about respecting personal space after my mom nonchalantly walked into the bathroom while my sister Debbie was in there. Knock first, we suggested seriously, even though everyone except Debbie laughed about the incident. I thought it was funny too, until it happened to me.

In London, I shared a room with Mom and my sister Linda. While showering in the glass enclosed shower, my mother and/or Linda walked in on me not once…not twice…but three times. I think the last intrusion was deliberate, just to hear me yell “For the love of God…some privacy please!”

I locked the bathroom door after that.

Road to Nowhere

I appreciated having a rental car on my recent trip to the Charleston area. The Mitsubishi Mirage featured a large screen on the dash. When I plugged in my phone and pulled up the maps app, it displayed on that screen and Siri directed me from there, making navigating on the South Carolina sea islands and Charleston easier. It worked really well…until it didn’t.

On my departure day, I left the airbnb early, with the Charleston International Airport address loaded into the app and up on the screen. Siri directed me effortlessly through heavy morning traffic. However, as the screen showed about 10 minutes left until I reached the airport, something didn’t seem right. Looking around, I didn’t recognize this part of the city.

I trusted the GPS system though, following Siri as she directed me off of the expressway. I continued to trust as I turned into what looked like a neighborhood. Maybe this was a shortcut? Deeper into the neighborhood, I turned onto a street and Siri announced, “Destination on the right. Arrived.”

I stopped in front of an ordinary looking house, on an average street, in a typical suburban neighborhood. The man working in the yard turned to look at me and waved, a bit hesitantly. This was not the airport!

I nodded to the stranger, drove to the end of the street and re-entered the airport into the maps app. Fortunately, it was only 15 minutes away. I’ll never know what happened and why the map changed to a different location, mid-route. But I arrived at the airport with time to spare, turned in the car and caught my flight. Even if I don’t understand why, I believe everything happens for a reason.

Lucky Bird Poop

After exploring the medieval village of San Gimignano in Italy, my grandson, daughter and I sat on benches near the city gate with our tour group. As the tour bus pulled up, we all stood and gathered our belongings.

I felt something hit my shoulder and arm. Looking up, I spied a bird in the tree above me. Glancing back at my arm, I noticed bird poop.

I made a sound of disgust, however, to my surprise our tour guide Fabi and others in the group cheered and applauded. In Italy it’s a sign of good fortune when a bird poops on you. The next suggested action is to visit a casino.

People came by to rub my shoulder, transferring good luck to themselves. One dear woman offered me a package of wet wipes so I could clean off the poop. Bless her!

Read more Italian good luck traditions HERE.

More Funny Stories bird poop
More Funny Travel Stories – lucky bird poop in San Gimignano, Italy

Deja Vu

Traveling cross country with my family, I began to experience deja vu. This phenomenon is described as a feeling of already experiencing the present moment, of remembering something that can’t possibly be remembered.

Leaving Los Angeles, Joplin bound via a layover in Denver, the deja vu began at LAX airport. By the time we landed in Denver, that strange feeling was occurring almost continuously. Casting about for an explanation, I decided this must be the day that I die. I was seeing my life flash before my eyes through deja vu.

Boarding our plane for the last leg of the journey home, I experienced the strongest sense of remembering yet. The artistic design on the front cabin wall triggered it, as did the approaching severe thunderstorm. Our pilot announced that due to the storm, take off would be quick and rough. This was it. We were going to crash.

Only my older daughter sensed that something was going on with me. Her look of concern prompted me to pray like I’ve never prayed before. I asked for angels to surround the plane, placed protective energy around it and visualized us all flying safely above the storm and arriving back home. Closing my eyes, I did all I could to help that plane take off  and rise above the turbulence.

This story is more weird than funny. And it’s absolutely true. The deja vu stopped as soon as we cleared the storm and we did indeed arrive home without further incident.


I am not afraid of most animals. Even snakes and spiders are fascinating to me. However, I do not like alligators. They freak me out. During trips to Florida and South Carolina, I’ve observed them from afar and that’s the way I want it. On my recent trip back to South Carolina, I discovered it was mating season for these reptiles, which can make male alligators more aggressive. Oh, wonderful.

The beautiful airbnb I stayed at on Johns Island, with its pretty pool, is situated on a tropical property, lush with trees, plants and flowers. Aware that the island is surrounded by rivers and marshes, I hoped I would not have a close encounter with an alligator.

My first night at the airbnb, I ventured out after dark, barefoot and wearing a lightweight cotton dress. Lights strung up all over the property make it even more magical at night. Wandering down a path I suddenly froze. Something big thrashed in the shadowy underbrush and it seemed to be coming toward me. I immediately thought, “Alligator!” and ran back to the airbnb as fast as my bare feet could take me.

The next morning, talking to Neil, one of the hosts, I sheepishly mentioned my encounter the night before. I asked if alligators ever get into the pool. He laughed and shook his head. In all the years he’s lived on the island, he said, he’s never seen an alligator on the property. But he added, with a twinkle in his eyes, they do have armadillos who like to forage at night among the plants. He spotted one earlier that morning.

I ran from an armadillo…and what a relief.

I still didn’t wander too far from the house at night though, just in case.

Share Your Funny Stories

We all have embarrassing, funny or strange travel stories. These colorful adventures form part of the life tapestry, woven with threads from rich experiences.

I know I’ll have more funny travel stories to share as I continue to explore the world with an open heart and mind and the ability to laugh at situations and most importantly, at myself.

I’d love to hear one of your favorite funny stories. Share it in the comments below.

More Funny Travel Stories alligator
More Funny Travel Stories – alligator hiding in the shadows??

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