The time I was accosted by gladiators

A picture doesn’t always tell the truth. I may look like I’m having a grand time in the first photo, but in reality I was being held hostage outside of the Rome Colosseum. I made the grave error of making eye contact with these hustlers, and smiling at them. Before I knew what was happening, the larger one pulled me into a tight grip and insisted that one of my companions take a photo. Then he made it clear he wasn’t letting me go until I paid him for the privilege. I fumbled through my purse, gave him a few euros, and let out a sigh of relief when he finally let me go. It was one of the most bizarre and creepy experiences I’ve ever had, to be captive in a public place, no one around me the wiser. Be very careful if you go to Rome, and don’t believe everything you see in a picture.

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Never smile at a man who makes a living trying to kill people.


The Rome Colosseum, in all its gory – oops, I mean glory.

If I could turn back time…

“Sometimes I wish I could go back in life. Not to change things, just to feel a couple things twice.” ~Drake

One of the places I’d love to go back and experience is this graffiti house in a suburb of London. Artists from all over the world came together to create this unique work of art. My students and I and our guides were the last people to see it, aside from the construction crew that demolished it the next day. Just as we were leaving, the fence they were building around the property in preparation for the demolition was completed. I still remember the lonely sound of the tall gate closing behind us. We all felt so blessed to have been the last visitors.

P.S. Thank you to Cher for the title of this post.

If you could go back in time, would you?

Dinna fash yourself, Sassenach. 

These words, spoken often by Jamie Fraser, the red-haired Scottish hero of the STARZ series Outlander, to his spunky British wife, Claire, mean Don’t worry yourself, Outlander.  Jamie’s pet name for Claire, Sassenach, refers to British persons, considered outlanders (outsiders) by the Highlanders.  Little does Jamie know, when Claire mysteriously appears in the middle of the Scottish woods one day, that she is more of an “outlander” than his 18th century brain can ever fathom.

I am in love with this saga, based on the series of books by Diana Gabaldon.  Claire, while on a second honeymoon in Scotland after World War II with her British husband,  gets sucked hundreds of years into the past through Stonehenge-style rocks. There she meets Jamie, her soulmate across time, whom she marries, which turns her into a sort of bigamist. Together they face war,  endure trauma and tragedy and, after Claire confesses the truth about herself, attempt to change the future of the Highlanders’ fate. Through it all, their love story inspires. It’s truly the stuff of dreams and fantasies.

As much as I love a good romance, I’m more intrigued by the notion of being able to go back in time. I’ve often thought how cool it would be to go back to when dinosaurs roamed the planet. If I had a chance to do it, even if it meant never coming back (or is it forward) to the present day, and probably getting eaten by one of those giant lizards, if I didn’t starve to death first, I’d go in a second. I mean, to see a living, breathing dinosaur!  I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about it.

A friend of mine, a professor emeritus of physics, spent his entire career studying time travel (in the early years on the sly, lest his colleagues think him a quack). His name is Ron Mallett and the story of why he became obsessed with building a time machine was turned into a book, Time Traveler: A Scientist’s Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a RealityRon was kind enough to volunteer his time at a leadership conference I’d organized for students, and we’ve been friendly ever since. I love picking his physicist’s brain over our occasional lunches. Much of what he says goes over my English major head, like the time he tried to explain the existence of parallel universes by stirring a cup of coffee, and his reasoning for why he believes in a higher power. While Ron has accepted that time travel will not happen in his lifetime, he remains optimistic. He believes it will likely begin with Morse code-like messages sent back and forth between people living in different dimensions.  How amazing is that?

I’m curious – if you could go back in time, would you? If so, where would you go and why? If someone told you he or she was a time traveler, would you believe it?

Aye, I believe ye, Sassenach. But it would ha’ been a good deal easier if you’d only been a witch.

When the Student Becomes the Teacher

One of the things I love best about working in education is that every day I learn something from and/or am inspired by my students. This week I was inspired by a former student. She graduated college a couple of years ago and has been hustling ever since to find well-paying, meaningful work in the marketing field in New York City. This young woman is a super resourceful, hard-working person, but was feeling frustrated by the low pay of entry level jobs, which made it tough to live in NYC and still eat and have a social life.

The other day she shared on Facebook that she woke up that morning, rolled over and, feeling hopeless, said out loud, “God, give me what you’ve promised me. I don’t want to wait even one more day.” I don’t know what He promised her, but that very day she received a generous job offer from her top choice company. I was so inspired by reading her post that I carried the feeling with me all day. It reminded me of how important it is to ask and have faith that you shall receive.