Sky Blue Dreams Sweet Adventure in Italy

Florence Italysm_novella003

Many of you  have come to my stress management classes and heard about the importance of self-care or feeding your spirit. I’ve come up with a way to help you do this. A way to bathe your soul in the sweet life, la dolce vita.

In 2007 my husband and I went to Italy to visit relatives and to enjoy the sights. Italy gave me far more than I imagined it would. I fell in love with the country, the food, the people, the sounds and the smells.

I remember sitting on a bench looking down at the sea and thinking about how much I wanted to share this place and what I was experiencing with people I cared about.  I knew that someday Jim and I would come back and that we would bring others with us.

A few weeks ago I felt like it was time.  So with the help of Brenda at Out of Here travel agency,  we  are going to Italy!!!! on May 21st of 2015.

This is more than just a tour of Italy. It is you Jim and I on an adventure.

Here’s what we have planned:

On May 21st we leave for Florence and arrive on the 22nd. We will be staying at the Hotel loggiato dei Serviti. This a beautiful place was a monastery and it still has that feeling of peace. This hotel is very close to the Piazza del Signora, the center of the old city.

Florence is the birth place of Michelangelo and the place where the Renaissance started and  the dark ages ended. I can tell you that when you stand and look up at the statue of David in the Accademia your heart will sing.

There is so much to see, we will tour the Uffizi Gallery, the Duomo and a short distance behind the Uffizi Gallery is the Ponte Vecchio [old bridge] which houses jewelry stores from the 1600’s.

Italy Vernazza

The bridge is  a symbol of this big change in history and dates back to 1345 and has survived floods, wars and the bombings of WWII.  We will cross the bridge and walk to the PITTI Palace and see the gardens looking over the Tuscan hills.

Of course we will go to Jim’s favorite places to eat.  I also have planned that we will meet an English speaking storyteller that will take us on an evening ghost walk telling us stories and legends of  Florence.

Then we will take the train to Pisa to see the tower  and then on to the Cinque Terre National Park. The park became a World Heritage Site in 1997. In my opinion, it is quite possibly the most beautiful place on earth.

Italy Cinque Terra untitled

We will visit five tiny fishing villages that are lost in time. You can’t take vehicles to these villages but the train stops there and you can walk down into the village. There is also a path that you can hike between the villages. The path clings to the jagged cliffs that have grape vines cascading down, as you walk through olive groves.

Every one of your senses are awakened. You walk into a little village and the smells of Italy surround you as if you entered an Italian grocery store. Every where you look there is beauty and music.

We will stay and enjoy the park for a couple of days before we move on to Santa Margarita on the Ligurian Sea,where we will find a wonderful places to sit and look at the sea and have a meal of fresh fish. While here we can travel three miles to see Portofino, the resort that the rich and famous enjoy.

Next we are off to Rome, the center of the once powerful empire. We will stay in  beautiful Hotel Twenty-One which is walking distance to  St Peters Basilica. At the Basilica we will follow the old tradition and rub the foot of  the bronze statue of St Peter.

Imagine seeing, in person, the  Sistine Chapel which took Michelangelo four years to paint?

We will have a 8 hour tour of Rome and also an evening storyteller’s ghost walk.

Italy Rome fountain

You can put our hand in the mouth of truth [La Bocca della vento] made famous by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday but remember  if you tell a lie you will only pull back out a stump where your hand used to be.

Before we leave Rome, I believe we will want to visit the Trevi Fountain and throw a quarter over our shoulder. The legend is that if we do that we will return.

We will fly home on June 1st.

If we have 14 people join us on this adventure, it will cost $3699.00  from O’Hare Airport. That includes

  • flight
  • 3 nights lodging in Florence
  • two nights in Vernazza [Cinque Terre]
  • two nights in Ligure
  • three nights in Rome
  • breakfasts
  • three group  dinners
  • airport to hotel transfers
  • and the tours

This fee  is based on double occupancy.  Single would be $4879.00. If you get your own flight,  the tour would be $2399.00. Our travel agent Brenda did really good job with the arrangements for this tour. I checked with others and found them to cost $4000-6000 without the flight and some of the extras we will have.

If Italy is on your bucket list, if you are looking for an adventure, please contact me at

Are you weird?I hope so!

As a coach I continually hear people say that they don’t know what they “should”do, what is their purpose? The universal question each of us have asked at one time is:  and who am I really?  Am I destined to do something in life? What makes me unique? When I have the opportunity to walk with God along a beach someday I am going to ask why we weren’t born with a manual?stork

Can you imagine being a parent with a child that you understood completely? Parents would know what they really needed to do to help each child know who they are meant to become and then on graduation our parents would hand us ‘THE BOOK’ and off we go, remembering that we are the unique children of God complete with a mission to live in kindness and joy, making the world a better place.

Yet I see people forget their uniqueness in the effort not to seem weird. Except if you live in Portland Oregon where they embrace weird. Hula Hops are locked to bike racks because people walk and hoop. There is even a man dressed like Dark Invader riding a unicycle while playing bagpipes. But for those of us that live anywhere other than Portland, society has changed the meaning of the word “weird”. Mr. Webster defined weird with words like mysterious, fantastic, enchantment, eccentric, curious, magical, awe-inspiring, never ordinary or common, instead fearfully and mysteriously fantastic! I don’t know about you but I would like to be known as that weird Jane.

We are not meant to think of ourselves as  cookie cutter made humans but a snowflake, each unique and weird! With much control, and everyone the same,we are much easier led and manipulated.  A group of people who are filled with different  talents and  different ways of seeing a situation are more open to the wonders of uniqueness. Our founding fathers were weird and they were strong together, each very different.  Also Saints and heros are weird, following their own path.

Maybe we do have a manual after all to explain some of our unique attributes. Everyone of us has a different picture of who we are in the palm of our hand.

Our hands,  each differently when were born and just like our finger prints are different so are the lines in our hands.Palm-hand-div-007

Maybe even the numbers  associated with our birth, tell us who we are. Life is a mystery and very Weird and that is what makes it enchanting and magical!

If you want to learn more about the meaning of the lines and numbers join my class, May 17th at Sky Blue Dreams, 8:30-11:30 am. Register by calling 608-586-5225. The cost is $40. Please  call or email jill@skybluedreams  by Wednesday if you want a more detailed experience  as I will need your full name and birthdate.


Your brain is very close to your face so change the channel and start over

My darling granddaughter has way too many allergies for someone so small. Last summer we went to Deer Park where we fed and interacted with the animals until sweet Hazel started with a full-blown allergy attack. That is not unusual for Hazel and we found out that a number of allergy prone children had experienced similar problems. The real story is that almost a year later she heard her mom answer questions on the phone about Deer Park for a woman who was thinking about taking her children to see wildlife up close. Nothing had been mentioned about allergies yet that evening Hazel started an identical reaction to the one she had experienced while touching the deer. Her mom and dad questioned everything she had eaten or touched in the recent time frame as they gave her Benadryl.  Finally that very bright 5 year old said “I have been thinking about Deer Park all day and you know my brain is very close to my face.”

There was a man that was a part of a study about poison ivy antidotes, he had been told first he would be touched with a small amount of poison ivy and would be given the antidote as soon as he needed it. The man was made to believe they were testing the left arm but had really applied the poison ivy to the right arm. The left arm swelled and itched within 20 minutes and the right arm, the one with the allergen was fine. You see his brain was very close to his arm. I am a person that experiences seasonal allergies and I understand they are real but I also know I expect to have them every year. How many of my old beliefs could I let go of?

The one thing we have control of is our thoughts and just like watching a scary movie and feeling frightened, or a sad movie and feeling sad, our moods will always be affected by our thoughts. It has been proven over and over that if you put a smile on your face even if you need to fake it, your brain will produce serotonin and your body will feel better.

We hold the remote control and we are allowed to change the channel. Some channels don’t seem as real as what we are currently watching but our brain is so close to our body that it won’t take long for those new thoughts and smiles to be our truth.

Today start over with this new day, spring is the time of year that everything is fresh and new, Easter is rebirth, renewal and the time of miracles. Decide today what thoughts make you stronger.  If you were living the movie about your life what are you choosing the movie to look like? Change the channel if need be, take your next best step, put a smile on your face and always remember your brain is very close to your face!

Are you Irish on St. Patrick’s Day or everyday?

leprechaunAre you Irish on St Patrick’s Day or everyday?

There is a saying that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. This is a funny because although Ireland’s population have never been above 4 million people there are 10 times that  many people who claim Irish ancestry in America.  Most American’s are not 100% anything well except my brother-in law who is 100% German.  I have the DNA of a number of nationalities yet it is the 50% Irish I attach too.

I have a little plaque  in my house that I would like to share with you that may explain the 40 million people in America are claiming that their roots are found deep in the Emerald Isle.

God then made man, the Italians for music and art,

the French for fine food, the German for intelligence,

the Swedes for their beauty, the Jew for religion,

and on and on until He looked at what He created and said,

this is all very fine, but no one is having any fun,

“I guess I’ll have to make an Irishman.”

I don’t know about anyone else but I believe in the magic of laughter and joy. I know there is little that is more effective in healing our bodies and our hearts. Studies show that a good belly laugh is better that many pain medications and when we have fun with someone we cement the relationship. There is a belief  that a marriage is strong as long as the couple has fun together.
Even if we can’t speak the same language a smile builds a bridge between people. The neuro- chemicals and peptides like seotonin and dopamine that our brain releases when we are  happy  makes us healthier.

So I will raise a toast to my Papa Art, my Nanny and to Paddy Conroy! I hope you will all join me because we are all Irish on St.Paddy’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to All!


Is Your Dog Your Teacher?

Is Your Dog Your Teacher?

Yesterday my dog Rosie was hit by a car and died. I had the gift of 30 minutes to pet her soft fur, tell her what a good dog she was and thank you for being such a good friend.  First I cried and felt sorry for myself because my friend was gone and then I started to think about what she had taught me.

Dogs teach us:

1. Unconditional love, they meet us at the door tail wagging and it doesn’t  matter if we are crabby or happy they try to comfort us and remind us that perhaps it is time to play.

2. Balance, dogs know that there is a time to work, whether  that is hunting pheasants or chasing squirrels but then there is also time to sleep in the sun.

3. Forgiveness, we don’t have time to go for a walk,to  throw a ball or maybe we are crabby but a dog will return tail wagging.

4.Letting go, maybe this is their greatest lesson. They don’t stay long but that might be  part of the plan to teach us that everything ends . They teach us that a good life is all about love and forgiveness and remembering that there is always time to play in the sun.

It seems that Rosie was trying to teach me to live in a mindful way.

I hope I have learned something that she was trying to teach but I imagine it will take another dog someday before I understand how to be open to everything and attached to nothing.